Obligations and performance of the Commonwealth in relation to the Nauru
Regional Processing Centre
This chapter examines evidence received by the committee in relation to
its terms of reference about the obligations and performance of the Commonwealth
government in relation to the Regional Processing Centre (RPC) on Nauru in
general. The issues covered include questions of legal jurisdiction and
Australia's role; arrangements for managing the conduct of staff; the systems
of transfer and processing of asylum seekers; and costs.
Responsibilities of the Commonwealth in relation to the Regional Processing
Centre on Nauru
Throughout the committee's inquiry, the department was careful to
delineate between the Commonwealth's jurisdiction and responsibilities in
relation to the RPC, and those of the Government of Nauru. As noted in Chapter
1, the department advised the committee in its
submission that Nauru 'owns and administers' the RPC under Nauruan law, while
Australia's role is one of funding, capacity building and support to Nauru in
The department reiterated this position
repeatedly during the inquiry. At the committee's public hearing on 9 June, the
secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Michael
Pezzullo, reaffirmed the department's position:
The Australian government does not
run the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, or RPC. It is managed by the
government of Nauru, under Nauruan law, with support from the Australian
government. The government of Nauru operates the RPC, assesses asylum claims
and, where persons are found to be in need of protection, arranges settlement.
The government of Nauru is specifically responsible for security and good order
and the care and welfare of persons residing in the centre. On behalf of the
Commonwealth, my department provides support services and advice, pursuant to
an agreement between our two governments.
While at the committee's public hearing
on 20 July, the secretary stated that:
It is a matter of law. It would
require a treaty level transference of sovereignty, an abrogation on the part
of the government of Nauru and an acquisition of sovereignty on the part of the
Commonwealth of Australia, for Australia to have sovereignty in relation to,
for instance, the administration of criminal justice. It is a factual matter...It
is just a matter of fact.
A number of legal and human rights bodies made
submissions to the inquiry, however, asserting a broader responsibility on
Australia's part for conditions and events at the RPC. Professor William Maley
from the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National
University observed that '[m]odern theories of sovereignty...recognise that
sovereignty is multidimensional and very rarely absolute'.
Australia's obligations under
A number of submitters, particularly legal and human rights experts and
refugee advocacy organisations, contended that Australia retained legal
obligations to the asylum seekers in the RPC under international human rights
law notwithstanding its location in another country.
Submitters noted the established principle in international
jurisprudence that if a country retained 'effective control' over a person or
group of persons, it continued to be responsible for protecting their human
rights, regardless of whether the physical location of that person was inside
the responsible country's territory. As the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre
for International Refugee Law explained:
The crucial question is not where a person is, but
rather which State has (or which States have) sufficient control over a person
to affect directly his or her enjoyment of rights.
Similarly, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) stated that:
Australia cannot avoid its human rights obligations under
international law by transferring asylum seekers to a third country. If
Australia has 'effective control' over asylum seekers whom it has transferred
to another country, or over a regional processing centre to which they have been
transferred, then it is bound to continue to treat them consistently with human
rights treaties to which Australia is a party.
Many submitters cited the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU),
and practical arrangements at the RPC, in support of the argument that
Australia retained effective control over asylum seekers in Nauru. The Law
Council of Australia, for example, identified the following factors in support
of that assessment:
the RPC was established at Australia's instigation, and Australia
has arranged for its establishment and construction;
Australia funds the operation of the RPC;
Australia engages the contractors who conduct the day-to-day
running of the RPC, and these companies are responsible to the Australian
government through their contracts;
the Australian government, through the department, controls the
delivery of services and infrastructure at the RPC through its management of
the service-provider contracts;
Australia maintains a staff presence at the RPC, and the
department has the power and capacity to cause or prevent any action or
decision being made there;
Australia is solely responsible for the placement of all asylum
seekers at the RPC; and
the Government of Australia has an extensive knowledge and awareness
of the risks and dangers posed by immigration detention.
The Human Rights Law Centre and UNICEF offered a similar list of
considerations, concluding that:
From the moment they are received by Australian authorities
and throughout their detention on Nauru, asylum seekers are effectively subject
to Australia's jurisdiction and control. That practical reality translates
under international law to a legal one, such that Australia retains human
rights obligations to asylum seekers it transfers to detention on Nauru.
The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law and the Law Council of
Australia also noted that the Moss Review had highlighted the high degree of
Australian control over the centre, to the extent that Nauruan managers told
that inquiry that they were not sufficiently informed
about day-to-day matters at the RPC because service providers reported directly
to the department.
Former Chief Justice of Nauru, the Hon
Geoffrey Eames, recounted to the committee that following a visit to the RPC in
November 2013, he raised concerns about the 'intolerable' conditions there with
the President of Nauru. Mr Eames advised that the President proposed changes to
improve accommodation arrangements for children at the RPC, and stated that he
would 'ask Tony Abbott' whether these could be made. Mr Eames emphasised the 'symbiotic'
relationship between Australia and Nauru in relation to the RPC: '[f]or every
statement that this was a domestic matter that Nauru would look at, Nauru
always had one eye to the larger country.'
Making particular reference to Australia's
obligations under the Refugees Convention,
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reminded the
committee of the assessment it had previously and publicly offered with respect
Under international law, Australia thus continues to have
legal responsibility for the protection of those asylum-seekers, refugees and
stateless persons who are transferred to Nauru. The extent of such
responsibility can be assessed, inter alia, against the extent to which
reception and/or processing of asylum-seekers is effectively under the control
or direction of Australia as the transferring State. UNHCR has previously
observed a high degree of effective control at the Centre, including
Australia’s financing and appointing of the service providers at the Centre and
the numerous Australian Government officials who are present to assist with the
management and day-to-day running of the Centre, as well as Australia’s close
involvement and mentoring of Nauruan officials in respect of refugee status
determination (RSD) processing.
In summary, UNHCR is of the view that the physical transfer
of asylum-seekers, refugees and stateless persons from Australia to Nauru does
not extinguish the legal responsibility of Australia for their protection.
It was pointed out to the committee that other parliamentary inquiries
had similarly examined the question of RPCs and Australia's responsibilities.
The AHRC drew attention to the finding of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on
Human Rights in 2013, that Australia could be viewed as exercising effective
control of the arrangements relating to persons transferred to Manus Island and
Nauru, and that Australia retained responsibility under international law in
relation to the treatment of asylum seekers in the RPCs, irrespective of
whether Papua New Guinea or Nauru might also be jointly responsible.
Examining the Commonwealth's legal responsibilities with respect to the
RPC on Manus Island in 2014, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs
References Committee received and considered evidence offering the same lines
of argument as those submitted to this committee, and concluded that:
...the degree of involvement by the Australian Government in
the establishment, use, operation, and provision of total funding for the
[Manus Island] centre clearly satisfies the test of effective control in
international law, and the government's ongoing refusal to concede this point
displays a denial of Australia's international obligations.
Several submitters made the secondary point that even if Australia did
not exercise effective control, it could still be regarded as holding joint
liability with the host government for any breaches of international human
rights law which occurred at an RPC. Some further cited the statement of the UN
Human Rights Committee that a state may be responsible for extra-territorial
violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
if it had exposed a person to a reasonably foreseeable 'real risk' that his or
her rights would be violated.
In its Explanatory Memorandum on legislation related to regional
processing put before parliament in June 2015, the government elaborated its
perspective on the application of its international legal obligations in the
The Australian Government's long-standing view is that
Australia's human rights obligations are essentially territorial. Persons in
regional processing countries are outside Australia's territory. Australia has
accepted that there may be exceptional circumstances in which the rights and
freedoms set out under the ICCPR may apply to persons beyond the territory of a
State party, and the extent of the obligations that a State may owe under
international human rights law where it is operating extraterritorially will be
informed by the degree of control exercised by the State. The Government's
position is that Australia does not exercise the degree of control necessary in
regional processing countries to enliven Australia's international obligations.
Australia does not restrain the liberty of persons in
regional processing countries. To the extent that the liberty of persons taken
to regional processing countries is restrained in those countries, this is done
under the laws of that country.
Obligations under Australian
domestic law: duty of care
Legal experts also argued in a number of submissions that Australian
domestic law imposed a non-delegable duty of care upon the Commonwealth in
relation to asylum seekers at the RPC. The Law Council of Australia considered
'that there is a compelling argument that domestic case law supports the
existence of a duty of care owed by the Commonwealth to detainees in OPCs'.
In this respect, submitters emphasised the provision in the MOU that
'the Commonwealth of Australia will conduct all activities in respect of this
MOU in accordance with its Constitution and all relevant domestic laws'.
In a detailed submission, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) argued that
under the terms of the MOU between Australia and Nauru, the Commonwealth
retained duties of care both at common law and under Australian workplace,
health and safety legislation, that were non-delegable in nature.
Analysing the terms of the MOU, ALA assessed that:
...it appears that while the centre is on Nauruan soil, control
is maintained by Australia, who continue to fund, have input into decisions,
and the final say about whether a person will be detained inside the Centre.
Further, the 2013 MOU establishes a direct line of reporting to the Australian
Department of Immigration.
Both ALA and the Castan Centre also noted that the department's
immigration detention standards, developed in consultation with the
Commonwealth Ombudsman in 1997, included the following provision:
Ultimate responsibility for the detainees remains with [the
department] at all times'.
While recognising that the High Court had not yet resolved the question
whether the Commonwealth's duty of care to asylum seekers was non-delegable,
ALA and the Law Council of Australia cited a number of common law precedents
which established that where a legal person has undertaken the care,
supervision or control of another, they assume a particular and non-delegable
responsibility toward the other person, where that other person is not in
control and is dependent on or vulnerable to the control of the first.
