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PM apologises to Rau, Solon -

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PM apologises to Rau, Solon

Reporter: Narda Gilmore

TONY JONES: For the first time, the Prime Minister has apologised to the two women caught up in a
series of Immigration Department bungles. The Palmer Inquiry into the cases of Cornelia Rau and
Vivian Solon has identified a serious cultural problems within the Department and it has recommends
urgent reform. The report has already led to a massive shake-up within the Department. Its entire
leadership team has been replaced. From Canberra, Narda Gilmore reports.

NARDA GILMORE: Cornelia Rau was wrongly detained for 10 months. Vivian Alvarez Solon was deported.
But for months, the Government has deflected questions and criticisms of the Immigration
Department. That ended today, with the release of Mick Palmer's scathing report.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: Both Cornelia Rau and Mrs Alvarez are owed apologies for their
treatment and on behalf of the Government I give those apologies to both of those women who were
the victims of mistakes by the Department.

NARDA GILMORE: The findings are damning. Most of the criticism is directed squarely at
Immigration's compliance and detention areas. Mick Palmer describes "deep-seated cultural and
attitudinal problems" and "a culture that is overly self-protective and defensive".

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE, IMMIGRATION MINISTER: Anybody who reads the report - and it does take some
time, it's about 260 pages - will see that it is anything but a whitewash. It's is a full-on,
full-frontal, boots and all assessment of what the problems are.

NARDA GILMORE: The report says that since 2000, immigration policy has been developed on the run.
It's criticised staff training and management and recommends urgent reform. John Howard says that
has already begun.

JOHN HOWARD: There will be a new team at the top of the Department to implement the changes in a
number of areas.

NARDA GILMORE: Just weeks ago, Immigration's executive team appeared before a Senate inquiry. The
Department's head, Bill Farmer, has since been moved. He'll become the new ambassador in Indonesia.
Now his deputies, Ed Killesteyn and Phillipa Godwin, have also gone.

JOHN HOWARD: I can't think in recent times of such extensive changes in the senior leadership of
such a large Department.

NARDA GILMORE: That's not enough for the Opposition. It wants the Minister Amanda Vanstone sacked.

TONY BURKE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION: The cultural problems of the Department - the culture
of denial and the culture of cover-up - started with the Government and started at the Cabinet
table.

JOHN HOWARD: This has been a difficult issue. Nobody's running away from the fact that errors were
made, but I do not think that the circumstances for a moment warranted the Minister's departure and
she retains my full confidence.

NARDA GILMORE: The company which runs detention centres hasn't escaped criticism and this afternoon
GSL was targeted by protesters. Mick Palmer found the contract with GSL is fundamentally flawed and
facilities at the Baxter detention centre, in particular, are inadequate. That's where Cornelia Rau
spent four months in detention. While he acknowledges she wasn't cooperative, Mr Palmer says the
system failed her. He says Ms Rau didn't receive adequate mental health care and was held for six
months in a Brisbane jail for "administrative convenience".

CHRISTINE RAU, SISTER: Apologies, for me, have always been peripheral. I think the ordeal that she
and Vivian Solon went through needs change. Apologies are fine in their way, but what we really
need is reform.

JOHN HOWARD: Plainly, there were mistakes made, there were failures. There are changes needed,
they've been recommended.

NARDA GILMORE: John Howard won't comment on likely compensation claims for Cornelia Rau or Vivian
Solon. He says the Government accepts the thrust of the Palmer report, but Labor says it doesn't go
far enough.

TONY BURKE: There needs to be a full inquiry with all the powers of a royal commission to get to
the bottom of the problems within this Department.

JOHN HOWARD: Well, Palmer doesn't recommend a royal commission and we're not having one.

NARDA GILMORE: The Government has already acted on some recommendations in the Palmer report, with
changes to the way cases are managed and improved training. There'll also be an independent review
of areas within the Department and an assessment of staff skills. Mistakes aside, John Howard says
public confidence in the Immigration Department remains strong. Narda Gilmore, Lateline.