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Wednesday, 9 February 2005
Page: 72

Senator ALLISON (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (2:27 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Can the minister assure the Senate that all footage from security cameras inside the Baxter detention centre covering the period of Cornelia Rau’s imprisonment will be provided to the inquiry being conducted by Mr Palmer?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —Senator, I did ask for an email to be sent—and I am advised that it was sent—to ensure that video footage was still there. Why would you expect it would not be? I can tell you why you would not: you are a conspiracy theorist. In any event, I assume that there will be some footage from the approximately one week that Ms Rau spent in the management unit. The advice that I have—which is verbal advice at this point—is that there are no cameras in the rooms in the Red One compound, which is really a compound with far fewer people and some restricted movement but which might otherwise be opened up as a normal compound. All of the areas of Baxter have some cameras. I cannot say that every piece of footage of everything that happened everywhere in Baxter is being kept—I cannot say it is not, either, because there would be unrelated areas. I will check as to whether people are going to put aside—or whether we routinely keep anyway—the standard video footage of, for example, the exercise areas and things like that. But of particular concern is the management unit—that was what was raised with me the other day and I asked that that be done.

I am happy to ask for that to be done. I started to allude to this in an answer earlier. Last night, instead of focusing on what has happened and what was done—and it is my job to do that—I took the opportunity when everyone had gone home to start going through the media coverage and have a look at what the rest of Australia has been told. I indicated that there is something of a gap. For example, Senator, you might be relying on statements that Senator Wong was relying on here yesterday when she asserted that the Public Advocate in South Australia had raised this matter some two months ago. Do not look at me quizzically, Senator Wong; you raised it—your memory cannot be that short. The ABC obviously relied on them when they asserted that the Public Advocate had been arguing with the immigration department for two months over this issue. Michelle Gratton obviously relied on it when she made the same assertion on Radio National.

Senator Allison —Mr President, I raise a point of order. The minister is debating a matter which has nothing to do with my question. I ask her to focus on the question asked.

The PRESIDENT —Minister, I remind you of the question. I also remind you and other senators to address their remarks through the chair.

Senator VANSTONE —Thank you, Mr President, for reminding me of the question. I assure the senator that I am concerned about the facts in the matter and that is why I want to make sure that relevant videos are retained. It might be of interest to senators to know that I have correspondence from Mr Harley, the South Australian Public Advocate, seeking to correct an impression made by O’Brien, who says—that is another point—that he had been contacting DIMIA about Ms Rau since early December. He says he was not. He says:

I was first notified by refugee advocates of Ms Rau’s case in December. I did not contact DIMIA—

you could put in a full stop but it goes on—

because it—

DIMIA, I suppose—

considers I am a state official beneath contempt.

Senator Allison —Mr President, I raise a point of order. The minister continues to ignore the question. Can I suggest that you advise her that she has an opportunity after question time to take note of her own answers or anybody else’s answers, for that matter.

The PRESIDENT —The minister has 20 seconds left to answer the question. Obviously you will have a supplementary question. I am sure she will get back to the subject.

Senator VANSTONE —I will try to put it as briefly as I can. I have indicated that I have already given an instruction through my office for videos to be retained. That relates to the management unit. I will make inquiries as to the other standard videos that cover the general areas of Baxter.

Senator ALLISON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question going to the first question. Will the minister advise the Senate when she will know whether that footage has been retained, and will she advise the Senate accordingly? Can she also answer the question that was raised by my colleague Senator Bartlett yesterday regarding whether eyewitnesses—asylum seekers in the detention centre—would be providing evidence to Mr Palmer? Will there be a record of that evidence kept and will it be made public?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —Thank you for the question, Senator. I note your complete lack of concern for a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts portrayed to the Australian community and in this parliament. Frankly, I expected something of a different response when allegations with respect to the South Australian Public Advocate have been made that are simply untrue. It is a matter of interest what the South Australian Public Advocate did do and I will follow that up through other courses. As soon as I know the answer in relation to the videos I will give you the answer.