Govt ticked off Manus guards, court told

·2-min read

The Commonwealth quickly approved requests for more security guards at Manus Island in the lead-up to the detention centre's deadly riots, Victoria's Supreme Court has heard.

Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati died and 77 others were injured in the riots between February 16 and 18, 2014.

Former Manus Island security guard Chandra Osborne is suing the federal government and security firm G4S, alleging they were warned about increasing violence but still put her at risk.

Ms Osborne is seeking compensation for loss of earnings after she allegedly suffered serious psychiatric injuries as a result of the riots and unsafe working environment.

Counsel representing G4S Australia, Jack Rush QC, said there was no causal link between Ms Osborne's injuries and the actions of the security firm.

In his opening remarks on Tuesday, Mr Rush told the Supreme Court G4S was acting as agents of the Commonwealth and therefore should be entitled to indemnity.

Mr Rush said G4S had no control over the Manus Island infrastructure and held no powers to arrest or search detainees.

But commonwealth barrister Fiona McLeod SC said the claim would be "hotly disputed", as the contract between G4S and the federal government stated the security firm had responsibilities to maintain the site.

In her opening remarks, Ms McLeod told the court on January 30 and February 1, 2014, a G4S official emailed the Commonwealth requesting a total of 130 additional security guards at the centre.

She said the requests were responded to and approved within two hours.

Emails shown to the court on Tuesday outlined warnings from G4S managers to the Commonwealth that there was increasing intelligence detainees would try to push down fences.

Ms McLeod told the court questions around the adequacy of the detention centre's fences were first raised via email in September 2013, but limited responses from G4S managers delayed the upgrades.

The G4S emails also noted detainees understood they would not be brought to Australia, but they wanted more clarity around resettlement.

Mr Rush said the Commonwealth did not communicate with the detainees, which led to the increased tensions.

"It was a complete failure of the Commonwealth to identify what was going on in the centre," Mr Rush told the court.

But Ms McLeod said it was not the Commonwealth's responsibility to process refugee or resettlement claims, with the task instead falling to the Papua New Guinea government.

The PNG government was also in charge of the daily operation of the Manus Island detention centre, Ms McLeod said, not Australia.

She said G4S was responsible for Ms Osborne's duty of care, with the security firm required to support and manage their worker.

The Supreme Court trial will continue on Wednesday, with Ms Osborne due to give evidence.

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