HESTA (Health Employees Superannuation Trust Australia) is the national industry superannuation fund for workers in the health and community services sector. HESTA has more than 800,000 members, 160,000 employers tied to HESTA and $30 billion in total assets. For some health and community services workers, their workplace agreement specifies that their superannuation must be paid into HESTA.

HESTA has been purchasing shares in Transfield Services since at least March 2014http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australian-services-union-calls-on-hesta-to-divest-funds-from-transfield-services-over-its-links-to-manus-island-20140312-34mle.html, when Transfield took over the running of the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island. From December 2014 to February 2015, HESTA was a substantial shareholder, meaning that it held over 5% of the shares in TransfieldAt the time it became a substantial shareholder on 11 December 2014, HESTA held over 26.3 million shares in Transfield Services. HESTA continued to purchase shares in Transfield until 30 January 2015. The most recent announcement (2 March 2015) shows that as of 27 February HESTA still holds over 23.5 million shares in Transfield Services.
. As at 27 February 2015, HESTA holds over 23.5 million shares in the companyhttp://asxcomnewspdfs.fairfaxmedia.com.au/2015/03/02/01604569-575220267.pdf.

Beyond the specific numbers, however, these recent moves by HESTA make it clear that managers of the fund are willing to treat the detention of asylum seekers as a legitimate means of making money. This means that until there is a stated commitment by HESTA to a complete and permanent divestment from detention contractors, there is no way to be sure that the retirement savings of HESTA members will not continue to be used to finance the detention industry.

Transfield Services

Transfield Services Ltd. (referred to as “Transfield” throughout this website) is an Australian company that is a global provider of operations, maintenance and construction services to the resources, energy, industrial, infrastructure, property and defence sectors.

Transfield operates the Australian Government’s offshore processing and detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, being responsible for providing Garrison Support and Welfare Services. Transfield subcontracts security services to Wilson Security, and IHMS (International Health and Medical Services) is responsible for providing medical and counselling services. Transfield assumed control of the management of the centres on Nauru and Manus after signing a A$1.2 billion, 20-month contract with the Australian Government in March 2014 which has since expanded to a possible value of $2.1 billionhttps://www.tenders.gov.au/?event=public.cn.view&CNUUID=1013CCBE-92A3-D1D4-722EC39FCBF61B39. Transfield has indicated that it will be submitting a bid in April 2015 to renew its contract to run the Manus and Nauru detention centres, which currently expires in October 2015.

Why should HESTA divest from mandatory detention?

Mandatory detention causes indisputable damage to the physical and mental health of asylum seekers. Due to the cramped and mostly dirty, hot and poorly-ventilated living conditions inside detention centres, mandatory detention causes a rise in illnesses such as infections, tropical diseases and skin, respiratory and gastro illnesses. Otherwise minor health problems are complicated by the inadequate access to medical care inside detention centres. Hamid Kehazaei was an Iranian asylum seeker on Manus Island whose skin infection from a simple foot injury turned into severe and then fatal septicaemia in August 2014 after it took more than 24 hours for him to be taken to hospital due to bureaucratic delayshttp://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/dec/09/hamid-kehazaei-death-visa-delays-stalled-transfer-asylum-seeker.

Mandatory detention also causes and exacerbates mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and self-harm. Asylum seekers have already fled situations of war, persecution and forced displacement and their detention weakens their chances of recovery from these already traumatic situations. The indefinite, prolonged and uncertain nature of the mandatory detention system in Australia causes further stress and psychological distress. The mental health and well-being of detained asylum seekers is also undermined by their limited access to mental health specialists, interpreters, legal services and social, cultural and religious networks, as well as by the general lack of autonomy and the loss of control over their lives.

Detention centres are not safe places. Reza Barati, an Iranian asylum seeker, was beaten to death during an attack on asylum seekers at the Manus Island detention centre in February 2014. Physical and sexual abuse inside detention centres is rife. Children are particularly vulnerable to abuse and mandatory detention also causes delays and disorders in their physical, psychosocial and emotional development.

The Australian mandatory detention system effectively amounts to torturehttp://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/mar/09/un-reports-australias-immigration-detention-breaches-torture-convention. Mandatory detention must end.

Health and community services workers include doctors, nurses, counsellors, disability support workers and people that provide services in aged care, child care and welfare. We are motivated to assist with, promote and sustain the health and well-being of those in our care, especially of the most vulnerable people in the community who are in the greatest need of care.

In contrast, the system of mandatory detention causes predictable, significant and long-term damage to the health and well-being of asylum seekers, who are one of the most vulnerable groups in the world today. Those of us that work in health and community services are particularly appalled by the health impacts of detention and by the lack of access to appropriate medical care in detention centres. There are serious questions as to whether health care professionals are able to fulfill their professional and ethical obligations to patients inside detention centresSee https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2014/201/7/ethical-challenges-doctors-working-immigration-detention.

The majority of health and community services are also members of HESTA. We are appalled that the retirement savings that we have gained through our care work are being used to finance an industry that damages the health of people who are interned. HESTA is also supporting companies like Transfield that are determined to pursue the privatisation of health care and welfare. HESTA must divest from Transfield and end its involvement in the detention industry.

While HESTA’s stake in Transfield remains substantial, the decline in Transfield’s share value represents losses for HESTA members’ retirement savings. For example from December 2014 and January 2015 – when HESTA held more than 5% of the shares in Transfield – the value of its shares in Transfield declined from around $44.8 million to $39.5 millionCalculated from the value of Transfield shares between 11 December 2014 and 23 January 2015. See https://xborderoperationalmatters.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/hesta/. HESTA should not be risking the retirement savings of its members to bolster a company which is involved in running mandatory detention centres.

Click here for a copy of our new briefing [PDF].

HESTA divest.

Disrupt Transfield.

End mandatory detention.