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Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee
11/06/2014
Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 to 18 February 2014

KILBURN, Mr Steven Andrew, Private capacity

Committee met at 09:02

CHAIR ( Senator Wright ): I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee inquiry into an incident at Manus Island detention centre from 16 to 18 February 2014. On 5 March 2014, the Senate referred the matter of an incident at the Manus Island detention centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014 to the committee for inquiry and report. The full terms of reference are available from the secretariat. The reporting date of the inquiry is 16 July 2014.

He has received 34 submissions for this inquiry and all published submissions are available on the committee's website. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee.

The committee emphasises, however, that parliamentary privilege does not extend outside of Australia and that Australian law cannot protect individuals in another country whether or not they are Australian nationals. For this reason and so as not to prejudice ongoing criminal investigations and legal proceedings, the committee urges witnesses to exercise caution with regard to naming or otherwise identifying individuals located outside Australia, including Papua New Guinean nationals alleged to have been involved in the incident at the Manus Island detention centre during June 16-18 February.

The committee prefers all the evidence to be given in public but, under the Senate's resolutions, witnesses have the right to request to be heard in private session. It is important that witnesses give the committee notice if they intend to ask to give evidence in camera. If you are witness today and you intend to request to give evidence in camera, please bring this to the attention of secretariat staff as soon as possible.

If a witness objects to answering a question, the witness should state the ground upon which the objection is taken and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer, having regard to the ground which is claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer, a witness may request that the answer given in camera. Such a request may, of course, also be made at any other time. I welcome Mr Steven Kilburn. The committee has received your written submission as submission 18. Do you wish to make any amendments or alterations to your submission?

Mr Kilburn : No.

CHAIR: Would you like to make a short opening statement before we go to questions?

Mr Kilburn : Personally, I would like to commend the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee for setting up this inquiry. I feel this inquiry has been the best opportunity and the safest opportunity so far for staff and those wanting to provide evidence about what happened on Manus Island to do so in a way that is safe and without legal threat. I would also like to thank the committee for inviting me here to give evidence today.

I was employed as a safety and security officer with G4S working at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, the MIRPC, from 12 October 2013 until I resigned my position on 21 February 2014. I was working night shifts at the MIRPC during the disturbances. I resigned my position after the disturbances on Manus Island for a number of reasons including my concern for my personal safety and ethical and moral reasons.

I believe—or I hope—that this inquiry gets close to understanding the issues that led to the tensions at the MIRPC, which I believe are still ongoing, the inevitable protests and the subsequent riots that resulted in the death of Reza Berati and serious injuries to other asylum seekers and some staff members.

I made a written submission to the inquiry due to my concerns that the information I was hearing through official sources and the media did not match my experience of what happened at the MIRPC. Statements made that all of the violence happened outside of the centre turned out to be false and statements made that Reza Berati was outside of the centre when he was murdered also turned out to be false. There are a number of other issues which I will discuss further on that I think still need to be clarified, in particular the issue around whether the PNG police were invited or asked into the compound on the night of 17 February.

Due to concerns about confidentiality agreements that staff are required to sign with both G4S and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, it has been very difficult for myself and other staff members to safely contribute to the investigation into the death of Reza Berati. I took legal advice regarding the confidentiality agreements and was told that they are so broad-ranging in scope that simply stating, 'I cannot make comment because I have signed a confidentiality agreement,' breaches the confidentiality agreement. This makes it nearly impossible for anyone to provide, in a way without fear of retribution, evidence to assist in the process of determining the facts about what happened.

I was unaware that I could make a submission to the Cornall inquiry. I knew very little about the Cornall inquiry and I was never invited to make a submission to the Cornall inquiry, even though I believe that, due to my appearance on the Four Corners program, it was probably obvious that I did have something to contribute to that process. I have spoken to many other staff members that I worked with whilst on Manus Island and some people who are still on Manus Island who all said they have never been approached or provided with information about how to make a submission to the Cornall inquiry.

I would like to put on the record as well that in no way am I intending to criticise or besmirch any staff members I worked with or even the management of G4S. The point I will try to make during my appearance is that it is almost an unmanageable situation up there and there are too many external factors at play to enable the place to be run safely and securely, regardless of who the contractor is.

I would also like to put on the record that a great number of G4S ex-pat Australian and New Zealand staff acted incredibly bravely on both nights. In fact, I think the actions of a number of those staff decreased the injuries and, potentially, saved lives of people who otherwise would have been more severely injured or killed in those disturbances.

I will make comment about some management decisions that were made by G4S management. Even though those decisions, I feel, were potentially controversial, I want to state that I clearly understand why they had to make those decisions. The point I will try to make is that they were forced to make decisions that went against what we would normally do due to the fact that they had no control over what was going on outside the fence of the MIRPC. One example was when I was supervising Charlie compound, where we were holding the injured, the severely injured and traumatised transferees, clients or asylum seekers—there are so many names that we use. I was told that if Oscar compound was to break through, we were to leave them locked in the compound and to immediately evacuate. Whilst that sounds unreasonable, it is understood in the circumstances because G4 had an obligation, I believe, to look after the welfare of our staff. We were in a situation where we had people in wheelchairs who could not walk and it would have taken a significant amount of time to evacuate them, which would have put other people at risk. That is not a criticism of that decision. I understand it and, potentially, would have made the same decision. It is a criticism of the fact that people were put in that position because we had no control over what was going on outside.

When I talk about asylum seekers, I want to put on the record that it is difficult to use such a term. In the three nights I spent after the incident looking after the severely wounded and traumatised people, what I came to realise was these are not 'clients'; they are not 'transferees'; they are people, just like us. They are fathers and sons, brothers, grandparents, grandfathers. I want to just put that on the record so that they know we see them as more than just a boat number.

I am sure there has been a lot of discussion about policy and procedures and there was a woeful lack of policy and procedure in the MIRPC in any number of areas. We could go on for many hours about those things. However, I think they have been well ventilated. My concern is that what we will hear is that we have a new contractor in place now, we have new policies and procedures and, therefore, everything will be fine. My evidence I would like to give is that it is not what the policies and procedures are inside the MIRPC, although it would be good for them to be improved and for the conditions for the asylum seekers to be improved; it is my intention that Manus Island is the wrong place to have a regional processing centre for a number of reasons which I am happy to go into with the committee.

I would also like to highlight the difficulty that the confidential agreements have caused for people to be able to speak out. I know a number of people who wanted to speak out but who were fearful. I am happy to provide to the committee copies of those confidentiality agreements so that you have them on the record. They are the most broad ranging, all-encompassing confidentiality agreements that my legal representatives had ever seen. So I think there is an opportunity for us to discuss what those confidentiality agreements should encompass to ensure that we can get information when it is needed and so people can feel safe providing it. I am happy to take questions from the committee.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Mr Kilburn.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you, Mr Kilburn, for coming forward today. Thank you for your submission. It was interesting reading the detail you went through in your written submission in terms of the night. You were clearly seeing a lot of what was going on firsthand, and you have been thinking about this for quite some time. That is the sense from reading the submission. You have talked about the issue of confidentiality, and I want to come to that. What has made you decide to come to this inquiry today and how hard was the decision for you? You have gone and sought legal advice. Without going into the details of what that was, how hard was the decision to be sitting here in front of us today?

Mr Kilburn : It has been an incredibly difficult decision for not only me but for my family, my wife, as well, due to the fears that this potentially could have consequences—it could have severe consequences—for not only myself but my entire family. We had to think very, very long and hard about how we would go about providing evidence and trying to clarify, like I said, what I believed were misleading statements or statements that were maybe just based on the fact that information was hard to get but did not match the facts. However, through all that, what has made me come to the conclusion that I needed to put in a submission to the inquiry and do whatever I could do to try and make sure that the truth came out was the three days and three nights I spent after the disturbances when I was in Charlie compound, where all of these very badly wounded and beaten and traumatised asylum seekers were being housed. What I saw there in those three nights made me realise that whatever the risk, whatever the potential risk, I have to do it. I think constantly about the young Somalian boy, who was probably only 19 or in his early 20s, who was so badly beaten that he could not eat or speak. So, I think to myself, how does he get heard? How does his story get out? Someone has to do it, and I was there. So he and all the other people that spent nights lying on filthy blood-covered mattresses with no bedding and no sheets, the people that had soiled themselves through the traumatic experience that they had been through and did not have any clothing to get dressed in—that is what has made me come here, regardless of the legal advice that I received.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you, Mr Kilburn. We appreciate that you have decided to. Hearing directly from someone who has been able to see what happened is, of course, incredibly invaluable to us as a committee. Can I go on to some of the broader issues as raised in your submission. What do you believe were the key contributors to the tensions and the blow-up that occurred over those two nights?

