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Nauru candidate questions dismissal

Wednesday 8 June 2016 | Published in Regional

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NAURU – One of Nauru’s prospective election candidates who is challenging the government’s fee hike says the government was behind his sacking.

Corey Menke worked for Broadspectrum, the company running Australia’s regional processing centre for refugees and other asylum seekers.

This week he received a letter from Broadspectrum terminating his employment.

The letter contains no reason for the sacking, other than saying it was a directive from the government.

Menke had joined 17 others in a legal bid to stop the government increasing the candidate’s fee from $100 to $2000 Australian dollars.

Menke said the government’s fee hike for prospective candidates was equivalent to three month’s of his pay. He said it was yet another sign of government MPs using underhand tactics to hold on to power.

“Everyone actually knows that they are trying to cut down on candidates being nominated for the elections because they’ve done lots of policies, changes and amendments on the constitution which if they get out of office, then they’ll face criminal charges and everything.”

Menke said contributing to his frustration and inability to stand as a candidate was his continued fight for better wages at the processing and detention centre.

He said his talking to international media has upset the government.

“They, Broadspectrum, say they don’t actually know what reason for this thing to happen. They just said it’s a directive from the government. They came over to apologise and said they cannot do nothing. It’s not them, it’s not Broadspectrum, it’s the government.”

Menke told RNZ International last week the government was stopping Broadspectrum from paying him more than A$4.25 an hour.

A suspended opposition MP, Mathew Batsiua, said it was shameful that a foreign company like Broadspectrum should cave in to government demands to sack an employee without any due process or opportunity for review.

“Just simply saying, ‘we’ve been directed, so therefore you’re out the door,’ that’s simply not good enough and you would think that a company from Australia like Broadspectrum would have greater respect for the rights of employees,” said Batsiua.

“I’m sure that if it’s in Australia they wouldn’t have done that, they wouldn’t have done that, they wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Menke said Broadspectrum had informed him before he was sacked that it could not pay him more than US$3.08 an hour as the government said they don’t want workers paid more than local public servants.

However the government paid security guards at the centre US$4.71 an hour.

Corey Menke said it was not enough to survive on, while senior public servants lived comfortably.

However, Broadspectrum said in a statement that it has not received any correspondence from the government regarding wages, but is undertaking a review following a recent town hall meeting with staff.

A former Nauru secretary of justice says there’s very little time for the government’s opponents to have a reasonable attempt at contesting the upcoming election.

David Lambourne said the parliament was on the brink of being dissolved and that the election could take place as early as next month.

He said this week’s sacking of an employee of Australia’s regional processing centre, on behest of the government, was another symptom of a government desperate to silence its critics.

“Time is very tight for people wanting to challenge some of the more recent activities of the government through the courts,” he said.

“The hike of the nomination fee is just an outrageous move and a stunt that was pulled in the dying days of the Waqa-Adeang Government.”

Lambourne said the likely prospect of the Justice Minister, David Adeang, returning to power was a blow even to current MPs who are seeking justice. - RNZI/PNC