Wet Liberalism

Michelle Grattan writes with some anger of Amanda Vanstone’s pathetic failure to apologise over the detention of schizophrenic woman Cornelia Rau in Baxter Dentention Centre. A confused Ms Rau was discovered by Queensland Police claiming to be a German national, put in a gaol in Brisbane, and later transferred to Baxter where she was held in close confinement for twenty hours a day. For the other four hours, she apparently ate dirt and said repeatedly that she wanted to kill herself:

“They said when she arrived she was clearly psychotic. She was constantly screaming and taking her clothes off, running around naked,” Ms Curr said.

“She was sitting alone, eating dirt, weeping and saying she wanted to die,” she said.

How this sort of thing can be allowed to occur in an Australian detention facility with no action for months is totally beyond me. The situation was only taken in hand after refugees pressed staff to do something, so concerned were they about her welfare. She is now in a psychiatric ward in an Adelaide Hospital. Grattan writes, “Australia’s detention regime is endless in its ability to shock. And the same goes for federal immigration ministers.” The Queensland Police also have a lot to answer for. Grattan goes on to suggest that some of the small l Liberals who’ve previously expressed disquiet over the administration of refugee detention should speak out on this issue and others at Baxter she discusses, echoing a call earlier in the week from Greg Barns. I’ll believe it when I see it. The wet Liberals are a pathetic and spineless bunch who are wholly subservient to government discipline and their own ambition in equal measure. As John Quiggin commented, “if you want to look at what’s happened to the 1980s liberal wing of the Liberal party, you need only look at its remaining representative in Parliament Philip Ruddock.”

At the very least, anyone in the Liberal Party with a modicum of humanity and decency should support Senator Andrew Bartlett’s call for an enquiry. It’s good to have someone in the Senate like Andrew who’s a consistent advocate for the human rights of refugees. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the liberal Liberals to retain their voice. Vanstone’s failure to acknowledge any fault in this matter is absolutely pathetic.

PS – [by Ken P] – Saint at Dogfight at Bankstown also deals with the Cornelia Rau case at some length.

ELSEWHERE: David Tiley at Barista thinks this tragic story is Kafkaesque. Rowen at Sailing Close to the Wind notes that Howard has said Ms Rau’s detention was “unsatisfactory” and Mr Lefty at Anonymous Lefty is also on the case. Swade at Red Interior hopes Ms Rau sues.

FURTHER UPDATE: The Currency Lad puts the case for Vanstone’s resignation.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Andrew Bartlett
2022 years ago

Thanks for the nice words Mark.
There’s still many questions to be answered, (I’d list them but I’d go all night) but maybe this horrendous case might finally bring about some changes in attitudes (I’m still trying to keep my hope springing eternally).
This situation should show Australians that the efforts to defend the basic rights of people in detention is NOT just because we feel sorry for asylum seekers – it’s because once it is acceptable for one group of people to have fewer rights or for there to be no proper scrutiny of how a Govt/Dept/Minister treats those they have responibility for, then this same lower standard can apply to others. Maybe now, with this example of an Australian being ‘disappeared’ and locked up in an isolation unit without access to any decent care, with no (apparent) recourse to law and with a Minister that appears to still not think there’s a problem, Australians might see that this sort of thing can happen to anyone who falls through the cracks, and maybe one day it might be them or their sister or brother or mother.

In many ways this is not about detention centre policy, it is about (mis)treatment of and contempt for mentally ill people.
Vanstone’s statement says that this woman was assessed as not being mentally ill. The person or body that carried out this assessment must be identified – one assumes they are still out there making similar ‘assessments’, which can’t be a good thing.
The fact is that the detainees who were locked up near this woman could tell clearly that she was severely ill, yet supposedly the management at Baxter couldn’t!?! Advocates have been trying for weeks to get medical assessment in to see this woman (having been alerted to the situation by detainees), but were blocked by DIMIA and/or Baxter management. It is hard to draw any conclusion other than that the Govt/DIMIA have a view that people in immigration detention are lesser people whose basic rights are optional at best, and their overall arrogance and contempt for any sort of accountability is getting even worse. Perhaps it is no coincidence that this week was the first time in over 15 visits to detention centres that neither DIMIA or the centre management agreed to my request to meet with them.

I never thought I’d say this, (and the issues are too varied for me to say it without some equivocation), but I genuinely believe in some important ways things have got worse since Philip Ruddock stopped being the Minister.

John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2022 years ago

I think Vanstone herself is (or was) classed as a “wet”. This seems to be one of those labels, like “Right” or “Left” in the Labor party that now serves primarily to identify a clique rather than an ideologically-based faction.

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

I don’t know what went on inside Baxter on this one, but from talking to someone who works on refugee cases within DIMA I got the impression there have been so many stunts pulled and lies told by refugees and their supporters that everything they do or say is treated with a high degree of scepticism.

My own dealings with DIMA, back when I was a Ministerial adviser and concerned with visa issues for overseas students, made me think that even for a government department they were unusually obsesssed with their own financial situation. This could help explain some of their neglect of people like Ms Rau, who is obviously insane and in need of expensive medical assistance.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

‘…there have been so many stunts pulled and lies told by refugees and their supporters that everything they do or say is treated with a high degree of scepticism.’

