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Beazley slams minister

Beazley slams minister

Reporter: Michael Brissenden

KERRY O'BRIEN: Welcome to the program. It didn't take long for an almost friendly air to disappear
from the parliamentary bear pit this first week back from the summer break. Obviously keen to
rebrand his Labor leadership this time round, Kim Beazley went on the attack today, accusing the
Government of using its now controversial regional partnerships program as a slush fund in the
lead?up to the last election. Mr Beazley alleged that Local Government Minister Jim Lloyd had
conspired to defraud the Commonwealth over the allocation of a $1.5 million grant to dredge a small
creek in the marginal New South Wales seat of Dobell. Mr Beazley called for the minister to be
sacked and tabled a series of documents to back up allegations of blatant pork?barrelling. For his
part, the Minister has rejected any suggestion of impropriety, but the Prime Minister says the
Opposition's allegations will be investigated. Political editor Michael Brissenden reports.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Who would have thought such a little creek could create such a political
backwash, and you could hardly blame the locals whose backyards back onto this little piece of
fisherman's paradise feeling a little bemused by all the attention. But then they have had $1.5
million spent on them recently to make sure they can get their tinnies in and out of Tuggerah Lake
unimpeded. At the time, Labor supported the funding arrangement. Now though the Opposition says
there's something fishy.

KIM BEAZLEY (OPPOSITION LEADER): This is kleptomania dressed up in the guise of public policy on
infrastructure.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The money for dredging Tumbi Creek was allocated under the Government's
regional partnerships program, a scheme that's provided more than $100 million of Federal
Government funding since July last year. But as this program first reported back in November, a
good deal of it was doled out in the weeks running up to the federal election in marginal rural
seats or those the National Party had targeted to win back from Independents. On August 26, just
three days before he called the October poll, the Prime Minister himself was on hand at Tumbi Creek
to help Ken Ticehurst, the local Liberal member, announce the good news. Before the election, Mr
Ticehurst held the seat of Dobell with a margin of just 0.4 of 1 per cent.

KEN TICEHURST (LIBERAL BACKBENCHER): But now with your assistance and the regional partnership,
it's been great. We've been able to really progress.

JOHN HOWARD (PRIME MINISTER): I think it's money well spent and I look forward to coming back here
and seeing it after it's all done and going for a trip on it and savouring the delights of the
dredged Tumbi Creek.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Tumbi Creek may just be a picturesque trickle, but today the Opposition Leader
Kim Beazley claimed that the money flowing into it from the regional partnerships program was part
of a wider torrent of rolling pork-barrels.

KIM BEAZLEY: Now, the simple fact of the matter is every element of this program's a disgrace.
Every single element of it is. You know darn well that this is a multi-million dollar slush fund.
Tens of millions of dollars which should be spent properly on decent infrastructure projects is
going down the gurgle pot to save a dozen National Party members and half a dozen Liberals on top
of that.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But back to the specifics of Tumbi Creek. Labor today produced what it claimed
was evidence that in this case at least proves the point. On June 8, Mr Ticehurst first announced
that $680,000 had been granted under the regional partnerships program. But an application for the
grant from council wasn't received by the department until June 24 - as Kim Beazley said today, a
case of the barrel coming before the pork. In August, as we've seen, the Prime Minister announced a
$1.5 million grant. Then in October it started to rain and lo and behold the creek was flushed
naturally. Mr Beazley today tabled documents that showed the council in November thought they
should ask the Government to redirect all or part of the money for other projects. The department
then advised the Minister's office that all the money may not be needed for the creek. But
according to emails produced by the Opposition, the Minister's chief-of-staff Graham Hallett warned
the council to keep quiet.

KIM BEAZLEY: "Any changes means less federal money, so the Wyong officials should keep their
counsel on this if we want the total allocated by the PM to Tumbi Creek." Minister, did your
office, on your behalf, engage in a conspiracy to mislead about the true state of Tumbi Creek to
defraud the Commonwealth?

