Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison

Morrison says protection working amid mistreatment claims

THE Abbott Government's border protection policies are paying off, despite "outrageous" claims of mistreatment of asylum seekers, the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.

Mr Morrison and General Angus Campbell, who leads the government's Operation Sovereign Borders, fronted the media for the first time this year in Canberra.

The Minister refused to answer questions about claims the military may have mistreated arrivals last year, he said the government's operations were starting to get "the right results".

Several media reports in recent months have suggested the mistreatment of asylum seekers on boats, as well as self-harm incidents in off-shore detention centres, which the government will not confirm or deny.

Gen Campbell said while he would not comment on "operational issues", he may consider releasing details of past incidents to the public in the future, providing it did not jeopardise the operation.

In a carefully worded statement, Gen Campbell said he would not confirm or deny such problems, saying only officers involved in the operation had the "highest standards of professionalism".

Mr Morrison said the number of asylum seeker transfers to offshore detention centres fell 80% in the past four months.

The fall, he said, was also shown in Indonesia, with the UNHCR reporting arrivals in Jakarta per month fell from 1608 last September to just 296 in December.

Mr Morrison said there was still work to be done to reach the Coalition's promise to "stop the boats", but that the establishment phase of the operation was having an impact.

Gen Campbell said the early indication was that the policy was working, but he would not be able to confirm it until after the monsoon season ends in March.

He said he expected to have firmer information to make an assessment on whether the government's policy was achieving its aims after the season.

The press conference followed confirmation the government will no longer hold media briefings about the operation, with the minister's office to determine if, and when, reporters get access to information on border protection.

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