Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The cost of Australia's offshore detention centres

According to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service at 28 February 2014 there were 1,325 asylum seekers in the Manus Island detention centre and another 1,107 asylum seekers at Nauru detention centre.

Under a contract negotiated by the Abbott Government with Transfield Services (Australia) Pty Ltd, over the next twenty months housing these 2,432 detainees in offshore centres will cost Australia $1.22 billion (medical and counselling services excluded).

That is over $25,000 per month paid to for each Manus Island detainee (living in tents behind a crude wire fence and serviced by a field kitchen) and Nauru detainee until sometime in November 2015.  

This of course does not include the cost of air transport contract/s.

Under the previous 2013 security services contracts Manus and Nauru detention centres combined management costs were estimated around $503 million over twelve months.

The entire cost of border protection policies laid out in the September 2013 Liberal Party-National Party Coalition document only budgeted for a total of $701 million in net spending up to 2016-17, which factored in a ‘saving’ of $1.08 billion over four years from “stopping the boats”.

Detention centre costs were not a specific line item in the document so one has to guess how the Abbott Government originally expected to pay for offshore detention over the forward estimates.

It is obvious that in 2014-15 any so-called savings will be eaten up by the blow-out in detention centre management costs.

It will be interesting to see how Prime Minister Abbott and Treasurer Hockey explain these increased detention centre expenses during May 2014 budget week, given there appears to have been no increase in actual service delivery and very little in the way of additional infrastructure.

NOTE: Nationally in Australia in 2011-12 the cost per prisoner/offender per day in state adult correctional facilities was $305 or an estimated $9,455 per month.

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