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Minister said he'd make inquiries, but rejected any suggestion of
impropriety. But Labor does seem to have done its homework, and presented the House and,
obligingly, every gallery journalist with all the relevant paperwork. Mr Beazley says the Minister
Jim Lloyd should be sacked.

JOHN HOWARD: I don't discharge ministers on the basis of allegations from the Leader of the
Opposition. A number of questions have been asked. I'm unfamiliar with the detail of the issue, Mr
Speaker. The Minister has said that matters are going to be investigated, and they will be
investigated, and I will expect to receive a full report and a prompt report of that investigation,
and I will take the appropriate action if it's needed.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Government argues that most of the money was spent in government held
regional seats simply because it has more of them and that the regional partnerships program is a
popular and important boost for rural Australia. Well, true enough, and if it helps make local
members more popular well what could be wrong with that? The fact is the Government is back in
strength, and so too, of course, is the Prime Minister. Despite the speculation about his
continuing tenure, today he was out and about letting us all know, and perhaps Peter Costello as
well, that he's filling up the diary for the next few years at least.

JOHN HOWARD: The 2007 APEC meeting, leaders meeting, which Australia will host, will be held in
Sydney.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: As it happens, that's just a few months before an election is due. It's hard to
see the PM bowing out before such an important occasion.

JOHN HOWARD: I'll continue to occupy this position for so long as my party wants me to.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well, of course. Coincidentally, there was another strong message today as
well, just in case there was any lingering doubt. This one was wrapped in a lengthy interview in
the Bulletin magazine. National affairs writer Tony Wright asked John Howard how long the Howard
Government would continue. This was the response: "They've re?elected the Howard Government. Tony,
I'm stimulated by this job. I don't tire of it. No one should think for a moment that I'm tiring of
it." So it seems there will be a few more silly shirts destined to hang in the Howards's cupboards
yet. The loud-top gear is one of the perennial highlights of these gatherings. Who could forget the
batik in Indonesia or the silks of Beijing? So what will they be wearing in Sydney in 2007?

JOHN HOWARD: (laughs) No, I've got to give a lot of thought to that. It may not be shirts.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Not a shirt? What else could it possibly be? Stubbies and a singlet perhaps? A
hat with corks? Or maybe just some fishing waders and a Drizabone. Mr Howard's got years to come up
with something interesting.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And don't forget to add that new Beazley term to the political lexicon - "the gurgle
pot". Political editor Michael Brissenden.

Quadriplegic regains $4m compo

Quadriplegic regains $4m compo

Reporter: Matt Peacock

KERRY O'BRIEN: Almost eight years ago, Guy Swain became a quadriplegic after diving into a sand bar
at Bondi Beach. Today, his long battle for compensation is finally over. The High Court upheld a
jury finding of negligence against the local council, awarding him $3.75 million. But it seems this
payout may be the last of its kind in Australia. The New South Wales Premier, Bob Carr, seized on
Guy Swain's judgment to make his case for sweeping changes to the law to prevent other victims
receiving massive payouts and other states followed. The legal fraternity argues that future
victims will end up in the social security system with not enough money for care and a reasonable
chance at an adequate life. Matt Peacock reports.

MATT PEACOCK: On Sydney's premier beach, with friends from overseas, Guy Swain did what he thought
he was meant to do and dived in between the flags.

GUY SWAIN: Well, that's what I've been taught all my life. It's like you cross at the zebra
crossing, cause that's where it's safe, and that's why I swim between the flags.

MATT PEACOCK: That didn't help Guy Swain, who broke his neck on a sand bank and has been in a
wheelchair ever since. He sued Waverley Council for negligence and three years ago was awarded
damages of nearly $4 million.

GUY SWAIN: I just figured that Bondi would be so heavily patrolled and checked, because everyone
goes to Bondi, that these things wouldn't have happened, and if they knew there was a sand bank,
there would have been some warning.

MATT PEACOCK: Less than a year later, Guy Swain suffered another blow when the council successfully
appealed against his payout. By then, his case had already opened a legal and political Pandora's
box.