Mr Kilburn : There are a number of issues, like I have stated. I think there are a number of internal issues which could have been handled much better. They are simple things, like, as I have stated in my submission, just the difficulty for transferees in getting a meal. Probably hundreds of officers' reports were written, asking management to improve the way that transferees were able to access their meals. They sat for hours, lined up to get a meal, in the sun in PNG where it is incredibly hot. There was no shade provided and they would line up for hours. They did not even have hats; they were not issued with hats. They could not access sunscreen. There was no shelter. They would actually start lining up for breakfast at about 4.30 and they would start lining up for lunch at about 10, sitting in the direct sun. The reason they did that was simply that the facilities were not sufficient for the number of people who ended up on Manus Island. The ability to cater for them, in my opinion, had been overwhelmed. We struggled to fit them through the two-hour slot that they had for a meal and, quite often, due to the lack of kitchen facilities, the ability to cook enough meals in advance, they would run out of some things halfway through. So people knew that, to get what they wanted, they needed to get in early. So they would all line up early. This inevitably led to fights and tension.

They would also then have to line up to get their shampoo and line up to go to the canteen. Some days they would spend nearly an entire day, lining up in the sun to get basic things that they should have been able to access a lot easier. That is a background tension that is building not only for them but for the staff. A lot of staff put in reports about the fact that we were standing in direct sunlight, we had no shade and we were constantly told: 'It's just too hard. We'd like to do it, but it's too hard. We can't get permission, we can't get funding, we can't get approval from PNG.' These excuses went on and on. There is a general background tension, even amongst staff because of illness and a lack of proper accommodation. So people are tense, angry and upset a lot of the time. So there is that background. But there is also the underlying tension about having the MIRPC on Manus Island. I would spend a lot of time—and we had a lot of time, particularly on night shift—sitting and talking to the local PNG people, other guards and transferees about those issues. I think I raised some of those issues.

Obviously, there is a level of resentment amongst the people on Manus Island. It is a bit of a two-edged sword. They like the idea that maybe some money will be put in for investment and improvements in infrastructure. But right now what they see is their limited infrastructure being used by transferees who are up at the hospital using their facilities, when they cannot access the facilities. In some cases, they see transferees eating better than some of the people on Manus Island get to eat. We have to remember that Manus Island is not a wealthy part of PNG. There is a lot of poverty on the island. People expressed to me that, quite often, they would get upset about the fact that they only get to eat rice and fish and these guys get to eat meat two times a day. So there was that level of resentment.

There was also a very strong religious undertone there because of the strong Christian values and beliefs of the PNG people and their fear of the mainly Muslim beliefs of the people in detention. I had many long conversations about that with PNG people to the point where they said they felt they were going to be punished, that Manus Island would have some sort of earthquake or tsunami because of the fact that they had allowed this other religion to take hold on their island. That was their belief and that is what they felt. So there was a tension there.

There were also tensions about having the Australian and New Zealand guards working there. It was difficult to work out what our roles were, compared to the roles of the PNG guards. But resentment grew over time about the fact that they were doing the same job as us and we were getting paid significantly more than them. In some cases, we were being told to discipline them or look after them, even though they had their own structure. There were tensions building around that as well.

A black market was running with cigarettes. People had to bribe the PNG Eurest staff to get meals. For example, after the disturbances we could not enter the compounds and we were feeding the transferees through the fence, passing meals through the fence, because we could not go into the compounds. One of the transferees made a statement and said that that was the first time they all got a piece of fruit without having to pay a bribe in the whole time they had been there. They were constantly having to bribe people to get a bit more food, some condiments or a piece of fruit.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Inside the compound?

Mr Kilburn : Inside the compound, in the mess halls. There was plenty of it going on and we all used to see it and put in reports. But it is very difficult to police, because of the fact we had also to be careful about the tensions between us and the PNG staff. We had to be very careful about keeping a good working relationship.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can I just clarify: the things that asylum seekers were, effectively, being asked to trade were things that they would purchase through the canteen as part of their point system?

Mr Kilburn : Yes. Under the point system they were able to purchase things through the canteen, but it is very limited as to what they can have. For example, I knew a few guys who did not smoke and they used to complain and say, 'What have I got to spend my points on? I've got nothing to spend it on. So we buy cigarettes.' They all buy cigarettes, have piles and piles of cigarettes and use them to bribe the PNG guards for extra food or to bring in a watch or whatever they needed to be brought in. The transferees said to me, 'You guys are stupid. You are leaving us with no option. We have nothing else to spend our points on. If you just gave us some other things to buy that were useful, we wouldn't be stockpiling cigarettes and we wouldn't need to bribe the PNG guards.' It is simple. Reports were made about this.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So reports were made?

Mr Kilburn : Reports were put in. However, I have to say that, when we first got there, we would write reports, write reports, write reports but eventually people said: 'Forget it. It's pointless. Nothing gets done, you get no feedback, no-one ever hears if anything has been done. You don't see anything being done.' So people just got to the point where they said, 'We've put in 1,000 reports about finding a better way to get people through their meal time.' People come up with ideas about making systems and having a tag system on a board. None of it got actioned, so people in the end just gave up. There was no point in doing it because there very rarely seemed to be—maybe there was, maybe there was a lot going on in the background that we did not know about, but we saw very little progress on any of the issues that we put in reports about.

CHAIR: Who did you make the reports to?

Mr Kilburn : The system was that we hand-wrote an officer's report and handed it to our supervisor on the compound where we worked. The supervisor would take it into the head office, into the ops managers, and that would be it.

CHAIR: That is, to G4S?

Mr Kilburn : Yes.

CHAIR: You say that you did not receive acknowledgement back of the report having been received?

Mr Kilburn : One of the managers did try to implement a system were he had 'correspondence in' where he actually logged them, gave them a number, so you could go back in a book. That only came in probably two-thirds of the way through my tenure on the island. So there was an attempt to try to improve that. But even with that, getting things done still seemed to be incredibly difficult. Lighting was poor and just the general state of the area, washing facilities—all of that led to tensions. Every meal time there was a fight in the meal line because people would get sick of lining up. They would try to push in. There would be fights. We had to break them up. We used to ask, 'Why wouldn't someone have come down and said, "Why is this going on every meal time?"' Surely, we can fix this up. You have to wonder why it wasn't. You would have to wonder why something that should be reasonably easy to fix wasn't. I do not know why it wasn't.

So there are all those tensions. People told me about the environmental damage that the site is doing. Everything is disposable—every knife, fork, cup. We go through thousands and thousands and thousands of disposable plates, knives, forks and bottles of water every day. There are no facilities on Manus Island for recycling. There is no proper transfer station. It all gets taken away and dumped in the bush. People are resentful about that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The locals?

Mr Kilburn : The locals are resentful of the fact that we are destroying their island basically and just turning it into a tip. There is bubbling tension going on the whole time, all the way through. Add to that the increased number of people who were put in, which also increased tensions, the lack of educational opportunities, the lack of sporting opportunities, the lack of ability to get out of the place regularly to get a break from inside those compounds and you have a powder keg of tension that is building up. It was highlighted to me when I went to Manus Island one day. We got off the plane and went down to the Bibby,the accommodation ship. We had to line up to get our key. We were inside, in an air-conditioned room, we lined up and there was a lot of complaining going on because they had only one staff member. It took us 10 minutes to get our key. I remember sitting listening to us complaining about lining up in the air-conditioning for 10 minutes to get our key and then thought about these guys lining up for hours and hours, three times a day, every day, in the sun, just to get fed. I think that highlights why people are tense. So when you add all that to the information that is now widely known, that was given to them on the day of the first protest, I think that frustration just became almost unbearable. It was inevitable that it was going to happen.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Other people will want to ask questions and I will come back to you on specifics in relation to the night. But I want to ask: what were your interactions with or observations of the PNG police squad?