Andrew (Norton), this is exactly the kind of rationalisation that routinely emanates from the Department, and from gaolers generally. Are you confident you know where to draw the line between behaviour born of despair and mere cynical ‘stunts’? It seems pretty clear that gaolers beome progressively hardened to their prisoners’ humanity. In these circumstances eventually anything is assumed to be a stunt until there is proof to the contrary. And from from the prisoners’ point of view, are you confident you’d eschew all stunt-like behaviour yourself after a couple of years in detention limbo?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Andrew Bartlett sums it up nicely. Presumably Vanstone thought she was saying something meaningful and reassuring to the public when she told us Ms Rau had been assessed psychiatrically and found not to be mentally ill. In fact all it says is just how supine, inept and utterly corrupt the medical practitioners doing assessments at Baxter must clearly be, to have failed to diagnose the fact that she was a desperately ill schizophrenic.

There’s no doubt that Andrew Norton is correct that many asylum seekers continually pull histrionic stunts of all sorts to avoid being deported or to bring pressure to bear on authorities or whatever. But that’s no excuse whatever for operating such a disgracefully inhumane detention regime, and I’m astounded that someone like Andrew (Norton) should think that it’s all that need be said.

If Andrew is correct that the whole system has become so corrupted that most of the staff automatically treat all asylum seekers with suspicion bordering on contempt (and in my experience that’s exactly what happens, and always has), then clearly drastic action is needed. It’s time we started seriously examining viable alternatives. What about the Australia Card-type system that I’ve discussed previously? That way we could safely release asylum seekers into the community and know they wouldn’t successfully be able to disappear into the illegal economy for very long.

And where is the ALP in all this? One suspects, with Bomber back in charge, they’re assuming their habitual small target position.

And Mark, why are you still blogging? Get back to work.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“I genuinely believe in some important ways things have got worse since Philip Ruddock stopped being the Minister.”

Andrew, that’s really depressing.

John, yes, that’s right. Vanstone and Robert Hill were both seen as SA wets. In SA, of course, there was a split in the Liberal Party in the early 70s – which led among other things to Steele Hall (a former SA Premier) initially sitting in Parliament as an Independent and the formation of a party called the Liberal Movement which largely went over to the ADs after Chipp set up the party in 77. Hence SA has been the Demos’ strongest state.

My impression is that the current so-called small l Liberals are largely the second generation – the originals such as Peter Baume, Ian McPhee and Chris Puplick having been purged in the 80s or retired. Their successors were either cowed by what happened when Howard effectively tried to turn the Libs into a monolithic bloc in the 80s or have succumbed to ambition like Ruddock.

Andrew, surely the point here is that as Michelle Grattan argued, there was no effective scrutiny. The Minister’s office and DIMIA stonewalled at all points and nothing happened til the media broke the story. As Grattan also pointed out, there was nothing unlawful in all this as the onus of proof was on Ms Rau to establish her nationality. As Mike Rann said as well, it beggars belief that the Queensland police were unable to find out anything from the missing persons notification given to police when she initially disappeared in NSW.

Ken, it seems that the assessment was done in Brisbane before she was sent to Baxter. As Andrew said, who’s doing these assessments?

I’m also wondering where the ALP is.

Oh, and yes, I’m disappearing into thesis land now!

C.L.
2022 years ago

Agreed Mark on the appalling disregard that exists in our society towards mentally ill people and about the incompetence on many levels that led to this situation. Vanstone deserves to be carpeted, maybe even a sacked. The partisan references to Liberals per se, however, verge on the gratuitous.

Compulsory detention was instituted by Labor.

“We can’t have people getting off boats and wandering into Australian society.”

– Paul Keating

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I opposed the regime equally when Labor established it, C.L. However, it does appear that the levels of accountability under Labor and the quality of the administration at detention centres were both better, and therefore the Liberals must accept responsibility for this sort of thing. I don’t think it’s unduly partisan to say so. I can assure you that if nothing had happened under a Latham government, I’d be equally critical.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Well said, C.L. I often wonder if the people who jump up and down about mandatory detention for illegal entrants remember or are even aware that it was a Labor government that implemented the policy. Why didn’t it make them ashamed to be Australian back then?

And Mark, isn’t it the case that the reason why many remain in custody for years is that they are encouraged – by lawyers and other advocates – to take advantage of the seemingly endless appeal process that the Senate insisted on permitting?

C.L.
2022 years ago

Fair enough Mark. I do think, however, that a false dichotomy of what the parties stand for on this has been allowed to develop. The community-living model of accomodating asylum seekers seems to be being abandoned elsewhere in the world.

I’m not sure what the solution is and, as far as I can tell, Labor is not promising anything substantively different. Were they in office, these sorts of stories would also inevitably emerge. No excuse, of course, for this bungled situation which probably satisfies my requirements for the invocation of ministerial responsibility – ie dismissal.

BTW, when I say Vanstone might deserve to be “a sacked” it’s not because I’ve been thinking too much about Italian a’popes!

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

C.L., yes I agree Vanstone ought to accept Ministerial responsibility for this and resign. One salutary effect of adopting traditional Westminster conventions of accountability is that a new Minister would revamp procedures to ensure this disgrace never recurs. As I said, I’d say the same if (God forbid) Laurie Ferguson were the Immigration Minister currently.

