Australia

Australia's Greens want Nauru spy claims investigated

Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Senator Hanson-Young visited the Nauru detention centre in the wake of the 2013 riots

Australia's Greens party wants police to investigate claims one of its senators was spied on by the company running a Nauru detention centre.

Sarah Hanson-Young was allegedly monitored and followed by Wilson Security guards when she visited the centre on the Pacific island in 2013.

A former Nauru guard has described the operation as "extensive spying".

The claims follow comments by Wilson in June to a Senate committee that the spying was unauthorised and minimal.

Australia houses many of its refugees on off-shore centres like the one on Nauru run by government contractors like Wilson.

The unnamed former guard told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) the guards were told to keep notes on who Senator Hanson-Young was talking to around the island and to photograph her.

He said the company later ordered staff to shred notes and reports made about her.

Wilson Security rejected the claims.

"Unfortunately we were not invited [by the ABC] to comment," a spokesperson told the BBC on Friday.

"These anonymous allegations are untrue and we stand by our sworn testimony given to the Senate Inquiry," she said.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the case raised concerns about whether Wilson Security and another contractor, Transfield Services, had misled a Senate inquiry.

"These allegations are extremely serious, potentially criminal in nature," Senator Di Natale said.

"The Department has not been able to guarantee the safety of asylum seekers and now we are witnessing the actions of a government prepared to do whatever it takes to maintain the cloak of secrecy," he said.

Australia and asylum

  • The number of asylum seekers travelling to Australia by boat rose sharply in 2012 and early 2013. Scores of people have died making the journey
  • To stop the influx, the government has adopted tough measures intended as a deterrent
  • Everyone who arrives is detained. Under a new policy, they are processed in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Those found to be refugees will be resettled in PNG, Nauru or Cambodia
  • Prime Minister Tony Abbott's government has also adopted a policy of tow-backs, or turning boats around

A spokesperson for Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton would not comment, instead referring the issue to Wilson Security.

When news of the spying allegations broke in June, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Mr Dutton denied the claims, saying detention centre staff were "looking after" Senator Hanson-Young.

More on this story