Scott Morrison says he will stop holding weekly asylum seeker briefings

Scott Morrison says he will stop holding weekly asylum seeker briefings

Scott Morrison says he will stop holding weekly asylum seeker briefings

Updated 15 January 2014, 10:42 AEST

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has indicated he will no longer hold a weekly press conference on the Government's border protection operations.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has indicated he will no longer hold a weekly press conference to update journalists about the Government's border protection operations.

The Government has not held a briefing on Operation Sovereign Borders since December 20, after previously holding them on a weekly basis.

Mr Morrison, who will hold a briefing this morning, has told the ABC's 7.30 program that his weekly briefings will now be held on an "as-needs basis".

The briefings will be replaced by a written statement unless there is something significant to report.

"We will issue a statement on the numbers of arrivals and the transfers, and we will hold operational briefings - like we will [on Wednesday] - when we have something to say and when we have something to report," Mr Morrison said.

"We will do them on an as-needs basis to detail operational matters that are able to be released and we'll respond to questions there."

However, Mr Morrison declined to comment on reports of a protest on Christmas Island in which six people engaged in a hunger strike are thought to have sewn their mouths shut.

"We don't comment on protest activity," he said.

"We don't publicise it because publicisation (sic) of that sort of behaviour, if it occurs, is exactly what the perpetrators want.

"That's in the best interests of everybody - those who are the allegedly taking those actions and those who are seeking to manage those centres - it's in all of their best interests and not to engage in that game."

Mr Morrison also refused to say how many boats have been towed or turned back to Indonesia in the past month.

Audio: Reporter Melissa Clarke discusses Scott Morrison's comments (AM)

There are reports as many as five have returned having been intercepted by the Australian Navy.

"It's not secrecy for secrecy's sake, it's secrecy with a purpose and that's to protect the operations we undertake," Mr Morrison said.

Labor and the Greens have repeatedly criticised the silence on border protection matters, with Opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese likening the Government to a "Stalinist regime".

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, however, has said he is happy to be criticised for the "closed book" approach if it means stopping asylum seeker boats.

Moved families will be put in 'appropriate accommodation'

Mr Morrison earlier confirmed he will close four detention centres on the Australian mainland, a move he says will save the budget $88.8 million a year.

Why close the detention centres?

Reporter Melissa Clarke says it isn't all about budget savings.

"What the Government is hoping to achieve here is a greater deterrence," she told AM.

"They see that asylum seekers who come and who are going through the system and through their contacts, the deterrence of processing people on either Christmas Island, on Nauru or on Manus Island is a much greater deterrence.

"So that's the driving force behind closing these four mainland detention centres."

Although it is cheaper to process asylum seekers on the mainland, Mr Morrison said it "doesn't stop the boats".

"We've always said that offshore processing is the way to handle those who have arrived illegally by boat and that's what we're doing," he said.

"Offshore processing is the policy that we've long held the view of.

"It's what's been successful in the past and it's proving to be successful again together with other measures."

There are 285 asylum seekers affected by the move - some of which are members of family groups.

Mr Morrison says the family groups will be put in "appropriate family accommodation".

"It's always our preference with families to locate them in community detention," he said.

"There are limits on the number of places available in community detention, but that's my preference and it's my priority."