'No Business in Abuse’ named ALA VIC 2016 Civil Justice Award Winner
18th May 2016
An advocacy group which placed pressure on the public company contracted to run Australia’s offshore detention camps by targeting its investor base has been named the winner of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) Victoria 2016 Civil Justice Award.
No Business in Abuse’ (NBIA) Director of Advocacy Rachel Ball accepted the honour on behalf of the group at the ALA’s Victoria State Conference in Torquay on the weekend.
ALA Victoria President Geraldine Collins said that NBIA was a worthy recipient of the Award, having successfully created and implemented a strategy to put commercial pressure on public company Transfield Services (now Broadspectrum) to face up to its share of responsibility for the litany of human rights abuses in the detention centre on Nauru.
“The issue of Australia’s immigration policy and abhorrent use of offshore detention is one of the most significant human rights issues faced by Australia, past, present and future,” Ms Collins said.
“Companies such as Transfield, which have been contracted by the Australian government to run the detention camps, have until now been protected by an official culture of secrecy and concealment.
“No Business In Abuse has turned the tables on these corporations by targeting them where they are vulnerable – through their investors. While any one company can appear to be immune to individual action, NBIA has taken the approach that no company operates in isolation,” Ms Collins said.
Ms Collins said NBIA met with Australia's biggest investors, banks, superannuation funds, institutions and analysts and emphasised the allegations of abuse, rape and violence to illustrate Transfield's responsibility for human rights abuses. NBIA argued that Transfield’s association with the abuse of asylum seekers could have potentially adverse effects on the company’s legal and financial reputation and a concomitant loss of value for its shareholders.
“This is a significant shift in sentiment – NBIA has persuaded organisations to divest Transfield shares, not because of the ethical issues, but because of their fiduciary duties to put the financial interests of their investees above all else,” Ms Collins said.
Ms Collins said NBIA is working to educate the Australian market. Companies which fail to uphold these principles and profit from abuse are forced to choose between Australia's detention regime and a profitable business model.
“This is an achievement of major importance for social justice and human rights. It is a very clever way of trying to shutdown offshore detention,” Ms Collins said.
Ms Collins said NBIA has recently paired with GetUp to create a campaign of public petitions targeting strategic businesses and institutions, asking them to pledge never to contract with companies like Transfield unless they clean up their act. Ms Collins said tens of thousands of individual Australians, backed up by local businesses and institutions, will be sending a loud and clear message via this program: being complicit in abuse has consequences for the health of the businesses involved.
“This is a great example of ‘people power’ – a true example of one organisation standing up for what is right and with the foresight to create a unique and powerful method of producing a formidable movement,” Ms Collins said.