ALA cited cases establishing the legal responsibility of the state,
through its prison authorities, to exercise reasonable care for the safety of detainees,
and Australian courts' application of that principle to the immigration
detention context, as authority that the department held an 'obligation of
reasonable care to avoid harm to the detainee whether that harm be inflicted by
a third person or by the detainee himself or herself'.
In the Federal Court, discussing the relevance of the isolated location of the
Baxter detention centre and its impact on the standard of health care services
able to be provided, Finn J stated that:
Having made the choice of location, the Commonwealth, not the
detainees, should bear the consequences of it insofar as that choice has
affected or compromised the medical services that could be made available to
meet the known needs of detainees.
In the area of legislative responsibility, two submissions drew particular
attention to Australia's obligations under the Commonwealth Work, Health and
Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) and their applicability to the RPC.
ALA noted that Comcare had carried out inspections and reporting in relation to
the Nauru and Manus Island RPCs,
and the government's acceptance that for the purposes of the WHS Act,
responsibility for providing a safe workplace at the RPCs rested with the
ALA and other submitters noted that the provisions of the WHS Act
extended obligations to protect health and safety beyond employees to include
'other persons' and 'all persons' at a location of work, arguing that this
imposed obligations on the Commonwealth to protect the health and safety of
asylum seekers at the RPC.
ALA noted that although the WHS Act required the reporting to Comcare of
all critical incidents, including sexual assault, no incidents had been
reported in relation to Nauru since September 2013, and queried why this was
Employment law experts Mr Max Costello and Ms Paddy McCorry believed this was
because the department and Comcare had adopted a narrower interpretation of the
application of the WHS Act at the RPCs, but they disputed this approach,
arguing that the broad, extraterritorial and non-delegable nature of the
provisions of the WHS Act created obligations from which the Commonwealth could
not legally resile.
Overall, ALA concluded that:
If allegations of [the kind cited in the Moss Review]
occurred on Australian soil, there would be a Royal Commission, criminal
charges would be laid, Comcare would appropriately investigate, and a raft of
personal injury claims would be pursued.
We submit that the fact that these incidents occur on Nauruan
soil does not hold the Commonwealth immune from its responsibilities under the
common law and statute. In fact, these duties remain.
We submit it cannot be a discharge of Commonwealth
responsibility to place detainees in another country against their will.
ALA urged 'a greater role for Comcare to investigate the safety of
workers and other persons in relation to Nauru regional processing centre',
including their risks of both physical and psychological injury.
Australia's responsibilities under
Memoranda of Understanding are not legally binding and as such, the
terms of the MOU between the governments of Australia and Nauru do not create
legally enforceable obligations on Australia. However, many submitters pointed
out that, in addition to the contribution the terms of the MOU may make to
demonstrating Australia's effective control and therefore its legal obligations
in respect of the RPC, the MOU itself created, at a minimum, moral obligations
upon its signatories to fulfil its provisions in good faith.
In this respect, submitters drew attention in particular to two clauses
of the MOU:
Clause 4: The Commonwealth of Australia will conduct all
activities in respect of this MOU in accordance with its Constitution and all
relevant domestic laws;
Clause 17: The Participants will treat Transferees with dignity
and respect and in accordance with relevant human rights standards.
Capacity of Nauru's police and
Challenges to the Republic of Nauru's ability to fulfil its
responsibilities under the MOU and more generally in relation to the RPC were
the subject of comment by many submitters, these challenges were seen to
reinforce both the legal and ethical responsibility placed on Australia, as the
instigator and effective controller of the Centre, to ensure that appropriate
standards and processes were observed for the protection, safety and wellbeing
of asylum seekers.
Law Students for Refugees argued that:
The Australian government has chosen to delegate its
obligations to transferees under the Refugees Convention (as amended by
the Refugees Protocol), to the Nauruan police and government as a
designated alternative authority. However, if that alternative authority is
incapable of properly ensuring that transferees are receiving sufficient
protection, it is the responsibility of the Australian Government to either
meet these obligations itself or ensure that structures in Nauru are capable of
The Law Council of Australia and the Victorian Bar went further, citing
principles of international law relating to the responsibility of states for
intentionally wrongful acts:
...when one State places its organs or assets at the disposal
of another State, the conduct of the organ of the former State (such as Papua
New Guinea (PNG) or Nauruan police or security forces) shall be considered to
be the conduct of the latter State (such as Australia) if acting in the
exercise of elements of governmental authority of the latter State...
Capacity of the Nauru Police Force
The committee received specific evidence regarding the capacity of the
Nauru Police Force to investigate allegations made about incidents at the RPC
which have been put to this inquiry.
Mr Peter Law, a former Chief Magistrate on Nauru, expressed his concerns
about the capacity of the Nauru police, particularly following the removal of
the Australian-seconded police commissioner in July 2014:
It is regrettable that the Nauru police force has limited
resources and capacity to investigate serious allegations. There is very
limited forensic evidence available to the police force. They were very reliant
on support from the Australian Federal Police. During my tenure there, I found
that the role of the Australian Federal Police was extremely positive. I could
not speak more highly of them in terms of the logistical support and training
that was provided. Most importantly, they provided the commissioner through an
officer of the AFP. They filled the position of commissioner of the Nauru
police force. It was more than just symbolic in filling that position by the
AFP. It provided a sense of independence and integrity. The subsequent
departure or termination of the contract of Richard Britten, the then
commissioner, on 19 July, was a very regrettable fact. I say that because,
through him and his predecessor, Commissioner Ced Netto, they were able to
offer their expertise and their assurances of independence and proper
investigation. It was my observation that after their departure those factors
were missing from the Nauru police force.
Similarly, former Chief Justice Eames
expressed the view in relation to the police that 'there is a serious question
about their independence and about their willingness to investigate allegations
against Nauruans who are charged with assaults of non-Nauruans'.
When queried by the committee, a senior Wilson Security officer with 16
months experience as a security manager on Nauru declined to offer an
assessment as to the level of competence of the Nauru Police Force.
Save the Children Australia's head of Nauru programs assessed that the small
size and limited training level of the Nauruan police, particularly in relation
to working with trauma issues and sexual assault, gave rise to questions about
the appropriateness of relying on the Nauru Police Force to investigate alleged
crimes at the RPC.
The department advised the committee in June 2015 that since September
2012, a total of 50 matters had been referred to the Nauru Police Force for
investigation, in relation to alleged incidents at the RPC. Of these, five had
resulted in charges being laid, two convictions had been recorded and two
sentences handed down.
The department also advised the committee that in response to the
recommendations of the Moss Review, it had deployed four Australian Federal
Police (AFP) officers to Nauru on 6 May 2015 for a period of four to six weeks.
Two of these would assist the Nauru Police Force in reviewing and strengthening
its processes and investigations in relation to sexual assault, child abuse and
associated crimes, while the other two were to advise and mentor the Nauruan
Police Force in relation to the investigation and prosecution of public
disorder incidents. These officers were in addition to two AFP officers
deployed to Nauru on a long term basis to provide general mentoring and advice
to the Nauru Police Force. Relevant training courses and assistance were also
being offered to the Nauru Police Force and the Government of Nauru by the AFP
and Attorney-General's Department.
Nauru's judicial system and the
rule of law
Former Chief Justice Eames expressed related concerns about the ability
of Nauru's judiciary to cope with the workload generated by incidents at the RPC:
Following two major incidents of riotous behaviour by some
detainees it was apparent that the resources of the judiciary would be severely
stretched by the more than 120 prosecution cases that had to be heard. The
courthouse itself is tiny and not secure; it could not easily cope with trials
involving multiple defendants.
The observance of the rule of law more generally in Nauru was an issue
of serious concern to a number of expert submitters. Mr Law described a
'history of failure by the Nauruan prosecuting authorities to act independently
of the government'.
Mr Law's evidence cited concerns about the independence from political influence
of the police, the office of public prosecutions and even the judiciary,
following the removal of himself and the Chief Justice by the Government of
Nauru in 2014. In his submission, Mr Law observed that '[t]he issue of capacity
is overshadowed by motivation. The lack of action suggests the Nauruan
Government is less than interested to see these incidents [at the RPC] investigated
and prosecuted because such action may reflect adversely on Nauru as a place to
process and settle asylum seekers'.
Mr Eames stated that from his experience 'the concept of separation of
powers was not well understood or accepted by some members of the government'.
In relation to police investigations, Mr Eames observed that:
If Australia is to take responsibility for the welfare of
people transferred by the government to Nauru then the Nauru and Australian
public must be assured that allegations of assault and other criminal conduct
will be genuinely and thoroughly investigated. Where such thorough
investigations might be seen by Nauru police to be unwelcome, so far as the
Nauru government is concerned, it is unlikely that they will be undertaken.
In relation to the operation of the judiciary, Mr Eames discussed the
refusal of the police to implement orders of the judiciary, and ministers
overriding laws protecting the independence of the judiciary, on the basis of
government's 'right' to decide who would hold judicial posts.
Mr Eames expressed the view that following the events surrounding his removal,
'no one appearing in the Nauru courts can be confident that the system is fair
A number of submitters also highlighted broader political developments
in Nauru as evidence of the breakdown of respect for human rights and the rule
of law in the country. These include the parliament of Nauru's suspension of
five opposition members for criticising the government, and the subsequent
arrest of three members of parliament who participated in a protest, as well as
the passage of laws limiting court review of immigration decisions, and
restricting media freedom and freedom of speech, including a ban on Facebook. Mr
Law offered the committee his perspective that 'there is a lack of
accountability of the government on all fronts'.
