OPINION: Royal Commission needed on kids in detention

TONY Abbott is right about one thing - the Human Rights Commission ought to have been calling for a Royal Commission into the impact of immigration detention years ago.

However, to refuse that call now and instead say the commission "ought to be sending a note of congratulations to Scott Morrison" for the government's treatment of asylum seekers - particularly after awful things that have happened on Manus Island during this government's watch - is ridiculous to the point of being offensive.

Not very much information about Australia's immigration detention centres - whether onshore or offshore - has come out since the Abbott government put a cone of silence over them shortly after winning the 2013 election.

However, the latest report from the Human Rights Commission - which covers a period from January 2013 (when Labor was in power) to March 2014 (after the coalition was elected) - includes some disturbing figures.

The commission found, during that time:

  • 128 children had harmed themselves while in immigration detention, which averages out at a different child harming him or herself about twice a week over that period.
  • There were 233 assaults involving children in detention, which averages out to a little more than one every other day.
  • There were 33 sexual assaults, mostly against children, which averages out at one every few weeks.

All of this has happened in a population of children that - at its peak - would have been smaller than all the children at all the state primary schools within Lismore and Goonellabah.

So, if you are not sure whether a Royal Commission is appropriate for investigating the horrors of immigration detention, imagine how you would feel if it were your child trapped in these conditions and then consider the question again.