A new low in corporate paranoia: Transfield, Manus & Nauru

7 Apr

Zip It


There’s a report in the Guardian this morning that Transfield, the company responsible for the administration of detention centres on Manus and Nauru,is taking extraordinary measures to curtail the civil liberties of its employees.

New policy issued in February 2015 restricts religious and political freedoms of Transfield staff working at the detention centres by forbidding membership in or support for any “incompatible organisation,” such as political parties and churches opposed to off-shore detention. Support for the United Nations, Amnesty International and the Australian Human Rights Commission could also lead to staff losing their jobs.

At first blush, this looks like denying the human rights of workers to religious and political freedom.

A job for our Freedom Commissioner, Tim Wilson?

A staff member can also be sacked if a detainee or former detainee follows them on Facebook or Twitter, even if the employee is not aware of the following.

For previous Sheep posts on Transfield, and the association with the St James Centre for Ethics and the Black Dog Institute of one of its directors, Douglas Snedden, see here.

Then there was the brou ha ha I wrote about here, surrounding Transfield’s support for the 2014 Sydney Biennale which caused several artists to withdraw their work and led to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull describing those artists as “viciously ungrateful.”

You may not think highly of people who undertake employment in detention centres. I’ve heard this perspective and spoken to employees, and it’s complicated. There has been, ever since the days of Woomera and Baxter, a culture of secrecy surrounding detention centres, asylum seekers, and those who are employed in the industry, a culture that serves no one well and from which very few emerge unscarred. Governments are entirely responsible for this culture, for imposing it and maintaining it, to the detriment of everyone involved at the coal face.

These recent actions by Transfield are alarming, and have widespread implications. They are designed to suppress dissent of even the most innocuous kind: being sacked for who follows you on Twitter must be a new low in corporate paranoia.

This morning on ABC Radio National Breakfast, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton insisted that he would not make decisions about refugee status “under duress.” The “duress” he is referring to is the hunger strike by Iranian Saeed Hassanloo that has brought the asylum seeker close to death. Iran will not accept deported asylums seekers: they must return of their own free will. If they do not wish to return, they are kept in indefinite detention by the Australian government.

The message from the DIBP is clear. If you flee duress in a manner we consider inappropriate you will be subjected to more duress, and if you respond to that duress with actions that cause us to experience duress, we will subject you to indefinite duress. We win.

The message from Transfield to its employees is of a similar nature. If you want your job you will relinquish the right to everything we say you must relinquish the right to, otherwise you will not have your job. We win.

The Abbot government to all citizens: If you’re thinking about blowing the whistle on anything think again, because we have captured your metadata and we don’t need a warrant to trawl it and we can make any use of it we like and we win.

All you have to do is what you’re told, and everything will be all right and we win.

Freedom Boy! Where are you?!

Freedom Boy









40 Responses to “A new low in corporate paranoia: Transfield, Manus & Nauru”

  1. paul walter April 7, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    Has me in mind of Galileo and his satire from four hundred years ago concerning flat-earth medieval thinking, “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”, whereby the flat earther Simplicius recites the ruling orthodoxy in ways that demonstrate their basic contradictions for an alert reader.

    We see a similar process with the government and Transfield..anything drawing attention to the contradictions in the delusional orthodoxy that they wish to present and have accepted by the public is to be suppressed, so much for the free market place of ideas!

    Dutton is not being “coerced”. How could could a comatose refugee unconscious in a hospital “coerce” a big hero like Dutton, in a meaningful sense?
    No, the discomfort he claims to experience derives of his own conscience, troubled as it is by the harm he does for not the slightest good reason, to an unfortunate fellow human.

    The thing is a macabre and absurd rerun of the Dr Haneef persecution of over seven years ago.. they hope people have forgotten, but not all of us.

