Anything to protect the privatised asylum seekers

Following my article in yesterday’s Crikey about the out of control privatisation agenda in Australia, two heavy hitters respond today in the publication in predictably shallow ways. Spin, spin and more spin:

Department of Immigration and Citizenship spokesman Sandi Logan writes: Let me assure Crikey readers the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC)”‰—”‰and its detention services provider Serco”‰—”‰treats seriously its duty of care to all people in detention.…  The safety and good order of all of our detention facilities is paramount.

Serco, our current detention services provider and the subject of your correspondent’s report, was selected as the Australian Government’s detention services provider through a fair and transparent tender process. Where areas for improvement have been identified since Serco was contracted by DIAC, appropriate action has been taken to remed these issues.

If Loewenstein knows of anyone in detention who has complaint about the way they are being treated or the detention environment in general, he can advise them there are clear complaint-handling mechanisms in place to ensure their concerns are treated seriously, investigated promptly and resolved.

Finally, contrary to the tenor of your Loewenstein’s report, and as Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young herself said in recent days, there is a community feeling among detainees at Curtin Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) as well as goodwill towards those in charge.…  Clearly he was writing about Australian immigration detention arrangements without recent first hand knowledge.

Emma Needham, Communications Director, Serco Asia Pacific, writes: I write in response to Antony Loewenstein’s references to Serco in yesterday’s edition of Crikey.

Serco has grown to become one of the world’s leading service companies by working in partnership with its customers, mainly governments, to manage change smoothly and positively. Citizens want faster and better services so we think innovatively to help governments improve services across a diverse range of sectors. Serco has been operating in Australia for more than 15 years, partnering with governments in the delivery of services in transport, health, justice, immigration and defence.

Serco began operations in 1929, known then as RCA Services Limited. In 1987, RCA Services Limited was renamed Serco Limited and in 1988, the company achieved a full listing on the London Stock Exchange as Serco Group plc. Serco has no connection or association with KBA or Halliburton as inferred by Mr Loewenstein.

Serco’s values-based approach and strong management capability are underpinned by a robust accountability framework in all contracts we operate, including immigration services. Serco is subject to closely monitored contractual requirements and the company will be penalised where it does not meet these requirements. Furthermore, governance and accountability is assured through a rigorous independent inspection and monitoring framework, which is often far more comprehensive than that to which the public service is subjected.

Serco aims to positively contribute to the communities in which we operate and has a strong history of high performance. We are working closely with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to deliver a humane and dignified service for the people in our care. Following a two day visit to Christmas Island last week, Professor Patrick McGorry spoke of the improvements that have been made, describing the centres as, “a more supportive and humane environment” where staff are treating asylum seekers as clients, not criminals.

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