"A hell hole." Allison Langdon and Karl Stefanovic's heated confrontation with Peter Dutton.


Yesterday, the Federal government announced it would be quarantining Australians evacuated from China, due to coronavirus, on Christmas Island.

They’re doing it, the prime minister said, to “keep Australians safe”.

But it appears the same luxury isn’t being afforded to the 1800 people who call Christmas Island home, or those Australia is housing in the island’s controversial detention centre.

Even more disturbingly, the Christmas Island Shire President didn’t even find out about the plan, until he saw the news being announced on the SBS yesterday.

This morning on Today, host Allison Langdon tried to bring Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to account for the decision.

Here’s a taste. Post continues after video.

Video via Today Show

“We have just heard from Dr Bartone from the Australian Medical Association, saying that they’ve not been consulted on this and that we need to find a more humane solution. What is your response?” she asked him.

“Look, Tony is a very decent guy and a great doctor and obviously the AMA has had a longstanding position opposing Christmas Island. So I think that is an issue really that’s in the past, and the fact is we need to find a facility that can accommodate in the order of 500, 600 people. We want to make sure that we’re protecting Australians both offshore and here as well,” Mr Dutton replied.


“People are there for a maximum of 14 days whilst observations take place. Obviously there are medical facilities on Christmas Island. People will be isolated from the other Christmas Island community,” he added.

But Allison and co-host Karl Stefanovic weren’t backing down.


“Do you think you’re going to have many takers for the evacuation – trading a quarantine zone of a deadly virus for a hell hole?” Karl asked.

He was referring to the sprawling detention centre, which resembles a prison – purpose-built and razor-wired to hold asylum seekers. It used to be, as Karl describes, a hell hole, that was holding thousands of people at its peak.

After a $185 million makeover it reopened in March last year, and now it’s holding just four people.

Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their Australian-born children Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, were plucked from their Queensland community of Biloela.

The Tamil family’s refugee claims were dramatically rejected by all levels of Australia’s legal system last year, and they were taken into detention during a pre-dawn raid.

Tamil family deportation case in Australia
Demonstrators rallied at the federal court in Melbourne in support of the Tamil family who were sent to Christmas Island. Image: Recep akar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Priya told The Guardian late last year that her youngest isn't eating properly and is scared. The family are living in a single room with one bunk bed - taking a child each and sleeping on either the top or bottom bunk with them.

"Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on facilities, immigration detention centres around the country, and I think Christmas Island and the facilities there are somehow different to your file footage, compared to what it was 10 years ago," Dutton told Karl and Allison.

"The fact is though, as you point out, I can’t clear a hospital in Sydney or Melbourne to accommodate 600 people. We don’t have a facility otherwise that can take this number of people. I want to make sure that we keep Australians safe.

"We want to help people out of a difficult situation but we don’t want to inadvertently put Australians here at home at risk either," he continued.

But as the AMA's Tony Bartone points out, Christmas Island isn't a "safe place".

"We feel that the repatriation to Christmas Island, to a place where has been previously the focus of populations under enormous mental and physical trauma and anguish, is not a really appropriate solution," he told the Today Show.

The Australian Medical Association wasn't consulted on the government's decision, however the World Health Organisation was.


But it isn't just the island itself that the hosts grilled Mr Dutton about, it was the manner in which it was announced. It bore similarities to the Prime Minister's announcement about military help for the bushfires just a few weeks ago. It was a mishap that was slammed by Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons who was at the time trying to coordinate a difficult and urgent bushfire response.

Just 10 days ago Karl and Allison grilled the Prime Minister about the government's lack of communication over the bushfire response. Image: Nine.

Allison read out a text that was sent to the ABC last night from Christmas Island Shire President Gordon Thompson.


"Saw PM’s announcement via SBS. Regressive colonial era ideas since 2001. Create convict settlement for innocent people, now we’ll be a leper colony," it read.

As she finished reading out the quote, Mr Dutton jumped in to say, "Sorry, Ally, Gordon of course is the local president of the Labor Party. And he has been opposed to offshore processing from day one".

“Can I just make this point though?” Allison responded.

“That the people of Christmas Island and the West Australian government, which runs the island, didn’t know about this plan until they heard it in the media. We saw this with the bushfires, when Scott Morrison said the military is going to help. A great announcement, but he hadn’t told the fire chief. There needs to be better communication," she said.

“The only reason I am interrupting you is that is not correct,” said Mr Dutton.

“Mr Thomson was called before the announcement. He is on holidays in Malaysia and we could only get his voicemail. We couldn’t make contact with his office.”

Mr Dutton than reiterated that Natasha Griggs, the on-island representative for the WA government was advised before the Prime Minister's announcement, adding that Gordon Thompson was simply political point scoring.

The death toll from the deadly novel coronavirus has risen to 131, with 25 new fatalities reported yesterday.

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