” I often wonder if the people who jump up and down about mandatory detention for illegal entrants remember or are even aware that it was a Labor government that implemented the policy. Why didn’t it make them ashamed to be Australian back then?”

Rob, as I said to C.L., it did. And I said so to Con Sciacca at the time.

“And Mark, isn’t it the case that the reason why many remain in custody for years is that they are encouraged – by lawyers and other advocates – to take advantage of the seemingly endless appeal process that the Senate insisted on permitting?”

We’re going to have a difference of opinion about this, Rob, if you don’t share my belief that refugees are persons with rights in International law that ought to accord them corresponding rights under Australian law.

Andrew Bartlett
2022 years ago

People such as myself who have long criticised mandatory detention and all its consequences will use this occurence to back our case about the intrinsic inhumanity and absence of basic rights entrenched by this system.

However, even for those who might see this as a tragic one-off with no real implications for detention policy, some other very big questions must be independently examined and answered:

How competent is our missing-person system when the person who is reported as missing comes to be in official hands (Qld Police and then DIMIA) and yet is not matched-up with the report?

What sort of mental health assessment system do we have in prisons and detention centres when someone who appears to have been so clearly mentally ill is found not to be? Is it just because she had already been labelled an ‘illegal immigrant’? Given that the main mental health assessment that ‘cleared’ her appears to have been done before she was put into Baxter, does this show that her treatment and environment in Baxter made her condition worse? Why is it that the minute she was released into the care of the Glenside (SA Govt) Psychiatric Hospital she was described as severely ill, yet according to Vanstone prior to that she was not suffering a mental illness.

There may also be questions German citizens want to ask about how thoroughly their Embassy followed up the reports of the ‘mystery’ allegedly German woman locked up in detention.

The asylum seekers in detention must be given the opportunity to publicly detail the treatment they witnessed of this woman, without fear of retribution. Were it not for them, this woman would certainly still be in an isolation unit in detention, receiving inadequate (or probably harmful) treatment.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Mark, yes, but somebody has determine if they actually are refugees. That’s what the Refugee Review Tribunal is constituted to do. I absolutely agree that genuine refugees should be welcomed in Australia (dare I say the government does too? It has a quota for refugees built into its annual immigration target). The problem is that it can be very difficult to assess their claims, especially if – as many do – they destroy their identification documents before making landfall in Australia.

I’m not saying the present situation or the government’s policy is perfect or even morally defensible. We live in a globalised world which is characterised in part by the movement of peoples. I’ve got every sympathy with someone who wants to move from grinding poverty in [wherever] to a better life in Australia, whether they have a genuine fear of persecution in their country of origin or not. Maybe we need to to update the Geneva Convention on the definition and status of refugees to take account of contemporary realities.

My personal view is that if they make it here – even if illegally – they should be allowed to stay. Obviously they want to be here and have used their enterprise and endeavour to get here. Provided they are not criminals or terrorists (and these things have to be checked), let ’em stay.

But my view or your view should not be the determinant. It is and should be down to the Australian community to decide, via the democratic process. And so far no political party has put up an ‘open door’ policy such as I have described, as far as I’m aware.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“Maybe we need to to update the Geneva Convention on the definition and status of refugees to take account of contemporary realities.”

I’d agree Rob, but not necessarily with an “open door” policy.

As to rights of appeal, it seems to me reasonable to accord people a right of appeal from a tribunal just as those who are dissatisfied with decisions of other tribunals such as the AAT or the AIRC can appeal to the Federal Court and the High Court (if there are sufficient legal grounds).

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Mark, I agree that asylum-seekers should have the right of appeal. But I think it should be a one-tier process. I may be wrong about this but I believe that the AAT was constituted to hear appeals from non-judicial government entities like the RRT. I see no reason why there should be additional avenues of appeal to the Federal Court and the High Court. Having your day in court (sort of) before the RRT and then another in a real court of review seems sufficient to me.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Well, maybe Ken can clarify this, Rob, as I’m not a lawyer but I’d have imagined that having your appeal heard by a Judge with a broader view of law and precedent is a necessary safeguard.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

My understanding is that the presiding officers of the AAT are ‘real’ judges, although I believe that among legal practitioners an appointment to the Tribunal does not have the cachet of an appointment to the Federal or state Supreme courts. Members of the RRT are government appointees selected for other than legal qualifications.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

The MRT/RRT members (of whom there are over 50) are drawn from community (lots of ethnic/multicultural representation) the public service and the professions. The AAT comprises presidential members (judges) deputy presidential members (senior counsel types) and non-presidential members, academics, ex senior civil servants, retired admirals etc. There’s about 70 of them across the states and territories.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Thanks, Geoff. Sounds like I did not do the membership of the RRT justice.

Can I say, I hope without infuriating people too much, that it’s a great shame that the refugee issue has become such a politicised and emotional one in Australia. It’s really a matter of the administration of public policy. I don’t agree with mandatory detention, but what are the alternatives? Electronic tagging? Daily reports to the police – what? If someone can come up with a better way of dealing with the problem, let’s hear about it.

