Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison minister for Immigration and Border Protection arrive for question. Photo: Andrew MearesFederal politics: full coverageMorrison knew he was wrong on brawl death
The new operator of Manus Island detention centre will continue to use local security staff even though they are implicated in last week’s deadly clashes with asylum seekers.
Transfield Services, which has been awarded a $1.2 billion contract to run the Manus Island and Nauru immigration centres, confirmed it would hire local security staff, as required by the deal between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Witnesses to last week’s violence, which left 23-year-old Iranian man Reza Barati dead, say local security guards employed by contractor G4S were involved. G4S has admitted the possibility, saying it would ”take the strongest disciplinary action against any employee found to have been involved in any wrongdoing”.
G4S’s contract ends on Friday. The management of the centre will be handed over to Transfield, which has also run the Nauru centre for the past year. The new, $1.2 billion contract to run both facilities for the next 20 months appears to have been given to Transfield without a tender offer even though the value of the work has increased dramatically from the previous cost of running the facilities.
A week after the bloody clashes, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison faced pressure in Parliament over the alleged riot and the incorrect information he provided on it early last week.
He told the ABC: ”There are still a lot of questions to be answered – I have a lot of questions that I want to be answered … the Australian people, and people in Papua New Guinea want answers, and that’s what the reviews are about.”
The matter is set to dominate debate again in Canberra on Tuesday with the head of the government’s border protection regime, Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, set to appear before a Senate Estimates hearing.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she would quiz government officials over the level of training and skills the locally recruited security staff had been given.
”All of the eyewitness accounts say G4S has their hands all over what happened,” she said.
”This is precisely the type of thing an inquiry needs to look at.”
G4S is being paid $244 million to run Manus Island centre since October 2012. Transfield is earning $302 million for managing the Nauru site for the past year.
The $1.2 billion contract represents a considerable increase in the cost of offshore processing, partly because of the swelling numbers on Manus Island and Nauru as the backlog of asylum seekers is transferred off Christmas Island.
A Transfield spokesman said the costs were higher on Manus Island due to ”security costs”, more expensive travel costs and bigger taxes than Nauru.
The firm is required to hire locals on Manus Island and Nauru to ensure benefits to their economies.
Former Attorney-General’s Department chief Robert Cornall is leading a government inquiry into the violence, in which 62 people were also injured, including eight who had to be evacuated for treatment.
An independent contractor who went into the detention centre last week said many detainees were still lining up at the clinic to receive bandages for their wounds – mainly on their heads and hands.
”I was quite stunned at the poor level of security at the camp,” he said. ”I could have climbed the fence, it was a very rickety structure.”
Also on Monday, the ABC reported that a former Sri Lankan military officer had been heading the detention centre on Manus Island, even though it houses an estimated 30 Tamils who are seeking asylum from persecution in Sri Lanka.
Dinesh Perera’s LinkedIn profile described him as ”acting centre manager”. But a G4S spokesman said Mr Perera was ”operations manager” and an Australian citizen who had worked for G4S for years.
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