Australian PM defends boat people riot response

SYDNEY, March 16, 2011 (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday defended the police reaction to riots at the remote Christmas Island detention centre after “bean-bag bullets” and tear gas was used. The facility, which houses some 2,539 boat people, has been hit by a series of disturbances this week involving hundreds of mostly Iraqi and Iranian detainees.

“I understand that police confronted with situations of difficulty do have to make judgement calls about how they will respond,” she told a press conference.

“Whether it’s on Christmas Island or whether it’s in the CBD (central business district) of one of our capital cities on a Saturday night, police have to make those judgement calls.

“So I am not going to seek to stand here and second-guess those judgement calls.”

Gillard said the consistent message from the government was that protests would not make any difference to the processing of claims.

“We ask people who are being detained to obey lawful instructions that are given to them, including instructions by police,” she said.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen earlier revealed that as well as tear gas, “bean-bag bullets” were used to quell protests on Mo