Two companies in Sydney and Brisbane supply the tear gas used by the operator of Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, where the gassing of juveniles and other abuses have become the subject of a royal commission.
Crikey can exclusively reveal that Grycol International, based in Alexandria, NSW, and BLP Group of Companies, headquartered in Salisbury, QLD, are the suppliers of tear gas to the Northern Territory’s Department of Correctional Services.
Last month, Crikey reported that the NT government had refused a freedom of information request for the names of the suppliers, shielding them from scrutiny over the controversial use of their products. The territory government had claimed that releasing the information would interfere with the business of the then-pending royal commission.
Following an appeal, however, the department last week disclosed the information, along with a tax invoice for the most recent order for tear gas: a $13,000 purchase from BLP Group.
The purchase order specified a range of tear gas products, including CS smoke, CS powder, CS liquid and CS fog formula. The department declined to reveal the number of products purchased or individual prices, citing security and commercial sensitivity reasons.
Dated June 2014, the order was made two months before the tear-gassing of six teenagers at Don Dale, footage of which formed the basis of an impactful episode of Four Corners in July.
[Australia has always kept its darkest abuses out of sight]
Within hours of the broadcast, which also included images of young offender Dylan Voller being hooded and strapped into a restraint chair, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered a royal commission into conditions at youth detention facilities in the NT. That inquiry, led by Mick Gooda, the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, has recently begun its work.
Both BLP Group and Grycol International supply security-related products and services to a wide range of clients across the country. On its website, BLP Group lists Cricket Australia, Australian Rugby, the Department of Defence and the Queensland Police Service among its clients.
Its most recent sale listed on Aus Tender, the official procurements register, is a $21,000 order from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for “tools and general machinery”.
Grycol International, meanwhile, won a $104,000 tender for light weapons and ammunition from the Immigration Department in July, and a $304,000 contract for semi-automatic pistols with Victoria Police in April.
Contacted by Crikey, Aaron Harvey, munitions and training co-ordinator at BLP Group, denied knowledge of the Don Dale controversy and could not confirm whether the firm intended to continue supplying correctional services in the NT.
“That’s not my area,” he said, adding that his boss was traveling overseas.
Harvey declined to confirm what, if any, guidelines the firm provided to its clients about the use of tear gas, which can be dangerous when used in enclosed spaces such as Don Dale.
“The best way I can answer that question is that agencies that we sell to are authorised agencies and as such have their own training,” he said.
A representative at Grycol International declined to comment before hanging up the phone.
Crikey subsequently sent a list of questions to each firm, but has yet to receive a reply.
As reported previously, tear gas suppliers around the world have often been targeted by activists over the use of their products. In 2014, South Korea suspended shipments of tear gas to Bahrain after human rights groups including Amnesty International drew attention to dozens of deaths attributed to the agent during the government’s suppression of pro-democracy protests.
Suppliers have also occasionally faced legal proceedings, such as in the case of a group of Palestinians who unsuccessfully sued an American manufacturer in the early 1990s over the deaths of their relatives.