British multinational Serco is constantly in the news, the company that runs all of Australia’s detention centres with little or no accountability; just the way they like it.
The mastermind behind the sacking of more than 50,000 public servants during the Greiner and Fahey Liberal governments has been quietly advising Barry O’Farrell’s team on how to streamline the public service when, as expected, the NSW Coalition takes power in a month.
Gary Sturgess now works for Serco, the multinational services company that runs Villawood detention centre and has recently replaced workers with robots in British hospitals. He has met shadow treasurer Mike Baird a number of times over the past 12 months.
Mr Sturgess engineered the dumping of 2000 teachers, 5000 school cleaners and more than 8000 rail workers within a year of Nick Greiner becoming premier in 1988.
The re-emergence of Mr Sturgess has heightened fears among the public service over what plans Mr O’Farrell might have for redundancies and the privatisation of government services. Mr O’Farrell is also being advised by Max ”the axe” Moore-Wilton, John Howard’s job-slashing department head.
Mr Sturgess confirmed he had met Mr Baird a number of times, the last time in November.
”The message I’ve been giving them is there’s an awful lot of interesting things happening in [Britain] … not just outsourcing, but some interesting private sector contracts where payment is dependent on outcome,” Mr Sturgess said from London.
”My job is to help explain how this stuff works so that government feels it can make voters and unions feel more comfortable about it.”
Mr Sturgess was referring to the debt-mired British government, which recently revealed plans to open up virtually all public services to private companies. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron will cut about 500,000 British public servants by 2015. Serco is at the forefront of outsourcing around the world, managing everything from satellites to prisons and traffic light systems. Greens MP John Kaye memorably described Serco as like a ”living organism that has found a very rich payload of nutrients”.
In August last year, Serco put robots into a Scottish hospital to move waste, linen and clinical supplies at the expense of human workers.
”Should NSW have robots in its hospitals?” Mr Sturgess said. ”It might be good but it can’t put them into existing hospitals. Like the experience in [Britain], you have to have a government wanting the best possible way to contain disease and waste and prepared to allow the private sector to solve the problem.”
He stressed he was not lobbying on behalf of Serco Australia, rather sharing his expertise from the Serco think tank.
”Serco doesn’t have a view about what services should be put to the private sector, it’s not for us to decide should be put to the market. When government makes that decision it’s for us to tell them how we think it can be done. I’ve known a lot of the [Liberal] guys for a very long time so it would be improper for me to be lobbying on behalf of Serco and I don’t.”