Written by Thomas Klikauer and Catherine Link
At the end May 2021, Australian media reported on a multinational company receiving a $121 million contract to keep asylum seekers locked away on a remote island of Papua New Guinea (PNG) for good. Ever since Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and even more so since Karl Marx’s Value, Price and Profits (1865), many have known that what drives private companies and corporations are profits.
This is especially the case when such companies and corporations received lucrative government contracts. By scamming taxpayers, even better profits can be made than during normal business activities.
Of course, neoliberal ideology demands that “everything needs to be privatized” and so keeping refugees locked up for political (winning elections) and ideological reasons (Australia White Policy) continues in Australia. Yet, it comes a tremendous human cost – even to children.
To honor his Christian values, Australia’s Pentecostal Prime Minister who once told a conference that he was called to do God’s work as prime minister, has no problems with imprisoning little children. Perhaps the rotten teeth of the victims of Australia’s inhumane refugee policy – as shown by the BBC recently – reflect Christian values and God’s calling to become PM of Australia.
Imprisoned by Australia, refugees are watched by private companies. This follows the quasi-religious catechism of neoliberalism. But wait, there is more! It gets even better for corporate profits when billing the Australian government $75 an hour for local workers it paid just $8 an hour for guarding Australia’s refugees on remote Pacific islands.
This is how capitalism works when cheating the Australian taxpayer: 75 – 8 = 67. Companies are cashing in $67 for each hour they have some guy guarding families and children on an isolated island. These families, men, women and children are – in the hallucinations of Australia’s conservatives – are a danger to Australia.
Not surprisingly, a former worker making sure that Australia’s refugees are suitably tormented – if not mentally tortured – said it is like stealing from PNG locals. Of course, it is also stealing from the Australian taxpayer. But never mind: As long as Australia’s Murdoch press supports Scomo all is fine. Murdoch virtually owns 75% of Australia’s newspaper market. One man runs 75%. This is called a good. In North Korea, one man runs 100%. This is called bad.
Next to ultra-conservative Murdoch there are almost equally conservative TV channels. Combined, they maintain the ideology that refugees are a danger to Australia. Meanwhile, Scomo – the Australian Prime Minister – also known as “Scotty from Marketing” or Scott Morrison does a good job. For Scomo and Murdoch, etc., all is fine except for children kept in isolation in euphemistically called “detention centers”.
In some incidences, Scomo’s chosen private company, in charge of hundreds of asylum seekers, paid local workers just 10% of the wages it claimed from Australia’s Department of Home Affairs. Not surprisingly, the company that was awarded a lucrative contract and it acquired these contracts without undergoing an open and competitive tender process. There is not really a need for that as long as the neoliberal ideology of the free market and competition camouflages: such facts are not front-page news on Murdoch’s right-wing tabloid Daily Telegraph.
More important than matching the ideology of free market and competition with the reality of just handing contracts out willy-nilly, is the reality that the company made at least eleven political donations to Australia’s so-called “coalition” in the past three years. The word “coalition” describes a cartel between Australian’s conservatives deceptively called the “Liberal Party” and its minions from the bush called the National Party which operates in regional Australia.
The latter is somewhat more xenophobic, more nationalistic, and at times a bit more simple-minded. The National Party supposedly stands for family values Recently, the National Party showed off its family value credentials when its boss ran off with his secretary and new girlfriend, leaving his wife and family behind.
However, Scomo’s gang did one better. Staff members of the Liberal Party entertained male prostitutes and offered other enjoyments and refreshments in the Parliament’s very own Prayer Room – showing off its good Christian values. Participating attendees came from both wings of the Liberal Party – the conservative Christian fundamentalist wing and the party’s neoliberal wing.
All these things go on while families and children suffer in detention centers. Receipts and bills from 2019 show that the company in charge of refugees billed the Australian department $1.3 million for labor and a further $1.1 million for so-called corporate overheads such as water and electricity – of course not for exquisite corporate lunches, first class flights for its CEO and top-managers.
Pay-slips of workers showed they were indeed receiving peanuts – $8 an hour. That would not even pay for a bottle of wine consumed during corporate lunches for the company’s CEO and top corporate apparatchiks. While $8 does not pay for lunch in Sydney, it still is relatively close to the average hourly wage in PNG.
Of course, Australia does not house refugees in Australia. In fact, it does not house them at all. It puts refugees in unhygienic, hot, humid and vermin infected barracks on remote islands throughout the Pacific. Many of these poverty-ridden countries are eager for jobs and economic support. Commonly however, much of the money never reaches those islands. It is sifted off by private companies located in Australia. All the islands get is Australia’s problems and a few pennies for local workers.
