Words by: Jonathon Davidson
Less than a month after the announcement of Manus Island’s imminent shutdown, the private security company responsible for managing Manus, Broadspectrum, has been highlighted as the preferred candidate to handle domestic court and custodial security in Western Australia.
Broadspectrum employees have been involved in a number of abuse allegations on both Manus and Nauru island detention facilities.
This means that multinational “services provider” Serco will likely take a step back from the operation of courts, sticking instead to the management of WA’s prisons and domestic detention centres, along with larger contracts like Fiona Stanley Hospital.
Serco and Broadspectrum are both similar in that they are private companies who enlist privately sourced employees to ultimately police detention centres and prisons. Serco is a british owned company.
Broadspectrum are an Australian company who used to be named Transfield. That name they changed following a number of controversies and abuse allegations coming out of Nauru Island a few months into their management of it. Their website is still transfieldservices.com.
Transfield and their subcontracters Wilson Security were both included in the controversial Moss Review.
The Moss Review was an independent report into allegations of abuse and criminal activity on Nauru Island, within the Australian-owned detention facilities. The report was highly contested by immigration minsiter Peter Dutton, and the government resposne to the report was widely condemned both by the opposition and other interest groups and individuals.
The liberal party – particularly Peter Dutton – played on a suggestion that incidents of self-harm on Nauru had been encouraged by charity aid workers, thereby deligitimising any evidence of actual suffering. The Moss Review found no evidence of this claim, nor did it find evidence suggesting that claims of rape, child abuse and smuggling were fabricated either, which in part was why it received so much backlash.
Despite multiple suggestions that reports of abuse on Nauru are exaggerated, no evidence has ever been found to suggest that inmates are lying to manipulate foreign interests – that Australian detention facilities have so far housed multiple suicide attempts, successful suicides and instances of self-immolation is suggestion enough that somewhere along the line, abuse is a legitimate concern.
Transfield had, at the time, taken over the management of Manus Island from G4, another private security company, who also suffer from tainted public perceptions.
This pattern is typical of neoliberal governance, where state services are outsourced to private contractors who both inflate contract scopes and responsibilities to make higher sums off of government departments, and also enjoy a far decreased degree of regulation and inspection than do the state.
Because of this – and the nature of private security firms, where a typical profile of employee is encouraged for hire wherein the risk of workplace incident is greatly increased – publics are typically sceptical of the integrity of these management regimes, which actively endorse the restriction of citizen and media access to information, restrict the freedom of travel, and ultimately design a profit model on the backs of those people incarcerated and viewed as disposables.
Broadspectrum is owned by Italian “service provider” Ferrovial, who have been involved in an equal number of questionable incidents regarding prisoner management.
Like every questionable corporation, Broadspectrum’s ‘established history of community involvement’ is cited as the reason for provider selection.