Democrats Immigration spokesperson Andrew Bartlett has said reports that the federal government was planning construction of a new 800 bed detention centre in Sydney’s south-west is another waste of taxpayers’ money and makes a mockery of the current government’s supposed trend towards alternative community detention.
"As other detention centres around Australia, including offshore facilities on Nauru and Christmas Island, move towards reduced security and community detention, the proposed construction of an 800 bed centre with a maximum security wing defies belief," Senator Bartlett said.
"The Department of Immigration advised the Human Rights Commissioner recently that ‘A new risk-based method for determining where detainees are best accommodated is being developed and will be rolled out in mid 2007’ and that ‘under the new model a greater range of options including…alternative detention in the community will be available.’
"If the government is preparing to accommodate detainees in the community what is the point of building yet another mega-detention centre?
"There are currently only 460 people detained in centres across Australia and with alternative detention strategies in place this is likely to decrease further, yet the government is pumping hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into a maximum security mega-facility on Christmas Island and an as yet undermined amount on an 800 bed facility in Sydney.
"It was only a few years ago that a brand new facility was built at Baxter, yet it now is mostly empty and is already planned to be mothballed.
"The government would be using taxpayers’ money more effectively if it brought all asylum seekers on-shore for processing and allowed community release rather than locking them up in high-tech prison like facilities which are unlikely to ever be filled," Senator Bartlett concluded.