Professor Maley offered a similar assessment of the rule of law and
governance problems in Nauru, stating that '[i]n practice, only the shell of a
Westminster system of accountable government and the rule of law is left in
Professor Maley's view was that:
The location of a refugee processing centre on Nauru
has...allowed the Australian government to benefit from the weaknesses in
accountability associated with poor governance and the collapse of the rule of
law on Nauru.
On 2 July 2015, the parliament of New Zealand unanimously passed a
That this House express its concern regarding the Government
of Nauru's alleged interference with the judiciary, the suspension of
Opposition members of Parliament, the cancelling of passports of Opposition
members of Parliament, and the removal of civil and political rights.
On 10 July 2015, New Zealand's Foreign Minister the Hon Murray McCully
and the Australian Foreign Minister the Hon Julie Bishop both stated publicly
that they had raised concerns about the rule of law in Nauru with the President
of Nauru, the Hon Baron Waqa, who was visiting Sydney for a meeting of the
Pacific Islands Forum. Ms Bishop told the media that:
I have raised our concerns directly with the president...We
want an update on the prosecution of the opposition members of parliament and
we want to ensure that this is all done openly and transparently and in a way
that is accountable to the international community.
These are domestic matters, but we urge there to be an
adherence to the rule of law, that the justice system operates properly, that
people are not denied natural justice, that they're given an opportunity to
present their case...
If it were purely a domestic issue and Australia had no
interest in it, I wouldn't have raised it with him, but we do have a concern.
Ms Bishop stated that other Pacific leaders had also raised concerns
with the President, and that she and President Waqa had agreed 'to remain
closely engaged on this matter'.
of a child protection framework in Nauru
A number of submitters drew attention to the lack of a child protection
framework in Nauru as a key lacuna rendering it untenable for Australia to rely
on Nauru's legal and judicial arrangements in transferring responsibility for
asylum seekers. The department advised the committee that in response to the
recommendations of the Moss Review, it was working with the Government of Nauru
to progress inclusion of child protection elements in relevant Nauruan
legislation, as well as developing a child protection framework.
This issue is discussed further in Chapter 4.
Managing the conduct and behaviour of staff of the Regional Processing
A large number of the allegations made to the Forgotten Children
and Moss Review inquiries, and to this inquiry, have related to inadequate
conduct and improper behaviour on the part of staff employed by contractors to
the Commonwealth to provide services at the RPC. Evidence received by this
committee on the matter of contractor staff has ranged from suggestions of poor
training and understanding on the part of staff, inadequate provision of
services and lack of responsiveness to the needs of asylum seekers, through to
serious allegations of physical and sexual abuse. The latter are discussed
further in Chapter 4.
At the most serious end of the spectrum, in response to queries from the
committee, principal contracted service provider Transfield Services reported
that 30 formal allegations of child abuse had been made against RPC staff, 15
allegations of sexual assault or rape, and four
allegations relating to the exchange of sexual favours for contraband. Of the 30 child abuse allegations,
24 involved alleged physical contact, two related to sexual assault, and single
allegations were made of sexual harassment, inappropriate relationship with a
minor, excessive use of force, and verbal abuse. As a result of these, six
employees had been dismissed, two removed from the RPC site and one employee
Wilson Security provided details of eleven cases in which staff were
terminated for misconduct including inappropriate relationships, alleged sexual
assault, sexual harassment, excessive use of force toward an asylum seeker,
trading in contraband including for sexual favours, and throwing a rock at an
Examples of allegations regarding
conduct and behaviour of Transfield Services and Wilson Security staff
The specific allegations and incidents reported to this committee about
the conduct and behaviour of contractor staff are too numerous to set out in detail
in this report. Some reflect matters already raised elsewhere, including in the
Moss Review and in the media, while some were acknowledged by contractors as
matters not previously reported. The following paragraphs provide a few
examples of the behaviours reported in submissions and evidence to this
A former employee of Wilson Security alleged that incident reports
relating to the use of unreasonable force had been 'shredded' by Wilson
Security management, and that he had witnessed a range of misconduct by
locally-employed security staff including trading in contraband, threatening
and sexually harassing asylum seekers and refugees.
Wilson Security stated that action had been taken with the Nauru Police Force
to investigate allegations of staff trading contraband for sexual favours, as a
result of which one employee was terminated.
Allegations of documents being shredded by Wilson Security were made by
former employees, who told the committee that documents were frequently
destroyed by placing them into 'File 13', a codename for the shredder.
Mr Jon Nichols, a former employee of Wilson Security, told the committee that
incident reports filed by third parties such as Save the Children Australia and
Transfield Services were shredded before being electronically logged.
However, Wilson Security advised that the electronic logging system is
tamper-proof, and that the incident reporting process has two strands:
...even if an incident comes from another service provider,
there are still two parts to our requirements under the department guidelines.
The first one is a verbal notification, and the second one is the written
report. Even before we receive the written report, there would have been verbal
notification to each of the stakeholder service leads or managers notifying
them of that incident, and then the written report is subsequent to that. The
concept that a written report is shredded would have to be explained in some
way, because we would have made a verbal notification.
A former employee of The Salvation Army, Save the Children Australia and
International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) on Nauru submitted that staff
were verbally abusive to asylum seekers at RPC 3, and despite reporting, no
staff were disciplined or dismissed for such behaviour.
Another former RPC worker described clients reporting to him several cases of
sexual and verbal harassment.
Ms Charlotte Wilson, a former Save the Children Australia employee, stated her
'belief that both Australian and Nauruan security guards frequently abused
their positions of power within RPC3', citing verbal abuse, and 'common
knowledge' of such misconduct as bartering of sexual favours for contraband
items such as cigarettes.
Another former Save the Children Australia employee cited 'multiple
allegations' of excessive force and assault by security personnel against minor
asylum seekers in RPC3, describing it as the use of 'undue force' to subdue
'normal childhood behaviour'.
Ms Alanna Maycock, a nurse visiting the RPC as a consultant for IHMS,
described the RPC as a place where a cycle of human rights abuse existed and
was 'continuing and intensifying'. She reported the assault of the father of a
sick child by a security guard in her presence, which was 'accepted by all that
Transfield Services stated that it 'denies that this is a fair representation
of the environment at the centre',
and that neither Transfield Services nor its subcontractor Wilson Security held
any record of the specific incident alleged by Ms Maycock.
A former employee of The Salvation Army, Mr Mark Isaacs, described a
'culture of silence and cover up and a lack of accountability in the Nauru
RPC', describing as one example an incident where a Nauruan security guard
aggressively confronted an asylum seeker in the presence of himself along with
a number of other security guards, but the other security guards did not
endorse his reporting of the incident, in what he described as 'a collaborative
attempt to blame the asylum seeker rather than the Nauruan guard'.
Former Save the Children Australia worker Ms Samantha Betts submitted
that '[f]requent staff reports of sexual, physical and emotional abuse' were
made to the department and Wilson Security, but these 'became known as
"paperwork"...with little investigation or consequences'.
Transfield Services rejected this characterisation, maintaining that all
reports of assault or abuse were treated seriously and investigated promptly.
More than one submission provided the example of an incident reported in
April 2014 in which two adolescent female asylum seekers had been subjected to
sexual innuendo and harassment from male security guards, including attempts to
hug and kiss them and inviting them to a 'sexy party'.
Wilson Security responded that the incident was 'thoroughly investigated', but
the matter was closed in the absence of further evidence when the asylum
seekers declined to make a formal complaint.
In her submission and in oral evidence to the committee, Ms Viktoria
Vibhakar, a former senior child protection worker with Save the Children
Australia, raised a large number of cases of alleged misconduct by staff of
Commonwealth contractors, including the example of a 16 year old female asylum
seeker who experienced 'multiple episodes of sexual harassment over several
weeks from several Commonwealth contracted employees'.
A number of former employees commented on a generally intimidating
appearance and demeanour among security staff, and that asylum seekers were
'scared and intimidated' by them.
The use of asylum seekers' boat identification numbers in place of their names
was raised by submitters with concerns about the dehumanising impact of this,
and the unwillingness of security guards in particular to learn and use asylum
Wilson Security and other service providers repeatedly assured the committee
that their policies did not endorse the primary reference to asylum seekers by
One Save the Children Australia employee submitted to the committee that
she herself had been subject to sexual harassment by contractor staff during
screening at security checkpoints.
Wilson Security responded that it was unaware of such incidents.
Recording of events of 19 July 2013
In a submission to the inquiry, a former employee of Wilson Security on
Nauru stated that he had seen video footage showing security guards preparing
for the July 2013 disturbance at the RPC, 'planning to use unreasonable force
and assault the asylum seekers even before the riot started'.
Wilson Security responded that it was 'concerned' about the reported video
footage—of which it was unaware—and that any officer engaged in excessive use
of force was subject to 'a strict disciplinary process, and may be subject to
Mr John Rogers, Executive General Manager from Wilson Security, told the
committee at the public hearing on 20 July 2015 that body-worn cameras were not
used at that time:
I do not believe that we had any kind of individual video
cameras in place at the time of the July 2013 riot. I believe there was one
video camera that was there for the purposes of recording the events that
occurred and it was destroyed during the [riot]. That was the only matter that
I am aware of...There is none held by the company that I have been able to
On 13 August 2015, the ABC's 7.30 program aired a report which
included the footage referred to in the submission received by the committee.