    Of course, those wicked savages in Indonesia do a similar thing with the Bali 2, who at least committed some real offence to land themselves in the situation they find themselves, but pray tell, what lessons should President Widodo and his friends learn from loftily superior and civilised Western us as to mercy and proportion re Saeed Hassanloo, while we berate him for many of us regard as his foul approach to the Bali 2?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Florence nee Fedup April 7, 2015 at 11:30 am #

    Dutton also said, the brother sent back to Christmas Island, did not want to visit his brother, Hard to believe, as the same brother is said to be in a distress state, that staff are making allowances for his behaviour.

    Appears Transfield want staff with no values at all, that are in full agreement with the present treatment of asylum seekers.

    One can only come to the conclusion, the present system is unsustainable. Only explanation I can come to for their paranoia and extreme secrecy. They are terrified of the truth getting out.

    Mr Dutton, when you reduce numbers of refugees being accepted from 20.000 to 13.700 back to 18.000, you are still taking less. A lie told by Kelly last night, repeated by Dutton, that they have increased the numbers. Not sure when they half back flipped to 18.000

    Where are the numbers for those coming from Indonesia and maybe Malaysia. Suspect they are nearly non existent.

    Are the new enhanced assessments of what entitle one to be accept as a refugee in the public arena. How do they differ from those under the refugee conventions, that this government does not acknowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson April 7, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

      Transfield want staff who are robots. That’s what all corporations dream of.


      • Marilyn April 7, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

        Transfields joke of the day is they don’t want their reputation sullied.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. hudsongodfrey April 7, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    I think companies like this one deserve all the negative publicity we afford them. It seems unimaginable to me that a company could remain involved in the type of “business” we’re talking about here without becoming quite heavily compromised. Suffice to say questions as to who’d want to work for them are foremost in my mind. I suspect public servants in allied departments may similarly hold attitudes I’d find contemptible.

    The state of affairs as best I understand it is that your right to withdraw your labor is about as far as these matters can be taken. Companies are not democracies, nor am I of the view that they should be reconstituted in that mould. It is perfectly within the purview of any private organisation to insist upon terms of employment that are distinctly undemocratic, and as long as that’s done without fear or favour neither discrimination nor unfair dismissal would come into it.

    I know that sounds tough, but you have to understand, I don’t want anyone to work for these people. I think the entire workforce should vote with its feet and force this government and the electorate both to face their consciences.

    The alternative would seem to be allowing employees to air their reservations. However the flaw in that plan would be that the people who’re working there are going to draw the line of conscience in a very different place compared with what most of us regard to be unacceptable.

    Have a thought also for government employees who want to blow the whistle but wouldn’t just loose their jobs, being also constrained by the crimes act “official secrets” provisions. I’m sure it would be interesting to run a test case that pits those injunctions against human rights, but who really thinks any government inclined to fight such an action is liable to change its spots if you managed to win.

    You have to remember we’re pitted against these people….

    Jonathan Green retweeted
    Nic Halley @NicHalley · Apr 3
    Protesting against the burqa. Pretty meta.
    Embedded image permalink

    They may be small in number, but they have our politicians running scared!

    BTW the original caption for this was “Apparently a female muslin hiding her face behind a niqab is wrong, but a male fuckwit hiding his face behind a flag is a patriot.

    I for one couldn’t quite reconcile why there was friction between people for multiculturalism and against extreme Islam. It isn’t like Islamicists are in favour of multicultural societies!?

    I guess we may be dealing with some larger problem?

    Liked by 1 person

    • hudsongodfrey April 7, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson April 7, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

      I too wish people would refuse to work in these places and for these companies, but its complicated as I discovered when interviewing staff at Woomera and Baxter.
      As you note, companies can design their own contracts , however I’m wondering if transgressing workers’ human rights to freedom of religion and political affiliations is enforceable.


      • hudsongodfrey April 7, 2015 at 9:13 pm #

        Yes, you’ll see I flirted what might transpire in a possible test case, but I’m discouraged by past failures and a sense that any government willing to fight in the courts against human rights is incapable of reform.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. paul walter April 7, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

    The Dutton response to Saeed Hassanloo keeps gnawing away at me.

