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Serco manual ‘outdated’, but Bowen won’t talk about new training docs

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen responded to Crikey’s publication of the 2009 and 2010 Serco training manual — calling the manual “out-dated” and “no-longer in use”. Yet Bowen, the Immigration Department and Serco have refused to detail how the British-owned multinational has altered or updated it.

A spokesperson for Bowen told Crikey this morning the Minister would not be “discussing further the contents of the current manual for matters of operational security”.

When asked how many Serco guards trained in combat techniques to hit, strike and jab asylum seekers remain employed in the detention system, a Serco spokesperson responded that “staff receive refresher training at least annually, based on the most recent training materials”.

Serco didn’t explain what has been altered or updated in its induction documents, despite Department spokesperson Sandi Logan asserting there has been “at least four iterations” of the Serco training manual since 2009-10, including a 2012 version.

Yesterday, Crikey released 400 pages from manuals, including illustrated sections on the use of force believed to be similar to those Serco has previously fought to keep out of the public realm.

It includes graphic sections on how “Client Services Officers” — many with the same level of training as nightclub bouncers — are to “hit” and “strike” asylum seekers, and how to needle jugulars and pressure points in the event of a ruckus.

Crikey understands that despite Serco’s high staff turnover, many guards that received the controversial training remain in the nine-lockup Serco-run system across the country. This morning, the Department of Immigration declined to elaborate on whether the sections dealing with the Use of Force and Use of Restraints were still taught.

According to several media reports in late January, defence lawyers in the NT Magistrates’ Court requested a 2011 version of the training manual, including Use of Force, after three Darwin-based detainees — Haroon Rashid, Abdul Basir and Habiburahmam — appeared in court on charges of assaulting a guard. However, Serco’s lawyer successfully argued it should be suppressed because they were not in the “public interest”.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young will today put a formal motion to the Senate calling on the government to release all of Serco’s manuals.

She will press the Department to prove its documents meet the duty of care provisions in Serco’s contract, released last year to New Matilda after an extended Freedom of Information fight.

We want the department to prove its claims that the manuals meet the conditions of its contract with Serco and the department’s duty of care to all workers and asylum seekers,” Hanson-Young said.

How does the Minister believe his department is abiding by its duty of care if the very department says it is not responsible in any way for the training of staff in the facilities?”

Overnight, Bowen issued an official statement on the matter, stating the manual had been superseded by other versions.

Bowen suggested that the instructions on how to hit asylum seekers with batons were irrelevant because “Serco staff in immigration detention facilities do not carry weapons”. And “any use of force or restraint in any detention environment is used strictly as a last resort”.

However, Serco stated this morning that in “extreme circumstances” batons may be “approved for defensive use by a very limited number of specially trained staff, along with other personal protective equipment”.

Logan in Immigration said “approved instruments” might sometimes be employed: “The department may agree to approved instruments for use of control such as flexi-cuffs from time to time, if a high level of risk is assessed, but only after approvals have been sought.” But guards only rarely accessed the instruments “… temporarily where the use of force or control is required”.

The Minister said a recent review into detention incidents at Christmas Island at Villawood had explained the clear Use of Force’ guidelines that Serco staff must adhere to.

Logan also repeated the line that the 2010 training documents were superseded. He also accused Crikey of making “unsubstantiated” allegations on the use of force, despite Crikey’s stories quoting from an official Serco document.

Crikey asked Logan the following questions but he declined:

  • You claim there have been “at least four iterations” of the Serco training manual since 2009-10. What specifically has changed between 2009-10 and March 15, 2012?
  • Does the 2012 training manual contain a section on Use of Force and Use of Restraints?
  • How many guards trained using the 2009 and 2010 training manuals are still employed by Serco?
  • You say that “approved instruments for control” include “flexi-cuffs”. Have guards ever used batons?
  • Are any batons present inside Australia’s detention centres? Who is authorised to use batons?
  • You allege that Crikey has made a series of “unsubstantiated allegations” about the use of force. Given that the quotes are drawn from an official Serco document, how precisely are they unsubstantiated?

*You can read the full response from Serco, the Immigration Department and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen in our comments section.

