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Wednesday, 9 February 2005
Page: 65

Senator LUDWIG (2:00 PM) —My question is to Senator Vanstone, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. I refer the minister to questions she left unanswered yesterday. Now that the minister has had 24 hours to get her story together, I ask again: on what date was she or her office first alerted to the presence of the detainee later identified as Ms Rau in immigration detention? I ask the minister again: can the minister outline to the Senate on what dates checks were conducted against the missing persons register in New South Wales and other states except Queensland? I ask the minister again: did DIMIA officials fingerprint and photograph Cornelia Rau? On what date was Ms Rau first fingerprinted and photographed by DIMIA officials? Can the minister explain to the Senate exactly what checks were made against the national CrimTrac databases, including the national names index, that contain data on missing persons?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —Senator Ludwig, thank you for your question and for your advice to my office that you were chasing up the questions that were taken on notice yesterday. I indicate to other senators that it was indicated to you that you would get answers to them today. We were not sure that we would have them by now, and—

Senator Ludwig —You hadn’t decided if you were going to. I still don’t know.

Senator VANSTONE —I have not seen them at this point—and I am certainly not going to release something I have not seen, I can assure you. As much as I trust the people who prepare answers, I generally like to have a look at them before I give them to the Senate. I did indicate yesterday in relation to this question that my office had this matter raised with it in early January sometime. I have spoken to the staffer concerned and he does not recall the specific date on which that was raised. In any event, as I indicated, the department raised the matter with him. I indicated that there was a subsequent meeting in my office in Canberra and that I would get you the date of that, and I have that date. I am advised that was on 19 January. I indicated yesterday that a range of matters were discussed there, including this matter. That is the date.

As for the other matters that you put on notice yesterday, I think I heard—and I will check the Hansard—that you might have added some more specifics today. Today I will have for you the vast majority, if not all, of the answers to the questions I took on notice yesterday. I will not wait until tomorrow to do that. To the extent that there are any fresh questions that go to detail as to specific dates of movements and so on, I will take those on notice and get the answers for you as quickly as I can. If they happen to be available within that batch of material, I will give them to you today as well.

Senator LUDWIG —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for her diligence in being able to bring those answers forward as soon as she can. Minister, the Senate has already been told about the checks with Births, Deaths and Marriages and Centrelink, but what checks—and this might clarify this for you—were made with police and missing persons registers outside Queensland? Minister, is it not the case that DIMIA failed to check the New South Wales missing persons database, failed to check the missing persons databases of other states, failed to check CrimTrac, failed to check with police forces other than the Queensland police and, finally, failed to circulate fingerprints and photographs of Ms Rau that may otherwise have identified her? Unfortunately, is it not the case that the whole reason that Ms Rau was in detention for 10 months longer than she should have been was that DIMIA did not perform the necessary checks?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —Thank you, Senator Ludwig, for the question. I will get you the dates and—I think that was part of your earlier questions—what contacts were made with the state and federal agencies and when. I told you I will get you that, and I will. That will of course include missing persons units. When that information comes, we will have that. You understand—I think I told you yesterday—that we did contact the Queensland police missing persons unit in April last year. That did not bear any fruit because Ms Rau simply was not listed at that time. That may beg the question that, if you are notified that you have a person of concern to you, who you suspect may be a missing person—and this could happen outside the immigration context; it could happen, for example, to someone who had a pre-existing mental condition and was simply— (Time expired)