    There is a fundamental, public definition of what constitutes “refugee” out in full public view, also upon assement and later appeal tribunal and court decisions are based?

    My knowledge of the case is sketchy, but the bloke is an Iranian Christian fleeing a well grounded fear of persecution, or not?
    Are other asylum seekers fleeing from places like Sri Lanka, Iraq, etc? also rejected despite their cases conforming to an agreed (rational, reality-based) definition of what constitutes a refugee?

    How open are the processes of assessment? Is Saeed Hassanloo’s case, including the reasons for refusal, open to scrutiny?

    What bugs me with Dutton and with other cases over this century is the sense that real cases are dismissed for fear of acknowledgement that humanitarian criteria take precedence over something farcicical set up as part of political footballing revolving around the sort of mentality we saw with Reclaim Australia, over Easter.

    That is, if it is admitted that Saeed Hassanloo DOES meet or conform to objective criteria for being regarded as a refugee and stays, that the pretext for denial which actually caters to political expediency and ignorant racism rather than abuse of the system by applicants, means that the whole facade involving both refugees and secondly mythologies created involving Islam perhaps, bogy “terrorism” and the Surveillance State come crashing down along with the credibility of many politicians?

    You must forgive me if above stuff is “dumb”, still having gumboil trouble, but I really am getting puzzled as to how theses things are handled.
    Laugh at me if you want, but at least give me an answer if you do, I’d love to know what I am missing in all of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson April 7, 2015 at 8:44 pm #

      I can’t give you an answer right this minute, PW, but I think you are on the right track. Dutton’s response keeps troubling me as well. Will sleep on this


      • Michaela Tschudi April 9, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

        I can’t help thinking of Dr Muhamed Haneef, accused of being involved in terrorism and subsequently compensated for an undisclosed sum after losing his job, his reputation and so on. Racism is endemic in this country. Whether you are working here legally or trying to gain legal asylum, racism permeates the processes and the rules.


        • hudsongodfrey April 10, 2015 at 12:06 am #

          Meanwhile in South Carolina video emerges of a policeman shooting yet another black suspect and attempting to cover it up. This time thankfully they charged the guy.


    • hudsongodfrey April 7, 2015 at 9:03 pm #

      In Saeed Hassanloo case I gather they’ve assessed the guy and rejected his claim, which is more than they seem willing to do for some. One of the claims made on his behalf has been that he was persecuted in Iran because he’s Christian. Obviously none of us can fully reexamine his case, but it may be fair to note the broader claim of persecution is no truer for him than for around 100,000 other Iranians (using the lowest estimate I found). Many may have fled to Iran from Iraq where the situation for Christians is much worse and many more were historically Armenian and headed north when the Shah was deposed by the Ayatollahs. My impression based on tonight’s research of the situation is that they situation for Christians in Iran places them at risk of oppression, sometimes quite severe, but there is seldom real risk of mortal danger.

      The case is made no easier by Iran’s purported refusal to accept people back who’re being repatriated against their will. So we have in Saeed one of a reasonably small number of persons left in limbo by the unreasonable policies of more than one country. We also have only our own actions that we could do anything about. I find the greatest objection to his treatment, being locked up for an interminable period without committing any crime in an effort to mentally break him down and coerce him into being repatriated. I see no reason why this process could not be pursued by placing him in the community, though I know our political masters and their supporters are quite differently minded towards asylum seekers.

      It concerns me as much that people clearly support a process that disregards human rights as it does pain me to have to admit this is the kind of case that fuels a debate against humanitarians. There could be others more deserving than him some of whom are probably stuck in harsher detention today, their claims deliberately unheard, part of our celebrated efforts to deter. There could indeed be compliant individuals fitting the bill from camps in Africa or Syria who’re more failed by us than this one scared Christian from Iran waiting since 2009 for what he believes to be the only just outcome.