Mr Kilburn : The PNG police squad did not have a lot to do with us on a day-to-day basis, other than coming in and out to get their meals. They stayed in their own area, outside the compound. With respect to the issue around whether they were invited in—which I am happy to talk about—even when I first started, when we got our original training on my first couple of days on Manus Island, we were told then that if things got out of hand inside the compound that the mobile squad was there to come in and deal with it. So, as far as I know, that was always the intention. That is what they were there for. Also, obviously, if things happened outside, if things got out of control, it was the PNG police that were responsible for dealing with it and taking any legal action if someone was assaulted or whatever. There was always a level of confusion about what our powers were. I do not think it was ever satisfactorily determined, because it is too hard to know what we could and could not do. Basically, we could not do anything. Everything was down to the PNG police. That was the message we had.

On the actual night of the disturbances, my experience of the PNG police and the day before was that the PNG police were with weapons outside the Foxtrot Compound, urging the transferees to come over the fence. To be fair, the transferees were taunting them through the fence and the police were taunting them back. I think G4S made the decision to move them away from the fence line because that was just making things worse.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Move the asylum seekers?

Mr Kilburn : Move the mobile squad, to ask them to move back so that everything would calm down a little. On the night I, along with other G4S guards, was required to move those people from Charlie Compound down to the navy sports field for their protection. On the way we had to walk through a fairly angry mob of G4S PNG guards but also very angry and agitated PNG police mobile squad officers, who were armed and showed the obvious signs of having used betel nut. I had previously seen police officers coming in to have lunch, with a red mouth, where obviously they had recently been chewing betel nut.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: These are people who are on duty?

Mr Kilburn : Yes. They were on duty that night, they were armed, they were part of the police enforcement and they were obviously affected by betel nut. I have never had betel nut, so I do not know what it does to you. There was a rule that said you were not allowed to have it on site or while you were at work. But the police are a law unto themselves.

The other experience I had was when we had difficulties with the PNG defence force, drunk PNG defence force members would turn up and start harassing people. When we called the police, the police were reluctant to get involved.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This is prior to the night?

Mr Kilburn : This is prior to the night, yes. I would say that that had a bit to do with the stand-off we had in October that year between armed PNG Defence Force members and the mobile squad directly in front of the MIRPC. The police had taken action against someone and the PNG Defence Force members had gone away, armed themselves and then come back. There were other incidents where PNG Defence Force members turned up and were harassing people. When we called the police, the police were reluctant to come. They just said: 'That is not our remit. That is not our problem. You need to call the Lorengau police from town and get them to come out.' The only other interaction I had was whilst on duty one night. I was sitting at the front of the kitchen area of a little watch-house. There were three young female PNG guards with me. At about three o'clock in the morning, one of them went to go to the toilet. She walked off. I then heard a noise—a scuffle—and I saw her come back. I went to have a look at what was going on and there was a drunk PNG Defence Force member there who had tried to drag her off into the bush to sexually assault her.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This is someone who was on duty—this woman, the guard from—

Mr Kilburn : Yes, she was on duty. We were just near the main gate. She only had a 20-metre walk to the main gate and this PNG Defence Force member attacked her. He ran up and down, waving his arms in the air and saying: 'What are you going to do? I am a member of the Defence Force.' We made a report about that to the police and the police came down and said that they would do something about it. I made a report to G4S and I gave a copy of that to the police—and I never heard anything back from anyone about whether any action at all was taken. There have been other incidents of those sorts of things happening—where the police did not see it as their problem. There are plenty of stories. One was about an off-duty, drunken G4S member assaulting another female staff member because she would not go home with him. The IRT members who were related to her took it upon themselves to go down and beat him senseless. He had to be rescued by Australian and New Zealand G4S staff. Once again, the police said it was not their problem, that it was not up to them to deal with—even though that happened directly outside the compound.

I was told by people who spoke to the police, who spent the day with the police, that the day after the first night—on the Monday night—they said that they were going to show how people who riot are fixed up in PNG. I think they already had an intention to do something about the behaviour of the transferees on that night.

Senator SINGH: Thank you for appearing before this committee, Mr Kilburn, and for your submission—and for your frank and fearless account of the incident and your honesty in sharing that with us. Clearly you care about the welfare of the transferees and your fellow staff. Would it be fair to say that you were traumatised by the events that took place on that night?

Mr Kilburn : Yes.

Senator SINGH: Were you offered any kind of counselling or support through G4S management to deal with that trauma?

Mr Kilburn : I left on the Saturday after the event. I believe that G4S had arranged for site care people to come and be made available to people. An email was sent out, even though I was no longer working there, saying you can ring the site care people—I think that is what they were called—if you need it. I think I did not realise how much it affected me until I started talking about it. Even now, it still does. I know from speaking to other people who worked there that they have also been very deeply affected by what happened. I think it made everyone reflect. I cannot speak for everyone else, but it made me reflect on the day-to-day operation of what went on there and how easy it is for someone like me who works there to just get into the role: 'We're the guard; you're the detainee.' I think back to a couple of things. I think back specifically to the way we treated people with mental health issues, who were put in a compound called Delta 9. I think back on that and realise how appallingly bad a job we did for them in looking after them. When you are there, you are caught up in the place. You are working long hours. Everyone is hot and sweaty. You sort of do not have the time to think, 'This is not good; this is not right.' It is only after that I have had the ability to think back and reflect, as I did by writing these reports and providing these submissions.

CHAIR: Can I just interrupt you. Obviously, we have the media here. If you are comfortable with that, that is well and good.

Mr Kilburn : That is fine.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr Kilburn : I have reflected a lot on what went on there. I sometimes think that, though I am not over it, I am okay about it. I only have to start talking about it and I get upset, so obviously it still has an impact on me.

Senator SINGH: I can appreciate that today is not an easy day because we are going to ask you a lot of questions in that regard. You said in your submission:

… I made comments to my wife and people that I know that there is only one possible outcome on Manus Island and that is bloodshed.

Mr Kilburn : Yes.

Senator SINGH: I guess that goes back to this inquiry trying to get to the bottom of the contributing factors that led to that incident. We heard from G4S and the department of immigration yesterday. We have canvassed a range of contributing factors, but I would be interested to hear more from you. Obviously, there are a range of factors and it probably is not just one thing.

Mr Kilburn : No.

Senator SINGH: But sometimes it is the icing on something that actually leads to the straw that breaks the camel's back—that is a bad metaphor. I know you have described in great detail the scene and a number of the day-to-day difficulties for both transferees and staff living in the detention centre. What do you think are the most important contributing factors that led to that incident on that night occurring as it did?

Mr Kilburn : I would say that the obvious trigger that led to the actual outbreak of violence was the meeting that they had with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the PNG department of immigration, where they were told, basically, 'This can go on forever. There's not necessarily going to be a quick resolution.' The answers that they got there obviously were the trigger that caused them to say, 'We can't take this anymore.'

I think about this a fair bit. When I think back, the behaviour of the transferees is actually quite exceptional. If I took 1,500 Australian men of all ages, at random, and placed them in that environment, I would say the level of violence, anger and frustration would be incredibly high. There were so few incidents, for a number of reasons—firstly, that they were scared of the consequences of being given over to the PNG police or of what might happen if they were taken outside of the camp; and, secondly, that they thought that any breach would condemn them to being put on a plane and sent home. So they had to maintain this calm, no matter what, even under intense provocation—not provocation as in purposeful provocation, but just a relentless attack on their self-esteem and wellbeing.

