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Palmer to step down from immigration probe -

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Palmer to step down from immigration probe

Reporter: Margot O'Neill

TONY JONES: The former Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer is set to leave the Palmer Inquiry
into more than 200 cases of possible wrongful detention by the Immigration Department. Lateline can
reveal that Mr Palmer will complete his report into the wrongful detention of Australian permanent
resident Cornelia Rau and will then step down from the inquiry bearing his name. Margot O'Neill has
the story.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Mick Palmer was appointed in February to investigate the case of Cornelia Rau. His
report is due to go to the Government by the end of June. But since February, a growing number of
other immigration bungles have also been referred to his inquiry, including the case of Vivian
Alvarez Solon, the Australian citizen wrongfully deported to the Philippines. Today, Immigration
Minister Amanda Vanstone revealed that more than 200 cases of possible wrongful detention have now
been referred to the former Federal Police Commissioner for investigation.

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE, IMMIGRATION MINISTER: I'd ask the department to go back as far as the
records allow us to go and to take out each case that is released as released not unlawful and all
of them will go to the Palmer Inquiry - every single one of them.

MARGOT O'NEILL: But Lateline has learned that Mick Palmer has no intention of investigating or
reporting on these cases. It's believed he's recommended that such a huge caseload be taken over by
a more open inquiry conducted by the Commonwealth Ombudsman or a similar legal authority, which has
more resources and the necessary judicial powers to compel and protect witnesses. The Federal
Government has known of Mr Palmer's decision for weeks. It has appointed former Victorian Police
commissioner Neil Comrie to oversee the new investigations, although the minister still refers to
these investigations something the Minister hinted at in today's Senate estimates hearings.

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE: Now as Mr Palmer indicated in his statement of May 20 - he discussed with
me the future conduct of the inquiry and his desire to finish his report before the end of June and
I agreed with his proposals, namely that he would complete the Rau inquiry, that Mr Palmer would
make recommendations for handling the completion of the remainder of the cases.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Meanwhile, as the spotlight falls on the culture of the Immigration Department, a
former senior official has told Lateline that she resigned in 2001 because of a culture of fear in
the department and a blatant political interference. Diana Goldrick was one of the longest-serving
New South Wales managers dealing with refugee applications from detention centres. She was in that
role when thousands of boat people began arriving in the late '90s.

DIANA GOLDRICK, FORMER IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT MANAGER: The New South Wales office was run by a
culture of fear, that people were very afraid of doing the right things.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Diana Goldrick says that departmental secretary Bill Farmer addressed her staff in
Sydney in 2000.

DIANA GOLDRICK: He told the case officers to be very careful when dealing with the applications
from the boat people because, he said, "We don't know who these people are." If a case officer was
hearing a very strong message from the most senior people in the department that we have to be wary
of these people, they could be influenced to make an adverse decision on a protection visa
application.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Then, in a surprising turnaround, Bill Farmer addressed her staff again later that
year.

DIANA GOLDRICK: This time he told them that because we had so many people in detention, the head of
the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had told him that unless people were let out of
detention very quickly - that is, issued with protection visas - that the department would go
bankrupt. If we didn't do this, he would lose his job as secretary. So he'd come to Sydney to
appeal to the case officers to do their utmost to issue the detainees with temporary protection
visas as quickly as possible. It was so inconsistent, it was laughable.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Diana Goldrick believed the decision-making process had become too politicised. She
resigned early in 2001.

DIANA GOLDRICK: I resigned because I was sick and tired of the hypocrisy, of the inconsistency and
of the mistreatment of people I considered to be bona fide refugees.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Diana Goldrick has since joined the Australian Refugee Rights Alliance. Margot
O'Neill, Lateline.