But let’s also not assume that everyone that claims asylum is automatically entitled to it. Like it or not, there are plenty of spivs out there, as well as genuine claimants. And there are organised criminal networks that don’t care whether their clients are one kind of the other, provided they pay for their passage to Oz. They make megabucks from people-smuggling – a trade that now rivals the trafficking of illegal drugs as the most profitable in international crime.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

A few points of clarification:

(1) It’s the Refugee Convention, not the Geneva Convention;

(2) The RRT was established as a special purpose merits review tribunal for refugee cases. Most other types of administrative law merits review matters go to the AAT, but refugee matters don’t. It was considered that a specialist body was needed (and perhaps that the AAT wouldn;t be tough enough on asylum seekers).

(3) It wouldn’t be constitutionally posible to completely abolish any right of recourse to the courts. Constitution section 75(v) creates a right to judicial review by the High Court of ALL Commonwealth administrative decisions (which includes any sort of decision-making or review body the Commonwealth could establish). The Labor government tried to drastically restrict the ability of asylum seekers to access the Federal Court, because they believed there were too many bleeding heart judges there who were being far too credulous or judicially creative. All they succeeded in doing was creating a huge backlog of asylum seeker judicial review cases in the High Court, until the Justices got the shits and found an innovative way to effectively destroy the provision that had sought to restrict asylum seeker access to the Federal Court. Ruddock then enacted an even tougher ouster/privative clause in the wake of Tampa, but the High Court also blew that out of the water. The net result is that it isn’t possible to bar judicial review, although it would be possible to create a somewhat flatter structure and therefore reduce to some extent the time it takes to complete the whole process.

(4) It’s worth keeping in mind that almost all the people currently in Baxter are asylum seekers who have been found not to be refugees, and who are there while they exhaust the tortuous appeal/judicial review process. History tells us that only a tiny proportion of them will ever make out a refugee claim under the Convention definition (well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, political affiliation etc).

So much for the facts and law. Now for opinion. I don’t think an “open door” policy would be practical, for a whole range of social, economic and environmental reasons. There are around 20 million displaced persons in the world at any one time, and there’s no way Australia could ever accommodate any more than a tiny proportion of them. Moreover, it wouldn;t be in the interests of the poor nations they come from for us to do so. Invariably the people who make their way from Australia are the best and the brightest and richest from their country of origin: – they’re the only ones with the resources to escape and pay people smugglers. So, somewhat ironically, we would be impoverishing/disadvantaging the asylum seekers’ home countries as well as causing socialand economic tensions and environmental problems in our own countryif we adopted an open door policy.

Hence, we need border protection programs and programs for assessment of the genuineness of the claims of asylum seekers. We also need some effective measures to minimise the incidence of unsuccessful asylum seekers absconding: in Britain 2/3 of unsuccessful applicants do so. That factor, along with deterrence, is the reason for mandatory detention. However, as I’ve observed numerous times, a well-designed universal national photo ID card would be effective in dealing with the problem, because it would allow asylum seekers to be safely released in the community while their applications and appeals were being processed, and they would still be able to be found and deported if they were eventually unsuccessful. That’s the way Sweden does it, and they have a much lower absconding rate than Britain etc. A national ID card regime would also be useful in combatting terrorism, organised crime and numerous other serious problems. However, there appear to be residual political and civil liberties sensitivities in Australia, so that no political party is prepared to advance this as a serious policy suggestion.

The trouble is, the problems mandatory detention is aimed at are real ones that need to be tackled somehow. If we don’t embrace something like a national ID card, we’re either going to have to keep putting up with a noxious mandatory detention regime, or very high absconding rates that will inevitably cause escalating social tensions and a loss of public support for the general immigration program. We need to make some hard choices, not just bemoan the evils of DIMIA, Ruddock, Vanstone etc.

Watchdog
2022 years ago

“If we don’t embrace something like a national ID card, we’re either going to have to keep putting up with a noxious mandatory detention regime”

And if someone is caught not carrying one? Do they get admitted to a detention centre by the QLD police, or any other police force?

heh
heh
2022 years ago

Flee lefties, flee. And here’s how…

http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/sundaystartimes/0,2106,3179049a6005,00.html

Surely Mark and Chris could do with another degree in under water basket weaving.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

You would have to produce it on obtaining employment, housing, electricity connection, opening a bank account etc, and it would be offence for anyone to provide you with these things without sighting it and recording details. People wouldn’t have to carry it at all times, but equally one would find it very difficult to survive in the community for any length of time without one. It’s not a very great extension of the present, where you have to produce 100 points of ID to open a bank account (and therefore have a credit card etc).

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“heh”, you might like to stay vaguely on topic or you might find your comment disappearing into the ether. At least EP’s funny. Your sarcasm at Chris’ expense is out of order – he’s not a Troppo blogger anymore, and may not be visiting here to reply. Play nice, please.

Andrew Bartlett
2022 years ago

Some responses to Ken (& sort of to Rob & CL too)

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

James, Ken – I don’t believe what I said is all that needs to be said, but I knew that other people would say all that. I was just pointing out that to find out why people do things you need to understand things from their point of view, and in persuading them you need to connect with that perspective to some extent (and yes if I was a refugee I probably would try just about anything).

Despite the enormous effort put into the pro-refugee cause it has essentially been a failure, and one of the reasons it has been a failure is that it has never taken the government, and majority, view as anything but shameful, and therefore has never seriously engaged with it.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Just to clarify – when I said ‘open door’ I meant if, despite all the border protection measures and legal deterrents, a person still managed to get into Australia on a leaky boat with only a couple of bucks in their pocket (literally or figuratively) they should be allowed to stay, provided they were not criminals or terrorists.

