SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott Tuesday said he has lost confidence in the head of the nation’s Human Rights Commission, calling a report criticising the detention of asylum-seeker children a “political stitch-up”.
The government funded commission, which released the study earlier this month, said its 10-month investigation of 11 detention centres found widespread sexual assault, self-harm and severe mental disorders among children locked up.
Abbott told parliament the inquiry should have been released when the previous Labor government was in power, as more children were held in detention at that time. His conservative government took office in September 2013.
“It’s absolutely crystal clear this inquiry by the president of the Human Rights Commission is a political stitch-up,” he said of commission president Gillian Triggs, a respected international lawyer.
“This government has lost confidence in the president of the Human Rights Commission.”
He added, “It’s too political to have an inquiry into children in detention when there is 1,400 of them but it’s not too political to do it when the number is under 200.”
Australia has long come under international pressure over the detention of asylum-seekers arriving by boat, particularly in offshore camps on the Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island and on Nauru and Manus Island in the Pacific.