Australians are “sick of being lectured to by the United Nations”, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said after a report found Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers breaches an international anti-torture convention.
Mr Abbott’s criticism of the UN follows his attack last month of Australian Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs, in which he called the report she commissioned on children in detention a “political stitch-up”.
The United Nations report, by the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, finds Australia is violating the rights of asylum seekers on multiple fronts under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez found the detention of children, escalating violence in offshore processing centres, and the detention and proposed deportation of two groups of Sri Lankan and Tamil asylum seekers were in breach of Australia’s international obligations.
The report, which will be tabled at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, has been rejected outright by the government.
In extraordinary comments on Monday afternoon, Mr Abbott attacked the UN and said its representatives would “have a lot more credibility if they were to give some credit to the Australian government” for stopping boat arrivals.
“I really think Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations, particularly, particularly given that we have stopped the boats, and by stopping the boats, we have ended the deaths at sea,” Mr Abbott said.
“The most humanitarian, the most decent, the most compassionate thing you can do is stop these boats because hundreds, we think about 1200 in fact, drowned at sea during the flourishing of the people smuggling trade under the former government.”
Mr Abbott said the best thing the government could do to “uphold the universal decencies of mankind” was to stop boat arrivals.
“And that’s exactly what we’ve done,” he said.
“I think the UN’s representatives would have a lot more credibility if they were to give some credit to the Australian government for what we’ve been able to achieve in this area.”