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Tuesday, 8 February 2005
Page: 29

Senator LUDWIG (2:18 PM) —My question is to Senator Vanstone, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Can the minister tell the Senate on what date the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs detained Ms Cornelia Rau and under what circumstances? Can the minister inform the Senate under what power Ms Rau was detained by DIMIA? What action did DIMIA take to confirm her identity, either on the date DIMIA authorised her detention or subsequently? When did DIMIA first interview Ms Rau, how many subsequent times was she interviewed whilst in detention, what were the results of those interviews and were they conducted with proper translation services involved?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —I thank the senator for the question. I am advised it was late in March when Ms Rau came to the attention of Queensland police somewhere near Coen. My advice is that she had in her possession a stolen passport, which I recall was Norwegian. She did not have another passport with her and she indicated to the police—but I have not seen the police reports—that she was a German national who was visiting Australia. They contacted Immigration because they believed that she might be an unlawful noncitizen. I do not think that was an unreasonable assumption for the Queensland police to have made. To paraphrase, I think Immigration agreed with that assessment and asked that she be detained. I am advised that happened in March.

In April there was at least one interview, possibly a number—and I will certainly get you the chronology—at, I believe, the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre. That is where she was detained, although not in the first instance. She consistently maintained in interviews from that point onwards, both while she was in the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre and later, that she was a German national—and she was correct in saying that, because I understand that she is—but more particularly that she was a visitor from Germany, that she had come in on a three-month visa, that she had been visiting throughout Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and that she had no relatives, friends or family who could be contacted in Australia, because she was a visitor.

I am advised that she went further than that and gave names for her parents. In one of the briefings I have read she indicated at some point they had changed their names due to a change in their lifestyle and she gave the name of someone she alleged was her boyfriend back in Germany. The German consul was contacted and saw her in early April, I think, but I will get you that date. As I understand it, there were a number of visits by the consul and by the consul general from Melbourne at another point. The advice we received was that her German grammar construction was childlike, as was some of her conversation, and there were intimations that her accent may in fact be something else, such as Russian or Polish. Nonetheless, the German consul and the consul general subsequent to that made significant efforts to ascertain whether there was an Anna Schmidt or Anna Brotmeyer and whether the parents or boyfriend could be located.

DIMIA, however, did not take it for granted that what Ms Rau was saying was correct and subsequently—I think it is fair to say when it appeared that that was not going to show fruit—commenced a range of other checks. They did in April, for example, contact the Queensland Police Service Missing Persons Unit with the details we had at that point and, as I am advised, a photograph. But she was not listed as missing at that point and the police did quite the right thing in saying no, they did not have her listed. That may beg the question of whether in future we should shift to some sort of computerised mechanism for listing missing persons so that, if an inquiry is made where we have someone who may be a missing person, we can all be sure that it is fed into a system where, if an entry is subsequently made that someone is missing, it could be matched with a previous inquiry which had got a proper no at the time. (Time expired)

Senator LUDWIG —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister take on notice and provide answers to the parts of the question that I asked first. In addition, I particularly ask: can the minister’s answer go to what authority was given to detain Ms Rau and when and by whom it was given—was it by DIMIA? Was that authority given when she was at Coen or Cairns? When she was transferred from Cairns to the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre, was there a protocol in place for that and under what authority was that done? Where, and by whom, was she detained in Cairns and under what authority was she detained there—was it by DIMIA? These are the particular issues that I sought answers to with my question in the first instance. As to when DIMIA did issue instructions, is there a protocol in place with the Queensland police or other police services for this to happen? If there is, is it in writing and, if it is, can it be made available?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —Senator, I thought I answered your question by saying that the police contacted DIMIA because they believed or had reason to believe that she was an unlawful noncitizen and DIMIA agreed with that and asked that she be detained. I have indicated I will get you the dates of that. In a supplementary question you have asked about her being shifted at some point from what I presume is a watch-house to the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre and then under what authority she was shifted. You will be aware that Australian legislation requires that unlawful noncitizens—that is, those who do not have any visa or bridging visa—be detained. I will get you the answers to those questions.