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  • mcprison mcprison Dec 6, 2000 11:59 PM Flag

    More allegations down-under


    December 6, 2000, Wednesday

    SECTION: Nationwide General News; Federal Parliament

    LENGTH: 561 words

    HEADLINE: Fed: ACM subject to
    rigorous probity checks: Ruddock

    By Rob Taylor

    CANBERRA, Dec 6 AAP - Allegations Chinese illegal
    immigrants were repeatedly molested during a deportation
    flight by private prison officers would be fully
    investigated, the federal government promised today.

    Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock has come under renewed
    pressure over the record of Australasian Correctional
    (ACM), a division of the giant US Wackenhut

    Opposition immigration spokesman Con
    Sciacca demanded Mr Ruddock look into allegations a ACM
    officer at the Port Hedland facility in Western Australia
    repeatedly molested Chinese women in his care during a
    deportation flight in September last year.

    reports accused ACM management of brushing over the
    allegations without serious investigation.

    Mr Ruddock
    said immigration department officers had demanded a
    full report into the claims

    "If the incident
    did occur, I would, as my adviser indicated, regard
    it as completely unacceptable," he told parliament.

    "However until such time as I have additional information,
    I don't think it's appropriate that I should come
    to a concluded view in relation to the matter."

    Mr Ruddock said the claims had so far been
    unsubstantiated and he presented parliament with a statement from
    Immigration Assistant
    Secretary Peter Vardos, who
    witnessed none of the alleged incidents despite being
    present on the flight.

    The minister also defended
    the contracting of ACM to run immigration holding

    Labor justice spokesman Duncan Kerr said
    Wackenhut, which runs private prisons in America, Canada and
    Melbourne, had been sued by
    the US Justice Department
    over claims officers sexually abused youths in

    The head of the corporation, George
    Wackenhut, had also praised ACM's record in Australia,
    saying: "They're really starting to punish people the way
    they should have done all along," Mr Kerr said.

    But Mr Ruddock said ACM and its senior managers had
    passed rigorous probity checks as part of the
    government's contract process.

    "The tender process and
    the negotiations enabled the department to articulate
    a clear statement of requirements and standards to
    met, and reporting requirements in the area
    of delivery of detention services," he said.

    "Such arrangements had not existed before."

    Ruddock said the contract had also won approval from the
    Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission.

    Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said the government must act
    on the reported allegations of sexual abuse with a
    full judicial
    inquiry, rather than the limited
    investigation into an abuse claim at the Woomera centre in
    South Australia.

    "Our international reputation
    is being affected," he said.

    "The government
    is counting on the view that people don't care about
    illegal migrants therefore abuse will have a low
    political saliency."

    But Prime Minister John Howard
    said the sexual assault allegations against the Port
    Hedland ACM staff were a matter for state police.

    "If that happened well that's obviously a very
    concerning thing, a very distressing thing," Mr Howard told
    Perth radio 6PR.

    "If it has happened that is a
    breach of the criminal law. That is a matter for the
    Western Australian police."

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