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  • 1
    GeeWizz
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    It’s a self defence manual because we know how violent and riotous these illegals can be… they know that they can get away with it scott free with no consequences.

    Have a look at the ones that burned down our detention centres… permanent residency visa’s from the Minister from Illegal Immigrant Chris Bowen, no problemo.

    Or the ones that blew up the boat on Siev 36, murdering 5 and seriously burning another 12. No worries, here’s your insta-visa.

    Seems coming by boat you don’t need to worry about the character test… our government is too soft and gutless to kick you out.

  • 2
    Edward James
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I hope GREENS Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has some sucess getting the training information into public access. Who done the printing? Not much use having a batton if you have not been trained in its correct use! That would open questions about workplace safety. Edward James

  • 3
    bluepoppy
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Surely this refusal contravenes new FOI legislation. Would the Ombudsman be able to force the release under the legislation. Or is this government no different to the Howard Government in failing on commitments of greater transparency.

  • 4
    Captain Planet
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Whilst distancing myself from the re volt ingly ra cist and small minded presumption of our resident tr oll “Gee Wizz,” I do believe that it is naive in the extreme to presuppose that staff employed at a detention facility (of any kind) would not be trained in self defense.

  • 5
    Michael de Angelos
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    There are no ‘illegals’ Gee Whiz, apart from the visa over-stayers who cause little trouble on the whole and are removed from Australia quickly.

    As for character tests, we as a county along with the USA, UK and the Coalition of The Willing would probably fail one with our propensity to invade countries who have never harmed us and kill their citizens in the thousands.

  • 6
    Jenny Haines
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Get a grip Gee Whiz. Nothing justifies Serco treating refugees as criminals when they have committed no crime by being a refugee. Serco are inappropriate to run detention centres. Their experience as a company is in jails, and detention centres are not jails. Refugees are fleeing war and trauma and torture in their own country, and in transit countries on the way. What they need when they get to Australia is fair and expeditious processing of their applications. What they need is understanding from the Australian people of their circumstances, not hate and fear and marginalisation.

  • 7
    GeeWizz
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    There are no ‘illegals’ Gee Whiz, apart from the visa over-stayers who cause little trouble on the whole and are removed from Australia quickly. “

    Under legislation introduced by the Hawke/Keating governments anyone arriving without a valid visa to Australia is an “unlawful non-citizen that must be detained”.

    So yes they are illegal.

    Get a grip Gee Whiz. Nothing justifies Serco treating refugees as criminals when they have committed no crime by being a refugee”

    So when an illegal runs at them armed with a steel fence post they pulled out during one of their many riots, what do you think serco should train them to do, curl up in a fetal position and cry?

    It’s clear from the pictures in the other article that these are self defence moves with the person being attacked fighting off an attacker(boatperson).

    The left are just looking for another beat up as always

  • 8
    GeeWizz
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Nothing justifies Serco treating refugees as criminals when they have committed no crime by being a refugee”

    Hi Jenny,

    Just wondering what you think should be done about boatpeople who are violent, attack security guards, burn down detention centres and attack the fire fighters trying to put it out.

    Are these the type of people you want living in your street and should their actions be rewarded with a visa?

  • 9
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Wizz, Troofie et al…

    We’ve been through this many many time… unlawful does not mean illegal. Otherwise the legislation would have described entry without the paperwork as a crime. It didn’t. And for good reason. As the High Court has recently reminded the Government.

    It’s all very well for you to be concerned about boat arrivals. But at least make some attempt to actually understand the legal and moral position before getting all frothy around the mouth.

    Actually I’m not sure how “well behaved” you would be if you found yourself locked up without having committed a crime, without charge, without any release date - for years. I know I’d be getting pretty stroppy. And I would hope you would be too.

    And DIAC still calls these detainees “clients”. Strewth.

  • 10
    GeeWizz
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Actually I’m not sure how “well behaved” you would be if you found yourself locked up without having committed a crime, without charge, without any release date - for years. I know I’d be getting pretty stroppy. And I would hope you would be too”

    Hi Petes,

    I’ve actually seen what a real refugee camp looks like am reminded that real refugee’s sometimes spend decades in these hell holes, so if I was a dinky-di, true-blue reffo I wouldn’t be kicking up a stink about staying in air-conditioned, pay-TV, 3 square meals a day comfort for 6 months while my application was processed. In fact, i’d be incredibly thankful to the country that has taken me in to give me an oppurtinity at a new life.

