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Govt resists calls for inquiry into detention -

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Govt resists calls for inquiry into detention of woman

Reporter: Greg Jennett

TONY JONES: The Federal Government has signalled it's unlikely to give the go-ahead to a full
public and judicial inquiry into how an Australian woman came to be locked up in the Baxter
immigration detention centre in South Australia. Mental health advocates and the coalition's
political opponents are demanding a totally transparent investigation into the case of 39-year-old
Cornelia Rau. But the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, says releasing all details and
documents may not be in the public interest. From Canberra, Greg Jennett reports.

GREG JENNETT: To Cornelia Rau's family, it's a horrifying lapse of compassion and understanding.

CHRIS RAU (SISTER): You would want to know that they were being treated with kindness and humanity.

GREG JENNETT: And to mental health experts, police and the government, it defies explanation.

JONATHAN PHILLIPS (SA MENTAL HEALTH DIRECTOR): This young woman's behaviour was most unusual, on
the information given to me - most unusual.

ROBERT SCHWARTEN (QUEENSLAND MINISTER): She said she knew who she was, identified who she was.


ROBERT SCHWARTEN: Date of birth, all those other details, and said she'd arrived in Australia
illegally, and was then treated accordingly.

AMANDA VANSTONE (IMMIGRATION MINISTER): As soon as she arrived in Baxter, she was seeing experts -
the GP, the psychologist and then the psychiatrist.

GREG JENNETT: But how the 39-year-old Australian resident, listed as missing, came to be held by
authorities for 10 months and her psychiatric condition unrecognised will take much more
explanation. What is known is that the former airline hostess, who suffers from schizophrenia, was
repeatedly assessed, first in Brisbane and later at the Baxter centre, where she was kept in
isolation for up to 18 hours a day for some of her four months there, exhibiting bizarre behaviour.

AMANDA VANSTONE: It was clear to Immigration that this woman had some behavioural problems and
needed help.

GREG JENNETT: The government concedes there were obvious failures, not only in its detention system
but also with the States'. Cornelia Rau's family wants an open and transparent investigation.

CHRIS RAU: A judicial inquiry with an open airing of the evidence, with no attempts to cover up
information that's inside the detention centres.

GREG JENNETT: The Labor Party wants much the same, and the Greens are demanding a royal commission.
Official investigations are already under way, but the government isn't yet saying how public or
transparent its inquiries will be.

AMANDA VANSTONE: I'm certain it has to be independent. I'm certain it has to have cooperation of
all of those jurisdictions to really be effective. I'm not certain that it's appropriate to have
the inquiry public, although clearly, the public are entitled to know the outcome of the inquiry.

GREG JENNETT: Depending what form of inquiry the government comes up with, its opponents in the
Senate are likely to establish one of their own. That will examine the broader issues of mental
health care and whether there are any other cases like Cornelia Rau's.

JOHN HARLEY (SA PUBLIC ADVOCATE): This case is similar to a number that have been occurring in
Baxter, and I daresay other detention centres, for a long period of time.

GREG JENNETT: Unlike the Commonwealth, the Queensland Government's not waiting for an inquiry
before saying sorry.

PETER BEATTIE: As Premier, of course I apologise for what's happened here.

GREG JENNETT: Cornelia Rau remains in state care in South Australia.