Given that, that tension is simmering—add in racial tension, religious tension and the absolutely appalling facilities. I highlighted in my submission one particular area in Foxtrot compound called Papa block, which was an absolute disgrace by any standard. I wrote an extremely long report to G4S about the fact that it breached every fire safety—I was a fireman, previously—regulation. It was a deathtrap and a hazard to everyone who lived in there. It was concrete; there was no air. It was just an appalling place to put people. There were 160 people living in there. The beds were this far apart from each other. They were not allowed to even put a sheet around their bed to get any privacy, so they never got any privacy at all. The whole time they are there, they are sleeping next to strangers.

Add on top of that blistering sun. We have put mesh around the fence lines to make sure that the media cannot see in and film footage of transferees, which stops any wind or air at all coming into the joint. It is an absolute oven in there. That is the environment they are in 24/7. They have to ask for every single thing that they want. We have stopped giving them sugar, because the concern was that it was keeping them up all night, they were eating too much of it, blah blah blah. Everything they want, they have to ask us for. That is incredibly demoralising for someone. So that is the tension that is going on.

Plus they are negotiating around the black market, being able to get the little things that they need, and figuring out how they do that. They are keeping themselves safe. The toilets are—I wrote this in there—absolutely appalling. There is no way I could use them. It is as simple as that. The guys in Delta compound had virtually no opportunity for physical exercise—none. There was no room in there for them to do anything except walk around and around like a caged bear. They very rarely got taken out of there. The recreational facilities were appalling. I remember they took a group down to the sports oval one day with a soccer ball, and the soccer ball was flat and they did not have another one. So they kicked a flat soccer ball around down at the sports oval for an hour and were brought back. It is a joke.

With that level of frustration, that is why I said it is inevitable. Unless there is some light at the end of the tunnel or something they can pin a hope on, what do we expect is going to happen? It has got to happen. There is no other outcome. No one can maintain a calm—maybe some people can, but not many—facade under that much duress forever. You cannot do it. We could not do it, and we worked there. Staff lost their temper. Staff got angry from the heat, from the sickness, from the gastro—and we could leave; they can't. So what did we think was going to happen?

Add in the religious differences, the cultural differences, the educational differences and the resentment among some people. There was even resentment amongst some of the PNG staff, from the people that were brought in from Port Moresby and the highlanders, who had a different culture to the Manus Islanders. There were fights amongst them. There were fights among the PNG staff down in the swamp, in their accommodation area.

You had simple things, like washing machines. They have got washing machines. Instead of buying industrial washing machines, someone decided to buy el cheapo front-load washing machines that lasted about five minutes. In the compound where I was there were 200 or so of us living there, and we had one operational washing machine—one. It was no different for them. In Delta compound I think they had two washing machines for 258 people. This is a place where you sweat 24 hours a day. These guys lived in their pyjamas. They were given a pair of pyjamas and just wore them 24 hours a day, because it was the easiest way. So you have people walking around in their pyjamas. That is not healthy.

There was a lack of even educational classes. The Salvation Army did their best, but it is just not a place where people can get the stimulus that you need to stay sane when you are locked in a small space. Then, when people did suffer health issues or get mental health issues, we locked them in a steel box called Delta 9 and sat and stared at them where they had nothing to do for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is not right. What do we think is going to be the result of that?

Senator SINGH: Were there health practitioners that were attending the mental health—

Mr Kilburn : The health practitioner would come up—and I do not know what level of skill they had—depending on the level of difficulty the transferees were displaying, usually once in the morning. If they were on medication, we would walk them down for their medication twice a day if they needed their medication twice a day. I was in there with some people who had been in there for weeks. The whole time they were there, I do not remember their clothes ever being washed or changed. They had no access to do washing; no-one came and asked them if they needed it done. That was the person who, we were told by management, was at highest risk of committing suicide of anyone they have ever seen.

Senator SINGH: A policy you said of no sheets on the bed and the lining up—where did all of that stem from, from your knowledge at least?

Mr Kilburn : From my knowledge? I do not know directly, but I believe that each day they would have a meeting between G4S management and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection where they would do a risk assessment about what is going on that day around the place. They would go through the intelligence reports that had been gathered and all the information that the staff and everyone else was putting in, and they would work out a risk profile and discuss things. They would also at those meetings discuss the people who were in Delta 9 under close watch. I believe that is where they ventilated these things and talked about them and made decisions about those things. That was for people in Oscar compound, where they have 50 people to a compartment and with just bunk beds and the guys had started—there were concerns about the fact that they could be doing things behind there. I understand it is a difficult thing because they are also thinking, 'If there's someone who's being bullied or victimised, they can do it behind that sheet and no-one's going to know'. So there is a whole range of issues that they take into account I suppose. Regardless of that, my point is: none of us would like, I do not think, to be sleeping next to strangers, six inches away, and having no ability ever to get any privacy. There is nowhere to go, there is nowhere to get a break and there is nowhere to go and sit even where you are away from someone. That would drive any of us insane.

Senator SINGH: I am trying to understand where some of the decision-making was made and some of the policies were set in place. Clearly G4S was the service provider, but decisions obviously had to be made about how that service was carried out. It is clear to say that it has been fairly well-known for some time now that Manus Island detention centre has not been a well-run facility. There has even been a cartoon provided by the department of immigration to be sent out worldwide to say, 'This is where you will end up if you try to come to Australia by boat, and this is what it looks like!' It is pretty clear that there have been decisions that have been made to have the facility run the way it is. It has not just happened ad hoc, I would think. So decisions about lining up in the sun all day, lining up for medication, having unclean toilets, no sheets, the ongoing gastro issues—there are probably more issues that you could tell me.

Mr Kilburn : Yes, they go on and on.

Senator SINGH: I am trying to understand where these decisions were made and the policy position that was put to G4S.

Mr Kilburn : I think this is the difficulty that was up there. There was tension between the Salvation Army and G4S about the Salvation Army wanting to do whatever it is they do—recreation or whatever—and G4S's focus on security, which is understandable. The difficulty was that no-one really knows what that place is. What is it? Is it a jail? Is it a detention centre? Is it a processing centre? Do people have freedom there or not? During our training—the abysmal training that we got when we first arrived on the island—no-one seemed to know. They have not done anything wrong. They are not criminals. You have got to treat them with respect. Good. Fine. They are not in detention. Well, how come I chain up the gate and they have to come and ask me and I choose whether they go in or out? How come they cannot walk from there to there without being put in a bus and checked off? Are they in detention or are they not? Is this a prison or is it not? Are they free to walk around or are they not? No, they are not. But the difficulty is that I do not think we have really worked out what it is yet. I do not think they have worked out what it is. So some decisions are made about this is a detention centre and security is uppermost, and then other things are about, yes, but they actually have not done anything wrong so we cannot.

No-one knows, and there is all this back and forth between who is responsible for simple stuff. Someone would have gastro and would come up to the isolation area. We have got a bed. We have got no sheets. We have got no pillows. They cannot bring their sheets and pillows from there because they are in isolation now. Can we get a sheet and a pillow? Well, you have to ask Salvation Army about that. Salvation Army has gone home because they went home at 11 and this guy has got sick at two. Well, can we get one? No, you have to get the boss of the Salvation Army to give you permission to get a sheet and a pillow today. So these guys will just end up spending the night lying on the stretcher with no sheet and pillow, and we would say surely we can get that—and eventually we did. We argued and argued and argued. We are sick of this. Every night guys are getting sick and we have not got a pillow. Can we just put a box of pillows and sheets? Well, who is responsible for that? So off it goes. Write a report, and you think this stuff should not be this hard.

Now, I do not know what department of immigration were telling G4S. I know they met regularly. You would see G4S senior management and department of immigration senior management talking to each other regularly. They had regular meetings. Who made decisions and who gave the orders I do not know, because I was not in the room, but it was this endless source of frustration. I remember being told when we arrived there that the department of immigration is in charge of this whole place in conjunction with the PNG immigration department. They are the ones that make all the decisions. They are the ones we have got to get funding off, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah! We were told they say they have got an open door policy, but we are telling you don't you ever go and talk to them or you will be off the island.