    I wouldn’t be burning the place down because I had to wait a few months for my application to processed. I get the feeling that these illegals haven’t actually ever spent a day in a real refugee camp, let alone see one. They were promised an insta-visa by their people smugglers after they fly in on Indonesian Airways, beernuts on the journey in no doubt, and are just a little annoyed when they realise that they have a few months wait in a detention centre.

    Of course Labors only solution to this is to encourage more boats by making the process just as the people smugglers promised… insta-visas on arrival and out living on centrelink payments care of the Australian taxpayer.

    And Labor scratches their heads and wonder why the boats keep pouring in… stupid or ignorant?

  • 11
    Alfonse
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    In any event, perhaps those within Crikey and indeed the Government itself should outline exactly how the Serco officers should deal with violent detainees. If they are critical of the previous or present practices or seeking to merely to ‘beat up’ a story (excuse the pun), then they should themselves publish an official guide on how to deal with violent individuals, how to subdue irrational aggressive behaviour or simply how to deal with physical interactions with non-compliant persons. This guide should then be enforced across the board. Should a Serco officer be hurt, then any costs would of course be borne by the publishers of the policy.

  • 12
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Geewiz, they are real refugees when they get here too. There is no requirement on earth for anyone to spend 20 years in a refugee camp, but having got to the refugee camp they are safe.

    Those who can’t get to refugee camps seek asylum elsewhere.

  • 13
    GeeWizz
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    We’ve been through this many many time… unlawful does not mean illegal. Otherwise the legislation would have described entry without the paperwork as a crime. It didn’t. And for good reason. As the High Court has recently reminded the Government.”

    If something is unlawful, is it legal?

    And if not, whats the definition of something thats not legal? Oh thats right… Illegal.

    It is unlawful and illegal to come to Australia without a valid visa.

  • 14
    GeeWizz
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    There is no requirement on earth for anyone to spend 20 years in a refugee camp, but having got to the refugee camp they are safe.”

    And they burn their ID papers why again?

    These people are shopping around for a better life, they aren’t really refugees. Real refugees sit in squalid tent camps on a U.N ration of a cup of rice a day, they aren’t jetsetting across the world on international airlines, paying some back alley people smuggler in Jakarta $10K and sailing in on a boat wearing Guicci sunglasses.

    They’ve really taken the left for a ride on this one. How could anyone be so gullible to believe these people deserve spots over those in the camps? Honestly?

  • 15
    Mal White
    Posted Friday, 16 March 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Serco manual ‘outdated’, but Bowen won’t talk about new training docs”

    Perhaps Bowen should have a chat with QLD Natural Resources Minister Stephen Robertson about the dangers of outdated manuals.

    The Brisbane flood would have been greatly reduced if there was less bureaucratic inertia and the out of date Dam Operation Manual had been updated.

    The true mark of good minister is one who has made thoughtful reforms before a crisis strikes.

  • 16
    Jenny Haines
    Posted Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    As Peter Ormonde points out so few people in this country really understand our legal, moral and international obligations towards refugees, however they arrive, even though it has been clearly explained so many times. That raises the question of capacity to understand and or willingness to understand. Prejudice, bigotry and ignorance clouds the intellect, and like Charlie Brown’s blanket, provides a comfort zone through which to interpret a complicated world.

  • 17
    Mal White
    Posted Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    @JENNY HAINES

    I don’t think the problem is Australians not understanding our international or moral obligations towards refugees. It is more the open ended nature of those obligations and the potential for large increases in refugee numbers in the medium to long term (There are currently 15 million world wide).
    Many refugee advocates do not having the willingness or ability to question how much the future numbers could increase. It is this blindness to question that makes many other Australians suspicious and adds to the negative attitudes.

    I think Australians would be far more accepting of the relatively small numbers arriving so long as they had faith in the Government not to let the inflow get out of control.

    It would be wrong to think that Australia’s legal position cannot be changed if it leads to the population voting for politicians like Tony Abbott.

  • 18
    Captain Planet
    Posted Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    It is Linus who has the blanket.

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