Labor should not prevent journalists and citizens from visiting detention centres

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Narrogin
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130
Web: http://www.safecom.org.au/

Labor should not prevent journalists and citizens from visiting detention centres

Media Release
Friday October 5, 2007 8:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"If elected, A Kevin Rudd government should commit itself to an entirely open, unfettered and uncontrolled access policy to visiting any detained asylum seekers, after Greens Senator for NSW Kerry Nettle was barred twice from visiting the Villawood detention centre in recent weeks," WA human rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"Just in the span of one month, the entirely honorable efforts of Senator Nettle to introduce Greens candidates to the detention environment have come to naught because visits were barred, presumably because the detention centre operator has been stood over by the Immigration Department under special directives coming from Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"Not only that, but any access to Nauru has also been blocked in the last five years to politicians, lawyers, journalists and advocates, including Senator Nettle, seemingly with the exception of advocate Susan Metcalfe, who repeatedly flies in and out of Nauru without any problems, causing some parliamentary staffers who do not want to be identified to call her the advocate with a 'monopoly on Nauru visas', presumably because she doesn't rock the boat or criticise any of the parties involved in the detention process on the island, Mr Smit said.

"Australia's international Press Freedom ranking has plummeted to inferior levels as a direct result of the Howard government's treatment of the media around asylum seeker detention, and this is one of the things Labor should commit itself to restore, if elected to government, without any compromise or restrictions. Doing this will be one of the central planks in starting to restore Australia's democracy in a post-Howard environment," Mr Smit concluded.

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

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