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Laurie Ferguson speaks to Tony Jones -

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Laurie Ferguson speaks to Tony Jones

Reporter: Tony Jones

TONY JONES: Well, we had hoped to speak to the acting Immigration Minister, Peter McGauran, today.
Earlier this week, his staff indicated a willingness for him to do so, but yesterday the office of
Senator Vanstone interceded and told us Mr McGauran would be making no further comment on the
issue. The minister returns from leave on Friday. Instead, shadow Immigration Minister Laurie
Ferguson joins us now. What do you believe would happen to a mentally ill Australian woman
wrongfully deported to the Philippines?

LAURIE FERGUSON, SHADOW IMMIGRATION MINISTER: Well, there'd be pretty dire circumstances for her, I
would've thought.

TONY JONES: We know, for example, in Australia mentally ill people often fall through the cracks in
our own country. The Philippines presumably doesn't have as secure a safety net as we do.

LAURIE FERGUSON: Absolutely. I live in a high NESB electorate. One of the arguments I constantly
get from Filipino residents of this country is the difference between the medical systems.

TONY JONES: Do you know any more about this case other than what we've reported tonight?

LAURIE FERGUSON: Not specifically. I'd have to be honest. We were following a line of investigation
into another case. Who's to say the one that we were following is the only one or yours? I think
there could be quite a number.

TONY JONES: Severe mental illness appears to be a common factor in both this and the Cornelia Rau
case. What does that say to you about the way the system is operating?

LAURIE FERGUSON: It says that it's long overdue - and this is part of Labor policy - that there
should be independent medical access to these centres. The situation at Port Augusta, for instance,
is visits of five to six weeks. There have been claims by Carmen Lawrence in the last fortnight
that the personnel utilised there don't have the correct qualifications.

TONY JONES: The acting minister, Peter McGauran, has refused to reveal which country this woman was
deported to for privacy reasons. Do you accept that his hands are effectively tied on giving

LAURIE FERGUSON: Absolutely not. You can protect a person's name while giving the broad outline of
the problem. He's spoken of 33 cases over a seven-month period. These obviously vary in regards to
intensity. Some would be a short period at the airport, but the one that's been foreshadowed here
is quite serious, and I think he can be a lot more forthcoming.

TONY JONES: Do you think he should name the country?

LAURIE FERGUSON: Oh, at the very least. We have an inquiry that we find quite inadequate. It's not
public. It lacks powers in regards to self-incrimination and the forced attendance of witnesses.
It's not good enough, and his continuous stonewalling on the issue is only worsening the problem.

TONY JONES: With specific regard to this woman who has been deported, do you believe there should
be a public information campaign in this country and the country she has been deported to to try
and find her?

LAURIE FERGUSON: Absolutely. Clearly, this has been a case that the department hasn't been aware of
for four years. It's only been revealed as a result of the Rau inquiry and the public revelations,
and I think it's pretty appalling that the department is unaware for four years that an Australian
has been deported from the country.

TONY JONES: Have you asked for a briefing from the department or the government on this matter?

LAURIE FERGUSON: No, I haven't. We've been mainly pursuing our line of investigations into what we
thought was an alternative case.

TONY JONES: Assuming that she's alive, what should happen once she's found?

LAURIE FERGUSON: I think it's very difficult to know the particular circumstances of the case, what
led to the deportation, in what manner she gained citizenship. Obviously one would think there are
big issues of compensation here. I'm just unaware of why this has been not revealed for four years
and why she hasn't attempted to re-enter. So there's a few details here I'm not clear on.

TONY JONES: Mr McGauran has referred this case to the Palmer inquiry. That's the appropriate course
of action, isn't it?

LAURIE FERGUSON: No, it's not. I don't think this inquiry is adequate enough. We've been critical
from day one. We see a need for a full judicial public inquiry. Mr McGauran simultaneously says
that this whole thing is just an opportunity for critics to have a circus. I would have thought the
average Australian would think this is far more serious than that.

TONY JONES: A full judicial public inquiry. What, do you mean a royal commission?

LAURIE FERGUSON: I think we've reached that stage now. The Rau incident was bad enough, dreadful
enough, but we're now talking about large numbers of people. It's far more endemic in the system
than one might have originally thought.

TONY JONES: So a royal commission?


TONY JONES: Mr McGauran says there may be other cases of equal severity. Do you have any idea at
all how many cases we may be talking about?

LAURIE FERGUSON: Their estimate was 33 in a seven-month period. I heard an early introduction there
that spoke of 100. That would seem mathematically logical.

TONY JONES: How many Australian citizens do you believe might have been wrongfully deported by the
Immigration Department?

LAURIE FERGUSON: I just don't know. The overwhelming majority of these people, I feel, will be
people that were detained for supposedly being unlawful at airports. We had a French national who
was detained at the start of the Rau inquiry. My view is that that will be the overwhelming number.
But you have revealed details of one person. I think there's probably going to be more, logically.

TONY JONES: What should happen tomorrow?


TONY JONES: What should happen as a result of this? I mean, the minister is refusing to confirm or
deny - and probably will continue to do so - what country this person has been deported to. We're
now reporting it's the Philippines. What should happen tomorrow?

LAURIE FERGUSON: Well, I think he should have a talk to Vanstone, think about a full judicial
inquiry, a royal commission. Quite clearly, there's a lot of mystery, a lot of doubts, a lot of
uncertainty on this matter. I don't want to know her name; I don't want to know her family
background, but I think the Australian public should be told what actually is going on in regards
to deportation and detention.

TONY JONES: Alright. Laurie Ferguson, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining
us tonight.

LAURIE FERGUSON: Thank you very much.