Claims doctors, teachers are ‘risking jail’ wrong

Ongoing and consistent media reporting that medical practitioners and educators expressing opinions on the outcome of the recent High Court case relating to offshore processing are “risking jail by speaking out” are false and misleading. 

The Department has consistently and clearly stated this is not the case, including in detailed written statements. The Commissioner of the Australian Border Force has also made clear public statements on the matter.

Many medical practitioners and educators engaging with individuals in their day- to-day work are not Immigration and Border Protection workers and are therefore not subject to the secrecy and disclosure provisions in Part 6 of the Australian Border Force (ABF) Act.

As previously stated, secrecy provisions are not unique to the ABF Act. They are in line with provisions that apply to partner agencies and also a wide range of other Commonwealth agencies that have responsibilities for the management of confidential or protected information.

In the case of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, this involves the collection, use and holding of information that can be described as sensitive, confidential or protected.

This information ranges from personal information about a visa applicant, such as identifying information, to information about our border operations that can affect national security. The ABF Act prevents the disclosure of such information.

It does not, as previously stated, prevent medical professionals from seeking the best clinical outcomes for their patients or educators from expressing concerns about schooling or other educational arrangements. 

More specifically, the secrecy provisions of the ABF Act do not apply if the information being disclosed is not protected information. Protected information is information obtained by a person in their capacity as an entrusted person.

If the information was obtained outside of the person’s capacity as, for example, a contractor or service provider to the Department, or if they obtained the information from another role they held or from another source – then the information may not be protected information.  In this case, again, the secrecy provisions would not apply.

The Department encourages any individual with concerns about the treatment or conditions of individuals in immigration detention to contact the Department directly so it can make full and appropriate inquiries, and take any action required.

This does not remove or replace–and nor does the ABF Act prevent–the exercise of mandatory reporting obligations some professions are subject to in relation to concerns of sexual assault or other risk to vulnerable people.

Media contact: Immigration and Border Protection (02) 6264 2244

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