HUGH MACKEN (SOLICITOR): The insurance industry seized on this case as being part of a claims?led
disaster, but you've got to remember, the Civil Liability Act was launched from Bondi Beach, and it
was no fluke that the Premier chose to launch the legislation there.

BOB CARR (NSW PREMIER): This is the biggest rewrite of the law of negligence in New South Wales, I
guess anywhere around Australia, in 70 years.

MATT PEACOCK: For New South Wales Premier Bob Carr it was time to turn the tide. He announced new
laws to make such huge payouts a thing of the past.

BOB CARR: Local councils and volunteer surf lifesaving clubs will be able to operate beach patrols
with the confidence that swimmers won't successfully sue them when they hit their head on the sand.

GUY SWAIN: To sort of launch it on Bondi and more or less say, "It's all because of this fella" is
a bit, I mean, not a very nice thing for someone to say about you.

MATT PEACOCK: The new laws didn't apply to Guy Swain. He took his case to the High Court, which
today upheld the original jury decision to award him his massive damages.

GUY SWAIN: Over the moon. It was unbelievable. It's taken three years and I'm just extremely happy
with the decision.

MATT PEACOCK: And how much difference is it going to make to your life? What's it going to mean to
you?

GUY SWAIN: Well, it's given me a future. It means I'm not relying on anyone for anything anymore. I
can have my own life.

MATT PEACOCK: Waverley Council is now facing a multi-million dollar payout, but its mayor feels
sympathy for Guy Swain and others like him.

PETER MOSCATT (MAYOR OF WAVERLEY): My personal opinion is that someone like Mr Swain shouldn't have
to go through every court in the land to get some sort of a quality of life for the rest of his
life.

MATT PEACOCK: Guy Swain's case though is an exception, upheld today by the High Court on a legal
argument about the rights of juries. The bigger picture is that since his injury laws around the
country have been changed.

BOB CARR: What we've done is to rein in a position that had people not accepting personal
responsibility, that had plaintiff lawyers making more money than the poor people who went to them,
and left councils handing out ratepayers' money case after case after case.

MATT PEACOCK: An alarming national trend, says the industry, that had to be stopped.

ALAN MASON (INSURANCE COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA): Every State Government and the territory governments
have put legislation in place to protect volunteers and good Samaritans from being sued where they
act in good faith. They've put legislation in place to say that, "You are responsible for your own
actions where the risk of you doing whatever you were doing is obvious, self?evident, or where it's
a natural hazard."

MATT PEACOCK: Lawyers, though, including some judges, say that the law has been wound back too far.

TOM GOUDKAMP (AUSTRALIAN LAWYERS ALLIANCE): I think the effect has been catastrophic for the
citizens of this state and also for the citizens of Australia, because we are all at risk of being
injured due to the negligence and recklessness of the operators of recreational activities through
no fault of our own, and that's including children and people who can't read signs, warning signs
and so on.

ALAN MASON: I think if one casts your mind back three years ago, there were literally a whole lot
of small businesses, tourism businesses, community events, etc, that actually were stopping, I
mean, there were things that weren't happening because people couldn't get access to insurance
cover. That has all turned around now.

MATT PEACOCK: But what about others like Guy Swain, people who suffer catastrophic injuries and now
have virtually no legal redress?

TOM GOUDKAMP: Sooner or later the ferris wheel that's not properly maintained will collapse and a
whole lot of people will be injured or there will be bridges that collapse or there will be some
other activities, a bungee jumping rope might be too long, a metre too long would be catastrophic,
and so on and when people are injured in those circumstances they will have no right to
compensation.

BOB CARR: The Government is working on a plan, a detailed and costed plan, to deal with those
hundreds of catastrophic injuries each year, and to see that, regardless of fault, those people are
looked after.

MATT PEACOCK: As for Guy Swain, he's well aware that future cases like his will face a very
different outcome.

