‘It is appalling’: Georgie roasts PM
TODAY host Georgie Gardner has grilled Prime Minister Scott Morrison about the fate of the remaining 52 children on Nauru, describing the situation as "appalling".
There have been growing calls for the Morrison Government to get children off the island after doctors raised fears for their welfare.
Two prominent psychiatrists have accused the Government of ignoring evidence of possible mental health problems among children on Nauru, according to the ABC.
Yesterday Liberal MP Julia Banks also urged the Government to remove children and their families from Nauru, saying the situation had reached a crisis point.
This morning Gardner took on the PM over the issue asking: "Why won't you get these sick children off Nauru?"
Mr Morrison defended the Government, saying: "We are. We have got over 200 children off Nauru."
But Gardner pointed out: "There are 52 still there."
Mr Morrison said: "We have had more come off. I know that figure is already starting to fall. We are getting children off Nauru. We have been doing it for a long time with our agreement with the United States.
"We will continue to do that because we are determined to achieve that. We're the Government that stopped the boats coming, stopped putting children on to Nauru.
"I mean, you don't get children off Nauru by putting more on.
"If you get one boat turn up with children, it is both Labor Party and government policy that those children would go to Nauru. So you don't do things that compromise what is working, you just get the children off, which is what we have been doing now successively and particularly over the last eight weeks, but before that as well, we have been steadily working on that problem and getting children off Nauru.
"We actually have more medical staff on Nauru than we have children and we will continue to provide that care and we will always act on the issues of medical need."
Gardner said some of the children had been there for five years and asked for a time frame to get them off the island.
"They are languishing, they are suffering and if someone dies, how will you feel if it's under your watch?"
Mr Morrison said: "I have been stopping children from dying on boats now for the last
five years. That's what I did as a minister and of this government that put an end to the death and carnage of children floating face down in the water. I'm not going to see that happen again as well. We are getting the children off Nauru."
He said every child who required specialised medical treatment was getting it and had been transferred.
"More will be transferred. I will continue to give updates on how we are progressing, as the minister has done. Seventeen were removed just recently over the last couple of weeks. So we will keep working that. But what I am not going to do is get involved in a sort of public slanging match over it.
"We have been addressing the issue. The population of children on Nauru is coming down. They are not in detention centres in Nauru, they are living in the community like Nauruan children do, like the population of Nauru do."
Gardner pressed again for a time frame but Mr Morrison would only say: "We are working through that issue right now with our allies particularly in the United States and we are making an enormous amount of progress and what I do know, Georgie, is if you continue to do this methodically and quietly, then you are able to achieve (the) objective. I just want to get them off, but I want to get them off in a way which does not put more children on Nauru. If one boat turns up or one child is floating face down in the water, how would Australia feel then?"
Gardner ended the discussion with: "It is a matter of urgency. Five years they have been languishing on that island. It is appalling. We have a humanitarian obligation to get them here for the correct specialised medical treatment."
About 50 children and 550 adults remain as refugees on the island. They are not detained and are free to move about the 21sq km island and have 20-year visas, the Government says.
But Liberal MP Julia Banks argued the children were being psychologically detained.
"Sure, they're not behind bars and they can walk around freely, but the will - especially the will of a parent with a sick child wanting help - is a detention of their mind and their spirit," she told parliament on Thursday.
She said concerns about stopping the boats had been overridden by the plight of sick children and Australia's humanitarian obligation to get them off Nauru.
"What was a defensible argument in the past is weakened."
The first-term MP announced she would not recontest her marginal seat for the Liberals after the bruising leadership spill, citing bullying and harassment from colleagues.
Ms Banks said asylum seeker boats would not return as a result of a one-off act of grace, claiming the refugees sent to the United States were proof a resurgence in vessels would not be caused by resettlement.
By adding the children's families to her demands, Ms Banks has stepped up her push after joining fellow Liberal MPs Russell Broadbent and Craig Laundy in calling for children to be taken off Nauru.
Her comments came after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told parliament asylum seekers resettled in the US have been complaining back to friends in Nauru about the conditions in their new country.
"We are seeing … reports of people that have gone from Nauru to the United States saying it is harder than they thought because they need to find work in the United States," he said.
"They are saying to people on Nauru now you would be better to go to New Zealand or Australia because they have a better welfare system."
Leading Australian paediatrician, Professor David Isaacs, is worried a child could die on Nauru if the Government does not intervene.
"The situation now amounts to nothing short of a medical emergency," Prof Isaacs said.
"As a paediatrician, it is my view that if our Government does not act now, there is a serious risk of death."
Mr Dutton said Labor was in a "blind panic" about detainees on Nauru, and a push to send them to New Zealand wouldn't work due to security reasons.
If you or someone you know needs support with their mental health, please contact one of these support organisations:
• Lifeline 24/7: 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au
• Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
• MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78 or www.mensline.org.au
- with AAP