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Beattie calls for public inquiry into Rau det -

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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.