Govt pushes on with Tas detention centre
The federal government says construction of a new immigration detention facility in Tasmania will begin within weeks, but local Aborigines are crying foul.
But it subsequently emerged the government had made the announcement without planning approval, and attaining an Aboriginal heritage permit became a key stumbling block.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says all the necessary approvals are now in place.
“No issues that would prevent construction have been identified,” a spokeswoman for Mr Bowen told AAP.
The spokeswoman said tenders were likely to be advertised within days and construction would begin “in coming weeks”.
But Tasmanian Aboriginal lawyer and activist Michael Mansell says the plan is going ahead without indigenous input.
“There hasn’t been any Aboriginal community approval for construction to go ahead,” he told AAP.
“We’ve asked Chris Bowen to stop what they’re doing, just slow down and have a meeting with the community.”
Mr Mansell said the indigenous community would ask Greens Leader Bob Brown and independent Andrew Wilkie to lobby the government to change course. They would also look for ways to appeal the planning approval, he said.
The government had hoped to open the centre in May.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has confirmed reports that asylum seekers the government sends to Malaysia under its controversial swap deal will be issued with special identity tags and released into the community after being detained for a “short period of time”.
But Ms Gillard still would not say when the agreement will finally be signed.
“We are working with Malaysia to get all of the details of the agreement right,” she told ABC radio.
Mr Bowen said the roughly 300 asylum seekers who had arrived in Australia since the government announced the swap deal would “not necessarily” be among the 800 sent to Malaysia.
The minister indicated Malaysia might be willing to take more than the agreed 800.
“The Malaysian government have said themselves that if the arrangement works they would be happy to look at extending it further,” he told ABC radio.
Meanwhile, an Iranian-Australian man accused of organising the asylum-seeker voyage that ended in tragedy off Christmas Island last year appeared briefly in a Perth court on Thursday.
The Perth Magistrates Court heard Ali Khorram Heydarkhani had yet to be fully briefed by his lawyer and would require an Iranian Farsi interpreter when he next appeared on 30 June.
Heydarkhani faces 89 people smuggling charges relating to the deadly voyage of the asylum-seeker boat known as SIEV 221 and three other boat arrivals.