So we were not allowed to talk to them. We had to go through G4S. That is fine. That is a chain of command. I understand that. I will use one little example, if I could, to highlight why it was difficult for people to follow the process and get things done. There were asylum seekers who were sent to Australia for medical conditions and sometimes surgery. When I was flying back I met one of my workmates who was returning. I said, 'What's happening? What are you doing?' He said, 'I've been on an escort. I've just been stood down.' I said, 'What do you mean "stood down"?' He said, 'I've been stood down from duty.' I said, 'Why?' He said, 'Because they told me to take this guy down to Australia to get surgery. I never got any paperwork. I didn't get anything—nothing. I just got told, "Here's your ticket. Take him. Stay overnight in PNG. Take him to Australia."' He gets to Australia and he has not got anything. No-one had a record that this guy was coming. No-one knew that he was bringing an asylum seeker into the country. He had a big kerfuffle at immigration. They had to sort it all out. So he contacted G4S management and said, 'You need to give me some paperwork.' This guy is an ex-policeman. He said, 'I'm basically illegally bringing someone into the country. You need to provide me with some paperwork.' They said, 'Yes, we'll get onto it.' He picked up the guy after he had been to hospital, brought him back, got to PNG and entered PNG. The PNG immigration gave the asylum seeker a 30-day visa and stamped it. So this asylum seeker now was legally in PNG with the same visa that we had. So he rang up G4S and said, 'What am I supposed to do if this guy decides to leave the room? He has a legal visa. What is my legal right to hold this guy in the room?' They said to him, 'We're telling you you've got the right.' He said, 'Well, I want it in writing.' He made the point of saying, 'Unless you get me something in writing, I'm not doing this anymore.' G4S asked, 'Are you disobeying an order?' He said, 'No. I just want some evidence that I have a right to do what I am doing.' They said, 'We will get it to you within the hour.' Two hours later they rang him up and said, 'You are stood down. Someone else is coming.'

I went to a meeting the next night with him as his witness and he was sacked. Management said, 'Actually you were right. Yes, you highlighted a significant issue'—and these are the words that they used—'but do you know how humiliating it is for us to have to go to the department of immigration and ask for that sort of thing?' So here is what happens if you point out a problem. Here is what happens if you highlight a real problem that potentially has consequences for everyone—you are sacked. That is what happens. It is not encouraging staff members to speak out and highlight issues when that is the consequence of that behaviour. Who sacked him? I think it was G4S, and the department of immigration knew about it. But why would you sack someone who has just highlighted a significant issue and a breakdown in procedures?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: A legal issue.

Mr Kilburn : Yes. It should have been dealt with by the department. Why are we sending people to Australia with no paperwork? Why haven't we arranged that for when they come back in the country with PNG immigration, who are supposedly on site at the MIRPC? It should not be that hard. You just walk across the hallway. So that is something that occurred. I know because I was there. I was in there for the meeting and I saw what went on. That does not encourage you to then go through the chain of command and the G4S system, as they wanted us to do when we made submissions to you to provide information to them to make sure we were getting it to the right people. That was not going to happen.

Senator SINGH: Thank you for providing the detail that you have. As a former corrections minister, I think that in the description you have provided the attributes are similar to a prison and I think some of them are worse.

Mr Kilburn : Yes.

Senator SINGH: From your knowledge from work mates who are still there or whatever knowledge you have, what has changed since the incident of that night at Manus Island, or are the conditions and the contributing factors still all there?

Mr Kilburn : Some people have said to me that some things have improved in the management of the system and that some greater freedoms have been given to the transferees to move around the inside of the compound, which is obviously a good thing. But other people have told me that the tension outside the compound with the local PNG guards has got worse. The last time I spoke to someone about this the guards were still not allowed inside the compound and were being held outside due to fears for the transferees. It is because of what happened, basically. So there have been some improvements of general things but the tone and tension, from what people have told me, is at least as bad if not worse. People have said to me, 'This is going to blow again. This place is going to blow again, for sure.'

CHAIR: I found it very interesting to hear you identify a context and a range of factors that are somewhat beyond what we heard yesterday both from the department and, more specifically, from G4S about the contributing factors to the actual incident that occurred. I will take you back to something that the department was saying yesterday. It seemed to me they were saying in terms of the incident itself and the requirement for training that it was G4S's duty and role to manage the relationship with the PNG police and authorities. That is what it seemed to me they were saying yesterday. We are trying to work out who is ultimately responsible for what occurred and is occurring at Manus Island. How achievable is it, in your view, for G4S as a contractor with the department of immigration to manage a relationship with, for instance, the Papua New Guinean police or the Papua New Guinean authorities? How achievable is that? Do you understand what I am asking?

Mr Kilburn : Yes, I understand what you are asking. I think it comes back to the point that I raised about even just the tension over time between the expat staff who work there and the PNG staff who work there. They are very proud people, the PNG people. They are proud of their country and they are proud of the fact that they are PNG. It is their country. This is the thing that we seem to forget in this. This is why there is going to be a difficulty about who is running who, who is in charge and who is making decisions. At the end of the day, it is PNG. It is their country. It is their police force. It is their law that things get done under. We can try to form a relationship and try to negotiate things, but my understanding of the mobile squad is that they are a pretty powerful group of people who I do not think are necessarily going to take well to being managed by some Australian contractors coming over there and trying to run the show. They will manage things how they see things need to be managed.

That tone was coming through even with some of the subcontracted PNG guards who worked for Loda. They were subcontracted to G4S. Even then there were some tensions starting to arise about simple things, such as who was in charge. I know it sounds stupid but in the compound there was an expat supervisor and a PNG supervisor. The expat supervisor was Sierra 1 and the PNG supervisor was Sierra 2. That does not sound like much but it implies, 'We are the boss and you are the next on the list.' Then it became more divided—'You look after yours; we'll look after ours.' As time went on, people acted professionally at all times but I did see a bit of a separating between us and them. You would see the PNG guards sitting over on one side and the expat guards sitting on the other side. There was a conscious effort to try to make a relationship happen, but it was not something that was occurring naturally. I think it was because of the resentment about us being there in their country having brought these problems with us. There was not so much anger as resentment amongst the PNG people. They were not so much angry as upset. When I was at Foxtrot Compound on the Sunday night when there were rocks and stones and other stuff being thrown, they were walking around in a very agitated state, saying, 'This is our country. Why is this happening? How did this happen? How did we allow this to happen on Manus Island? Why is this occurring?' There was resentment that we—and when I say 'we' I mean that collectively—had brought this problem to their otherwise peaceful island. Tensions were just ratcheting up and ratcheting up. If you put a concerted effort into building up a relationship that is fine until things go wrong. At the end of the day, when things go wrong, it is PNG and they will do it their way.

CHAIR: I guess my question was about to what extent you think the Australian government—and this started before the election and it has been continued—can say, 'We have made a policy decision to do this thing, but we are going to make it the responsibility to make the policy work of a subcontractor like G4S.' That is really what I am getting at. How achievable is that?

Mr Kilburn : That might work if we were in Australia, but we are not. We are in PNG.

CHAIR: You have identified a range of factors, as I said, that go beyond what we heard yesterday. They are factors that were well known at the time the original decision was made. They included that it was an isolated location in an impoverished area of an impoverished nation. You have cultural and religious differences between the, basically, Christian or more traditional religious views of Papua New Guineans as opposed to the often—or predominantly, I think—Islamic religious views of asylum seekers. You have raised also the lack of basic capacity to meet needs like health supplies, water, sunscreen, medical supplies and so on. You have raised all those issues that you are saying contributed to the tension. And you have also identified that sense of sovereignty. We heard yesterday about the original landholders being unhappy about the decision of the Papua New Guinea government to allow the detention centre to be built there. So there was a sense of resentment on the part of the asylum seekers, taunting and being unhappy to be there, and the sense of pride on the part of the locals, which led to that very human tension there. You have identified all of those factors. It sounds to me, from what you have been saying, that this was really a policy disaster that was waiting to happen, in a way. It seems almost inevitable, given those factors, which have been known all along—they are not new—that what is occurring and what has occurred is not really surprising. Do you want to comment on that?

