Serco training manual:

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen writes: Re. “Serco training manual: how to “hit” and “strike” asylum seekers” (yesterday’s special edition, item 1). The 2010 Serco training manual released today on Crikey is out-dated, is no longer in use, and does not reflect very clear guidelines agreed to by Serco and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on engagement with people in detention facilities. I am advised that the 2010 manual contained errors and has been superseded by other manuals, most recently the 2012 training guide.

Any use of force or restraint in any detention environment is used strictly as a last resort. Serco staff in immigration detention facilities do not carry weapons.

As has been reflected in independent reports, such as the recent Hawke-Williams review into last year’s detention incidents on Christmas Island and at Villawood, there are very clear “use of force” guidelines that Serco staff must adhere to.

Defensive actions can only be carried out in response to dangerous and aggressive behaviour and to prevent injury to detainees or staff members. That action must involve the least amount of force necessary to prevent injury and can only be to defend, not to inflict injury.

Appropriate use of restraint may be necessary to prevent a person from harming themselves or others, damaging property or escaping from detention. Any acts or allegations of improper or inappropriate conduct by Commonwealth officials or Serco employees would be thoroughly investigated and reported to police. Complaints can also be made to the Immigration Ombudsman.

This government takes very seriously its commitment to ensuring people in immigration detention are treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and within the law.

Chris Manning, Managing Director, Serco Immigration Services, writes: We are committed to treating people in our care with dignity and respect in a safe and secure environment. To that end, the primary role of our staff, and the overwhelming majority of their day-to-day work, is looking after people in detention. The focus of their training reflects this.

We teach our staff that any use of restraint or force must be in accordance with the contract and used as a last resort, only after techniques to de-escalate a situation have been exhausted, for the shortest amount of time and to the extent that it is both lawful and reasonably necessary. In these rare circumstances, restraint or force may be necessary to prevent a person from harming themselves or others, damaging property, or escaping.

Our Client Service Officers are not issued with batons or trained in their use as part of their induction. Only in the most extreme circumstances would they be approved for defensive use by a very limited number of specially trained staff, along with other personal protective equipment. Importantly, this has not occurred in the time that Serco has been providing services in immigration detention.

We take any allegations, complaints or evidence of assault extremely seriously and ensure they are reported to DIAC and the police.

DIAC spokesman Sandi Logan writes: Andrew Crook makes a series of unsubstantiated allegations about the use of force in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s (DIAC) detention network.

It is true that Serco has manuals, however, these outline how the use of force should be used defensively, only as a last resort, and that the force or restraint must be reasonable.

Importantly, the manual posted online by Crikey is not the current training document used by the detention service provider, Serco, nor by its client service officers. It has been superseded by at least four iterations since 2010.

Contrary to what Mr Crook wrote, use of force can be used only in self-defence, and at that, in very rare circumstances — for example, if someone (staff member, another detainee client etc) is being directly attacked; in order to prevent a person from harming themselves or others; prevent someone damaging property, or escaping from detention. These techniques are only used after other methods to de-escalate a situation have been exhausted and are in accordance with the contract the department has with Serco.

The department is committed to treating clients in detention with dignity and respect. We view an assault by any party as being unacceptable and any evidence, allegations or complaints of such incidents are reported to the police.

Serco staff in immigration detention do not carry weapons. 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. Again, this is not routine procedure for client service officers and where the use of force or control is required, it is a rare occurrence.

When conducting the immigration detention tender, DIAC carefully assessed the capabilities, experience and culture of the bidding companies. We continue to regularly review the capabilities and experience of Serco and its staff and are satisfied with arrangements in place to address what is a dynamic and fluid detention environment.

The LNP:

Andrew Whiley writes: Re. “The day the coalition didn’t like some competition” (yesterday, item 6). Bernard Keane really hits the bullseye with his exposure of the anti competitive core at the heart of the coalition.

Their almost existential teeth grinding angst at the emergence of industry superannuation funds as serious players in managing workers capital is both revealing, yet farcical. Their keenness to extend the market dominance and intermediation that characterises the banking and finance sector, throughout the superannuation system, is hotly contested by a bulwark of not-for-profit funds.

With the prospect of the super pie growing plumper, vested interest angst is on the rise. As always, any spare Liberal knees not bent in thrall before the miners are clearly angled towards the big banks.

Yet in his piece on the public policy changes that flow from the MRRT, Bernard languidly dismisses the proposed increase of the SG to 12% by 2019 as simply one “of a grab bag of measures.”

It is not. Moving to 12% universal superannuation strengthens one of the most most significant social and economic policy reforms of contemporary Australia. It is longed delayed. A result of John Howard saying no to moving past 9%, way back in 1996.

The tax revenue foregone as a result of the SG moving is not the key issue here. Divvying up the benefits of our mineral wealth is. An increase to the long term super savings of the workforce is one of the best ways to do it. It should be recognised for the major social advance that it is. Particularly for low paid and women workers.

By 2020 and 2030 the national applause for this reform will be much louder, tinged with relief that we made the right decisions at the beginning of this decade. Perhaps you could lead it off for Crikey readers Bernard, no need to start a Mexican wave, just the sound of one hand clapping will suffice.

Climate change:

Keith Thomas writes: Your editorial and Amber Jamieson’s article yesterday (“Hotter, more erratic weather and higher sea levels: CSIRO”, item 4) indicate Crikey‘s acceptance of the CSIRO and BoM evidence and interpretation concerning climate change.

Now, will Crikey please require contrarian writers whose assumptions and claims are at variance with the CSIRO and BoM report to provide clear evidence to support their positions before their contributions are considered for publication?

Contrary views should always be welcome, but only if they are based on fact, not on unsubstantiated assertions made as self-indulgent bravado, orneriness and the adolescent joy of irritating those who subscribe to the established consensus.

Mike Smith writes: “CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology observations provide further evidence that climate change is real.”

And does anyone doubt that? The big argument is how much of it is man-made. The second biggest argument is what to do about it, preferably whilst minimising the effect on the average guy’s hip pocket nerve.

Peter Fray

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