Island of terror
The Moss review ignores the real cause of the abuse on Nauru, because the government won’t go there
Scott Morrison, who is now the minister for social services, said yesterday that he would not be apologising for having aired allegations that Save the Children staff were “coaching” asylum seekers to self-harm on Nauru. Morrison claimed yesterday that he had simply reacted appropriately to those allegations, and others, by having directed Save the Children to ask ten of its staff to leave Nauru in early October while Phillip Moss conducted an independent review. But in October, when he was immigration minister, Morrison had said that Save the Children staff were “employed to do a job, not to be political activists”. He also said that “making false claims and worse – allegedly coaching self-harm and using children in protests – is also completely unacceptable.”
The report of Moss’s review, handed to the government on 9 February but only released late on Friday afternoon, found no evidence to support the “coaching” allegations beyond two reports prepared by Wilson Security in September. Ironically, those reports had relied on the “coaching” allegations as a way of effectively dismissing the substance of the complaints Save the Children staff had been making: that children, women and men were suffering the kinds of horrific abuse and assault that are utterly predictable whenever one dehumanised group of people is placed under the control of poorly-trained guards who enact what they believe to be the demands of their overseers. The Stanford Prison Experiment has received much critical treatment, but its findings are replicated in every real-world “experiment” since conducted.
Philip Moss’s investigators found reasons to believe the allegations being made by Save the Children staff, but his report’s recommendations – which essentially amount to calls for better training for guards – don’t address the fundamental problem of detaining already-traumatised people involuntarily on a developing island nation. There is no evidence that supports Tony Abbott’s repeated claims that offshore detention, especially of children, is integral to stopping dangerous boat journeys, and for that reason both the United Nations and the Australian Human Rights Commission are against the practice. Abbott has responded by attacking those organisations (and Save the Children) while lamenting that “things happen” that “aren’t perfect”. Meanwhile his government prepares to send refugees to Cambodia, once again contrary to all sensible advice.
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Russell Marks is a lawyer and an honorary research associate at La Trobe University. He is the author of Crime and Punishment: Offenders and Victims in a Broken Justice System (Black Inc., 2015).
Scott Morrison, who is now the minister for social services, said yesterday that he would not be apologising for having aired allegations that Save the Children staff were “coaching” asylum seekers to self-harm on Nauru. Morrison claimed yesterday that he had simply reacted appropriately to those allegations, and others, by having directed Save the Children to ask ten of its staff to leave Nauru in early October while Phillip Moss conducted an independent review. But in October, when he was immigration minister, Morrison had said that Save the Children staff were “employed to do a job, not to be political activists”. He also said that “making false claims and worse – allegedly coaching self-harm and using children in protests – is also completely...