In a government that has waged war on transparency, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection stands out as the most unjustifiably secretive agency in the Commonwealth.

From Operation Sovereign Borders and its absurd “on-water matters” to the department’s attempts to silence those who reported abuse of children on Nauru and the gag on immigration detention whistleblowers that formed part of the establishment of the paramilitary “Australian Border Force”, Immigration has become well known for its obsessive avoidance of scrutiny.

There has never been any reason for this secrecy — it serves no national security function, but is instead used to hide the long trail of shattered bodies and wrecked lives created by the Australian government’s immigration policies.

Australians deserve to know how asylum seeker boats were turned around and Indonesian sovereignty infringed, how Reza Barati was murdered on Manus Island, and how the healthcare provided to detainees in offshore detention is grossly inadequate. Most of all, we deserve to know the full extent of the human damage caused by our outsourcing of responsibility for asylum seekers to private sector providers and the governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru, where sexual assault, child abuse and physical and other abuse of detainees are commonplace.

Today Crikey publishes information from an internal Immigration department document that outlines the surging number of legal cases by asylum seekers seeking compensation and redress from the Australian government. We also reveal that the Australian government knew about changes to Nauru’s detention centre policy before the legislation was put to Nauruan parliament.

Every government department needs to be open and transparent. As national security bureaucrats like to say to the rest of us: if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide.

Peter Fray

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