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Project SafeCom News & Updates 7 February 2005  Project SafeCom
 Feb 06, 2005 15:36 PST 

Project SafeCom News & Updates 7 February 2005<br>
- In this Edition - <br>
1. My sister lost her mind, and Australia lost its heart<br>
4. Cornelia Rau case shows need for independent psychiatrists' Baxter
5. The Australian trapped in detention<br>
6. How many more Cornelia Raus are we mistreating?<br>
7. We cannot say sorry, says PM<br>
8. 'Aussie was mistreated in Baxter'<br>
9. This could happen to you: warning<br>
10. The one death that made us sit up<br>
11. Howard orders inquiry into Rau case<br>
12. Andrew Bartlett Blog: Human rights in Iran<br>
13. Australia: The Sickening Of Democracy <br>
14. Justice adjourns bid to transfer baxter detainees<br>
15. The British illegal immigrants <br>
16. Whitlam minister's sanctuary for Habib<br>
-|| This is the Project SafeCom Newsletter - also published<br>
-|| as the RAC-VIC Newsletter (Racvicnews) since July 2004 by
-|| with RAC Victoria, which endorsed that their news service be<br>
-|| managed by Project SafeCom. More information about us below.<br>
1. My sister lost her mind, and Australia lost its heart<br>
Sydney Morning Herald<br>
February 7, 2005<br>
Cornelia Rau, a mentally ill Australian woman, spent months locked in an
immigration detention centre. Her sister, Chris Rau, and brother-in-law,
John MacDonald, describe her living hell.<br>
For the past 10 months Cornelia has been locked up - for six in a
Brisbane prison and four in South Australia's Baxter detention centre for
illegal immigrants. Her crimes: having a mental illness, giving
authorities false identities and speaking a foreign language.<br>
She had discharged herself from Manly Hospital's psychiatric unit last
March and disappeared. The NSW police had been looking for her since
August. We feared her dead, and the worst part was not knowing how, where
or why. On Thursday night we learnt she was in Baxter. Parts of the
mystery were solved, only to raise more questions.<br>
John Howard promised an inquiry yesterday but refused to apologise,
citing legal reasons. But one question we can answer for the Government
is the litigation one: our parents definitely do not intend to sue and
will write privately to the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone. Now it
is the Government's turn to provide some answers.<br>
Before Cornelia became mentally ill she was a vibrant, gregarious,
empathetic person who loved her work as a Qantas flight attendant because
it fulfilled her restless nature. People who met her commented on her
talents: multilingual, artistic, tertiary-educated, beautiful. She seemed
to have it all.<br>
In 1998 she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but could still function
well enough to work for several years before she was diagnosed with
Eleven months ago we had already lost much of the old Cornelia, but no
matter how dire the circumstances, she always knew who she was and
contacted us when she was in trouble.<br>
But that has changed. Where once she would seek hugs and reassurance from
us, now she is telling nurses at Glenside, the Royal Adelaide Hospital's
psychiatric wing, that she would rather go back to Baxter than be
hospitalised. She is very determined her name is Anna Schmidt and that
her passport is in Baxter, a senior nurse told us at the weekend.<br>
The nurse said she could understand how Cornelia could be mistaken for a
German because she spoke English with an accent (not usually the case)
and insisted she wanted to return to Germany.<br>
We are guided by Glenside staff's advice, which is to wait and see how
her condition changes before we can go and see her. She has obviously
lost all touch with reality, and what might have started out as
subterfuge in Queensland last April has morphed into a dissociative
state. Over the past seven years we and our parents, Eddie and Veronika,
have helplessly watched Cornelia deteriorate into a secretive,
suspicious, frightened and unpredictable person whose behaviour was at
times bizarre. She has been in and out of hospitals to manage her
condition, which she exacerbated because, perversely, she is
health-conscious and refuses medication due to its side effects.<br>
Our greatest fear is that these months of incarceration - any
restrictions on freedom are anathema to her - have irretrievably tipped
her over the edge and we'll never find her again.<br>
But John Howard can rest easy: we are not litigious and are not yet so
Americanised that we would jump at the chance to sue anyone for
squillions. We don't blame him, Amanda Vanstone, assorted officials or
anyone individually for the damage done to Cornelia, incalculable damage
beyond price. (It would be nice, though, if there were an apology,
financial assistance with accommodation in Adelaide and follow-up
treatment for Cornelia.)<br>
Our parents want to emphasise how helpful, beyond the call of duty, they
found the Manly detectives investigating her missing-persons case and the
administrators in South Australia's mental health system who organised
her transfer to Glenside.<br>
No one is immune from mistakes. With hindsight, our greatest mistake was
