Gillard orders investigation into high-risk asylum seekers

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has ordered an investigation into the management of high-risk asylum seekers after it was revealed a convicted Egyptian terrorist was held for almost eight months in a low security detention centre near Adelaide.

Under mounting pressure from the Coalition Ms Gillard told the Parliament on Wednesday she had instructed the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to investigate the matter.

"Today I have directed the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to examine the management of Australian government agencies of persons seeking asylum who present complex security issues, particularly this case," Ms Gillard said.

The issue dominated a day that began with Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison attacking the government over its handling of the case.

Mr Morrison accused the government of having a "don't ask, don't tell" national security policy after Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor admitted late on Tuesday neither he nor his predecessor, Chris Bowen, had been briefed about the security breach.

"The fact the minister's department refused to tell either him or Minister Bowen that a convicted Egyptian jihadist terrorist was being housed in low security family accommodation in the Adelaide Hills for over seven months is a disgrace," Mr Morrison said.

"After the minister's department was advised by ASIO on August 30, 2012, and the AFP on November 14, 2012, that the person who arrived on a boat and was housed at the Inverbrackie facility was a convicted jihadist terrorist, they did not move him to Villawood or tell their minister until after it was raised by the media in mid-April, seven months later.

"The fact neither Minister O'Connor nor Minister Bowen were informed that a terrorist was a pool fence away from freedom in the Adelaide Hills is a serious breakdown in the process of ministerial accountability.

"What sort of show are this government running when their own departments believe their ministers are disinterested in being told about serious national security information?"

But just before question time Mr O'Connor, who was handed the immigration portfolio in late March, made a statement to the Parliament indicating Mr Bowen's office had in fact been briefed on the matter in late September.

"The submission was not signed by the former minister. This submission related to the complex issues surrounding the detainee's capacity to apply for a protection visa," Mr O'Connor said.

"The department has advised me that the submission held by the former minister's office was not returned to the department by the then minister's office.

"I can confirm that this submission was not provided to me or my office upon appointment as Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.

"The department has also advised that this submission, relating to this detainee's capacity to apply for a protection visa, has not been resubmitted to me."

When question time began a string of Coalition frontbenchers, smelling blood in the water, went to work on Mr O'Connor, Ms Gillard and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, asking what they knew and when about the man's detention.

It prompted Ms Gillard to accuse the Coalition of "trading in fear".

The Coalition later failed to have the matter debated, but that was not the end of the matter.

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie made an unsuccessful attempt to suspend standing orders so MPs could debate his motion calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the matter.

He said the Joint Committee on Intelligence was needed to "get to the bottom of this".


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