Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch claims the recent overnight surge in numbers of detainees being housed at the Weipa RAAF Scherger Base is causing very serious issues for the tourism industry. He says the Government needs to stop dictating to the people and start engaging with them and genuinely consulting with them on the issues being faced.
“The tourism operators have no way to book in visitors to accommodation in the town during the peak tourist season as all the rooms have been taken by SERCO staffers of the detention centre. This is an untenable situation for tourism operators, they need urgent answers from the Government on how they will manage this influx and the staff associated with supporting it as the business community of Weipa should not be left to suffer. The operators have 6 months of the year where they make the majority of their money and they are already losing money by the day because of this situation,” said Warren Entsch.
Warren Entsch also hit out at the Government for creating an overflowing situation at the facility and for blatantly lying to the people of Weipa once again.
“First the people of Weipa were told this was a temporary situation and that there would only be 300 men housed at the facility. This then changed to the asylum seekers staying for an extended period of time. Now 600 without notice have arrived and authorities can’t even give people a straight answer on how long they will be there, it is anyone’s guess. According to the people running the facility who presented at a Weipa Chamber of Commerce meeting two days ago, the situation is far from temporary and there is expected to be more arrivals at the facility.
“How are the people meant to believe a word that comes out of the Department of Immigration office? The RAAF Scherger Base was only ever meant to house 300 detainees at full capacity, but we now have 600 detainees that were flown in one night without warning and staff at the facility are having to resort to setting up tents at the site to house these people because there isn’t enough room at the facility.
This is a disgrace. If the Government has such a huge influx of asylum seekers it needs a better mechanism than this to deal with them obviously,” said Mr Entsch.
Mr Entsch has demanded that the Department of Immigration consult with the Weipa tourism industry as a matter of priority to solve the current crisis.
“These business owners deserve some answers and they deserve to be spoken to and consulted with, not dictated to like is currently the case. Even when the Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen flew into the area to supposedly consult with the people, he flew directly into the Scherger base and flew out again. He completely bypassed the Weipa town centre and didn’t even have the common decency to consult with the affected residents,” he said.