not registering her with the police until August. There were several
reasons for this, one of which was that my parents had already reported
her as missing several months before her stay in the Manly psychiatric
unit, after which she was found within two days. We did not want to be
alarmist this time. The police are overburdened with mental health cases,
which they are often untrained to handle, and we thought Cornelia would
contact us as she had in the past.<br>
Also, Veronika's mother in Germany died during that time.<br>
Again, with hindsight, the improbable idea that she could have been in an
immigration detention centre slipped under everyone's radar, ours
But now we move on to the real questions: How could the system allow
Cornelia to suffer such horror? Are there others who have similarly
suffered? And what must be done to ensure it never happens again?<br>
Mr Howard has promised the inquiry but the portents aren't promising. Not
when the Immigration Department's responses have been evasive and
misleading. The media were told on Friday that the department was
assisting us in being reunited with Cornelia. No one from the department
has contacted us.<br>
Then there are the Government's claims that Cornelia had been receiving
medical treatment. An assessment of her (by whom?) is said to have been
made (when?) in Brisbane in a psychiatric facility (which one?) where she
was deemed as not meeting the criteria for mental illness (what
criteria?). One can only assume that when Immigration assesses detention
centre inmates its criteria for mental illness are tougher than those at
Glenside, where doctors promptly put her in the intensive care,
high-dependency ward under heavy sedation.<br>
Which brings us to the shameful double standard Cornelia's case
illustrates. While she was an unnamed illegal immigrant, the only
treatment she received for mental illness was longer periods in lock-up
as punishment for bad behaviour. From the information coming out of
Baxter, the lock-ups led to a worsening of her condition and worse
Yet, magic! As soon as she became an Australian resident she was whisked
away to a teaching hospital, seen by consultant psychiatrists and
medicated. During which leg of her flight from Baxter to Adelaide did she
suddenly gain the basic human right to medical treatment?<br>
Over the years we have heard of immigration detainees being denied access
to psychiatric care, some with horrific mental illnesses and suicidal
tendencies. How many cases like Cornelia's will it take until they
receive the care they deserve, or more importantly, are taken out of
conditions which in themselves lead to mental illnesses?<br>
Another point. It has been the kindness of strangers that has allowed
Cornelia to survive and ultimately be identified. First, the Cape York
Aboriginal community took her in. In the past few months it has been
asylum seekers in Baxter, who agitated on her behalf until the story
appeared in the Herald last week, which led to her identification.<br>
Amanda Vanstone is right. Authorities are in a difficult position when
someone refuses to identify themselves and even gives false aliases.
Luckily, we still live in a country where we are not held down while
information is beaten or drugged out of us.<br>
There are no simple answers, just as there is no simplistic question of
blame or a scapegoat.<br>
But one logical area to address - as the South Australian Premier, Mike
Rann, pointed out - is the lack of co-ordination in our federal system.
When Cornelia was registered as a missing person we had no idea this
information was limited to NSW. We assumed there was a federal register
linked to every police database in the country.<br>
We also assumed she would be automatically picked up if she entered the
prison system, as she did apparently for six months in Brisbane without
being charged with a crime. Also, how did her age, 39, come to be
estimated at only 18?<br>
Our nightmare, which is only just beginning, is that we might get
Cornelia back physically but, through the events of the past 10 months,
the person we love may be lost to us forever.<br>
Chris Rau is a former journalist with The Age. John MacDonald, her
husband, is a reporter with Fairfax Community Newspapers.<br>
<a href="http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/My-sister-lost-her-mind-and-Australia-lost-its-heart/2005/02/06/1107625064599.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/My-sister-lost-her-mind-and-Australia-lost-its-heart/2005/02/06/1107625064599.html</a><br>
SBS World News<br>
7.2.2005. 09:36:39<br>
Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone had defended her department, saying
it was understandable that a mentally ill Australian woman was mistaken
by authorities for an unlawful immigrant during her ten months in
detention. <br>
"Ms Rau clearly had a pre-existing mental condition, but that of
course was not known to everybody else," Ms Vanstone told the Seven
Network. <br>
"My advice is she claimed that she was German, (she) spoke German,
said she was German, said she was a visitor, said she had no friends and
family and had with her a stolen passport," the minister said.
