Kristina Keneally books own ticket to Christmas Island to see Tamil family after Dutton drops private flight

Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally has booked her own flight to Christmas Island to visit a Tamil family held in immigration detention after a government approved committee trip was cancelled at the last minute by Defence Minister Peter Dutton.

Priya and Nades Murugappan were removed from Biloela in central Queensland with their children Kopika and Tharnica and have been in detention for three years, with the past two spent on Christmas Island.

Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally is flying to Christmas Island on a commercial flight after Parliamentary committee trip cancelled.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The asylum seeker family’s case has grabbed national headlines as they fought against transportation back to Sri Lanka, where they fear their lives would be at risk.

Senator Keneally was to be part of a parliamentary committee – looking into communications infrastructure for external Australian territories – that would fly to Christmas Island on April 19 as part of its inquiries.

She had received approval from the Australian Border Force on Wednesday afternoon to visit the Tamil family while on the island, but within an hour of that green light Senator Keneally says Mr Dutton cancelled the RAAF plane set to transport the committee.

“I am relieved to say that I will still travel to Christmas Island this weekend to meet with the Biloela family, after Peter Dutton yesterday at the last minute cancelled the plane in which I was due to fly for the visit,” Senator Keneally said in a statement.

“I am travelling to Christmas Island on commercial flights, leaving tonight.

“During Senate estimates yesterday, the Australian Border Force – which Peter Dutton no longer controls – confirmed that I could visit the Biloela family during my planned trip to Christmas Island … the ABF even wished me a pleasant visit with the family.

“Within an hour of that information becoming public, Peter Dutton did the one thing he could as Defence Minister and cancelled the committee’s flight on a government special purpose aircraft.”

The Biloela Tamil family at the centre of a deportation row.Credit:Facebook

Senator Keneally said select government ministers could use their discretion through the Migration Act to let the family go back to Biloela but were choosing not to.

She also criticised the government for effectively cancelling the committee’s trip which had been organised months in advance.

“Scott Morrison needs to explain why his tired eight-year-old Liberal government has stopped the people of Christmas and Cocos Island from meeting with a bipartisan parliamentary delegation,” Senator Keneally said.

“These communities deserve to have their voices heard.”

Mr Dutton’s office was contacted for comment.

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