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Issue #1705      October 7, 2015


Profiting from abuse and misery

A front page picture-caption of Transfield chair Diane Smith-Gander, a two-page feature and an editorial in the October 3 Australian Financial Review sought to justify the corporation’s existence as the government’s detention centre contractor at Manus Island and Nauru. As justifications go it’s of testimonial proportions and a measure of the stigmatising nature of the abuse and inhumane treatment of those locked up in those prison camps.

Transfield personifies the oppression and exploitation that are at the very core of the capitalist system. It has gone as far as proposing guided tours of Manus and Nauru for fund managers to try and placate industry superannuation funds investors over the ongoing human rights abuses.

Last month Transfield announced it was the preferred tenderer for a new five-year $2.2 billion contract to run the camps. This at the time a Senate inquiry found that the centre at Nauru is “badly run” and the inquiry revealing allegations including child rape and sexual assault of asylum seekers. The select committee found that Transfield Services was “not properly accountable to the Commonwealth”.

The committee called for all children to be removed immediately from Nauru and concluded conditions were “not adequate, appropriate or safe” for asylum seekers. Smith-Gander says the complaints are about “government policy”. Thus Transfield changed its name at the end of September to BroadSpectrum.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance has carried out comprehensive examination of evidence from Manus and Nauru, including through Freedom of Information. The ALA’s Greg Barns points out that the Senate inquiry has indicated that the Immigration Department is regularly updated as to incidents within the Nauru processing centre and asks why no action has been taken.

ALA points to allegations of sexual incidents that were never reported by the Department to Comcare, the Commonwealth agency responsible for workplace safety:

November 2013 incident involving a young boy and a local cleaner; December 2013 sexual incident involving a 9 year old boy; January 2014 sexual assault allegations regarding an 8 year old girl; February 2014, 8 year old boy sexually assaulted by two men, witnessed by Commonwealth employee; May 2015, rape of a 22 year old woman while on day release, found at 9pm naked and beaten on the road.

“It is clear that the Department has known about incidents. It is clear that the Department has failed to adequately report incidents to the regulator,” said Mr Barns. “Failure to report the types of incidents that are alleged to have occurred on Nauru raises serious questions about how complicit is the Department in the cover-up of the true conditions on Nauru?”

Leading campaigner against domestic violence and Australia of the Year Rosie Batty, last week called for the closure of the offshore detention centres. “These centres cannot be patched up. They must be shut down,” said Ms Batty. “The people forcibly held there are those who sought protection in this country. They deserve care, not punishment.” She described the centres as “by their very design, unsafe and dangerous places.”

“Those of us who care about violence against women, children and other vulnerable people at home need to care about what happens to these same people elsewhere who are under our care.”

The campaign to close the centres is growing. In a full page spread in The Saturday Newspaper, “An open letter from the women of Australia to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten” demands the “urgent and immediate removal of all asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island on the grounds that neither the government of Nauru nor Manus Island can guarantee the effective protection of women, children and men.”

You can sign the letter by visiting

As for Transfield, through the 20th century to today, concentration camps have been cesspools of human misery for the generation of corporate profits, whether it be via slave labour or government contracts.

Next article – Nauru: Young refugees attacked

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