The footage bears a date mark of 3.00pm, 19 July 2013, and shows individuals
who appear to be security staff making the comments referred to in Submission
62. Wilson Security and the department advised the committee that the staff
visible in the footage were employed by Wilson Security.
At the committee's public hearing on 20 August 2015, Mr Rogers
acknowledged that information previously provided to the committee had been
incorrect: 'Clearly, I was mistaken in what I described to you. What I was
describing to you was my reading of the post-incident reporting...'
Mr Brett McDonald, Security Contract Manager, Wilson Security, further
clarified that although he was aware of the existence of body-worn cameras
during the public hearing of 20 July, he did not hear Mr Rogers' evidence:
I did not pick it up at the time to think to correct it...but I
can confirm that there were numerous officers wearing body cameras and also a
Handycam during the incident on 19 July.
Wilson Security advised that:
All footage obtained by us during the incident on 19th
July 2013 was saved to a network storage device. A copy of all footage was
provided to the Department and the Nauru Police Force.
However, the department advised that the footage has not been available
to them, and that an investigation was underway:
An investigation has commenced in regards to the footage
aired on the 7:30 report and is currently ongoing. This investigation will
include the identification of persons featured in the footage and a review of
all comments made.
The committee's view on this matter is outlined in Chapter 5.
Incident of August 2014
It was put to the committee that an employee of Wilson Security had
admitted fabricating an allegation of assault by an asylum seeker, with
evidence existing to confirm the fabrication.
Wilson Security responded to this allegation, saying that conflicting
allegations were made in August 2014:
This submission contains very serious and deeply concerning
allegations that could be criminal in nature. If the allegation was
substantiated, it would constitute serious misconduct and result in the termination
of the employee...
Wilson Security investigated both allegations, and referred
the matter to the Nauruan Police Force for review.
There was insufficient evidence to make a finding against
either party involved.
Wilson Security subsequently advised the committee that the matter was
heard in the Nauru District Court on 13 November 2014. Four witness statements
were provided at the time which provided conflicting accounts of the incident:
Two of those witness statements outlined the fall to the
ground and also where one of the staff members was struck to the head. The
staff member who had the strike to the head also went to the medical clinic and
submitted an injury report following that. The other two witness statements
observed the fall but did not observe the actual strike to the head. All that
information was provided or reported to the department at the time in the
normal incident reporting process. It was then referred to the police. The
matter was subsequently dealt with in then Nauru District Court in November
2014 where each of those four people gave evidence.
Wilson Security told the committee that they received information on 31 December
2014 which alleged that the incident had not occurred as reported, and an
internal investigation was initiated. It appears that the recording of the
employee admitting to having fabricated the allegation of assault was made
during that internal investigation, with Wilson Security advising that the
audio recording was made in January 2015. At the conclusion of the internal
investigation, there was 'insufficient evidence to make a finding against the
Wilson Security advised the committee that the employee has been suspended
during an independent review commissioned by Wilson Security to 'review all
investigations involving staff misconduct at the Regional Processing Centre'.
It is not known to the committee who is undertaking the review or when it will
It is unclear to the committee whether the audio recording was made
before or after the decision of the Nauru District Court, and whether any
investigation has been undertaken into the employee who provided a witness
statement which corroborated the initial allegation of assault.
The committee heard that the asylum seeker against whom the allegation
was made attempted suicide three times and spent time in custody, before the
Nauru District Court handed down a verdict finding the asylum seeker not
In April 2015, the asylum seeker was brought to Australia and is
currently at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation site.
Although the audio file has been in Wilson Security's possession since
January 2015, the department was only made aware of the fabrication of an
assault allegation on 20 August 2015, after it was reported in the media. Mr
Neil Skill, First Assistant Secretary, Department of Immigration and Border
Protection, told the committee that neither Wilson Security nor Transfield
Services had made the department aware of the incident:
...the first time that we were formally notified by Transfield
of the range of actions that have come to light today in relation to Wilsons
and the detail that they put on the record today was this morning. We have
formally requested advice from Transfield as to what occurred and why that was
not referred to us in a more formal and more timely manner. We have also
referred it to our internal detention assurance team for investigation,
because, quite frankly, it is not satisfactory, and I have made those views
quite clear to Transfield. We expect there to be a full investigation as to
what actually occurred and where the fall-down was in the reporting regime so
that we were not made aware of these allegations and subsequent actions by
Wilsons and, even later, in May, by Transfield. We should have known about
The Secretary of the department, Mr Michael Pezzullo, echoed that the
department was unsatisfied with the lack of reporting:
...it is not satisfactory, and we have made our views known—we
would have then immediately, given the operation of the jurisdiction, ensured
that the Nauruan prosecutorial authorities...were seized with this...the principle
is that their contractor [Wilson Security] should more diligently acquit its
Contracting arrangements mean that the department is unable to deal
directly with Wilson Security. Wilson Security advised that Transfield Services
had been 'verbally notified' of the potential fabrication of an allegation in
January 2015, and that Wilson Security had notified Transfield Services of the
outcome of the internal investigation in March 2015.
The committee's view on this matter is detailed in Chapter 5.
Concerns regarding conduct and
behaviour of other contractors and their staff
While the vast majority of concerns about the conduct and behaviour of
contractors raised with this committee related to the principal providers of
staff and services at the RPC, Transfield Services and its security
subcontractor Wilson Security, there was also criticism raised by some
submitters about the conduct of other service providers.
Some submissions were critical of the level and character of health and
medical services provided by IHMS. One former Save the Children Australia employee,
for example, stated that her experiences with IHMS were 'not very positive',
and recounted an incident in which she was upbraided by IHMS staff at an
interagency meeting for raising concerns about a traumatised asylum seeker on
Citing his interaction with IHMS staff on Nauru in relation to an asylum seeker
who alleged that she had been raped, former IHMS consultant Professor David
Isaacs said that 'I felt that the staff at times acted as if the detainees
deserved to be treated with less respect than they would have for someone from
their own country'.
Former employees of The Salvation Army, which provided welfare services
at the RPC from its opening in 2012 until February 2014, generally painted a
picture of an organisation with positive intentions but which struggled to meet
the challenges before it, and was insufficiently supportive of its staff. Mr
Mark Isaacs, employed as a 'mission worker' at the commencement of the RPC in
2012, stated that he was given no orientation or introduction and he and colleagues
were unable to address the concerns and demands of highly distressed asylum
Another former employee similarly described 'sub-par recruitment and
employment' procedures followed by The Salvation Army. He believed that this
reflected the rushed reopening of the RPC in 2012, which 'meant that The
Salvation Army had no room to follow best practice for recruitment and
Mr Isaacs described a 'culture of fear' among his colleagues about
disclosing anything that happened at the RPC, increasing the pressure and
trauma on staff.
Another former employee stated that management of The Salvation Army
'specifically directed staff not to show empathy to "transferees" in
either a written or verbal capacity'.
The same employee submitted that during her employment, The Salvation Army, Transfield
Services and Save the Children Australia all instructed staff to censor
negative information about asylum seekers' mental or psychosocial health in
official reporting, at the department's request.
These claims were denied by the contractors involved.
The work of current welfare provider Save the Children Australia was
generally described in positive terms but Save the Children Australia also
attracted some criticism from its former employees. Mr Tobias Gunn submitted
that he received no formal or informal training in cultural issues when
deployed to Nauru, and that he was also concerned about the lack of policies
regarding teamwork and coordination.
Another former child protection worker reported that a Save the Children
Australia Operations Manager had admitted to having little knowledge about
Former manager for The Salvation Army on Nauru, Ms Caz Coleman, offered
the assessment that both organisations engaged to provide welfare services had
been consistently 'underprepared and undereducated' in issues of asylum seeker
care and protection which, along with shortages of time and resources and the
department's frequent policy changes, led to inevitable failures to fulfil the
Describing her own resignation in May 2013, Ms Coleman stated that:
It was my conclusion that the ongoing mismanagement of the
centre was likely to be tested in one or more critical incidents that would
damage clients and staff and the relationship with Nauru itself. Within a few
months the entire structure of the Nauru centre was burnt down as a result of
client frustration and anger. Whilst saddened, I was not surprised when these
and drug testing
In light of the allegations made to the
committee about misconduct by intoxicated staff at the RPC, use of drugs
including marijuana and steroids by RPC staff, and trading of contraband for
sex, the committee queried key contractors Transfield Services and Wilson
Security about drug and alcohol testing of employees at the RPC.
The committee was advised that while
random alcohol testing was conducted on staff on a daily basis at the RPC, similar testing for drug use was
not undertaken. Transfield Services and Wilson said that while pre-deployment
drug testing was done on expatriate staff, drug testing could not be undertaken
on Nauru because laboratory facilities were not available on the island to
conduct follow-up urine testing.
Mr Brett McDonald from Wilson Security
We have the capability to do saliva
drug testing on the island; we have the tests on the island and the training
and the policy, and we rolled that out. Where we came unstuck was simply that
in the event that somebody was detected, the union objected to us being able to
then take any disciplinary action with that person because we could not get a
secondary blood test to a laboratory within a certain period of time...This is
where we are stuck and we have not been able to resolve this.
Relations between contracted
Some former staff of the RPC highlighted poor relations and
communication between service providers as exacerbating many of the problems at
the RPC. Ms Coleman described relationships between stakeholders during her
time there in 2013 as 'very poor. The result was a lack of trust, poor
communication, poor collaboration' and even 'hostility and non-cooperation', leading
to a heightened risk to asylum seekers and staff.