GUY SWAIN: Well, I feel very sorry for them. I mean, how would you like to be, four years ago you
had a legitimate claim and now you have nothing and maybe your parents can't modify their house and
you end up in a nursing home at 23. I wouldn't like to be in a nursing home at 23.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Matt Peacock with that report.

Missing persons database to be set up

Missing persons database to be set up

Reporter: Mick Bunworth

KERRY O'BRIEN: The case of Cornelia Rau, the mentally ill Australian woman who fell between the
cracks and wound up in an outback immigration detention centre, continued to create headlines
today. While politicians argued about whether an inquiry into the incident should be public or
private, judicial or otherwise, the question of why Australia still does not have a national
database of missing persons was also being pursued. The Federal Government says such a database is
on the way, but there are concerns that any new system may not learn enough from the Rau case. In a
moment, I'll be talking with Queensland Premier Peter Beattie about Queensland's role in the
inquiry. But first, Mick Bunworth reports on the missing, the families they've left behind and the
ongoing search for answers.

CHAIA STEIN: There'll always be hope. The phone rings and I still think it's him. There's a knock
at the door and I still think it's him. I'll never get over that, I don't think. I was told by a
friend, "Just imagine he's dead, and then if he comes back, it will be a bonus." You can't imagine
your child is dead. It's just too heart wrenching.

MICK BUNWORTH: It's been two and a half years since Chaia Stein's son Daved went missing in the
Sydney suburb of Dover Heights.

CHAIA STEIN: Daved changed my life forever, and the police rang to tell me that he'd been seen last
at Dover Heights, at Rodney Reserve, and they thought that he'd been rock climbing on that
particular day and been washed into the Tasman Sea and washed away. They painted various scenarios,
all of which were horrific.

MICK BUNWORTH: Since he was a young boy, Daved Finkelstein had suffered from attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder.

CHAIA STEIN: He couldn't do up his buttons, he couldn't do up his shoelaces, he couldn't hold a pen
and write, yet he had this amazing mind, and later in life, he had no sense of time, and he was
hopeless with money.

MICK BUNWORTH: The ADHD had made 27?year?old Daved Finkelstein itinerant. When he first
disappeared, his mother believed he would show up interstate.

CHAIA STEIN: I believed it. For years, I believed it, because he told me he was going up north into
northern Queensland with Israeli backpackers to look for work.

MICK BUNWORTH: A New South Wales coroner has found that Daved Finkelstein is dead, but the
uncertainty around his disappearance continues to haunt his mother. Chaia Stein says if there's a
slim chance her son is alive, a national database of missing persons would give her comfort and
perhaps some hope that others are looking too.

CHAIA STEIN: I was told he was in Kalgoorlie, so I got in my car and I camped, it took me 10 days
to drive across the desert to Kalgoorlie, camping in the desert every night cause I couldn't afford
to stay anywhere. I've gone everywhere. If there was a register, perhaps I wouldn't have had to go
through that.

MICK BUNWORTH: So why can't Australia's law enforcement agencies cooperate when it comes to people
who are missing?

SENATOR CHRIS ELLISON (JUSTICE MINISTER): That is the issue that we've had to deal with with so
many aspects of national law enforcement, be it a national child sex offender register, DNA,
automated fingerprint system. That is the hurdle that we come up against all the time.

MICK BUNWORTH: 30,000 Australians are reported missing each year, half of them under the age of 18.
While 99.5 per cent are located, most within a day, it's the fate of the remainder, the missing
forgotten few, that has captured the public imagination this week in the wake of the Cornelia Rau
case. At present, missing persons fall under the jurisdiction of the police forces from each of
Australia's states and territories.

SENATOR CHRIS ELLISON: We have nine different jurisdictions, federal, state and territory and, of
course, they've got nine different systems, which also include different IT systems.

MICK BUNWORTH: But people who go missing, particularly those with a mental illness, can drift
across borders and become lost to a system incapable of tracking them.

