Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says he will defy a Senate order to hand over all communications about asylum seekers.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says he will continue to release limited information to the press about asylum seeker boat arrivals ahead of the parliament in defiance of a Senate order.
Mr Morrison also confirmed for the first time on Friday an asylum seeker boat reached Darwin this week, one of three to arrive in Australian waters in the past seven days.
The Senate this week passed a motion compelling the minister to table all communications about “on-water operations” since the election, as well as email and correspondence between the minister, his office and the Department of Immigration and Customs.
At his weekly Operation Sovereign Borders media briefing in Sydney on Friday Mr Morrison told reporters he “noted” the Senate resolution.
When asked if it was likely he would continue to give the briefings to the press ahead of the parliament, Mr Morrison said he would honour the protocol.
The Senate order impacted on information that was available to him “and our response to that will be made in due course”.
Mr Morrison added that the previous government refused to comply with 75 such orders to produce documents.
The motion also requires the minister to table documents about future incidents within 24 hours of the events.
Attacks on the border protection policy increased following confirmation this week a 31-year-old asylum seeker was separated from her newborn child in Brisbane.
Mr Morrison said a review into the matter was underway, while Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he deeply regretted the incident.
The vessel that arrived in Darwin was one of three boats carrying a total of 163 asylum seekers that entered Australian waters this week.
Operation Sovereign Borders commanding officer Lieutenant General Angus Campbell defended the policy’s call for weekly briefings and limited discussion regarding boat interceptions.
It was designed to protect the integrity of the operations, which he is overseeing.
“I do not believe in secrecy for secrecy’s sake,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Lt Gen Campbell said he wouldn’t disclose anything that would give people smugglers an advantage or could be used by them to manipulate their potential customers.
He said information about arrivals led to release of final payments to the smugglers, but delays would complicate their operations in an increasingly tight market.
In future Lt Gen Campbell will make his report, take a few questions and then withdraw to leave Mr Morrison to take questions.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said on Friday the briefings were farcical and she dismissed Lt Gen Campbell’s reasoning.
“The idea of operation secret boats is simply to make the boats look like they’ve disappeared – it’s got nothing to do with stopping them,” she said.
Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the change to the briefings was an admission Mr Morrison had been wrong.
“The fact we’ve had to wait until today to have it confirmed from our own government that a boat did arrive in Darwin shows enormous contempt for the people of Darwin,” he said.