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Tuesday, 8 February 2005
Page: 31

Senator KIRK (2:30 PM) —My question is to Senator Vanstone, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Did DIMIA officials fingerprint and take photographs of Cornelia Rau in an attempt to establish her identity? If so, on what date was Ms Rau first fingerprinted and photographed by DIMIA officials? Can the minister tell the Senate on what dates DIMIA first conducted checks against missing persons registers in Queensland, New South Wales, any other states or indeed internationally? Can the minister confirm whether DIMIA contacted other state police agencies in relation to identifying Ms Rau and, if so, when? Can the minister confirm that DIMIA conducted checks against all missing persons registers?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —I might take the opportunity, if the senator will forgive me, to answer part of her question and give time to answer a question from Senator Ludwig that related to a memorandum of understanding between DIMIA and the police in Queensland. I understand that a memorandum of understanding or protocol has been under discussion for some time, but I also understand that the practices that were followed are well established practices and that both sides have simply been trying to articulate those in a written form.

As to your question, Senator, about the date of photographs and fingerprints: I will have to take that on notice and get that if that was done. I indicated in the earlier answer that DIMIA did contact the Queensland Police Service Missing Persons Unit with details and photographs and the response came back as no, and that is because she was not listed as missing at the time. There were some subsequent discussions with a whole range of state and federal authorities on the basis that Ms Rau’s story about being German may not in fact hold up—people in Births, Deaths and Marriages, Centrelink and a whole range of agencies. I understand these were formal inquiries and I will be able to give you the dates and details of those.

It is worth mentioning, although you did not directly ask about it, that there was an occasion when New South Wales contacted DIMIA, and I understand that was two DIMIA people outposted to New South Wales police for the purposes of dealing with movement discussions, asking about the movements of a Ms Rau on a German passport. She had left Australia in the past on a passport without informing her family. The first inquiry from them, however, related to whether she was an Australian citizen or an Australian permanent resident. That was just a process inquiry, which was answered, and the next was a process inquiry dealing with possible travel movements vis-a-vis a passport. The dates of inquiries with other state and federal agencies would be quite detailed. DIMIA was consistently trying to establish her identity both in the German context, through the consul and our embassy, and with state and federal authorities, and I will get you the details of that answer.

Senator KIRK —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. When and by what means did DIMIA first become aware that the detainee in their custody was in fact Ms Rau, a missing person? When and by what means did the minister first become aware that the detainee in her custody was in fact Ms Rau, a missing person?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —I think it is very clear—I am sure it is clear—that the identity of Ms Rau was established as a consequence of an article in the paper about a German-speaking woman who was in immigration detention. The advice I have is that a friend of the family noticed the article, wondered if it could be Ms Rau, contacted the family and, subsequently, photos were exchanged and the identification was made. I was told by an adviser—I do not have the specific date, but I think it was pretty much instantaneously to it having happened. I was pleased to hear that we had established who it was, both because we were concerned who it was and because it obviously gives an enormous sense of relief to a family that has had someone missing for eight months.