Standing back from it, it does seem a rather dopey proposition, not least because it rewards people who break Australian law, but it’s still a reasonable approximation of my gut feeling. The numbers will only be small: can’t a country of 20 million or so afford another two hundred or so illicits? (I think Andrew B. is making a similar point.) And of course people smugglers should still be vigorously pursued with the co-operation of regional governments to choke off the trade at source.

Ken, your point about creaming off the Third World’s brightest and best is very valid, but are we not aready doing this with the business migration program?

I am a lot more uneasy than you about a national ID card. We went through this debate during the Hawke-Keating years. My objection to it, now as then, is that in a democracy it is the government that answers to the people, not the other way around. To me, a national ID card connotes that we are permanently answerable to the government – even our very existence is underwritten by the government. No government-issued ID card, and you become a non-person.

No doubt all kinds of efficiencies might flow from such a system, but as Justice Kirby remarked during the debate in the eighties, one of the things that we get along with democracy is inefficiency (one of the reasons that totalitarians have always despised it). Put another way, freedom is always messy and untidy. Personally, I’m happy for it to stay that way.

Manas
2022 years ago

I think the worst thing about this case is what it demonstrates about detention factilities generally.

It’s tragic that this poor woman was detained at all.

But it is absolutely shameful on Australia’s part that anyone is kept in such horribly inhumane conditions, and as Ken P pointed out, that proper medical treatment is not given. Just how bad the treatment of all asylum seekers and detainees is in our detention centres is a frightening thought.

AlanDownunder
AlanDownunder
2022 years ago

The Rau fiasco was a combined failure of the NSW health & police services, the Qld police service and the Commonwealth immigration department.

The problem can only be what is what is common to all of them – an attitude to ‘others’, be they foreign, mentally ill, whatever. The same attitude that rewards wedge politicians and shock jocks. An attitude far easier to validate and trade on than to counter by the ultimate sin – political correctness – previously known as bipartisan minimum moral standards.

As Gonzalez and Fox made Abu Graib more likely, so competitors for the votes of our moral dregs and their urgers made Rau more likely. The only politico-legal tweak that could be of any use would be a constitutional bill of rights backed by criminal sanctions against those who not only infringed its most basic prohibitions but denied its most basic guarantees.

I could be wrong. Maybe the common law does protect as its defenders contend. If the detainers were reckless as to Cornelia Rau’s immigration status, were their actions not criminal? If so, does some kind of crown immunity protect them?

wbb
wbb
2022 years ago

… the people who make their way from Australia are the best and the brightest and richest from their country of origin: – they’re the only ones with the resources to escape and pay people smugglers. So, somewhat ironically, we would be impoverishing/disadvantaging the asylum seekers’ home countries as well as causing social and economic tensions and environmental problems in our own country if we adopted an open door policy.

I cannot believe I just read this. That is the exact stated purpose of our general immigration program. We try as hard as we can to select the best and brightest to come here. In the flippin’ national interest.

Cognitive dissonance severe enough to cause a stroke.

observa
observa
2022 years ago

“Amanda Vanstone’s pathetic failure to apologise over the detention of schizophrenic woman Cornelia Rau in Baxter Dentention Centre.”

Sounds to me like a good dose of Chris Sheil’s ‘conspicuous indignation’ going on here, which accordingly should call for liberal doses of ‘gratuitous apologies’ all round.

Can’t you just picture our parliament in future?

Speaker: Order! I call upon the Minister for Social Security to continue with the Reading of Apologies.
Minister: Thank you Mr Speaker. I will continue where I left off before the luncheon adjournment. I refer to apology number 563 of the tabled document before the House. On behalf of the Dept of Social Security I would like to sincerely apologise to Mrs Oozmefoobitz of 13 Easy Street Canberra, for the underpayment of the sum of $156 for Child Allowance due to her on Sept11 2004, due to an unfortunate cock-up in my Dept. I know all members present will join with me in this apology.
Members: Hear! Hear!
Minister: I refer Honorable Members to apology no, 564……..

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Of course the argument against my argument (let them stay here if they want to come here so badly) is the very one used by Phil Ruddock. For every one that gets in illegally and is allowed to stay, there’s someone sitting patiently in a refugee camp in Turkey or Iran or wherever, waiting for UNHCR validation of their claim, who will NOT get into Australia, the quota being what it is. In a word, queue-jumpers.

Hmm. Having managed to tie myself up in logical knots I think I had better get out here.

Nice one, observa.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

A few points:

Conflating the accounts in the Age, it seems that once DIMIA took possession of Cornelia Rau, they transferred her to Brisbane Women’s Prison, after which she “was sent to the Princess Alexandria Hospital in Brisbane and assessed not to be mentally ill. It is not known how long she spent there..

Senator Vanstone said Ms Rau was provided with medical care and a psychiatric assessment in Brisbane. “This found that, while having some behavioural problems, she did not meet the criteria for a mental illness.”

I am stunned by this – but it does suggest that DIMIA did the right thing at that point. (certainly as compared to the Queensland police who didn’t even get this far) DIMIA subsequently refused access to two independent psychiatrists briefed by refugee advocates because Cornelia refused to provide written permission.