PROFESSOR NICHOLAS KEKS (MENTAL HEALTH RESEARCH INSTITUTE): They may also have symptoms such as
delusions or false ideas, hallucinations or false perceptions and disordered thinking, which can
have them grossly distort reality. So they may feel persecuted by their environment or, indeed, by
their family, and that can be a powerful driver to wish to escape, disappear, all that kind of
stuff.

MICK BUNWORTH: The Federal Government plans a trial for a national missing persons database using
the CrimTrac agency, which provides DNA, fingerprints and other evidentiary support to all of
Australia's police forces. But mental health professionals are worried, particularly in light of
the Cornelia Rau case.

PROFESSOR NICHOLAS KEKS: Look, I have a basic sense of dis-ease in linking missing persons to
criminal activity. I'm not an expert on police methods or police databases. I think the case for a
national database for missing persons is absolutely overwhelming. I'd prefer it not be criminalised
in that kind of way. People with serious mental illness are not criminals. It's a complete travesty
to have them in jail for reason of their mental illness, or indeed elsewhere. They need specific
help for their illness.

SENATOR CHRIS ELLISON: Look, I totally reject the fact that CrimTrac, in handling the missing
persons database, would criminalise missing persons or those with a mental illness. Look, CrimTrac
did great work with disaster victim identification in Bali and now with the tsunami. We've got a
vehicle here which can be used for other aspects, not just criminal aspects. Why not use it? Why go
and create another bureaucracy? We set this up. It cost us $50 million. It's got the expertise.
Lets use it.

MICK BUNWORTH: The Federal Government says it wants the national database of missing persons up and
running by the end of the year. For Chaia Stein, that can't come soon enough.

CHAIA STEIN: If you ask the families of missing persons to come and sign a register to say, "Do you
think this is a good idea," they'd be running to do it. Of course it's a good idea.

KERRY O'BRIEN: That report from Mick Bunworth.

Beattie calls for public inquiry into Rau detention

Beattie calls for public inquiry into Rau detention

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

KERRY O'BRIEN: In the Cornelia Rau case, the first authority involved was the Queensland Government
and its police force. So Premier Peter Beattie has a close interest in the outcome of the Rau
inquiry in relation to both missing persons and to the peculiarities of the Rau case. He is
critical of the Federal Government's decision to have a private rather than a public inquiry,
conducted by former Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer rather than a judge. I spoke with him
earlier tonight from his Brisbane office.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Peter Beattie, before we get to the specifics of the Rau case, doesn't it strike you
as somewhat bizarre, in the 21st Century, that Australia does not have a national database on
missing persons?

PETER BEATTIE (QUEENSLAND PREMIER): Yes, it does, and I think we should fix that up, and any
suggestions of how to do that, provided it's reasonable, it's workable, there are checks and
balances in place to protect mistakes or correct mistakes and it doesn't cost the world, of course,
we'll be part of that and we should be.

KERRY O'BRIEN: To Cornelia Rau. Part of your defence against the possibility of a stuff?up from
Queensland's handling of the case is that the Queensland police only had responsibility for her,
technically, for four days. That she was under the responsibility from then on of the Immigration
Department and held under the Immigration Act. But in truth, she didn't leave the custody of the
Queensland prison system until October last year, nearly six months later. So can you really wash
your own hands of it that easily?

PETER BEATTIE: No, I can't, and I won't, and I've thought a lot about this over the last couple of
days. This is a case that is internationally embarrassing for Australia, not just for the four
jurisdictions involved, three states and the Commonwealth, and Kerry, what I think should happen
here is that there needs to be a full and open inquiry. We'll cooperate with the one that's been
set up, but clearly it needs to be headed by a judge and we believe that every aspect of the
involvement of Queensland authorities with Cornelia Rau should be made public. That involves the
police, that involves the PA Hospital, that involves the prisons, and I think any evidence that's
put should be put in the public domain. Now today we're releasing the transcript, have released the
transcript of an interview involving Cornelia Rau in one of our prisons. We'll release the tape and
we'll provide all that to the inquiry.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Just so that we've got this clear, you're saying that you will release everything,
all documentation that pertains to this case, that is within the power of the Queensland Government
to do so?