      So all in all it’ll probably do little to diminish anyone’s pain to know the real reason this confusing preponderance on bastardry takes place has nothing to do with weighing the rights or wrongs of it and everything to do with the dead weight of fear and isolationism in the psyche of ordinary Aussie voters.


    • Marilyn April 8, 2015 at 5:13 am #

      The entire system is set up to accept as few people as possible based on the demented lie that if we accept them here we can accept less from overseas.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter April 8, 2015 at 8:58 am #

        Succinct..the whole thing is bullshit form top to bottom. It’s just that people are accustomed to it to the point that they no longer see or smell what it really is.

        Florence nee Fedup’s comment was partly on my mind coming here..the magic is in the numbers, like the famous pudding.

        Liked by 2 people

      • hudsongodfrey April 10, 2015 at 12:08 am #

        “…based on the demented lie…..”, and the concealed truth that we don’t like brown people.


      • doug quixote April 10, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

        The demented lie is that there is a queue. Most of the sub-normals* in our society believe it is true.

        * – for every person with an IQ of 120 there is an 80; for every 110 there is a 90. They vote . . . .


  5. doug quixote April 7, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

    They want robots; all employers want their low-level employees to be robots. The perfect employee will work 24 hours a day, require no pay and give no trouble.

    But almost any employer will demand loyalty and won’t want to employ or keep employed anyone who leaks operational details or dumps on the organisation. Are Transfield entitled to curtail its workers’ rights? Yes, if the workers sign up to those restrictions.

    It’d be nice if everyone could do whatever they wanted whenever they want, but the workers have traded off some of their rights, at least temporarily, for monetary gain.

    Their lives, their living, their choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson April 7, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

      I wonder if curtailing human rights to freedom of religion and political views is discrimination, though, and thus illegal?


      • doug quixote April 7, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

        An interesting question; is it, or should it be possible to contract out of one’s human rights? Conflicting rights is another issue. Whose particular right should trump another’s particular right?

        It must perhaps be a case by case process.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson April 8, 2015 at 5:00 am #

          I would have thought that any contract that contradicts domestic law would be an invalid contract?
          Should have done law. Kick myself frequently for that oversight.


          • doug quixote April 8, 2015 at 8:46 am #

            A grey area. In the US they have written Constitutional rights; one example of clashes is internet usage by employees – see this article for example.


            But even they aren’t sure how far that is allowed to be curtailed. Australia is a different jurisdiction, and Nauru and PNG are different again.

            Liked by 1 person

            • hudsongodfrey April 8, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

              It may be a bit of a loaded question, but what do you think of the idea of making rights public policy.

              I tend to think it is better coming from international bodies like the UN while national politics remains the main source of legal authority.

              Seems to me that if you allow legislators to enumerate your rights that infers limits on our rights to do a greater number of things that aren’t on the list.

              I also remember hearing various legal systems once described as falling into two broad categories. Either you’re allowed to do nothing the law does not permit, or you’re allowed to do everything the law does not prohibit. I’m sure I prefer the latter.

              Liked by 1 person

              • doug quixote April 8, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

                So do I.

                Our rights are everything that is not specifically legislated to be unlawful, or unlawful under the common law from time immemorial.

                Once our ‘rights’ are set out and enumerated, in a lengthy list, it can and will be argued that anything else not so enumerated is therefore not a ‘right’.

                Liked by 2 people

      • Michaela Tschudi April 9, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

        Would it depend on whether the person was a citizen of our country, and therefore subject to our laws? Just wondering


        • hudsongodfrey April 10, 2015 at 12:03 am #

          Someone ,may yet correct me on this but when you say “our laws” discrimination and freedom of religion may be somewhere enshrined in our statues or even inferred from the language of the constitution, yet the places we most recognise them from are the UN charters that we’re signatory to.

          Sure we helped write some of those documents, but they’re basically international conventions. The obligation to uphold those rights becomes binding when they’re ratified. We did so and therefore while the high court legally upheld detention it would be highly unlikely to endorse abuse…..