DIMIA is adept at using the fake claim of privacy to avoid scrutiny – it is a fact that they will not allow film crews access to refugees even outside Baxter on the grounds that they “have a right to privacy”, which is an obvious way of making them invisible.

I think there are very generally two levels to the detention issue. On one level, the ALP set up a mandatory detention system, which stank at the time but is arguably a solution to the problem of fugitives. On the other, the Libs have been staggeringly spiteful, and used administrative arrangements which are frankly despicable. Every concession has been dragged out of them, and it is clear that they demonised asylum seekers, hid them from the democratic process, and lied about them.

I have no sympathy with people who complain that refugees bring their suffering on themselves by utilising the cumbersome appeals system, when the result STILL turns out to be manifestly unjust.

The latest person in the deportation line makes me feel particularly sick because he shares so many of the blogosphere’s passions. This is the Iranian writer, designer and pamphleteer Ardeshir Gholipour. PEN’s press release about him is here, at http://dox.media2.org/barista/archives/001603.html.

As an ironic aside, the people who want to deport Ardeshir have a similar political persuasion to those who criticise the left for not supporting Iranian dissidents.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“Sounds to me like a good dose of Chris Sheil’s ‘conspicuous indignation’ going on here, which accordingly should call for liberal doses of ‘gratuitous apologies’ all round.”

The difference, observa, is that conspicuous indignation is typically feigned (does Andrew Bolt really think that ‘Desperate Housewives’ is some sort of feminist conspiracy? Does he really care?) whereas seeing this Rau case on the news made me extremely angry, with justifiable cause I think. Please note that I included the Qld Police in my post, and now that it’s been confirmed that the PA Psych ward was involved, I’m exceptionally concerned particularly since a close relative of mine has been in their care before. I also condemned the ALP under Keating and Hand for initiating this regime in the first place in the comments thread.

Homer Paxton@tpg.com.au
Homer Paxton@tpg.com.au
2022 years ago

It has always been to the ALP’s eternal discredit that at no time did it attempt to do anything about the disgraceful culture/mindset at Immigration.

I don’t know about anyone else but I would be a wee bit concerned if someone was screaming most of the night, undressing in front of people, eating dirt, putting excrement on her body etal.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

The enquiry is essential – and not just in regard to DIMIA. I learn this morning that Ms Rau dischardged herself from the psych hospital in Sydney (she obviously wasn’t under any form of enforced care) in March and was gone for 6 months before anyone reported her missing (in August). Her sister (in the SMH) wonders whether they waited too long – I reckon. Her sister also owns that Cornelia chooses not to take her anti-psychotic medication.

So, there’s no way that the Queensland Police or anyone else could have easily established that she was a missing person because she wasn’t one until she’d been in jail in Brisbane for about 5 months. A person with schizophrenia generally doesn’t conveniently present as “mad” – in the classical stereotypical perception of same. For much of the time they can be indistinguishable from their fellow citizens. A bit odd from time to time maybe, but if the cops automatically assumed that everyone they encountered who is a bit odd was probably a psych patient concealing their true identity we’d probably be telling them to get over it. It’s not necessarily all that easy for a psychiatrist to establish schizophrenia either; particularly when there’s no case history to go on and the patient prefers not to co-operate in a search for diagnostic clarity.

Should the Queensland police have instantly suspected that a German-speaking woman claiming to be a German national named Anna Schmidt, who was in Australia illegally , wasn’t? I guess I’m not up with police investigatory practice but it doesn’t seem all that outrageous to assume that they would accept the story on face value.

After the missing person notification was made, one’s residual sympathy for the police ebbs away – they should have checked – although it seems that there is no established federal database search practice in operation such that a person posted missing in NSW might be easily noted in Queensland.

I’m not clear on why she was sent to Baxter. Were they trying to determine a deportation process?
Presumably the advice from Germany was that she wasn’t who she said she was – which would have made it difficult. Whatever, it seems that she spent 3-4 months there while they were trying to sort it out.

It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Just for the record, I should note that Andrew Bartlett’s response to my long comment above contains numerous errors, misconceptions and dubious propositions (especially about judicial review and the statutory provisions restricting its scope in the Migration Act). I don’t have time to detail them now, but will try to write a comment later today. I should say they don’t go to the essence of the Cornelia Rau situation nor the general operation of mandatory detention, where I mostly agree with Senator Bartlett. Nevertheless, it’s as well to clear up legal and factual confusion wherever possible.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

“I was just pointing out that to find out why people do things you need to understand things from their point of view”

Hmmm. Andrew, when people said this of Al Qaida after 9/11, this set off various right wing commentators, possibly including you, into uncontrollable rages.

Sauce for the goose, eh, Andrew?

Back to DMIA and their policy of “lock speakers of a foreign language up first, ask questions (but not too many questions) later”:

Next thing you know, an 85 year old Italian with dementia will wander off from a nursing home, babbling in their native language (as demented geriatrics tend to do, even if they’ve been here 60 years and could speak perfect English), with no ID. The cops will hand them over to DMIA, who will lock them up indefinitely in a detention centre as a suspected illegal immigrant. And Amanda Vanstone will say its all perfectly understandable, and ask what all the fuss is about.