Mr Kilburn : It should not be surprising. As I have said, it was obvious that this was going to occur. You are right, the remote location works in a couple of ways. Not only is it difficult to get additional assistance or support if you need it. It is hard to get. You cannot quickly call in extra people or medical attention. You have to fly someone out at massive expense to get a plane in, which you cannot always do; it depends on the weather. Potentially, people could die because you just cannot get the proper medical supplies that you need. So there is that and all of the cultural problems that were percolating away the whole time and do not get any better.

It is interesting that you raised the landholder issue. Anyone who has ever spent any time in PNG understands that PNG is a bit different to Australia in that it is the landowners—the landholders—that really have the power. It is not all just government land and the government decides what it is going to do with it without negotiating with the landholders. There are a number of things that G4S wanted done, but they had to get permission from the landholders to do. It is interesting, I had a conversation with a group of local people and Papua New Guinean guards. I said to them: 'What's going to happen when these people are released from here and go and live in the community?' They said, 'That's never going to happen.' I said, 'Well, it is going to happen. That is the plan. That is the deal. So what are you going to do?' They said, 'We won't let that happen.' I said, 'Okay, if the government gets some land, builds some accommodation and lets them go and live there, what will happen then?' They said, 'The government doesn't own the land. We own the land. This is our island. We own it and we are not going to let them have it.' I said, 'Okay, just imagine that it happens.' There words were—I do not want to use their actual words, but let us put it this way: they made it quite clear that those people will never be safe. They will have to watch over their shoulder the whole time they are there because they are not going to let them live in Manus Island. So when I hear the plan that, supposedly, we are going to put 13 in a compound closer to town and start the process, I will tell you now that is going to end in violence. We knew this was going to end in violence. I will tell you that what is going to end in even worse violence is when they try to impose those people into the local community. Unless there is some massive payoff those people are in danger; there is nothing surer.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I want to go to some of the specifics of the night of the seventeenth. In your submission you state that G4S management, following what happened on the Sunday night, was telling asylum seekers that if G4S was forced to leave the compound it could not guarantee their safety from the PNG police and locals. Who was saying that and can you outline the context of that?

Mr Kilburn : We were told to pass that message on, coming down through the briefings that we had. We were told to pass the message on, to try to limit the chance of another incident happening. Word had now got around the MIRPC about what had happened to the guys in Oscar the previous night—the beating that they had taken—so the word was out there. This did not happen outside; it happened inside, remember. The initial break-out occurred, they then returned to the compound, and they were followed back into the compound and beaten inside Oscar compound.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: On the Sunday night?

Mr Kilburn : On the Sunday night. So word got around that that is what had occurred. We were told to let the transferees know that if it kicked off again and there was a riot again, if it got to the point where we had to leave, that was it. We could not guarantee their safety—which is true. We could not guarantee their safety if we were forced to leave because of fears for our own safety.

That would not have taken much, because we had nothing. We had no protective equipment, no weapons—and I do not think that we should have had weapons—and we were stretched for staff. We were so short of people it was ridiculous. All the PNG people by now had been removed. There were only us expats. We had people who had had hardly any sleep. Stress levels were through the roof. People are sick. We were crunched, because they also now had to make up the IRT team with expats as they had taken out most of the PNG guards

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Going back to the Sunday night, you write in your submission that you arrived for your shift, effectively when asylum seekers walked through the open gate as the food van was coming in. Correct me if I am wrong, asylum seekers went through the open gate as the van was coming in and they went on to this road here that runs along the centre.

Mr Kilburn : Route Pugwash, yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Where that red line is, is effectively where the police squad was lined up—was that right?

Mr Kilburn : They came out of G3, the Oscar compound, and they ran up towards G1. The mobile squad were actually back down near G7 there—they have a little building where they stay—but because it was change of shift, all the crews are brought into G1 in the buses. So buses of people coming in for a change of shift had arrived and there was a large number of PNG guards either coming on or getting ready to go off and they were sitting outside on Route Pugwash—there is a big water pipe there and they wait for the bus there. They were waiting for their transport home or whatever. So right at that time there happened to be a big group of people coming in or going out, and a bus full of expat staff from Bibby had also just turned up just as those guys came running out and heading up the road. So they picked in some ways an unfortunate time because probably the greatest number of people for the whole day just happened to be there at that time.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And they got caught pretty quickly.

Mr Kilburn : They did not get far at all.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They did not even get to the end of—

Mr Kilburn : I do not think that many of them made it to gate 1. I do not think they had made it past Oscar compound. When they saw the kicking and the belting that they were getting, they turned and tried to run back into the compound.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Who was doing the kicking and the belting?

Mr Kilburn : A whole range of people. There were some local Spic N Span workers there—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They do the catering and the cleaning—

Mr Kilburn : They do the cleaning. And there were the guards who were lined up, the G4S loader staff subcontractors who were due to go back in. As I said in my submission, the expat guards also were coming off the bus and when they saw them coming they ran out to grab them.

They told me that there was not a lot of resistance. They basically ran along, shouting, 'Freedom, freedom, freedom,' and as soon as they were grabbed them and put down on the ground, they lay down on the ground. The expat guards asked for soft cuffs to cuff them up while they went and got the others that were running around. One of the guards told me that he had one guy on the ground. There was nothing going on and he turned his head just in time to see a local PNG guard running at full speed kick the guy in the head with his boot.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It all seems a bit heavy-handed.

Mr Kilburn : It was ridiculously heavy-handed. There was no need for it. They were going to get caught—where were they going anyway?

I think that demonstrates the level of the underlying tension that is always there—'Here's a chance, we'll show them whose country this is' and 'How dare they.' I am not trying to be nasty to the PNG guards. What training have they had? A lot of the expat guards had many years of experience in the police force, in corrections and in all that sort of stuff, so they have the experience to be able to deal with those issues in a more peaceful way, whereas PNG guards had not been given the training and did not have the skill that they needed to realise that there is no need to start kicking.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am going to come back to some questions about training.

Mr Kilburn : Okay. What happened was that the transferees who were still running around saw what was happening and attempted to run back. They even tried to climb the fence into Oscar, and they were pulled off the fence and bashed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: They were trying to get back in?

Mr Kilburn : They were trying to get back in, because they realised they were going to get belted outside and thought, 'I'm going back.' They went to go back in; they were pulled off the fence—this is from what the expat guards who were there told me—and then the group of the guards who were outside went into Oscar compound—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How did they get in?

Mr Kilburn : Some of them went up over the fence and some of them went back down to the gate. They actually climbed up and in. It is the footage that you saw where they are at the door of the rooms in Oscar compound. The guys had tried to shut themselves in the rooms and the PNG guards were outside.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: A lot of people were injured that night.

Mr Kilburn : Yes, there were.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You were on night duty.

Mr Kilburn : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What was communicated to you as staff about people's injuries and what had happened? Was there any kind of debrief as a result of the Sunday night event?

Mr Kilburn : No. There wasn't time because it was ongoing. It went late into the night because, after Oscar, Foxtrot started, and the Foxtrot rioting went on until after midnight, I think, until the IRT team got Foxtrot under control. We were everywhere trying to calm down the situation. I spent that night on Golf 1, on the gate. The day shift had stayed until three in the morning. They were due back at seven. So they were sent off to try and get some sleep. The night shift were told to stay until 10 so they could get a couple of hours. This was an ongoing situation so there was no time to get everyone together in a group and say, 'Let's have a talk about it.' It was an ongoing event, so that did not occur.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Were you, as expat staff, directed to try and get the local staff out of the compounds?