"So, its a pretty fair understanding that both police and
immigration would think this person may be an unlawful citizen."
Cornelia Rau, 39, was reported missing in August last year after leaving
the psychiatric ward of a Sydney hospital on March 17. <br>
The former Qantas flight attendant suffers from schizophrenia. <br>
She is a permanent Australian resident, having come to Australia as a
baby. <br>
An Aboriginal community in far north Queensland found her and reported
her to police in April last year. <br>
Ms Rau spent six months in Brisbane Womens Correctional Centre, where
she told authorities her name was Anna Schmidt <br>
According to Ms Vanstone, an evaluation of Ms Raus mental condition was
carried out in Brisbane which found that "she didnt exhibit
criteria" for a mental illness, that she was behaving oddly but
"not mentally ill." <br>
Ms Rau was transferred to the Baxter immigration detention centre, in
South Australia, in October last year where she was visited by a
psychiatrist, according to Senator Vanstone. <br>
Refugee advocates have alleged Ms Rau was locked in solitary confinement
for up to 20 hours a day at Baxter. <br>
Former Baxter detainee Eric Upton told Channel Nine he had occupied a
cell adjacent to Ms Raus and that she had been subjected to degrading
and humiliating treatment. <br>
When Mr Upton raised his with officers he said he was told: "Its up
to immigration." <br>
South Australias Public Advocate, John Harley, said the case highlights
the deep secrecy surrounding what happens inside Australias detention
centres. <br>
Mr Harley said Ms Raus case also sets a potentially dangerous precedent
for people from non-English speaking backgrounds. <br>
"It must be fearful for anybody that speaks a foreign language in
Australia that might have a mental illness," he said.<br>
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre spokeswoman Pamela Curr said Ms Raus case
was not unique, with many other asylum seekers being refused medical
treatment despite being suicidal and depressed.<br>
"Sure it happened to a blonde, iconic (former) Qantas air
hostess" but its happening everyday to asylum seekers," Ms
Curr told Channel Nine.<br>
Ms Raus family only discovered she was being held at Baxter on February
3 after reading a media report about a mystery German woman being held
Ms Rau was released the following day and has been admitted to Adelaides
Glenside psychiatric hospital, where her sister, Christine, said she
remained in a delusional state.<br>
"She is still insisting her name is Anna Schmidt and that her
passport is in Baxter and that she wants to return to Germany,"
Christine Rau, a journalist with the Age newspaper, said.<br>
"Our greatest fear is that these months of incarceration - any
restrictions on freedom are anathema to (Cornelia) - have irretrievably
tipped her over the edge and well never find her again," Ms Rau
wrote of her sisters case in the Sydney Morning Herald.<br>
An Adelaide lawyer representing three Iranian detainees at Baxter told
the Australian newspaper that Ms Rau would have grounds to sue the
immigration department for false imprisonment and for damages due to the
worsening of her mental health while in custody.<br>
The Prime Minister John Howard told Channel Nine that Senator Vanstone
was "looking at the best way to have a proper inquiry as to how it
He said it was "a very regrettable incident", but declined to
offer an official apology saying he was seeking legal advice.<br>
<a href="http://www9.sbs.com.au/theworldnews/region.php?id=104615&;region=7" eudora="autourl">http://www9.sbs.com.au/theworldnews/region.php?id=104615&region=7</a><br>
The Advertiser<br>
THE state's mental health chief threatened to personally assess Cornelia
Rau's medical state after the Immigration Department resisted his calls
for appropriate evaluation.<br>
Mental Health Services director Jonathan Phillips pushed unsuccessfully
for two weeks for a psychiatric assessment of Ms Rau an Australian
woman who was improperly kept in detention for 10 months. <br>
As condemnation of Ms Rau's treatment grew yesterday, Dr Phillips said he
first demanded federal authorities assess Ms Rau's mental state two weeks
ago almost a fortnight before she was released from Port Augusta's
Baxter Detention Centre. <br>
Department officials resisted his calls for an additional psychiatric
assessment, forcing an angry Dr Phillips to threaten last Thursday to
personally conduct the medical check if it was not done immediately.