This is what happens when government policy is to create a culture of suspicion of foreigners.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Next thing you know, an 85 year old Italian with dementia will wander off from a nursing home, babbling in their native language (as demented geriatrics tend to do, even if they’ve been here 60 years and could speak perfect English), with no ID. The cops will hand them over to DMIA, who will lock them up indefinitely in a detention centre as a suspected illegal immigrant. And Amanda Vanstone will say its all perfectly understandable, and ask what all the fuss is about.”

Geriatric folk speaking foreign languages wander away from aged care facilities constantly, Dave. The police tend to assume that they’re geriatric folk who’ve wandered away from a care situation. Cornelia Rau – who speaks both English and German – crafted an identity for herself which the Queensland Police accepted on face value and given that she’d been in Brisbane women’s lockup for 5 months before anyone reported her missing, it’s not all that incredible that they didn’t automatically conclude that she was Cornelia Rau, the well-known Australian permanent resident.

wbb
wbb
2022 years ago

Andrew Norton says above, “I don’t know what went on inside Baxter on this one, but from talking to someone who works on refugee cases within DIMA I got the impression there have been so many stunts pulled and lies told by refugees and their supporters that everything they do or say is treated with a high degree of scepticism.”

Funny you should get this impression also, Andrew. I was only just today reading about a case where the whole family was in on the act.

“Psychologist Lyn Bender witnessed this process of family break down when she provided counselling to an Iranian family detained for more than a year at the Woomera detention centre in outback South Australia. ‘The whole family was disintegrating,’ she says. She saw them after the 13-year-old son had tried to hang himself. Lyn Bender says the boy needed to be taken out of the detention environment. ‘He was saying “If I could just be out, away from these fences, I wouldn’t want to kill myself”

wbb
wbb
2022 years ago
tim g
tim g
2022 years ago

Observa: I take your point, but as regards the number of apologies offered by incompetent ministers in the Howard government, there’s at least some daylight between the numbers 564 and 0.

numbat
numbat
2022 years ago

Michele Grattan: howard and his mean-spirited team can do almost as they will. WHY?? In Australia we have pack of press prostitutes,compliant, obedient, toadying paid liberal hacks, no decent journalists- especially at the ‘australian’. This government has not been nor will be taken to task until we get some fair, impartial,and fearless REAL journalists not afraid of taking it to ‘the rodent’ thus putting themselves in danger of being taken off the Parliamentary press group.Howard does have power! I think the last great expose was the destruction of Sheryl Kernott by a simpering crawling liberal hack & gossip columnist. Probably done on orders ‘from-on-high’.Michele do you know of any decent fair, impartial,fearless Australian journalists?? Howard will ONCE AGAIN! be let off the hook and a reporter will be mentioned in the honours listing next year.
Regards, numbat

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Further comments on Andrew Bartlett’s response to my legal observations earlier in this thread:

“while Liberal & Labor have both failed in trying to restrict appeals to the Court/s, they have succeeded in dramatically restricting the grounds that people can appeal on. … Another obvious example is the removal of Natural Justice as a ground for appeal against a decision by the RRT.”

Andrew’s knowledge of the Migration Act seems to be out of date. In fact there WAS an ouster clause which restricted the possible grounds of review available in the Federal Court. Denial of natural justice was one of several grounds removed from the Federal Court’s jurisdiction. Note that this was a provision inserted by the former labor government. It was this provision which led to the large blowout in the backlog of High Court refugee cases, because the HC’s jurisdiction can’t be removed as it’s constitutionally guaranteed. This ouster clause was partially “gutted” by a decision of the High Court in the first part of 2001. The section was repealed in October 2001 as part of the raft of Coalition amendments that Beazley let through the Senate in the wake of Tampa. It was replaced by an ostensibly even wider ouster clause which purported (at least on its face) to oust judicial review completely. However, the High Court effectively blew this ouster clause out of the water too in February 2003, in a case catchily called Plaintiff S157/2002 v MIMIA. Consequently, at present judicial review of migration decisions (including refugee ones) is not restricted to any significant extent.

“For example, despite the repeated reference to the Bahktyari’s 20 or so Court cases, none of those cases could actually consider the validity of the evidence used to reject those peoples’ claims in the RRT, nor could they admit new evidence – despite some of it being very substantial.”

This comment appears to completely misunderstand the nature of judicial review and indeed federal judicial power. It would not be constitutionally possible for the Commonwealth Parliament to vest this sort of power in any federal court. Andrew is describing merits review, an aspect of executive power which can’t be vested in any federal court because of the constitutional separation of powers doctrine. Merits review of refugee decisions is undertaken by the RRT, a specialist tribunal which performs the same function as is undertaken by the AAT in relation to most other types of administrative decision.

“It is true that most of the asylum seekers in detention have come close to exhausting all procedures. On the surface this looks like they’ve had a fair go and they just aren’t refugees – this is certainly how the Govt likes to paint it. However, there have literally been hundreds of people given Protection Visas (i.e. recognised as refugees by Australia) after they have been in detention for years and have exhausted all the legal processes. For example, at the start of 2004 the Govt could (and did) say that the 100s of people locked up on Nauru were not refugees because they’d been right through the process and failed. Yet by the end of the year, as a result of widespread continual pressure, the majority of them were reassessed and determined to be refugees and they are now resident in the Australian community …”

I’m not entirely sure about this point, but it doesn’t accord with my general understanding. I understood that the great bulk of the people formerly held on Manus Island or Nauru, and eventually allowed into Australia on temporary visas were in one of the two following situations:

(1) They were people who HAD ben assessed to be genuine refugees at some stage of the process, but were only given protection visas once it became apparent that no other country would take them, and that Nauru/PNG government wasn’t happy for them to remain there indefinitely. It will be recalled that John Howard initially swore that none of the Tampa asylum seekers would ever be allowed into Australia. He only backed off from this position when it became clear that there was little or no choice. Thus these were not people who were re-assessed as refugees ex post facto. Unlike onshore asylum seekers, there is no legal necessity to grant a visa even when an applicant is found to be a refugee. However, Howard found that there WAS a practical necessity, because no-one else was prepared to bail Australia out.

