This week it was announced that Transfield Services (rebranded as Broadspectrum) have had their contract to manage asylum seekers offshore detention centres (gulags) renewed for a second time – for four months. This is not surprising given the more than cosy relationship between Transfield’s lobbyists and the Australian Government – in particular, the Liberal Party. This cosy relationship is more than just ‘mateship’ but is evident in dollar terms – thousands of dollars. The return? Millions of dollars in contracts to Transfield (and its sub-contractors). More below…
- Premier State Consulting, the lobbying company that acts on behalf of Transfield Services, is headed by former Liberal NSW state MP and vice-president of the NSW Liberal Party, Michael Photios.
- In the 1990s Photios served as Minister for Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Justice Minister in the NSW Liberal Government.
- In 1992 Photios helped bring down Nick Greiner and install John Fahey as leader of the Liberal Party in NSW. Since then he has made and/or broken another four Liberal leaders.
- Later, in opposition, Photios served as shadow Minister for Transport and Minister for Tourism.
- David Begg, another director and part-owner of Premier State Consulting, served on the NSW Liberal state executive from 1996 to 2001 and 2008 to 2011.
- Premier State Consulting declared $98,426 in donations to the Liberal and National parties for 2012-13, election funding records reveal.
- Nick Campbell, another Premier State Consulting director, is a former NSW Liberal president.
- Photios, Campbell and Begg are also directors of another lobbying firm that handles Transfield’s affairs – namely Capital Hill Advisory.
- In 2013 the federal government’s new Commission of Audit was headed by Tony Shepherd, the head of the Business Council of Australia and who was also the chair of Transfield Services. The Commission of Audit, also known as the ‘Razor Gang’, decimated many of Australia’s NGOs in a so-called cost-saving program.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “election funding records show that Premier State donated $36,765 to the federal Liberal Party in 2012-13. It declared donations worth $44,961 to the NSW division of the Liberal Party, $1500 to the West Australian branch and $15,200 to the NSW Nationals. The donations were made between August 2012 and June 2013. Premier State made donations worth almost $100,000 to the Liberal and National parties before the last federal election.”
As for Transfield’s direct financial links with Australian Government… Between 2002 and 2011 Transfield Services gave over $200,000 in donations to the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Nationals. This included donations to the federal branch of the ALP and state branches of the three parties in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. Transfield Services is separate from Transfield Holdings, which donated over $900,000 in donations to the ALP and the Coalition since 1998. (All figures quoted as of October 2013.)
Meanwhile, this week the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a damning statement re Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers – in particular its treatment of refugee ‘Abyan’. This week also saw the publication of a report by Amnesty International on the ‘people smugglers’ funding scandal. Australia’s leading lawyers have also flagged the likelihood of numerous claims by Nauru and Manus Island detainees against the Australian Government, which is ultimately responsible for the detainees’ welfare, and its contractors for financial compensation.
And all this when four submissions against the Australian Government to the International Criminal Court, alleging ‘crimes against humanity’ re. its treatment of asylum-seekers.
The UN statement, the AI report and the ICC submissions – never mind the matter of hundreds of cases of abuse (physical and sexual) of asylum-seekers at the detention centres, as detailed in a lengthy Senate report – will surely impact upon the confidence of Transfield’s shareholders, who must be very concerned about the future viability of the offshore detention programme, which has been widely described as illegal and in contravention of numerous international conventions.