Australia’s bipartisan policy of subjecting asylum seekers under the UN Refugee Convention to mandatory detention took a further distressing turn with the re-introduction of offshore ‘processing centres’ (OPCs), including a new OPC on Manus Island, PNG.
The opening of Manus and the official re-opening of the OPC on Nauru saw a significant increase in the size of construction and service provision tenders opened by the government to third parties. Among the successful bidders were companies such as Transfield Services (likely soon to be rebranded Broadspectrum), Wilson Security and Decmil Group, who won contracts totalling billions of dollars in value.
Where detention as policy meets detention as profit, institutional investors such as UniSuper have become significant shareholders in the continuation of mandatory detention.
UniSuper has consistently refused to rule out re-investing in Transfield Services (Broadspectrum). UniSuper must commit to screening out the detention industry. ESG mechanisms provide for such screening, and UniSuper is required to make a public, clear and transparent statement of policy in this regard.
As at 2 September 2015, UniSuper has confirmed that members’ retirement savings are invested in Decmil Group. The Board of UniSuper also has questionable links to Transfield Services (Broadspectrum).
Since March 2014, UniSuper members and other activists have been calling on UniSuper to:
- Complete and formally announce its divestment from detention-linked stocks and companies
- Announce a policy of screening future investments to avoid implication in the profits of the detention industry
In April 2014, the Victoria University Branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) calling on the NTEU to support UniSuper in divestment from detentionhttps://xborderoperationalmatters.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/nteu-vu-super/. The NTEU branch at the University of Sydney followed suithttps://xborderoperationalmatters.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/nteu-usyd-divestment/, as did the Student Union of the University of Melbournehttps://xborderoperationalmatters.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/uni-of-melbourne-student-union-passes-motion-in-support-of-divestment-transfield-unisuper-nteu/ and the University of Western Sydney. The NTEU National Conference passed an October 2014 resolution in support of divestment from the detention industry.
The response from UniSuper has been uncertain.
The fund’s spokespeople have variously dodged the question of divestment, spoken of ‘engagement’ with major detention contractors, or celebrated UniSuper policies on ethical investment that do not explicitly include the detention industry.
UniSuper needs to make a clear statement and formally and permanently divest from detention.