(2) Applicants who were found NOT to be refugees, who refused to go home, and who came from countries which have a policy of declining to accept involuntary returnees. Again, the Coalition government was forced to acept some of these poeple (without their ever being found to be refuges) because there was no practical choice.

It’s conceivable that there were some who were re-assessed ex post facto, as Andrew says, but I suspect mostly it was one of the above situations.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I should note that if Andrew B doesn’t get a chance immediately to respond to Ken’s comments, it’s probably because he’s gone to Canberra for the sitting of the Senate. I imagine that would leave less time for blogging/commenting.

http://andrewbartlettonline.blogspot.com/2005/02/senate-resumes.html

martin
2022 years ago

While the series of events leading up to Cornelia Rau now being a patient of Glenside Hospital in Adelaide paints a poor picture of all involved (not least of which is DMIA), she is one of the lucky ones. Her friends and family enabled her to escape Baxter.

Since August 6, as previously detailed in http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/006743.html , we (that is, the Australian government) have effectively sentenced a number of Asylum seekers to lifetime impronment.

Peter Qasim and Eidriess Abdulrahman Al Salih , Abbas Al Khafaji, Ahmed Al-Kateb, and other are spending the rest of their lives at Baxter Detention centre.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Returning to the Cornelia Rau case itself, Geoff Honnor makes as good a case for Amanda Vanstone and her department as it’s possible to put forward with the information currently publicly known. But, even if we assume that Ms Rau’s schizophrenia wasn’t in its florid phase (if that’s the right expression) when she was admitted to hospital in Brisbane for psychiatric assessment after the cops had handed her over to DIMIA following 5 months of custodial confinement, it defies belief that her condition and behaviour remained non-acute for the entire time before and after that. A schizophrenic without medication is almost certainly going to be obviously very sick for quite a bit of the time.

Moreover, we know from reports from Baxter inmates that her condition and behaviour HAD so alarmed other inmates that they made a huge fuss which eventually compelled authorities to act responsibly (if grossly belatedly). The whole story confirms and underlines graphically the stories we’ve been hearing for a long time about the prevalence of serious psychiatric disturbances among long-term Baxter inmates, and the callous neglectful approach of DIMIA and its private sector prison management contractors.

There’s no doubt that some of this behaviour is calculatedly manipulative, but it’s also entirely predictable and inevitable that people (especially young children and their parents) will progressively become increasingly psychotic if kept imprisoned for prolonged periods. How do you separate genuine psychosis, trauma and distress from self-conscious manipulation? Answer – you can’t. And you don’t need to do so, because there are viable alternatives to detention of families, as I’ve discussed before. How can we sit idly by while women and children are being needlessly tortured (in effect)? It’s appalling and shameful, even if one accepts (as I certainly do) the objective necessity for a strong border protection regime and rigorous assessment of refugee applicants.

kartiya
kartiya
2022 years ago

Good on you Michelle , as “Sorry John”, [ a nickname he has from me , because of his government’s attitude to the Stolen Generation ] , said yesterday with his lawyers’s hat on , that one has to be carefull apologising, living in the ” litigious ” world that we do …….Sadly Cornelia and her family may be waiting for a long time for an apology from anyone . However i believe a large percentage of australia is disgusted with their attitude .

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

I think that this issue, maybe more than any other, requires that people take a couple of deep breaths before they start responding emotionally and angrily to a story in the media. Geoff H. made some excellent points in his post which, to me at least, add up to “there’s a lot more to it than the initial story seemed to indicate”.

I mean, let’s be realistic about this. Journalists want to tell sensational stories – it gets them the kind of reputation they’re hungry for.They’re not going to go digging for the kind of detail that would take the sensationalism out of their story. For them it’s just today’s headline: done that, got the tee-shirt, move on to the next.

Can we admit that some bad things happen by mistake, as a result of misunderstanding or incomplete knowledge, without malicious intent? I think it’s crazy to jump to conclusions about how it’s all down to the perfidious John Howard and a supine media (witness numbat above).

The problem is that when you operate on the basis of this kind of knee-jerk reaction, by the time the facts emerge (usually despite, not because of, the media) it’s too late. Zealots on one side or the other have already invested too much anger, too much emotion, too pull back. And then they get really narked at people who tell them they shouldn’t have been so precipitate in committing themselves. And then they just fall back on ideology and political abuse, just to demonstrate how completely they’ve lost the plot. If the Queensland police didn’t have the information to recognise what kind of situation they were dealing with, how in the world is that John Howard’s fault?

kartiya
kartiya
2022 years ago

Right, Rob,i agree , “Some bad things happen by mistake” , and people forgive , and most people say “sorry”.