Mr Kilburn : We were told they were to be removed. They were given duties outside, out on the roadway, doing external patrols. What ended up happening was that it was just a large number of people sitting around outside. A large number of local guards were outside the whole time, which just raised the level of stress of the transferees because they could see them and thought there was going to be a repeat of people coming in. So we spent a lot of time calming down the situation. Expat guards worked very, very hard and well at calming everyone down and trying to resolve the issue, which came back to the initial discussion, which was to try and say to them, 'Please don't do this again tonight because we can't guarantee your safety.' The IRT had been belted, hammered, the night before. They had taken the local guards out of that. We had lost all our PNG guards, so we were limited in numbers. We were trying to say to them: 'If it gets out of hand, we're going to have to go. And what happens after that, you can work out for yourselves'—sort of thing.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: On the following Monday, there were no local staff working within the facility, whether that was catering, cleaning—

Mr Kilburn : No. The transferees decided they were going to do it themselves because they did not want the PNG staff. They said: 'If any PNG staff come in here there will be violence. We don't want them in here.' We did not go into the compound either, unless we had IRT members with us. So we were passing food over the fence. We basically just gave them cereals and milks. They went and set up their own canteen. They cleaned it up afterwards. They were demonstrating: 'We can do this ourselves. We don't need the PNG guys in here.' And that continued for a long time. They were getting packaged meals delivered, serving themselves and running it themselves.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There has been quite a bit of talk back and forth. I questioned both the department and G4S management yesterday in relation to: on the Monday night, who invited the dog squad to walk around, particularly, the green zone and around Mike compound—but they also walked around Oscar—

Mr Kilburn : Yes, I was there. I saw them. They walked past.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: then, following the dog squad, whether indeed the mobile police were invited into the centre. Could I get you to speak to both of those issues? The dog squad was of course earlier in the night.

Mr Kilburn : The dog squad was brought in earlier in the night. I was in Charlie compound and they did a walk right around the compound. Regarding whose decision it was, we were told over the radio by G4S management that the dog squad would be doing a walk-through. I do not know who made that decision, but that is what happened.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We heard from G4S that it was a decision of the Australian immigration department that they followed up.

Mr Kilburn : The intention, I believe, was a show of force to try to demonstrate to the transferees: we have got more resources here tonight, there are more police here tonight, it is a lot more serious; think before you do anything because we have now got all this extra force in here to deal with anything that goes on. So, yes, the dog squad did walk through and it did create quite a ruckus as they walked past Oscar compound. They stopped at the front of Oscar compound. A lot of the transferees were at the fence. The dogs started barking. The guys kicked the fence. The police let the dogs not lunge towards, not right up against the fence—but it was about: we are here and we are serious.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It was almost putting a bit of fright into them not to do anything.

Mr Kilburn : The intention was to try and say to them, one: 'We are ready tonight if this goes on again', and the other message was to say: 'They're here.' And we were to say to them: 'Don't do it again tonight, because we cannot guarantee your safety. There are dogs.' You could hear the dogs barking the whole time. They ended up walking up and down the race out the back to make sure that people were not running back and forth between compounds.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: A number of submissions have highlighted that point as where things fired back up again on the Monday night. Would that be your understanding? Or do you think there was—

Mr Kilburn : No, I think it raised a bit of tension, but they left and went out of view. The guys had already decided what was going on that night. They spoke to us openly about it. The night before they had missed out on dinner because they started early, and they said, 'As soon as we finish dinner tonight it's going to start again', so we all knew. They all had their sandshoes on. They were just waiting for dinner, so we knew that after dinner things were going to go off, which was why they were pre-emptively trying to get around saying, 'Don't do it. The consequences will be—'

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So the dog squad walked through intentionally to put fear in people not to do what it was that the department thought they might do?

Mr Kilburn : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What happened after that? It was a few hours later that the police squad entered the compounds; is that right?

Mr Kilburn : Yes. There were a whole range of things. It was such a high level of tension that people were freaking out about the slightest thing. For example, a nut would fall off a tree onto a roof and everyone would think the rocks had started, because of the noise of the rocks and the state of everything the night before on all the tin roofs. So as soon as anyone heard anything everyone was ready to go because they thought: 'This is it. It has started.' As I mentioned in my report, people had armed themselves up both inside and outside the compound. On the Monday morning I was on the gate, as I said, and we were going out and grabbing weapons off the PNG guards outside throughout the morning—steel bars, poles, pipes, sharpened sticks et cetera.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How was that relationship? How did you as an expat go out and—

Mr Kilburn : You just went out there and said, 'Come on guys.' They had more of it stashed away, anyway, so I do not think they were too concerned. We just went out and said, 'Look, come on. We can't have that. You've got to move away. Give me that', and they would hand it over.

I do not want to make out that every PNG guard was causing a problem. There were plenty of PNG guards who were also trying to calm the situation down. When I had to walk through that angry group, there were PNG guards there saying, 'Come on, calm down! Calm down! Calm down!' It was not a situation of us and them. There were angry people and there were others who were trying to do the right thing. So we went out and negotiated with them and said, 'Come on, we've got to take these off you.' We just brought them back inside to get them away from people outside. There was also that stuff going on inside the compound, so did not take much to—

I believe what really started it—there were a few little things going on, there was a bit of chanting, maybe a bit of rock throwing. But the thing that really put the wind up everyone was when the power went off. When the generator stopped for whatever reason and it went dark in Foxtrot and Oscar compounds, that was when the tension went through the roof. People started getting scared and thinking, 'We're going to be attacked.' Then it just became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now some people say there were rocks thrown in from outside. I did not see that, so I cannot say if that occurred or not.

The actual thing that started it was when the power went off. I was down in Charlie and I know when the power went off we all went, 'Uh-oh. This is not good.' G4S knew it, because they were on the radio, 'Get this power back on, get it back on. We need it back on now. People are starting to panic. Tension is starting to rise.'

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How did the power go off?

Mr Kilburn : I don't know.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is the generator located outside the compound?

Mr Kilburn : The generator is located there. See the black shaded squares right outside G7—that is the power supply, directly out the front of Mike compound.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Mike compound, and on the other side of the road.

Mr Kilburn : Yes, on the other side of the road.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it wasn't an asylum seeker who turned the power off?

Mr Kilburn : No, definitely not.

CHAIR: Was the power supply unreliable?

Mr Kilburn : I cannot remember the power going off other than when they were doing some work on it. It is not the town power; it is a specific generator on site. That is a new one that was put in there for Mike compound. I have no idea how it went off. It was not a regular thing. It happened just at the wrong time.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I know we are short of time. Could I get you to talk about this issue of the mobile squad coming in?

Mr Kilburn : As I said, I was in Charlie compound. We were listening from the end where I was. There was a group of us down there listening to the radio—this is after the riot had started. We had groups of people coming asking to be removed from all the compounds. They wanted to be taken away, because they were fearful of what was going to happen to them. They wanted to be taken somewhere safe. In Mike compound, my understanding is that they took those people down to the mess hall in Mike and sheltered them there while the stones were being thrown and that sort of thing. This went on for a long time, and I was listening to the radio. The roar—you could hear the roar of the relentless sticks, rocks and stones.

All along the way there were radio messages saying, 'The defence has been breached. They're through. They're now freely roaming around the green zone. They've now gone through into Mike compound. We now have no ability to stop the people moving between Foxtrot and Mike compound.' My recollection of listening to the radio was that a G4S manager said, 'We've withdrawn. We've lost control of the area between Mike and Foxtrot. We no longer have the ability to keep people from coming in here. We have noncombatants in the mess hall. We can no longer guarantee their safety.'

We had a PNG liaison officer. There was a G4S staff member with the PNG police. The message to the liaison officer was, 'Tell the police they need to take whatever action or do whatever they need to do to protect the noncombatants, the people in the mess, because we can no longer guarantee their safety if they are going to be attacked.' That was the message. That was my recollection of it. I remember it specifically because I remember standing with the other guys there and saying, 'This is about to get very serious,' because that to me was an invitation. It was not an invitation, 'Come to here and come in.' It was saying: 'We have lost control. We don't have the ability to guarantee the safety of those people. Tell the police they need to do whatever they need to do to protect' or 'guarantee that safety' or 'protect those people'—I cannot remember the exact wording. It was a very short period of time after that message that the first gunshots rang out.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Were there sustained gunshots and gunfire?

Mr Kilburn : It is a bit hard to remember because it is a bit surreal, the whole thing. There were an initial couple of blasts, which sounded like shotguns—bang, bang, bang—which was followed by a series of bursts of automatic fire. A message then came over the radio saying to tell everyone to calm down, because Oscar compound immediately went nuts. Everyone started screaming and yelling. Delta compound was firing up. A message came over the radio saying: 'These are warning shots only. They're being fired into the air. Try and calm everyone down,' which is what we were trying to do, but the transferees were extremely agitated, particularly in Oscar compound when they heard the gunshots start. That is when the whole thing went crazy for a long period of time.