Former Save the Children Australia worker Ms Natasha Blucher believed
that a key problem with the operation of the RPC was what she described as a 'conflict
that exists between service providers...in their basic objectives'.
Ms Blucher submitted that:
I believe that the prevailing focus
of the RPC is on maintaining order of the RPC, through a security framework.
This exclusive focus undermined the operational framework that SCA operated
within – a welfare framework.
At a public hearing, Ms Blucher further
explained her view that:
There is an emphasis on behaviour
and compliance from a security framework as opposed to an understanding of the
trauma impacts and deterioration of mental health that...is the primary
presenting issue and must be addressed through a specialised trauma informed
welfare framework. There is overall mistreatment and lack of respect and
dignity afforded to asylum seekers by stakeholder staff due to the toxic
workplace culture in the Nauru RPC and a lack of accountability for all of these
issues due to the excessive secrecy and lack of external oversight and
complaints mechanisms in the regional processing system.
Save the Children Australia's Chief Executive Officer Mr Paul Ronalds
acknowledged that such tensions existed, although his view was that these were
generally resolved by being 'escalated until we come to a compromise' that
satisfied Save the Children Australia in relation to the interests of asylum
Wilson Security rejected the suggestion that welfare services were subservient
to security at the RPC, stating that '[b]oth service types are essential to
ensure the health and safety of asylum seekers'.
Ms Coleman observed that:
The security role and the welfare role are not inimical to
each other when understood properly and performed with trust and respect.
Furthermore, this can be achieved if management embody such collaboration,
model it to staff and constructively work through the occasions where it falls
down to learn from and improve future operations.
Response from contracted service
Transfield Services and Wilson Security both assured the
committee that they had rigorous processes in place for the recruitment,
training and management of both Australian and Nauruan staff employed at the RPC.
Both organisations expressed confidence that their systems and processes were
robust enough to ensure competent and appropriate
behaviour among their staff, and to respond to incidents of misconduct when
Transfield Services advised the committee
that since it commenced services in September 2012, it had 'terminated' 289
staff from the RPC Nauru, although these figures included transfers and
Transfield Services observed that abandonment of duty was one of the most
frequent reasons for termination of staff.
The department had separately advised the Senate's Legal and Constitutional
Affairs Legislation Committee that across the Nauru and Manus Island RPCs,
Transfield Services had dismissed 179 staff in the first six months of 2015, 13
of those for misconduct.
Wilson Security reported to the
committee that since it commenced services in Nauru, 25 of its expatriate
employees had been terminated for misconduct, while 15 disciplinary warnings
had been issued to expatriate staff. Wilson Security stated that only two of
the terminations arose from matters involving asylum seekers, while the
remainder were 'internal disciplinary matters'. Wilson Security's two local
subcontractors had terminated 18 staff for misconduct. Transfield Services advised that
three staff of Wilson Security had been dismissed at the request of Transfield
Services, one for inappropriate behaviour at the Nauru airport, and two for
breaches of relevant codes of conduct and policies. It was not clear whether this was additional
to, or a subset of, those reported by Wilson Security.
At the committee's public hearing, Mrs
Kate Munnings from Transfield Services defended the professionalism and
integrity of contractor staff:
I highlight the Moss Review and his
comments about the staff being dedicated and professional. That has been my
experience on the island every time I have visited. I have been taken aback by
the commitment that our staff have to the wellbeing and care of the asylum
Mrs Munnings further commented that:
Moss identified that on every
occasion we had been willing to take disciplinary action in relation to
allegations [against staff], and we do not expect things to be proved beyond a
reasonable doubt. If we feel that the risk warrants it we have always taken
disciplinary action and removed anyone from our employment who we believe is
not acting in accordance with our values, not acting in accordance with our
expectations and not working with the best interests of the asylum seekers at
Mr John Rogers, Executive General
Manager of Wilson Security, said that:
I can assure the committee of this:
where an allegation is made with conclusive supporting evidence, the company
has taken entirely appropriate action regarding the safeguarding of those in
our care, and this is well documented. Allegations in this category are a
minority. Far more common are allegations where, after thorough investigation,
insufficient evidence is found to enable us to take decisive action against an
individual. To characterise such unsubstantiated or unproven allegations as a
systemic problem is inaccurate and unhelpful, particularly given the range of
motivations that may be behind them. It is particularly harmful to the
reputations of the many staff who have performed exceptionally in complex and
demanding conditions and whose efforts to fulfil their responsibilities under
our contract should be commended. We have no tolerance for individuals who are
unable to uphold our exacting standards of conduct, and we do not hesitate to
remove such individuals from our organisation. I can assure the committee that
all allegations are taken extremely seriously and investigated with rigour to
attempt to determine the full facts, in order to take appropriate action where
Transfield Services advised that following the recommendations of the
Moss Review, it had reviewed its corporate policies and practices both independently
and in collaboration with the department, and was 'confident that our existing
policies and guidelines appropriately inform staff about expected behaviours'.
Similarly, Wilson Security told the committee that it had reviewed its
corporate policies and '[w]e are absolutely confident that our code of conduct
reflects the values of the company and meets the requirements that Mr Moss was
In response to recommendations made in the Moss Review that the
supervision and training provided to Transfield Services and Wilson Security
staff needed to be enhanced, particularly in relation to Nauruan staff, Transfield
Services advised the committee that:
Transfield Services takes these comments very seriously. We
have invested considerable time and effort in ensuring that training programs
in place within the RPC in respect of all employees are of the highest quality
and demonstrate our commitment to ensuring the competency and continuous
improvement of our and our subcontractor's staff. However, we are committed to
continuous improvement and we are building on the existing programs so as to
ensure the training and support offered to our staff is enhanced in response to
the concerns raised by the Moss Review. Specifically, in combination with the
Department we have revisited the relevant training programs and materials and
made a number of enhancements in direct response to those concerns.
In relation to the Moss Review's recommendation that cooperation between
contract service providers needed to be improved, Transfield Services advised
that while it considered it already had an appropriate understanding of the
responsibilities of respective service providers at the RPC, steps had been
taken to enhance the effectiveness of meeting processes between the department,
the (Nauruan) Operations Managers and service providers.
Complaints procedures and
In relation to the efficacy of Commonwealth contractors' processes for
reporting and handling complaints about staff misconduct, Transfield Services
drew the committee's attention to its internal investigations policies,
including its 'whistleblower hotline', operated by an external service
provider, under which
...employees can confidentially and anonymously raise serious
concerns without fear of reprisal, dismissal or discriminatory treatment.
Prompt and appropriate action is taken to investigate each report received to
ensure inappropriate conduct is detected and addressed appropriately.
At the committee's public hearing on 19 May 2015, Transfield
Services explained that 'we actually encourage people to raise any concerns
through the line [of management] before going to the hotline', and that raising
complaints to any persons or bodies other than the
'whistleblower hotline' would constitute a breach of employees' contractual
Transfield Services advised the
committee in June 2015 that between September 2012 and April 2015, no person
identified as presently or formerly engaged at the RPC (by Transfield Services
or otherwise) had made use of the hotline, and therefore no investigations in
relation to the RPC had resulted from the operation of the hotline. At the committee's public hearing
on 20 July, Transfield Services advised that since the provision of that
advice, the hotline had been used twice by staff members from the RPC Nauru,
while one further complaint had been raised directly with management.
Transfield Services advised the committee that it assumed management of
the complaints process for asylum seekers in February 2014.
Between 21 February 2014 and 30 April 2015, a total of 834 written complaints
were received by Transfield Services from asylum seekers. Thirty-one of these
related to accommodation and 78 to amenities and facilities, while 725
complaints were received in relation to staff. Transfield Services advised that
most of these related to provision of services, alleged inappropriate conduct
(non-physical), alleged unfair treatment (non-physical), or alleged verbal
abuse or threat. Of these:
96 complaints were received against Transfield Services employees
or relating to Transfield Services's provision of services. This group
comprised 17 Nauruan staff and 79 expatriate staff;
403 complaints were received against Wilson Security employees or
relating to Wilson Security's services. Seventy-five of these were against
Nauruan staff, 276 against expatriate staff and 2 against both local and
expatriate staff. The remaining 50 were unclear as to the nationality of the
staff member complained about;
75 complaints were received against IHMS staff, all expatriate;
136 complaints were received against staff of Save the Children
Australia, while one complaint was made against both Wilson Security and Save
the Children Australia;
11 complaints were received against employees of the department;
3 complaints were made against employees of another organisation;
two Nauruan and one expatriate.
Transfield Services advised the committee that all of these complaints
were notified to the department. Eighteen complaints were also notified to the Nauru Police Force, 15 involving Nauruan
staff and three against expatriates. Seven of these had been finalised, and
eleven remained under investigation. No other complaints reported to the
department had been escalated to any further form of review. Transfield Services was unable to
inform the committee how many of the 11 staff involved in complaints under
investigation by the police remained working at the RPC.
Many submitters believed that the complaints procedures in relation to
RPC staff were fundamentally flawed, particularly because they amounted to
contractors investigating their own behaviour. Former Save the Children
Australia employee Ms Charlotte Wilson stated her view on the inefficacy of the
internal reporting mechanisms:
It is my belief that information was withheld by asylum
seekers who were fearful of retribution from security staff over any
complaints. Any incident report or information report that was submitted went
through the Wilson's chain of management to investigate. This was also the case
if the matter involved inappropriate behaviour by Wilson's staff...
The above systems created an environment where both asylum
seekers and SCA staff were intimidated to not take action against security
services. Asylum seekers held the valid fear that if they received refugee
status and entered the community there would be retribution from Nauruan
security officers. Asylum seekers were aware that it was possible that any
complaint they made against a security officer could be seen by that person.
