Priest Rod Bower angers Transfield over asylum seeker comments

Outspoken Anglican priest Father Rod Bower’s regular tweets and  signs have raised the ire of Transfield’s Diane Smith-Gander, right.
Outspoken Anglican priest Father Rod Bower’s regular tweets and signs have raised the ire of Transfield’s Diane Smith-Gander, right.

TRANSFIELD chairwoman Diane Smith-Gander has asked to meet with Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson about the priest who won’t stop talking about Jesus, morals and asylum seekers.

Father Rod Bower’s sign ‘‘Hesta Divests Transfield. Good on ya!’’ outside his Gosford church on August 18 after the superannuation fund divested its Transfield shares, and a tweet saying ‘‘Don’t invest in evil’’, led to a call from Transfield and a request for a meeting.

It followed a series of increasingly strong public statements from the priest about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and Transfield’s role managing detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

‘‘I think the tweet upset the chair of Transfield,’’ Father Bower said.

Bishop Thompson said the Transfield chairwoman was ‘‘concerned to engage with the church in the light of Father Bower’s messages’’.

He supported his priest, even if Transfield saw him as troublesome.

‘‘Transfield is the operator of detention centres where we have grave concerns about the treatment of children and vulnerable people,’’ Bishop Thompson said.

‘‘I endorse that we should not support companies involved in practices that do not protect the vulnerable, as we ourselves have not protected the vulnerable in our care in the past.’’

Bishop Thompson said he welcomed a meeting.

‘‘This is clearly an important challenge for all leaders to face up to what’s being done in our name,’’ he said.

‘‘Australians can’t remain spectators on the issue of asylum seekers while so many people are displaced in Europe because of conflict.’’

Father Bower led a rally in Gosford on August 21 during a visit by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, and had a private meeting with the minister about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.

He spoke strongly on the subject because ‘‘it’s what Jesus would do’’. 

He condemned the federal government’s decision to approve another five year contract for Transfield to run the  detention centres.

‘‘It is beyond belief that Transfield, a company that has presided over Australian concentration camps amidst allegations of child sexual abuse, rape, torture and murder, could be awarded an extended contract,’’ Father Bower said.

‘‘It is indicative of the delusion that now operates in the Abbott Government, and the consequences of unchecked power. This level disregard for human suffering is reminiscent of the worst days of the church now being exposed by the Royal Commission.’’

The contract was also condemned by the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce, which said Transfield and its sub-contractors should have been punished because of their poor performance.

Transfield failed to respond to repeated requests for comment from the Herald on Tuesday.

Bishop Greg Thompson supports his priest.

Bishop Greg Thompson supports his priest.