After that was when the rest of us in the other compounds started moving people down to the navy field. We took our people—the injured people from the night before, and those that had gone there seeking protection—down to the navy field, and they were bringing groups of people from Oscar, the non-combatants from Oscar, and the other compounds down. We ended up with a couple of hundred people down on the navy field just sitting there and divided them up into their own compounds and kept them there until about two or three in the morning, when we brought them back.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you think there was ever a reasonable expectation of either the Department of Immigration or G4S that the police could have been disciplined enough to protect those in the mess hall without causing severe damage to everybody else?

Mr Kilburn : No. I think it was pretty clear what the intent—the intent of the way that the mobile squad had determined that they were going to resolve the issue.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And that was understood across expat staff, G4S management—

Mr Kilburn : We all knew, when these guys come in, it is going to be a bloodbath. We were concerned that they would not even care if it was us that was in the way. Once the shooting starts, I do not know that they were really paying that much attention to who was in the way, which is why we had to be cleared out. No-one was under any illusion that this was going to be a well-orchestrated—and I actually am not being that critical of G4S for making that decision. This highlights what I have been saying. These were the people—the mobile squad and the PNG Defence Force, potentially, are the people that, when we cannot control it, which we could not do—these are the only people that are going to come. We all knew what the consequence was going to be, which just comes back to the observation: this is the wrong place to have this facility.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you think they could be trained not to be so heavy-handed?

Mr Kilburn : Well, anyone can be trained in anything. Whether they want to be trained or told what to do in their country with how to deal with disturbances and riots would be a question for them, I suppose.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We were told yesterday that local G4S staff, the Loda subcontractors, were given six days training. Is that enough to build even a rapport about the discipline that is needed in that kind of circumstance?

Mr Kilburn : No. The training is woefully inadequate, and I believe people other than me that were closer to it have made comment about that. One of the things that I believe G4S was fortunate in is that they did have some very, very good staff. As I said, the events of those nights could have been much worse if it were not for the self-management of people, who used their previous skills to defuse a situation that would have been much, much, much worse. The local Loda staff do not have not only the training but just the experience to be put into that position. It is fine when everything is going fine—it is easy; anyone can do it. The training becomes important when it all goes wrong. That is where experience and training, as always, come to the fore. What we saw that night was an example of a lack of not only training but experience in dealing with those issues. Would we go and get people off the street—some people with only middle high-school education—give them six days training and put them into the riot squad at a prison in Australia? Is that something that we would think is a reasonable thing? Of course not. But that is what we have done up there. Why? Because it is up there. Up there, we get away with anything.

CHAIR: We will go to Senator Singh now. Do you have some last questions, Senator Singh?

Senator SINGH: Yes. Mr Kilburn, you refer in your submission to the lack of PPE kits. G4S mentioned that as well yesterday—that they requested 200 and got 50. Do you want to talk about that?

Mr Kilburn : I do not know—if they had 200, I do not think we had 200 staff to wear them anyway, or 200 people that are trained in riot procedures. Maybe they did; maybe they didn't—I do not know. I do not know that there would have been that many more people to wear the gear if they had had it anyway, but I do not know what the submission was. They may have been saying, 'We need more gear and we need more people trained to use it.' I think I saw something that batons were never used or issued. That is incorrect. The batons were available. I was in a vehicle the next morning and helped on the morning after—I cannot remember whether it was the Tuesday morning or the Wednesday morning—where we took those batons down in containers and took them back to the Bibby and locked them up then. So the statement that they were always locked up I think is incorrect.

Senator SINGH: Were they used during the events?

Mr Kilburn : People had them. Whether they were used or not, I cannot say.

Senator SINGH: Finally, on the basis that obviously Manus Island detention centre exists, that you were a staff member there along with your other staff colleagues and that there were a number of transferees there, what do you think could have been the factors that could have prevented what happened on those nights of the riot?

Mr Kilburn : Disregarding for a moment the external factors, which I do not think we can actually control, I think the internal factors are just making the place more livable, treating people with a bit more respect and dignity, giving them a bit more freedom. But, at the end of the day, regardless of all of that, there has to be a believable process that people can see that is going to end somewhere.

Senator SINGH: Are you talking about the refugee status determination?

Mr Kilburn : I am talking about the resettlement, yes. They would talk regularly about how slow—and we had to apply for a visa to work in PNG. We all applied the first day we arrived in Port Moresby. So I am actually invited there. I provided all my information, filled out my form, did my fingerprints. As far as I know, by the time I left six months later, no-one had got a visa. I was told that there were people that were there much longer than me who still had not got their visa. We were waiting up to a year with no outcome, and we actually provided everything and we were actually invited to work there. So, if it takes us over a year to get a work visa, it is no wonder people get frustrated about applying for asylum. But the transferees did speak regularly that it just takes forever, that it is slow. I never saw much activity going on in the PNG immigration offices, which were there in Echo 8, the whole time I was there. I am not saying that there was not; there may be a process that I am unaware of. But there was a general sense that 'we just don't know what's going to happen'. That is what the protests were about. The protests were about getting some attention and getting some answers to questions because 'everyone is ignoring us'.

They did the protest, they got their questions and the answers were, according to them, 'We're going to keep ignoring you.' There were no guarantees of anything other than, potentially, you either go home or you live in PNG. The people said, 'We know what's going to happen to us in PNG. We know about the problems for PNG society—the poverty, crime and all that sort of thing. We know all that. We want to know what other options there are'. The difficulty is, because of the standard of living of most people on Manus Island, if you make conditions in the detention centre much better, you build resentment amongst the people who live there who say, 'These guys have got it better than us'. If you make the conditions so they are worse than the people outside, then you build resentment amongst those inside. It is never going to work. It is just not going to work ever. It is pretty clear.

CHAIR: I would put it to you that, even if you have the refugee status determinations finalised, the answer is going to be, as you said, 'You either go home—go back to where you came from—or you stay in Papua New Guinea and you are resettled here.' Is that going to make any difference to the sense of frustration or unhappiness that gives rise to this sense of desperation anyway?

Mr Kilburn : No, because—

CHAIR: In a sense, I would suggest that, certainly, not having resolution is very stressful for people, but if the resolution is one of no hope anyway will that solve the problem? Will speeding up the determination process actually solve the problem?

Mr Kilburn : That fear of being resettled in PNG has only increased massively because of what happened on the night of 16 and 17 February when they saw the way things are done. They saw the level of violence, they saw what people thought of them—to use their words—so it is even worse now if they are told they are going to settle in PNG, because they have had a demonstration of how life might be. They are in a lose-lose situation. I know it was that sort of hopelessness that led to a number of the people who were in Delta 9 with mental health issues being there. They just cannot see any resolution—including, even worse, someone who was from Syria who potentially lost his whole family and was so distraught and said, 'I give up. Send me home. I'm never going to make it; I'm never going to be able to save my family. Send me home,' and we cannot send him home. He cannot go back to Syria because we will not send people back to—

CHAIR: To a warzone.

Mr Kilburn : So where is he know? He wants to go home. We cannot send him home. He is held in detention. I think he only sees one way out.

Senator SINGH: Is he still there?

Mr Kilburn : I do not know.

CHAIR: Before we finish, I think you indicated that you had a confidentiality agreement or something that you would be prepared to provide to the committee?

Mr Kilburn : Yes, I will send that to the secretariat. I will send the two confidentiality agreements and the email regarding our requirement to abide by that confidentiality agreement. Also, I have an affidavit that I have provided to Mr Jay Williams based on my Senate inquiry, but I will also provide a copy of that so that the committee is aware of that as well.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When was this email sent to staff in relation to the confidentiality?

Mr Kilburn : After 28 April. Probably the middle of May.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This is since the event?

Mr Kilburn : Yes.

CHAIR: We can look at the date of that when you submit that to the secretariat. Thank you very much, Mr Kilburn, for being willing to come along and give evidence to the committee.

Mr Kilburn : My pleasure.

Proceedings suspended from 10:49 to 11:07