But immigration officials transferred Ms Rau, 39, to Port Augusta
Hospital later that day. She was taken to Glenside Hospital the next day
for treatment for schizophrenia. <br>
"I was so concerned on Thursday last week that I made it clear to
the Rural and Remote Mental Health Service that I would do it myself if
necessary," Dr Phillips said. <br>
"I made the point that the assessment had to be done in keeping with
protocol. That is very unusual for me. <br>
"And obviously the person was assessed that afternoon." <br>
Dr Phillips said that based on Ms Rau's behaviour, he was extremely
concerned she was not diagnosed as having a mental illness. The
Immigration Department has said that medical assessments of Ms Rau had
been conducted at Baxter by doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists.
"I am a psychiatrist and that degree of disturbance ... would have
alerted me as a psychiatrist that she would have been likely to have a
psychotic mental illness," Dr Phillips said. "My concern was
apparently the woman had been assessed by people within the Baxter centre
and had been thought to have a personality problem, rather than a
definable psychotic disorder. <br>
"I was not not happy to accept that." <br>
Prime Minister John Howard has ordered an inquiry into the situation,
branding it "unsatisfactory" and "regrettable".
Ms Rau was listed as missing for 10 months after leaving the psychiatric
unit at Sydney's Manly Hospital. <br>
She was released from Baxter on Friday after being held there and at a
Brisbane women's correctional centre since suffering a psychotic episode
in Queensland in April. <br>
She is being treated at Glenside Hospital, where her family says she
remains "completely out of touch with reality" and is
continuing to insist she is a German woman called Anna Schmidt. <br>
Premier Mike Rann yesterday said Ms Rau deserved an apology, while
refugee advocates demanded the resignation of Immigration Minister Amanda
Vanstone. In a written statement, Senator Vanstone said the inquiry would
involve "all aspects of the case" Ms Rau's sister, Christine
Rau, said her family was still concerned for her, despite her treatment
at Glenside. <br>
"She is completely out of touch with reality," she said. <br>
"She is still insisting her name is Anna Schmidt and that her
passport is in Baxter and that she wants to return to Germany. <br>
"We are concerned about her. She is refusing to see us." <br>
Dr Phillips said he wanted assurances that the situation would not be
repeated. <br>
"No matter where a person is, if they are a citizen or non-citizen,
an assessment needs to be timely, thorough and carried out by a person
with the necessary skills," he said. <br>
Refugee advocate Pamela Curr, from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre,
said Ms Rau's situation illustrated that "once people are in Baxter,
they stand outside all human rights, laws and protections". <br>
The Advertiser understands there have been concerns about Ms Rau within
the SA Health Department since early December. A Central Northern
Adelaide Health Service spokesman last night confirmed that her case file
would be reviewed today. <br>
British resident Eric Upton, detained in Baxter after overstaying his
visa, was in a cell next to Ms Rau for three weeks and said he was
appalled at her treatment. Staff, he said, would "laugh at
her". <br>
"They thought it was quite funny," he said.<br>
<a href="http://www.theadvertiser.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,12169682%5E910,00.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.theadvertiser.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,12169682%255E910,00.html</a><br>
4. Cornelia Rau case shows need for independent psychiatrists' Baxter
Project SafeCom Inc.<br>
Media Release <br>
Monday February 7 2005 6:30am WST <br>
For Immediate Release <br>
No Embargoes <br>
"This week, the Minister responsible for asylum seekers and
detainees as well as for Australian Indigenous people, should bow her
head in shame if not in disgrace: it was exactly those two population
groups she is supposed to serve on behalf of Australians, who brought
Cornelia Rau's case out of the secrecy of the government-run dungeons
into the public arena."<br>
First, it was Aboriginal people in Queensland who could spot 'a mile
away' that Cornelia had a mental condition, while detainees in the Baxter
detention centre carried oversize t-shirts that covered up a Cornelia who
took her clothes off when she was let out of her maximum isolation cell
for a few hours each day".<br>
"The statement issued this weekend by Senator Amanda Vanstone for
the Immigration Department, declaring that Cornelia Rau underwent
psychiatric assessment while held in the Brisbane Women's Correctional