Mr Ronalds of Save the Children Australia expressed the view that
underreporting of incidents and complaints, as noted in the Moss Review, was to
be expected 'where highly vulnerable people are coming from the sorts of
contexts that they are', with little confidence in institutions of authority
The asylum seekers on Nauru are already coming to Nauru with
a concern about whether, if they reported things like sexual assault, they
would be taken seriously and properly investigated. I think that the
environment only exacerbates that.
However, Wilson Security did not believe that these views were generally
held by asylum seekers at the RPC, emphasising the integrity of its complaint
management processes, and that all complaints involving allegations against
service providers were monitored by the department.
Commonwealth and external oversight
In relation to the level of Commonwealth oversight of its contractors'
work at the centre, both the department and Transfield Services confirmed that
recruiting, screening and contracting of staff were not directly supervised by
the department. Transfield Services noted that while the contract enabled the
Commonwealth to veto the deployment of staff at the RPC, in terms of general
recruitment and training 'the Commonwealth allows us to run that process'.
Transfield Services advised the committee that in addition to its
own internal audit processes, it was subject to audit by the department, and it
also mentioned visits by other authorities such as the Commonwealth Ombudsman,
and various reviews conducted including the Moss Review, which examined
contractors' policies and performance. For its part, Wilson Security
advised that it was audited both internally and by Transfield Services as its
contracting authority, and that in certain areas such as emergency management
it also commissioned independent external auditing.
By contrast, Ms Natasha Blucher told
the committee that in her experience 'there appears to be a significant
disconnect between the understanding of management who are located in Australia
and the actual implementation of policy on the island', wherein the policies
and guidelines put in place by contractors were not observed in practice.
At the committee's public hearing on 19 May, Mr Ronalds of Save the
Children Australia advised that initial responses to incidents and concerns
were discussed between stakeholders on Nauru, including the department, but at
times Save the Children Australia had found it necessary to directly escalate
matters because they were not receiving sufficient attention:
...in some cases, it would be escalated by me directly either
to the secretary or to the minister...
There have been situations that we have wanted to bring to
the notice of the secretary or the minister that we did not feel were getting
sufficient attention or sufficient traction, yes.
Reflecting on the allegations against contractor staff brought to light
through the Moss Review, Mr Pezzullo stated that:
Whether this reflects a systemic issue, whether it is chronic
or whether it is an acute set of episodes that have now been dissipated through
stronger management attention, I do not offer an analytical opinion about. You
have heard the department talk about strengthening protocols post Moss and you
have heard, I think, some evidence from Transfield and Wilson to that effect.
In its submission, the department drew attention to the establishment of
its Detention Assurance Team (DAT) on 1 December 2014, stating that the DAT
'provides strengthened assurance of the integrity and management of immigration
detention services and the management of contracts in regional processing
centres' through such functions as reviewing detention practices and generating
recommendations to the Secretary, managing contracts, reviewing incidents and
allegations, and leading the department's work to implement the recommendations
of the Moss Review.
Allegations of contractor staff
'spying' on a senator
One issue that arose during the committee's inquiry was the allegation,
made in a submission from a former employee of Wilson Security, that staff of
Wilson Security had conducted surveillance of a senator and member of the
committee during her visit to Nauru in December 2013.
The submission alleged that:
When Senator Sarah Hanson-Young visited Nauru, Wilson
Security organised a team from [its Emergency Response Team] ERT to spy on her
while she was on Nauru. This included following her around the island while she
was outside of the OPCs and setting up an observation post to watch her room at
the Menen hotel. The briefing was given by ERT supervisor [name redacted]
in which he gave orders to spy on the senator. This briefing included her room
number, vehicle registration and even using code name “Raven” over the radio to
make reference to her.
In its written response to the submission, Wilson Security stated that
it 'strongly rejects' the allegation that it authorised this action, and
offered the following explanation:
Wilson Security is aware of individuals who attended the
Menen Hotel at the same time as Senator Hansen-Young [sic]. We
understand that their primary motivation was the security of the Senator.
This activity was not authorised by Wilson Security, and is
not a part of our scope of works...The matter was immediately investigated by
Wilson Security and the individuals involved were subject to disciplinary
action for acting beyond their brief.
Transfield Services (as Wilson Security's contracting principal) later
advised the department that Wilson Security did not regard it as necessary to
inform Senator Hanson-Young about the incident at any stage, because she 'was
not personally observed at any time during the unauthorized monitoring of [her]
Wilson Security also reported that no notes, sound, video or other
records were made during the monitoring.
The submission and Wilson Security's response to it were published
simultaneously on the committee's website on 4 June 2015, and the matter was
reported in the media the same day. In response to queries from reporters over
the following 24 hours, the Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott MP rejected the
allegation of spying, stating that 'she was being, in fact, looked after while
she was there', while the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the
Hon Peter Dutton MP described the allegations as 'completely unfounded'.
On 5 June Senator Hanson-Young told the media that she had been
contacted by an employee of another contractor on Nauru, who told her that
staff of other service providers had been briefed in advance on the
surveillance to be conducted on her, suggesting that this had not been the
unauthorised conduct of a few 'rogue' Wilson Security employees.
The department informed the committee that it first became aware
of the accusations of spying on Senator Hanson-Young on 4 June 2015,
that is, the day that it was made public by the committee and the media. The
department stated that it had no incident reports or
records of being notified about the incident, and that it had conducted no
internal investigation into the matter.
In evidence to the committee, the department
advised the committee that it had 'received assurances from Transfield and
Wilson that the activities that were undertaken were not authorised' and that
'the officer involved' had been subject to disciplinary action the day after
Wilson Security subsequently advised the committee that the ERT supervisor who
had directed the surveillance was demoted from his supervisory role, and
remained in a more junior role within the organisation for nine months, after
which he was re-appointed as ERT supervisor due to his 'excellent record' over
Mr Pezzullo emphasised that there was 'absolutely no policy
implied or otherwise that visiting Australian parliamentarians will be put
under any form of scrutiny or surveillance or be monitored otherwise',
and that he would expect that any such incident involving a contractor should have
been reported to the department and 'escalated to various senior levels of
While Mr Pezzullo was not secretary of the department
in December 2013, he expressed confidence that any suggestion of surveillance
such as occurred would have been instantly quashed if it had been raised with
the department: 'It would have taken no more than a nanosecond to think about
At the committee's public hearing on 20
July 2015, the department advised that following the public release of the
allegations on 4 June, it had conducted a 'fairly comprehensive review' of the
circumstances of the incident.
While it was satisfied that the incident was a one-off unauthorised action and
that Wilson responded appropriately to it, the department had held 'robust
discussions' with its contractors about the reporting of such incidents, and
had also made 'significant improvement' to its documentation and policies in
relation to visits to the RPC. First Assistant Secretary Mr Skill expressed his
confidence that it was now 'very clear to people on the ground as to what is
and what is not acceptable. I am confident it cannot happen again'.
The committee received several submissions from former employees of
Wilson Security which alleged that the surveillance was more extensive and had
been planned to a greater extent than previously advised. For example, Mr Jon
Nichols, a former Wilson Security employee, told the committee that members of
the ERT had been instructed by 'Wilson Security Management' to monitor the
movements of Senator Hanson-Young throughout her visit.
Mr Nichols told the committee that he had seen footage recorded on a mobile
device which appeared to show the senator:
He [an ERT member] was quite open about the fact that they
had filmed Senator Hanson-Young, and was more than happy to show people the
footage that he had on his phone. I viewed that footage and firmly believe that
it was Senator Hanson-Young walking across the car park at the Menen Hotel and
in the front door.
Another submitter told the committee that the operation was extensive
and that footage was recorded:
This operation involved approximately 6-8 ERT members and
consisted of recording her every movement both in and out of the camps, they
were also to report on whom she spoke with and if possible they were to
ascertain what was said. Staff were requested to compile reports on her
movements, contact with employees or Stakeholders. These reports and video
surveillance footage were to be handed to the Intelligence unit for collation
and dissemination... A considerable amount of video surveillance footage was
taken of Sarah Hanson Young, both inside and out of the processing centres by
tasked Emergency Response Team members. This was then provided to the Wilson
Security Intelligence unit for dissemination.
While the committee notes the department's
evidence in relation to this matter, it is difficult to entirely reconcile
this evidence with the public statements of the Prime Minister and the Minister
for Immigration and Border Protection on 5 June 2015. It is also of serious
concern to the committee that Commonwealth funded contractors did not view it
as their primary obligation to support transparency and openness in relation to
the visit of an Australian Senator to the Nauru RPC and instead viewed her
presence as a potential security threat to be managed. The committee considers
that this incident is a striking example of gaps in the discipline and
professionalism of contractor staff and their management, indicative of a
culture of secrecy, and demonstrates inadequate Commonwealth oversight of the
Transfer, assessment and resettlement of asylum seekers
This section will outline aspects relating to the transfer, assessment
and eventual resettlement of asylum seekers with regard to the RPC on Nauru.
Evidence from submitters focussed on:
the arbitrary nature of selection for transfer;
slow and inadequate refugee status determination procedures; and
unsafe conditions for resettlement in the Nauruan community.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the republic of Nauru and the
commonwealth of Australia, which sets out the arrangement for the operation of
the RPC, states with regard to transfer:
Persons to be transferred to Nauru for processing
9. Persons to be transferred to Nauru are those persons who:
- have travelled irregularly
by sea to Australia; or
- have been intercepted by
Australian authorities in the course of trying to reach Australia by irregular
maritime means; and
- are authorised by Australian
law to be transferred to Nauru; and
- have undergone short health,
security and identity checks in Australia.