          That’s why we have somebody else do it for us, hence offshore detention centres in countries where human rights are not recognised, or the legal system is so feeble as to be practically non-existent.

          Generally a citizen has more rights than a detainee, but a human being enjoys all human rights in a legal sense that the nation with jurisdiction over them extends. Countries with bills of rights may contradict the UN charters but will generally avoid ratifying the parts that don’t suit them. Laws on the other hand extend from sovereignty and apply basically to the territory a person inhabits from time to time.

          So the other side of the Nauru revelations, or the violence in Manus would be that perpetrators would need to be charged under Nauruan or PNG law.

          Greg Barns (link below) argues that a charge appropriate to Australian involvement would be misfeasance in public office meaning misuse or abuse of power, in this case failure of duty of care. My guess on that one is…. cue scapegoat, and yes I am being particularly cynical since I think the situation merits as much….

          The bigger question of whether anyone actually means to defend the huge hypocrisy of running an RC into institutional child abuse while pretending there’s a political mandate to ignore it in Nauru is yet to soil the lips of government apologists….. but I predict it will!


          Liked by 2 people

          • Michaela Tschudi April 10, 2015 at 6:03 am #

            Well said.


      • paul walter April 11, 2015 at 11:08 am #

        Of course it is.
        DQ said it above, they want robots.
        All is commodifiction, including the bits we aren’t aware of, sort of like the Cosmic Hum.
        Any sign of humanity or creativity they will crush.


  6. hudsongodfrey April 10, 2015 at 3:24 pm #


    Just keeping up with developments. This article claims….

    “Transfield’s policy directly threatens its employees with prosecution under the Crimes Act if they disclose anything about the operations on Manus or Nauru.”

    Australian Crimes Act?

    Clearly this does exceed an employer’s right to negotiate a contract.


    • paul walter April 10, 2015 at 11:33 pm #

      Well, at least someone gets it.


    • doug quixote April 10, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

      The “policy” can be found here:

      Click to access Transfield-Social-Media-pol.pdf

      It mentions the Crimes Act, but it is hard to imagine how that could possibly apply to disclosure of documents, unless they are stolen.


      • hudsongodfrey April 11, 2015 at 12:24 am #


        And that appears to be the relevant section of the Crimes Act….

        I note that the Act has specific limitations and obligations relating to classified material and short of forcing people to break other laws.

        Nor would you need to have a separate company policy document if it the act were applicable in this case.

        Interpretation: These employees were required by law to report crimes happing under their noses.

        Between jurisdictional issues and likely scapegoating it seems probable that the guilty will go free, as usual. If on the other hand I were the responsible minister I wouldn’t risk digging that misfeasance hole for myself by keeping any children in detention centres for one moment longer.


        • doug quixote April 11, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

          My interpretation is that the Crimes Act is mentioned as a nebulous threat, to be used ‘in terrorem’ (look it up).

          Liked by 1 person

          • hudsongodfrey April 11, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

            No dictionaries required, but we agree.


        • paul walter April 11, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

          There is the key phrase.

          “…forcing people to break other laws”.



          • hudsongodfrey April 12, 2015 at 12:09 am #

            Careful what you wish for though Paul, because frankly I think you’d be wasting you’re time taking this to court.. It would turn out that one man’s force is another man’s coercion and therein lies the rub.

            If on the other hand you want to identify the moral calumny for the sake of whatever pyrrhic victory that earns us then by all means I agree, but no politician has as yet responded to those allegations nor to my knowledge at the time of writing removed detained kids from danger. I hope to be proven wrong!


            • paul walter April 12, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

              Live in hope, die in despair..

              Liked by 1 person


  1. Protesting a broken system is not emotional blackmail | No Place For Sheep - April 8, 2015

    […] Minister Peter Dutton yesterday declared that he would not submit to what he described as “emotional blackmail” by Iranian asylum seeker Saleed Hassanloo, who has been on a hunger strike for forty-four days in […]


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