As Serco continues to make money from Australia’s incompetent immigration detention centres, the company comes out swinging, claiming it cares deeply for “these people” (also known as asylum seekers) to Perth’s Sunday Times:
Refugee deaths in detention are just part of the migration service business, according to Serco, the company managing Australia’s detention centres.
In a rare interview, Serco Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia chief executive Bob McGuiness also rejected claims Serco was a secretive organisation.
“To be described as a secretive organisation I was completely gobsmacked, I find that astonishing,” he told The Sunday Times.
The company has drawn criticism for refusing to release many details of how it runs the country’s detention centres, while unions also critcised the WA Government’s decision to award the services contract for the new Fiona Stanley Hospital to Serco, saying privitisation would affect patient care.
Asia Pacific chief executive David Campbell said claims of secrecy were “nonsense” and came about because the company was often “contractually obligated” to not discuss its business.
Serco was in the spotlight last week after the Department of Immigration confirmed the eighth death in detention since August last year a 27-year-old Tamil man.
Mr McGuiness said it was “absolutely tragic”, but inevitable, when detainees died on his company’s watch.
“We do everything in our power to look after these people,” Mr McGuiness said.
“Is it in our power for no one ever to pass away under those circumstances? Actually no, it’s not in our power, we’re not God.”
But he said he got “satisfaction” knowing Serco provided the service because otherwise it “would not be done so well”.
But not everybody agrees.
“If they were a responsible company they should have said, ‘We don’t want any part in this’,” Refugee Rights Action Network spokesman Phil Chilton said.
He said the company had “plenty of other fingers in plenty of other pies around the world”.
To offer quality service, the refugee advocate said Serco would need to provide a psychologist “24/7” to help deal with the mental- health issues.
United Voice union has argued that Serco also poses a danger to health care in WA because privatising services at Fiona Stanley could result in profits before patient care.
The $4.3 billion contract is Serco’s biggest in its 23-year history in Australia.
Mr McGuiness said he guaranteed cost cutting would not result in service cuts because the company wanted to continue its relationship with the State Government and expand its WA operations.
The hospital contract is being investigated by a parliamentary committee, which held its first public hearing this week and was unsuccessful at getting a variety of documents needed to confirm the deal’s “value for money”.
Serco Group, which is the London Stock Exchange-listed parent company of Serco Australia, recently told shareholders the contract would create $30 million to $50 million in revenue in its “pre-operational phase”.
“From the opening of the hospital in 2014, annual revenues will be approximately $A160million,” it reported.
Mr McGuiness would not stipulate its profit margin, but said Serco like any other business would want to make a “fair return”.
Mr McGuiness said Serco wanted to develop its health care, defence, custodial and transport businesses in the region.