Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 9 February 2005
Page: 68


Senator KIRK (2:11 PM) —My question is to Senator Vanstone, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Can the minister confirm whether Ms Rau was assessed by a specialist psychiatrist while detained in Baxter detention centre in early November of last year? Was a clear psychiatric diagnosis made at that time and did that diagnosis go to schizophrenia? Did that specialist psychiatrist make specific recommendations regarding Ms Rau’s care and treatment? Were those recommendations put into action by the minister’s department and, if not, why not?


Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —Senator, thanks for the question. I will answer the question as though you asked ‘did a psychiatrist...’ as I am not sure what a ‘specialist psychiatrist’ is. I thought a psychiatrist was a specialist. If there was a psychiatrist of a particular category, I cannot give you that answer. When Ms Rau came to Baxter with a file showing that she had been assessed in a Brisbane women’s hospital—as I understand, by a person of a significant repute in the psychiatric profession—as not exhibiting the diagnostic criteria for mental illness, they nonetheless, as I said yesterday, suspected something was not right. The psychologist recommended that she see the psychiatrist—


Senator Carr interjecting—


Senator VANSTONE —You might like to crack jokes about this, Senator; I do not happen to think it is funny.


Senator Carr —I was cracking a joke about you!


Senator VANSTONE —In any event, Senator Kirk, they did recognise something which was inconsistent with a specialist report that had already been made some four or five weeks before. So you have the nurses and psychologist, in the knowledge of a specialist psychiatric report, saying, ‘Well, we think otherwise.’ And, with respect, that is being on the ball. That is exactly right. Anyway, a psychiatrist did visit. It was not a full assessment on the initial visit and, no, there was not a clear diagnosis. My advice is that Dr Fukaz—that was the doctor’s name—indicated there may be a range of difficulties that would need to be resolved as to which possibilities could be, but he recommended, as I am advised, two options. I have not seen his report, so I am not sure if they are options or two things that needed to be done, but I am advised they were options.

One option was for a better assessment in an institution—we set about achieving that, as I indicated yesterday, by contacting the relevant body in the South Australian mental health authority that we are meant to contact, having telephone discussions with them and then faxing them the material that they needed to make the assessment—or to be kept under supervision. I am advised that was an option. Ms Rau was kept under supervision in the sense that she did, subsequent to that, see the psychologist regularly. I do not mean at regular intervals but continuously, and she was checked on by the nurse each day. They were the recommendations. There was not a specific diagnosis. Schizophrenia may have been mentioned in the sense that there were a number of things that needed to be ruled out to ascertain what the problem was.


Senator KIRK —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister provide the Senate with details of all psychological or psychiatric assessments undertaken while Ms Rau was in detention, authorised by the department of immigration, over the full 10-month period? Were all of the recommendations of these assessments complied with by the minister’s department?


Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —I will give consideration to that. You are asking for a person’s medical file for all and sundry to go through. I have a particular concern with that—I would, in any event, but the circumstances in particular of this case give me some concern. I will think about it. We may be able to come to some arrangement where nominated parties can look at the material. I say that because, over the first few days when we discovered this woman was a permanent resident of Australia, I spent my time on this largely working with the department to try to ascertain what had happened vis-a-vis Immigration. Was there anything we could have done better or should not have done that we did, and what in fact had happened? I was looking at what happened. Last night I took the opportunity to stay back, go through the media clips and look at what Australia has been told happened. There is a very large gap, Senator Kirk. I am amazed at some of the coverage. But that is neither here nor there. I will come back to Senator Kirk with some more on that. (Time expired)