The sorry saga of Australia’s offshore asylum seeker gulag is not just about bringing suffering and hopelessness to those in detention. For the government contractors who run the island camps it’s a lucrative business as gulag service providers.
The eponymous G4S, a provider of ‘security solutions’, claims to be one of the world’s largest employers with 625,000 staff in 125 countries. It earned $244 million for managing Manus Island camp for 5 months. Australian-owned Transfield earned $302 million for looking after the Nauru camp over the last year, but will now take over both islands, under a non-tendered 20 month contract for the bargain basement price of $1.22 billion.
My trusty solar-powered calculator was put in bright sunlight for this calculation. With 1,332 Manus and 867 Nauru detainees it works out to $554,798 income per inmate for Transfield. KACHING! By the way, they are people like us, not hardened criminals – the detainees, that is. A good little earner for Transfield, paid straight out of the taxpayer purse. It would certainly buy a helluva lot of incarceration in our regular prison system.
Interestingly, objections to the morality of Transfield’s detainee operations are coming from artists in the Sydney & Melbourne biennales protesting against their sponsorship. A dilemma indeed for arts organisations and those purporting to critique society.
Equally repugnant is Foreign Minister Julie Bishop trying to seduce the Cambodian government to take our asylum seekers. With Australian aid of $329 million over the last four years, we are one of its largest donors, so her bargaining chips are huge. Human rights abuse is rife in Cambodia, social welfare is non-existent, 20% of the population lives in poverty and 40% of children under five are malnourished. Our Julie is plumbing new depths of cynicism and hypocrisy on our behalf.
But who cares, right? Out of sight and out of mind, at any price.