The first transfers of asylum seekers from Christmas Island occurred on
14 September 2012.
Information on the selection of asylum seekers for transfer to the RPC
on Nauru is not readily available. The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law noted
that asylum seekers are selected for transfer without their consent.
The committee heard from submitters that the selection of asylum seekers is
arbitrary, with the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN)
writing that asylum seekers 'see others who arrived in Australia on the same
boat transferred into the community while they await return to Manus or Nauru'.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) told the committee that
the pre-transfer assessments which are undertaken by the department before
asylum seekers are transferred were 'inadequate':
The Commission reviewed a number of the pre-transfer
assessments conducted in relation to children as part of the Inquiry. The
Commission concluded that Departmental officers do not assess the care and
welfare needs of an individual child and consider whether those needs can be
met in the RPC in Nauru before recommending the child’s transfer. The
Commission found that Australia transferred children to Nauru regardless of
whether the transfer was in those children’s best interests, in breach of
Australia’s obligations under international law.
The AHRC reiterated to the committee its finding in the Forgotten
Children report that in the case of children, transfers were approved
regardless of whether this was in the children's best interests, in breach of
Australia's obligations under international law.
The department advised the committee that in conducting individual best
interest assessments for all children before they were transferred to Nauru,
'the Department considers the best interests of the child as a primary
DASSAN told the committee that asylum seekers they had been in contact
with in Wickham Point in Darwin had relayed concerns about transfer:
...it is important to note that most (if not all) asylum
seekers who have been in offshore processing centres have the same central
complaint: that their placement in an offshore centre is arbitrary.
DASSAN told the committee that the process for transfer from Wickham
Point in Darwin to the RPC on Nauru is highly stressful to the asylum seekers
When people are to be returned offshore, they are taken to
the property office or summoned to a meeting with immigration, detained incommunicado
in a confined area and have their possessions collected by Serco. They are offered
no opportunity to communicate with legal or community representatives, and no
opportunity to rebut the presumption that they are fit for return offshore.
They are returned offshore within a matter of hours, usually on a flight
leaving Darwin at approximately 3am on a Friday morning.
DASSAN continued that there is a clear lack of communication between the
department and asylum seekers selected for transfer, and that there is no
Asylum seekers are not told they will be sent offshore before
the removal takes place. There is no system in place to counsel them about the
move, or give them the opportunity to rebut the presumption that they are fit
to travel or reside in Nauru or PNG. Those decisions are made for them by DIBP,
Serco and IHMS. Asylum seekers often report that people are transferred back to
Nauru while they have outstanding medical appointments in Darwin.
Asylum seekers are instead issued with a slip to see
immigration staff, to pick up an item at Property, or to visit IHMS on a
Thursday afternoon. If they attend the appointment (sometimes they hide around
the centre), they never return to the compound. Their personal belongings are
packed by Serco staff and they are held incommunicado in the Property area
until they leave the centre under guard after midnight.
The Refugee Action Collective Queensland (RAC-Q) echoed that asylum
seekers had told them of the distressing nature of transfer:
This distress is compounded by the fact that they can be sent
back at a moment’s notice; they cannot pack their own belongings, they have no
right to appeal the decision or seek help, and there is no explanation given.
Many detainees comment that they don’t understand why the decision is made to
return one detainee and not another.
Assessment and processing
The department advised that the processing of asylum seekers within the RPC
is conducted by the Nauruan Government:
While the operation of the Nauru Regional Processing Centre
is fully funded by the Australian Government, the legislation requires for the
processing of the transferees to be conducted by the Government of Nauru.
The committee sought clarification from the department as to the steps
involved in a refugee status determination. The department responded that
'[t]he refugee status determination (RSD) process in Nauru is managed and
implemented by the Government of Nauru'.
The department did note, however, that '[s]pecific expertise has been provided
to mentor staff across the range of administration functions including refugee
The department advised that Nauru has legislation in place which
requires a refugee status determination to be carried out whenever a person
enters Nauru and seeks protection:
On 28 June 2011, Nauru acceded to the 1951 Convention relating
to the Status of Refugees and has incorporated its international obligations
under this Convention into Nauruan legislation, through the Refugees Convention
Act 2012 (Nr). This means that Nauru has binding domestic legal obligations to
make a refugee status determination when a person in Nauru makes an application
for asylum. Determining whether an asylum seeker is a refugee therefore, is not
only an obligation that Nauru has undertaken through its agreement with
Australia, it is a statutory obligation that arises in relation to any person
who enters Nauru and seeks protection.
According to the department, the Nauruan Government delivered its first
refugee status determinations on 20 May 2014.
The Nauruan Secretary for Justice is empowered to make such determinations.
The department advised that the average length of time for asylum
seekers to be in the RPC on Nauru was 402 days.
The committee sought clarification as to why such a lengthy period was required
to process claims. The department noted that there may be various factors:
There are a range of variables that impact the time it may
take to process a refugee claim, including:
complexity of cases;
documentation and evidence to support a claim such as proof of
nationality or statelessness;
willingness to engage in RSD process;
medical fitness to engage in RSD process; and
the number of active cases at any one time.
As at 30 June 2015, 595 refugee status determinations had been made,
with 506 positive and 89 negative determinations delivered.
Where a negative refugee status determination has been made, a judicial review
may be requested through the Nauruan Supreme Court within 28 days of the
decision being made. The department advised that:
Claims assistance extends to a review of whether a prospective
judicial review application has merit and, where it is considered that it does,
to lodgement of the judicial review application in compliance with the Supreme
Court of Nauru application lodgement requirements. Claims assistance does not
extend to support for the transferee to argue their case to the court, and any
associated judicial review legal costs are at the transferee’s own expense
unless the Government of Nauru provides legal aid free of charge.
Amnesty International wrote that the slow processing times have created
uncertainty and stress for asylum seekers:
While a number of asylum seekers have had their refugee
status determined, long-term plans for their settlement remain unclear. The
combination of lengthy delays and uncertainty combine to create a serious risk
of individuals returning to places where their lives or freedom is likely to be
threatened or where they are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
In addition, the prolonged periods of detention violate the
right to freedom from arbitrary detention, prohibited by customary
international law and by treaties to which both Australia and Nauru are party.
Fears around reporting incidents
Ms Vibhakar told the committee that asylum seekers were afraid that
reporting incidents of abuse or making complaints would adversely affect their
refugee status determination:
They expressed fear that if they complained about
Commonwealth contracted employees or about DIBP in particular, it would
negatively affect their ability to receive asylum, or delay the processing of
their claim forcing them to remain in detention for longer. At times, this view
was reinforced by some Commonwealth contracted employees.
The resettlement of asylum seekers is set out in the MOU:
Outcomes for persons Transferred to Nauru
12. The Republic of Nauru
undertakes to enable Transferees who it determines are in need of international
protection to settle in Nauru, subject to agreement between Participants on
arrangements and numbers. This agreement between Participants on arrangements
and numbers will be subject to review on a 12 monthly basis through the
Australia-Nauru Ministerial Forum.
13. The Commonwealth of
Australia will assist the Republic of Nauru to settle in a third safe country
all Transferees who the Republic of Nauru determines are in need of
international protection, other than those who are permitted to settle in Nauru
pursuant to Clause 12.
14. The Commonwealth of
Australia will assist the Republic of Nauru to remove Transferees who are found
not to be in need of international protection to their countries of origin or
to third countries in respect of which they have a right to enter and reside.
Submitters told the committee that the resettlement procedures in place
for asylum seekers granted refugee status and resettled in the Nauruan
community were chaotic and confusing.
Submitters argued that the confusing practices contributed to stress and
anxiety for asylum seekers.
One submitter told the committee that there was minimal information and
communication between the department and asylum seekers being resettled in the
It became clear early that, only very limited planning from
DIBP and the Nauruan Government had gone into the 'settlement' of Asylum
Seekers found to be refugees on Nauru. Refugees were released from the [RPCs]
with very limited information on what to expect in the Nauruan community. Some
Asylum Seekers, especially the SAFs [single adult females], were very scared
about leaving the [RPC] to go into the Nauruan community, as there were many
rumours on how refugees in the community would be treated particularly around
being raped or being attacked by dogs.
Further, the submitter told the committee that asylum seekers were
initially informed that they would be granted visas valid for five years, but
were in reality granted visas with a validity of six months.
Submitters told the committee that they held concerns that the Nauruan
community was not safe for the resettlement of refugees, particularly
unaccompanied minors. ChilOut told the committee that unaccompanied minors had
been released into the Nauruan community into an unsafe situation:
On 1st October 2014, 29 unaccompanied children
(UACs) were released
into the community on Nauru
following fears for their safety
while held in the family
compound within the RPC.
In the following
weeks, the teenage boys were subjected to a series of physical
and verbal attacks by a group of locals, with several of the boys requiring
hospitalisation as a result
of their injuries.
The committee heard that the Nauruan community is not a safe place for
resettlement to occur, in addition to the allegation made that minors have been
assaulted, it was also argued that there is a culture of resentment towards
asylum seekers and refugees in the community:
Children were attacked by local citizens at an alarming rate.
There was no mitigation or community development initiated by DIBP or the GoN
[Government of Nauru] Police were not supportive and no effective investigation
was conducted. There was a growing resentment in the community of refugees,
with threats of violence made via an anonymous letter and verbal threats on
UAMs [unaccompanied minors] were assaulted and went to
hospital as a result. This was a serious assault yet no action was taken in
prevention or education in the community. There was growing resentment as
refugees were released and transitioned into the community yet no community
action taken for this process to succeed.
