Manus Island security staff’s shocking pay
THE company that won a $423 million Australian Government deal to run refugee centres on Manus Island is accused of paying its security officers as little as $1.50 an hour sparking outrage among local workers who this week learnt of the lucrative contract.
"The amount of abuse that is going on in this little town of Lorengau is unbelievable," Manus workers' rights advocate Bab Korup said.
Mr Korup spoke out on behalf of local security officers who are "scared" to speak to the media but say they have faced "lousy" conditions under the controversial security company.
Paladin Holdings Pty Ltd was awarded the $423 million contract for garrison services in September 2017 under a closed tender process.
Labor immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann on Wednesday referred the contract to the auditor general after questions were raised in a Senate Estimates hearing on Monday.
He said the Department of Home Affairs' demanded a Paladin executive be removed in September last year and said the fact was a "stark contradiction" to the department's statement of support for Paladin in estimates.
Meanwhile, locals employed by Paladin, whose Australian office was registered to a beach shack on Kangaroo Island, want to know why they aren't paid more.
"Where has the money gone? They are not spending it here," Mr Korup said.
"Compared to the operation in Lombrum, the operation in Lorenagu is in shambles.
"Lousy pay, the food is lousy, the guards are poorly trained. There is so many things wrong with this operation."
Since the company took over the garrison services contract, hourly wages were cut to about a quarter of what security workers were paid, according to Mr Korup.
The Courier Mail has sighted a Paladin pay slip from May 2018 that shows an hourly rate of 3.65K, which is equivalent to about $1.50 - less than the coast of a bar of chocolate in Australian supermarkets.
Paladin said it was not in a position to comment publicly on any matters relating to its work on behalf of the Australian Government in Papua New Guinea.
"Our number one priority and focus as always is to ensure we provide a safe and secure environment for residents,' a spokesman said
The Australia Department of Home Affairs this week came under fire for awarding the contract to Paladin under a closed tender process about that time.
Departmental secretary Michael Pezzullo defended the decision in a Senate Estimates hearing on Monday, saying the tender was conducted under "urgent" circumstances.
"My strong preference … would have been to embark on a 12-month tender process," Mr Pezzullo told Estimates.
Labor's immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann yesterday called for an urgent investigation into the garrison services procurement.
"New reports reveal the Department of Home Affairs demanded the removal of an executive at Paladin in September 2018, before extending their contract with the company in January 2019 for an extra $109 million just four months later," Mr Neumann said.
The Department of Home Affairs did not respond directly to The Courier-Mail's questions, instead providing a link to an online statement which says: "External probity advisers, external legal advisers from AGS, and commercial and financial advisers" were engaged during the procurement process.