With Christmas Island set to be closed soon after reopening it, I’m wondering where the $185 million of taxpayer funds went. Show us the money, Scott.
Hidden in the optimism of last night’s budget cuts was a rather large figure: $185 million. The flash apparently official, the government will close Christmas Island soon after re-opening it, without a single refugee or asylum seeker ever stepping the landscape. The above figure represents the cost of what seems, at least on the surface, a political stunt.
Per The Guardian, “The government reopened the detention centre in reaction to the passing of the medical evacuation bill ensuring refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru could be evacuated to Australia for treatment if required.”
At the time, the bill provoked serious partisan debate about what our medical obligations are to those who we process offshore. Scott Morrison blowing the dust off the Christmas Island lock was viewed, at least in Canberra, as his version of top trumps. A look-what-you-made-me-do to the ALP for forcing the bill through the Senate representing the first time a sitting government has lost a vote on its own legislation in nearly a century. At the time, Morrison referenced his “fury” at re-opening the detention centre.
However, due to last night, The Island is set to close by July 1, with the official line being that “…any illegal maritime arrivals on Christmas Island will be returned to Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and the… detention centre will be returned to a contingency setting.”
The tableau we’re left with is Morrison wandering optimistically through a series of images, and while we may shake our heads at his failed PR sortie, but I suspect there might be something deeper. The question, of course, is where did the money go?
The company that offers medical services to the Island, IHMS (International Health and Medical Services) put out a series of advertisements looking for medical staff, and as Perth Now reported, “A charter jet arrived on Christmas Island on Friday night carrying an advance party of Serco staff and IHMS workers to start taking the giant North West Point detention centre out of mothballs. Another charter arrived on the island yesterday carrying a handful of staff.”
IMHS ostensibly offers support staff and medical personnel to those in detention, both within our borders and beyond. Since 2009, they’ve held the immigration department contracts, which figured to be more than $1.6bn back in 2015. Serco is the other side of the same coin, offering detention, security and transport services, with numerous media agencies speculating that the British multinational would be long dead if it wasn’t for our immigration policy.
The point I’m trying to make here is that whether it was what it claims to be, a failed PR stunt, or something more sinister, the outcome remains the same. If money changed hands over this, the companies who profit on our immigration policy continue to do so, and indeed, accepted such a gaudy (if unearned) windfall. It’d be remiss, or perhaps naive, for this taxpayer to ask for it back, but all I want to know is where exactly to went, and to whom.
Show us the money, Mr Morrison.