PETER BEATTIE: Yes, I will. Clearly our first responsibility is to release it to the inquiry, which
is what we will do. There are issues of professional responsibility in terms of, obviously,
psychiatric assessments by professionals and that's better given to the inquiry. But I just simply
say to the inquiry and to the head of it, we will provide you with all the material. When the
findings are made, we would want you to release all the supporting material, everything Queensland
has given to you.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But this report presumably, which has been commissioned by the Federal Government
and Amanda Vanstone the minister, she will receive that report, she will release that report, and
presumably, ultimately, she and the Government will determine what is publicly released. Now, if
they're not prepared to release the material that you're talking about that's been provided by
Queensland, will you release that anyway?

PETER BEATTIE: Yes, I will, subject to legal advice. There are some matters, obviously, in the
transcripts that could well be defamatory and therefore I need to be careful about how that's dealt
with. For example, the interview in the prison, certain claims were made involving various people.
I can't give up their rights, but any inquiry could, so I need to examine the legal advice on that.
But my view would be that we will table it in the Parliament if the Commonwealth doesn't.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Do you have a problem about Mick Palmer's competence to conduct this inquiry as
somebody who's run two police forces previously in his life?

PETER BEATTIE: No, I don't, but you've got to have the judicial measures in place to ensure that
people are able to be compelled to answer questions and, indeed, by being compelled are legally
protected from defamation for their answers.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Senator Vanstone says that it's a private inquiry to protect Cornelia Rau's privacy.
Do you acknowledge that there's some validity to that and, in terms of what documents you might
ultimately release, are you going to protect Cornelia Rau's right to privacy and some aspects of
the mental health evidence?

PETER BEATTIE: Well, as much as we possibly could. You see, I think there are two issues here. I
think Amanda Vanstone's being half smart. The truth of the matter is that no one needs to release
the actual details of the medical examinations or psychiatric examinations, in terms of her
privacy, publicly. That can be dealt with at the inquiry and examined and a finding made and
anything about procedures, appropriate procedures, how that was dealt with, can be released.
There's a demarcation there and it's not that hard to work it out and that's why I believe, part of
my worry about this inquiry is that it's not being conducted by a judge, and it's no reflection on
the current head, he's obviously a competent person, I don't have a difficulty with him. But if
you've got a judge there, and maybe the answer is to appoint a judge to work with him so that the
inquiry can in fact get to the bottom of it, and they can then make determinations about what is
released and what's not.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Are you prepared to acknowledge, before this inquiry begins, the potential for
embarrassment of any one of the jurisdictions involved, including your own?

PETER BEATTIE: Yes, I am. I mean, clearly somebody stuffed up here and you don't need to be a
rocket scientist to know that and frankly we need to establish what happened, what went wrong. It
may well have been procedures weren't in place, it may well have been the heart of this was there
wasn't a national missing persons register, it may well have been that because the evidence was
given in a way ? I mean, Cornelia Rau, when she was interviewed - and you see this in the
transcript today, claimed to be Schmidt, said that she was an illegal immigrant and all those sorts
of things. That was taken on face value. So clearly we've got to get to the bottom of this, but
clearly there was a stuff?up and we need to get to the heart of it so that we don't do this again,
and if there needs to be changes, we're prepared to do it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: It must have struck you that this woman was diagnosed already as schizophrenic
before she ever came to the attention of police, and yet, for the 10 months following that, she
went through a number of screening processes, she was in the care of prison officials and so on,
detention centre officials, and it took 10 months for people to formally declare her mentally ill.

PETER BEATTIE: Well, I think most people in the community would say that's very difficult to
understand and I find it very difficult to understand. We need to examine the reasons for that, as
to whether they were logical, whether that was fair in the circumstances, and if not, then what we
need to do is to put in place procedures to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Peter Beattie, thanks for talking with us.

PETER BEATTIE: Thanks for your time, Kerry.

But, for now, goodnight. Supertext Captions by the Australian Caption Centre. www.auscap.com.au