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Cornelia Rau speaks out -

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Cornelia Rau speaks out

Reporter: Michael Brissenden

KERRY O'BRIEN: Welcome to the program. Fifteen months after she went missing, Cornelia Rau has
spoken publicly for the first time about her incarceration as a suspected illegal immigrant. Ms Rau
detailed what she described as a gruelling and terrible time and said she'd been treated badly by
both police officers and guards at the Baxter detention centre. More importantly for the
Government, she says perhaps she will be seeking compensation. There has been no response yet from
the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone. But, as political editor Michael Brissenden reports, Ms
Rau's appearance today - erratic though it appeared to be at times - will only add to the pressure
caused by what has become an emotionally charged political issue.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: For the critics, the tragic case of Cornelia Rau has come to personify all
that's wrong with Australia's immigrant detention policy. For months now, ever since her plight
first came to public notice, she's been the silent testament to what some, even in the Government's
own ranks, believe is a cruel and unjust policy.

CORNELIA RAU: I don't think Amanda Vanstone would have liked to be in my situation. Like, she would
have liked to have been able to contact a lawyer or contact somebody.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Today, for the first time since her disappearance 15 months ago, Cornelia Rau
spoke for herself. It was a harrowing and, at times, difficult performance to watch.

CORNELIA RAU: I was put into prison because I didn't have my passport on me. My diary got stolen
with my money as well. And my life has been pretty much turned upside down in a year and five
months. I was picked up by police and I was travelling through Queensland, and I wasn't aware that
they normally do that type of thing. Imagine if you just go shopping and you just get, you are
stopped by policemen and they want to see your passport. I just think it's quite incredible. They
took me to prison in Brisbane and held me in the detention for eight months. And within that time,
I got treated very badly. I got kept in a small cell, and it was this cell, and shared courtyard
between people. And I was held as an illegal immigrant.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Cornelia Rau's disappearance raises so many questions. In February, the
Government announced an inquiry, headed by the former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick
Palmer. That inquiry will now also look at the case of Vivian Alvarez Solon. The past few months
have been challenging for the Minister, Amanda Vanstone. And while the questions keep coming, she
says we'll have to wait for Mick Palmer to conclude his investigation. The inquiry has certainly
allowed the Government to say it is doing something. And while it has provided some valuable
political cover, it's also been criticised. It's being held behind closed doors for a start. The
Opposition and the family have called for it to be public, but the Minister says she's confident
the outcome will get to the bottom of what went wrong.

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE, IMMIGRATION MINISTER: Mr Palmer will conduct his investigation privately,
but the findings will be made public. And I am determined that Mr Palmer will be given every bit of
assistance, he certainly will be from the Australian Government, and I feel confident he will be
from the state authorities, to get to the bottom of what happened with Ms Rau, what happened that
shouldn't have happened or what didn't happen that should have happened.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Not surprisingly, Cornelia Rau has a few opinions of her own about what should
and should not have happened.

CORNELIA RAU: In Baxter itself, like, I was put into this area, it was called a red area...

FEMALE REPORTER: Red one.

CORNELIA RAU: Red one, and I, like, once I was walking along the grass, just on the, it was a small
rectangular area, and I just got cornered by this guard and he threw me down on the grass. I had to
put my hand behind my back, and then these other four guards came running up as well, and it was
just quite foul.

FEMALE REPORTER: Was it frustrating that you were trying to get out and the Government didn't seem
to be listening?

CORNELIA RAU: Well, I couldn't get a lawyer there, so, like, unfortunately that was frustrating as
well, like, they didn't give me a chance to get a lawyer. There aren't any phones in different
areas, and you just are at the mercy of the Government. You know, you can't voice your opinion,
because there's nobody to talk to there.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: This was Ms Rau's first opportunity to talk publicly. Today was, as she
described it, her first day of freedom. After she was discovered in Baxter detention centre she was
transferred for treatment to the psychiatric wing of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Despite reports
to the contrary from doctors and her own family, she says she is not mentally ill. But today's
wandering performance was at times hard to follow. Still, she was clear on one important point.

FEMALE REPORTER: Will you seek compensation for what's happened to you from the Australian
Government?

CORNELIA RAU: Yes, definitely, yes.

FEMALE REPORTER: Financial compensation?

CORNELIA RAU: Yes. It has been too gruelling an experience, yeah. It has been terrible.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And a research brief, already prepared by the law section of the parliamentary
library, has suggested any compensation might be substantial. The brief says the legality of her
initial detention will depend on whether police and immigration officials carried out the checks
and inquiries they might reasonably have been expected to make before detaining her. Cornelia Rau's
public appearance came on the same day that Labor sought to apply political pressure to what had,
until recently, been another area of Mr Palmer's responsibility. Before he was called on to
investigate the Cornelia Rau detention, Mick Palmer was inspector of transport security,
responsible for investigating baggage handling at Australian airports. With Schapelle Corby locked
up in Bali, reports of camel suits pinched from passengers' luggage and the recent bust of a
cocaine importing ring allegedly run by baggage handlers, Mr Beazley today suggested Mr Palmer
would've been better kept in his old job.

KIM BEAZLEY, OPPOSITION LEADER: An ex-judge should be doing the inquiry into Cornelia Rau. Mick
Palmer ought to be handling aviation security. That's what he ought to be doing right now. We
confront substantial terrorist threats to this nation, both domestically and internationally. We
require all the inspection processes to be in place and operating all the time. It's not a matter
of politics. This is a matter of defending the national interest.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Of course the trouble for the Government is that the treatment of Cornelia Rau
is a matter of politics, and difficult politics at that.