Anthony Albanese has failed to answer questions on how many immigration detainees with criminal histories have been released since last year’s controversial High Court decision.
The Coalition have accused the government of keeping the details shrouded in secrecy amid reports Australians will no longer be immediately made aware if former detainees commit a state-level crime.
Arrest updates will instead be left to local police.
Operation Aegis was set up in November after the High Court ruled indefinite detention was unlawful in the landmark NZYQ case, which required the Australian Border Force to release information about the detainees released into the community.
The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday revealed the number of former detainees released into the community are now to be contained within monthly immigration detention reports released by the ABF, which last published with a two-month delay.
As of December 4, 149 former detainees had been released, but the government was anticipating more people would be caught up in the decision.
The Prime Minister failed to provide an up-to-date figure when asked about the matter on Wednesday.
Asked how many criminals have been released into the community since December, Mr Albanese responded: “There’s been absolutely no change to the policy and the information that was given under the former government, when Peter Dutton was the minister for home affairs. No change whatsoever”.
Pushed again to provide a figure, Mr Albanese replied “there’s been no change”.
Today host Jayne Azzopardi interrupted him, telling him: “that’s not the question – the question is how many?”
“The federal department provides us with the information at the appropriate time in the same way that they always have,” Mr Albanese responded.
In a later interview, he said information was being released “in the normal way”.
“If someone commits a breach of Commonwealth law, then it will be released in a transparent way … If someone breaches a state low, the state responds in a normal way,” he said.
Nationals senator Matt Canavan said Australians “should have the right to know” how many detainees with criminal pasts were in the community.
“The government shouldn’t be putting this in hiding,” he told Channel 9.
Senator Canavan said the government had been complicit in “gross incompetence” over its handling of the High Court decision, and making the move to keep details secret know did little to dispel fears about community safety.
“The government is just hiding all this information, and … what is the justification for keeping this in the dark?” he said.
“We should know, as electors of this government … It should be released ASAP.”
The changes to the reporting will mean further updates on the detainees will be provided as part of an existing monthly immigration detention report – which publishes with a two month delay.
It’s understood the Australian Federal Police will continue to report cases of detainees committing Commonwealth offences, including failing to follow strict visa conditions.
To date, seven detainees have been rearrested – including four charged with breaching their visa and three with state offences including indecent assault, drug possession, and breaching registered child sex offender restrictions.