Serco are a big company. They were the ones that captured Julian Assange. They control Greenwich Mean Time and they are growing within Australia.
In recent times, Serco have been awarded the contract to manage the Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth, the contract to transport clients within the court system in Western Australia, the contract to provide ‘behind the lines’ support to Australian troops in Afghanistan and the contract to manage immigration detention centres in Australia. They manage the Acacia prison, while they also manage the Borallon correctional facility. They have strong links with the New South Wales government, while they clearly are in favour with Colin Barnett in Western Australia.
Another mega corporation quietly working away in Australia, is McKinsey and Company. McKinsey have been dubbed ‘the ultimate boys club’. That they were Chelsea Clinton’s first employer probably says enough. The National Broadband Network is perhaps the one thing that the Gillard Government hasn’t been pilloried for. Forty per cent of the NBN board driving this roll out is from the McKinsey corporation, who also put together the NBN implementation plan, at a cost of $25 million.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter that these mega corporations so dominate key areas that would once have been solely the domain of the elected Government. Perhaps these successful corporations are more efficient operators, than the slow moving; dead weight carrying, public service that is so pilloried by advocates of a small government.
While I’m not a high flying CEO of a major transnational, I would assume that one of the key goals of a corporation is to make money. Making as much money as possible for the least possible cost. The differential, or profit, would then be announced to all and sundry, causing a rise in share price and dividends paid out to shareholders.
If we observe exhibit ‘A’, the highly secretive contract between the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Serco, we can note that DIAC is providing Serco with $756 million, to effectively manage 7 immigration detention centres. Serco are only required to provide an ‘adequate’ level of staffing. That which is ‘adequate’, may come down to subjective interpretations of what ‘adequacy’ may look like in an immigration detention centre. If staff members at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre, or the Villawood immigration detention centre are to be believed, ‘adequacy’ may mean very few, undertrained, inexperienced staff in charge of facilities holding up to 2,000 frustrated and angry asylum seekers.
The recent hearings of the joint select committee into immigration detention reveal significant frustration from staff members, who feel under resourced and unsupported by their employer. Hiring staff costs money. Training staff costs money. Resourcing and providing ongoing support to staff in demanding roles costs money. All these costs detract from the bottom line.
That these corporations are infiltrating that which was previously managed by the public service should be of concern. Their primary ambition is to make money and that money is coming from tax payers who pay those taxes in good faith, expecting they will be used effectively. Largely due to a swathe of government contracts, Serco Australia recorded a $88.4 million profit in the past financial year. Perhaps if Serco spent an additional $88.4 million on employment in detention centres, riots wouldn’t be occurring, self harm and suicide rates wouldn’t be so alarmingly high, and staff members wouldn’t be developing post traumatic stress syndrome. Instead, they take the profit, appease shareholders and wear the occasional fine. The fall out from this is real. This should be scary.