It is almost self-evident that such a truly Christian refugee policy adheres to an Australia White Policy. Proper name is White Australia Policy Officially, this was gradually dismantled between 1949 and 1973. Which leads to the question: why does a country needs a whopping 24 years to end a policy? Underneath this, it appears as if Australian conservatives carry on in spirit of the White Australia Policy. This might explain why refugees are not allowed to leave PNG unless they are resettled in the US or another country such as New Zealand. The White Australia Policy blocks the way to Australia for non-whites.
By February 2020, the little Liberal-Party-corporate scam became all too obvious. An auditor raised concerns about the gaping gulf between wages claimed by the private contractor compared with wages paid to workers. Australia’s Home Affairs was notified on behalf of about thirty local staff that were substantially underpaid.
When refugee advocates found out about all the scam, they felt that Australians and local workers in PNG were cheated, exploited and used for the company’s benefits, while refugee families suffered even worse. The only one not suffering is Scomo with his approval ratings of well above 50%.
On the base of overwhelming media support, this refugee imprisoning company has made millions at the expense of ordinary Australians taxpayers – some of whom even voting for “Scotty from Marketing“. The scam was engineered by the company that has contracts with Australia’s Home Affairs to provide so-called “services” on PNG’s isolated island of Manus.
With the financial support of Australia’s government, the company has repeatedly extended its unsavory activities. The company recently “earned” (scammed) $3.7 million a month. Handsome profits are made on the backs of local PNG workers, refugees and the Australian taxpayer.
The contract that engineers all this is due to expire in June but likely to continue in one way or the other as tormenting refugees remains a sure vote-winner. At present there are about 130 asylum seekers and refugees remaining locked up in PNG for a crime that is not a crime but a human right.
Some might even remember the test of the Magna Carta Libertatum 1215 – a founding document of Scomo’s beloved liberalism. Yet the refugee children shown in the BBC report are not criminals and they are not illegal – no child is illegal, ever – they are just children. Not so in the eyes of Australia’s Christian PM Scomo and his so-called “Liberal” Party.
In addition to what is going on in PNG, the government of another south pacific island called Nauru was enraged after learning that an Australian firm was to be awarded an “offshore services contract” – nice words for concentrating children in camps.
Again, it was done by the “free market and competition” party ̶ The Liberal Party ̶ without undergoing an open and competitive tender process. This does not make a mockery of the Liberal/Conservative Party’s ideology of free market competition. Instead, it testifies how well the ideology of neoliberalism is working.
Following the catechism of neoliberalism, this effectively denied the Pacific island nations any chance to even compete to provide the services for the Australian government. Neoliberal Scomo and his Liberal/Conservative Party calls all this free market competition.
Already in the year 2017 Nauru was deeply offended over the total disregard with which Australian senior officials have met Nauru’s request to play a leading role in managing Australia’s so-called “regional processing centers”. The Orwellian language in all this is more than illuminating.
Australia’s avoidance of free market competition has damaged any sense of partnership and collaboration between the two countries – Australia and Nauru. To understand all this perhaps it is most useful to refer once again to Australia’s deeply racist White Australia Policy. It encapsulates set of racial policies that aimed to forbid people of non-European ethnic origin, especially Asians and Pacific Islanders, from immigrating to Australia.
Australia’s White Policy started in 1901 and some say it never ended. Middle-eastern refugees aren’t white, and pacific island prison guards aren’t white and hence can be mistreated. For some politicians, it is part of their DNA. Rewrote this bit.
Meanwhile a white company has been paid $1.4 billion over five years to run Nauru’s offshore processing scheme. Last financial year, the company pocketed a net profit up to a whopping $100 million.
Media reports have found that the company is linked to substantial political donations and has made eleven further contributions to the Liberal National Party. And some say corporate lobbying does not work! It works splendidly. This is the reason why in almost any capital city in almost any country, there are more lobbyists with more money than politicians. It also explains why corporate lobbying outnumbers community advocacy by a stratospheric number.
Officially, the company donated the meager sum of at just $47,500 between October 2017 and July 2020. Purely coincidentally, the Liberal/Conservative politician Peter Dutton resides in the electorate where the donations took place and was until recently Home Affairs minister. Very bad, evil and outright sinister people might say, we have the best politicians money can buy.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Department of Home Affairs announced that the entire affair issue shows that it gets value for money and that price was not the only factor when assessing value for money. Of course, the price of a government contract is never a factor when handing out taxpayer money for a good cause.
The good cause of the Liberal party is threefold: locking up families and children deemed unworthy non-white refugees; underpaying off-shore prison guards on remote islands; and foremost, keeping Australia white.