Scott Morrison is facing calls for his sacking over the Manus Island riot, but Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he is an “outstanding minister”.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison dismissed calls for his sacking after having to correct claims a deadly riot occurred outside the Manus Island detention centre, saying people smugglers won’t “be so lucky” to see him out of the job.
Mr Morrison is under fire after releasing a statement on Saturday night saying the majority of the “riotous behaviour”, which led to the death of one asylum seeker, in fact took place inside the Papua New Guinea facility.
Labor has accused Mr Morrison of “losing his grip” on the detention centre, while the Australian Greens have called for Prime Minister Tony Abbott to sack his minister.
In an about-face on the original explanation for Tuesday’s riot, Mr Morrison also questioned the role of the security firm which runs the centre, G4S.
Defending his initial version of what happened at the facility, Mr Morrison said it was important to providing a briefing in the immediate aftermath because of the “tragic death” of Iranian Reza Berati, 23.
“Information is rarely perfect so soon after the event,” he said on Sunday.
“Any early reports are always qualified along these lines, as my report on that morning was.”
The mistake was “regrettable”, he said, but the information had been provided in “good faith”.
He received the updated information on Saturday, and released it at 9pm (AEDT) as soon as he was confident of its accuracy.
Mr Morrison dismissed calls for his sacking, saying “the people smugglers will not be so lucky to see someone else in this role”.
Mr Morrison reiterated it was in the best interests of people being held in detention centres to “conduct themselves appropriately”, but raising doubts about G4S, added that security workers must also behave properly.
“Service providers must conduct themselves lawfully and consistent with the service standards set out in their contract,” he said.
Mr Morrison said an independent investigation into the riot would also examine the actions of G4S, which handed control of the centre to Transfield Services on Saturday.
Mr Abbott defended Mr Morrison’s handling of the Manus Island briefings, saying he had been “very upfront” in providing the updated information.
Mr Morrison was an “absolutely outstanding minister”, Mr Abbott said.
“You don’t want a wimp running border protection.
“You want someone who is strong, who is decent. Scott Morrison is both strong and decent.”
Greens leader Christine Milne accused Mr Morrison of repeatedly misleading the Australian public over the Manus Island facility.
“Prime Minister Abbott must take personal responsibility for the death of Reza Berati on Manus Island,” Senator Milne told reporters in Hobart.
“He must close down Manus Island immediately and sack his minister Scott Morrison.”
Labor said Mr Morrison had “no idea” about what was happening at Manus Island.
“This is a man who as lost his grip in relation to the Manus Island detention facility,” opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said.
G4S have said its earlier statements about the riot “are currently under review” following “new information”.
“G4S will take the strongest disciplinary action against any employee found to have been involved in any wrong doing against any person in our care,” its latest statement said.
Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition also called for Mr Morrison’s sacking or resignation, saying the minister couldn’t guarantee the safety of asylum seekers at Manus Island.
“The asylum seekers must be immediately moved off the island to guarantee their safety,” he said.
“Manus Island must be closed.”