Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison

Inquiry to test refusal to inform on Sovereign Borders

A SENATE inquiry will test the Abbott government's refusals to provide details about Operation Sovereign Borders, with a hearing on government claims of "public interest immunity" scheduled for next week.

The inquiry centres on demands from Opposition and Greens Senators for more documents about the operational details about the government's border protection policy.

While the Senate is usually allowed to demand documents from the government, the government is allowed to argue not to reveal information under public interest immunity.

The government argument often focuses on national security issues, or potential damage releasing documents could have on diplomatic ties.

After Immigration Minister Scott Morrison last year refused to provide such details, the crossbenchers and Opposition moved the inquiry, and its first public hearing is scheduled next week.

While a final witness list has not been released, it is understood Immigration Department officials, and possibly the OSB leadership could be called to give evidence.

Among the details being sought through the inquiry is information about boat turn or tow backs, allegations of refugee mistreatment and the Australian Naval vessels entering Indonesian waters.

A submission from the department backed Mr Morrison's statements that releasing the information would undermine the OSB and give people smugglers an undue advantage.

But a separate submission from the Clerk of the New South Wales Parliament instead supported the Senate order to produce the documents.

That submission argued the NSW Parliament regularly produces such documents under similar orders, with more than 300 orders made since 1998.

The hearing is scheduled for next Friday.


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