The committee received evidence on a confidential basis which supported
the view that asylum seekers and refugees continue to face challenges once
resettled in the community.
Costs and prioritisation of resources
This section will address the cost of the RPC on Nauru, with particular
attention drawn to the significant investment of Australian taxpayers' money
which has been made with little detail reported to the Australian Parliament.
The cost of detention on Nauru is high, with minimal evidence of value
for money in the operation of the RPC. The committee heard that there is a lack
of transparency on the spending of significant amounts of Australian taxpayers'
money, and an inefficient prioritisation of resourcing.
This section will discuss:
the costs associated with the operation of the RPC on Nauru; and
concerns that parliamentary approval for public works on Nauru
was not sought or gained.
Costs associated with operation of
the Regional Processing Centre
Costs including establishment and ongoing maintenance of infrastructure,
contracts, visa and processing costs have contributed to the very high overall
cost of operating the RPC on Nauru.
The MOU sets out that all costs for the operation of the RPC will be met
by the Australian Government:
6. The Commonwealth of Australia will bear all costs incurred
under and incidental to this MOU as agreed between the Participants.
The department provided the following table of operational costs for the
RPC and settlement on Nauru for three financial years:
Costs of Regional
Processing and Settlement in Nauru
RPC Operational Costs
DIBP Staff Costs
Source: Department of
Immigration and Border Protection, answer to question on notice, 18 May 2015
(received 5 June 2015).
The department advised the committee of the following contract values
for the financial year 2013-14:
IHMS - $20,922,459;
Save the Children Australia - $6,142,596; and
Transfield Services - $259,182,780.
Information available on published spending on Nauru via the AusTender
website sets out that during the 2013-14 financial year $2.97 billion was spent
on contracts associated with the RPC on Nauru.
The contracts generally relate to accommodation for staff, construction, legal
and audit services, and provision of services.
The department advised that various projects were planned for completion
in 2015 and 2016 on Nauru which directly or indirectly related to the RPC:
Republic of Nauru Hospital
Nauru Primary School
Community Resource Centre
Repurpose RPC 3 – Settlement
Accommodation Project 1
Repurpose RPC 3 – Settlement
Accommodation Project 2 (includes warehouse - $3,861,084)
Repurpose RPC 3 – Settlement
Accommodation Project 1
Source: Department of
Immigration and Border Protection, answer to question on notice, 18 May 2015 (received
9 June 2015).
Detailed information regarding the purpose and outcomes anticipated on
the above projects was not readily available.
An answer provided by the department to a question on notice from
Additional Estimates sets out additional costs for visas for asylum seekers in
the RPC, which are paid by the Australian Government:
The current cost for visas for transferees and refugees in
Nauru is $1,000 per month per person. An amount of $27,893,633 has been paid to
30 March for transferee visas (paid quarterly) and an amount of $1,008,000 to
23 February 2015 for refugee visas.
There are no visa charges imposed for department staff
travelling on official business.
Open centre model
Evidence provided to the committee relating to costs associated with the
RPC on Nauru highlights the very high cost of offshore detention where security
is a priority.
With a significant amount of money dedicated to security arrangements,
the committee believes that an open centre model could provide an alternative
pathway for offshore detention.
Ms Caz Coleman, former Transitional Contract Manager for The Salvation
Army, told the committee that she had proposed and advocated for an open centre
model as a means to ease potential tensions between the refugee and local populations:
In 2013 it was blatantly clear that any pathway for economic
or educational advancement for refugees or centre clients must involve
opportunities for local Nauru community members also. To establish no pathways
would lead to idleness and resentment on both sides and to establish refugee
only pathways would lead to conflict and potential violence due to perceived
In February 2015, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Immigration and
Border Protection, announced that the RPC would move toward an open centre
An open centre will give transferees more opportunities to
engage with the Nauruan community before their refugee processing has been
completed, allowing genuine refugees to ultimately integrate seamlessly into
I expect open centre arrangements to be finalised very soon.
The Nauruan Government announced the operation of a partial open centre
model from 25 February 2015:
The Government of Nauru has commenced its Open Centre
arrangement today...which allows a select number of asylum seekers from the
Regional Processing Centre (RPC) access across the community for certain hours
of the day.
Initially this access will be for three days a week, from 9am
Twenty asylum seekers will be involved with the new program
today and another 40 on Saturday and 60 on Monday. The number of asylum seekers
participating each week will be determined as the weeks progress.
The Nauruan Government said that the move toward an open centre model
had resulted from 'discussions about the effects of extended time spent in the
...the Government of Nauru will trial the Open Centre in the
hopes it will ease some of the tension and frustration and prepare the asylum
seekers for a future in the Nauru community if they are to be deemed genuine
refugees through the status determination process.
Public Works on Nauru
During the course of the inquiry, the committee became concerned that
public works projects on Nauru had not gained Parliamentary approval through
the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works (the Public Works
Committee). The Public Works Committee calls to account the planning decisions
and capital expenditure of the Executive through Commonwealth departments and
Under the Public Works Committee Act 1969 (the Act), the Public
Works Committee is required to consider the need, scope, cost, purpose and
value-for money of proposed works, and report to Parliament on whether or not
it is advisable that works proceed.
Section 5 of the Act prescribes the definition of a public work. A work
can be architectural or engineering work and includes:
the construction, alteration, repair, refurbishment or
fitting-out of buildings and other structures (including demountable
the installation, alteration or repair of plant and equipment
designed to be used in, or in relation to, the provision of services for
buildings and other structures;
the undertaking, construction, alteration or repair of
landscaping and earthworks (whether or not in relation to buildings and other
the demolition, destruction, dismantling or removal of:
- buildings and other structures;
- plant and equipment; and
the clearing of land and the development of land for use as urban
land or otherwise; and
any other matter declared by the regulations to be a work.
A public work can be located in Australia or its external territories,
or outside Australia, as in the case of a diplomatic mission.
If work is not being undertaken for the Commonwealth, it is not considered a public
work but a 'private' work.
All public works proposed to be undertaken by or on behalf of the
Commonwealth with an estimated cost of in excess of a threshold amount must not
commence until the work has been referred to the Public Works Committee.
Under Section 18(9)(a) of the Act, the current threshold amount is $15 million.
Further, the Public Works Committee must be advised of all works with an
estimated cost between $2 million and $15 million, known as medium works, and
they may be referred for inquiry by either House of Parliament.
Under Subsections 18(8) and 18(8A) of the Act, a work or an organisation
may be exempted from committee scrutiny on the grounds of:
defence purposes where scrutiny could be contrary to the public interest;
if the work is of a repetitive nature.
Exemption on the ground that work is of an urgent nature requires a
resolution by the House of Representatives.
On 2 June 2015, the committee wrote to the Chair of the Public Works
Committee, Senator Dean Smith, seeking advice in relation to works conducted in
the Republic of Nauru.
The Public Works Committee advised the committee that:
The secretariat has advised DIBP representatives on several
occasions to write to the Committee documenting any works that have been
undertaken in Nauru, providing reasons why these would not have been referred
to the Committee for inquiry...To date no correspondence has been received.
On 9 June 2015, the committee asked the department how many referrals
had been made to the Public Works Committee in relation to works conducted in
the Republic of Nauru from 2012 to present. The committee also asked the
department how they are meeting their obligations under the Act in relation to
works conducted in the Republic of Nauru.
The department responded by saying that while an initial exemption from
the requirements of the Act was sought, subsequent funding was considered to be
aid to a foreign government:
The initial builds for the RPCs were provided with an
exemption, I understand, from the PWC process due to the urgency associated
with the works. We have also received further legal advice quite recently with
regard to some of the additional works that we are doing on Nauru now that they
can be considered to be aid to a foreign government, and therefore they are not
captured by the PWC process. Notwithstanding that, however, we have been
engaging with the PWC secretariat and the Department of Finance on an ongoing
basis since December 2013—providing briefings to PWC about what is going on.
In an answer to a question on notice, the department advised that formal
and informal briefings have been given to the Public Works Committee, but did
not refer to the classification of any public works in Nauru as aid:
In addition to the initial regular reporting on the Works,
the department has maintained regular contact with the PWC Secretariat on
various aspects of the Nauru Programme of Works, with the last formal
communication to the PWC being a Private Brief to the Committee on Manus Island
and Nauru Works on 27 March 2014.
At the additional estimates hearings held by the Senate Standing
Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Mr Daniel Sloper, First
Assistant Secretary, Pacific Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
told the committee that 'there is no ODA [official development assistance]
being used for public works in Nauru'.
The committee notes that the budget handed down for the 2015-16
financial year did not include a separate statement on international
development assistance, as has been provided in previous budgets. The lack of
availability of this information makes it difficult to clarify whether the
works on Nauru are being consistently treated as aid to a foreign government by
In its interim report of 12 June 2015, the committee recommended further
examination of Commonwealth expenditure on Nauru:
The committee draws the attention of the Standing Committee
on Public Works to Commonwealth expenditure on public works in the Republic of
Nauru, not confined to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection but
across the Commonwealth, and recommends that the Department of Immigration and
Border Protection ensures that all future public works in the Republic of Nauru
are referred to the Standing Committee on Public Works in accordance with the
Public Works Committee Act 1969 (Cth).
Given the apparent inconsistency in the evidence available on this
issue, the committee again draws the department's attention to the requirements
of the Public Works Committee Act 1969.
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page