“A CITIZEN OF GOOD STANDING”: Company behind asylum seeker concentration camps let off hook by judge despite guilty finding over worker’s death

EXCLUSIVE: Broadspectrum, the company that operated asylum seeker concentration camps on behalf of the Australian Government, has escaped harsh punishment over the death of a contractor at one of its work sites in south Sydney largely thanks to a judge’s apparent belief the multinational corporation is a “citizen of good standing”.

Broadspectrum Australia has this month been fined $240,000 over the workplace incident which resulted in the death of subcontractor John Yoon at Botany in 2015. The company was also ordered to pay SafeWork NSW’s prosecution costs of $51,000. The maximum penalty available was a $1.5 million fine.

The incident occurred within the Botany Industrial Park where the company – which is ultimately owned by Spanish multinational Ferrovial – is contracted to provide maintenance services for  manufacturing company Qenos.

It is believed Mr Yoon was killed from head injuries after a storage rack collapsed while he was retrieving a steel pipe on January 29, 2015 from an outdoor work area at the industrial park known as the Transfield Alliance Compound (NOTE: Broadspectrum was previously known as Transfielduntil a name change in July 2015).

Although there were no witnesses, Mr Yoon’s body was soon found on the ground. It was determined by the court the rack had collapsed due to rust and corrosion.

Botany Industrial Park
Botany Industrial Park in south Sydney where the 2015 workplace incident that killed contractor John Yoon occurred

Mr Yoon – who was a “competent tradesman” and “an expert in fabricating and installing pipe jackets” according to his bosses – was 66-years-old at the time of his death.

The trial in the NSW District Court in front of Judge William Kearns heard that “prior to the collapse no steps had been taken to address the corroded condition of the rack”.

Judge Kearns concluded that the “foreseeable consequences” of the rack collapsing included serious, even fatal, injury.

Yet, it was found the death of Mr Yoon could have easily been avoided if Broadspectrum had engaged in “conducting a risk assessment”, “carrying out regular inspections” or “maintaining the structural integrity” of the storage rack. All of which it failed to do prior to Mr Yoon’s death.

“The defendant failed to ensure the health and safety of workers whose activities were influenced or directed by it, in particular Mr Yoon, in that it failed to take … reasonable practicable measures to eliminate … the risks to health and safety to workers including the risk of the storage rack collapsing,” Judge Kearns said in his judgement.

Yet despite those findings, the court found that Broadspectrum was due a large amount of leniency.

In his judgement Judge Kearns saw fit to declare the company a “corporate citizen of good standing” which he claimed was highlighted by Broadspectrum’s apparent commitment to philanthropic and cultural ventures.

“The defendant is a corporate citizen of good standing. It is a well-known supporter of the Arts in Australia. Its support for community matters is extensive. Some of it includes the Inaugural Cultural Inclusion Celebration Day, Building Relationships with Indigenous Australians. It has an indigenous advisory board which takes on several roles in seeking improvements for indigenous Australians.

“It supports the YMCA Bridge Project which seeks to aid the rehabilitation of young offenders. Significant cash donations have been made to education, health, indigenous, safety and youth causes in outback Australia. The defendant supports a number of other causes.”

Just last September though, Broadspectrum along with the Australian Government and others agreed to a record $70 million compensation payout to almost 1,500 asylum seekers who had alleged they were mistreated and illegally detained within the Manus Island concentration camp in Papau New Guinea between 2012-16. Aslyum seekers on Manus Island have faced regular violence, including the murder of their co-detainees by security guards employed at the facility.

The compensation payment is the largest ever given in Australia for a human rights complaint.

Broadspectrum also has long links to the asylum seeker concentration camp found on the tiny island of Nauru, which too has been the consistent subject of reports and complaints about widespread mistreatment and even torture of detainees.

The company however pulled out from operating offshore refugee detention camps on behalf of the Australian Government last October.

Asylum Seekers Manus Island.jpg
Asylum seekers behind wire fences at the Manus Island concentration camp (Image: ABC)

The decision came after bosses at Ferrovial were warned by professors at the prestigious Stanford Law School that its directors and employees could be liable for crimes against humanity following its takeover of Broadspectrum in 2016.

Ferrovial recorded next to 400 million Euros profit in the first nine months of 2017 in large part due to its interest in Broadspectrum, according to a media statement from the company late last year.

“Revenues totaled 9,194 million Euro, a 19.5% increase, due to consolidating Broadspectrum – an Australian company acquired in 2016 – for a longer period,” the company stated last October.

SUPPORT OUR INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM

Advertisements
About Serkan Ozturk 52 Articles
Serkan Ozturk is an investigative journalist and the publisher and editor of True Crime News Weekly. His journalism has previously been published by the likes of RT News, Sydney Morning Herald and Crikey. He is a member of the MEAA.

1 Comment

  1. Wow, what an outrageous story. NSW DPP appeal pronto please!

    What a judicial precedent to set … lawyers defending other WHS-reckless business operators to milk this for all its worth!

    Diminished penalties for guilty business WHS cases – especially death is exactly the wrong message… example needs to be made as a warning for Aust companies to take WHS responsibility seriously.

    A poor guy lost his life to this company’s negligence. Its status as a corporate citizen is a consideration of utmost irrelevance.

    DPP must act – an upside being to restore the reputational integrity of NSW judiciary from baffling and reality-disconnected judgements like these…

Leave Your Thoughts Below