Centre and was not suffering a mental illness is an indictment on the
Minister: Cornelia was in the care of DIMIA while this assessment was
"It seems that Indigenous people as well as the long-term detainees,
many of whom are on the verge of a mental breakdown themselves, have more
sense of what constitutes a mental illness than Vanstone's so-called
"The events surrounding Cornelia Rau confirm that the repeated calls
for independent medical access and psychiatric assessments by for example
Dr Louise Newman, spokesperson for the Royal Australian and New Zealand
College of Psychiatrists, assessments made by professionals who are
unencumbered by government interests or the agenda of covering up the
shocking conditions in detention centres such as Baxter that lead to
mental breakdowns in the first place, are sorely needed."<br>
"This government stops the United Nations from having a look-in at
its detention centres. It forbids Amnesty International from
'uncontrolled' visits. It forbids journalists, who serve "the
public's right to know", from freely entering its hell-holes, unless
it can 'sanitize' those visits. Now, the public had another opportunity
of piecing a story together about what shonky affairs go on inside its
detention centres".<br>
"There have been nine deaths as a result of Australia's detention
centre policies in the last couple of years. Dozens of detainees, many of
them Iranians, hover on the verge of mental illness. In December, during
the Iranians' hunger strikes, Dr Louise Newman called Baxter a de facto
psychiatric hospital."<br>
"Time has come for the Minister and the government to hand over the
key of the hell holes to doctors and psychiatrists who are qualified, and
to those who are not interested in cover-ups."<br>
"We may then also find other people we don't know anything about,
such as overseas and Asian students with limited English language skills,
who innocently breached their visa conditions, and who have been thrown
into these dungeons by the Minister, and we would like to know how many
there are, and how long they are there, and in what conditions they are
For more information: Jack H Smit, Project SafeCom Inc. Phone 0417 090
5. The Australian trapped in detention<br>
The Age - EDITORIAL<br>
February 5, 2005<br>
There is a surreal element to the story of Cornelia, an Australian
without identifying papers who was picked up by north Queensland police
and incarcerated for three months in South Australia's Baxter detention
Refugee advocates, who believed the woman was mentally ill, were
concerned at her treatment in Baxter, where she spent most of each day
alone in a high-security section. Their fears have been borne out,
because thanks to a report by Age journalist Andra Jackson, Cornelia has
been identified as an escapee from Manly Psychiatric Hospital in
One of the more bizarre aspects of the story was that the German
consulate had been trying to establish whether she was a German citizen
so that they could intervene on her behalf.<br>
The case illustrates what those who have been campaigning against
Australia's mandatory detention policies have been arguing for years:
that the system is inhumane, strips people of their dignity and ought to
be abandoned.<br>
Other questions remain. Why is it that Baxter officials did not recognise
Cornelia's need for psychiatric help? Refugee advocates say that she
often spoke to herself and would scream at the prospect of being returned
to her room. How is it that officials faced with this behaviour were
unprepared to relax the rule that third parties are not allowed to act on
a detainee's behalf unless requested in writing to do so? Why did it take
so long for her identity to be discovered? Other detainees have had
similar experiences. Cornelia's story is unique only in that, being
Australian, the injustice done to her has been recognised. The story is
better suited to the Russian gulag than Australia; we hope it helps bring
about an end to mandatory detention.<br>
<a href="http://www.theage.com.au/news/Editorial/The-Australian-trapped-in-detention/2005/02/04/1107476802437.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.theage.com.au/news/Editorial/The-Australian-trapped-in-detention/2005/02/04/1107476802437.html</a><br>
6. How many more Cornelia Raus are we mistreating?<br>
Letters to the Editor<br>
The Age<br>
February 7, 2005<br>
The incarceration of Cornelia Rau at the Baxter detention centre in South
Australia (The Age, 5/7) raises complex and disturbing issues not just
about the treatment but also the guardianship of mentally incapacitated
persons in our detention centres.<br>
The fact that Ms Rau is now in the intensive care high-dependency unit of
an Adelaide psychiatric institution under sedation and receiving
intensive therapy raises the question as to why she was not correctly
diagnosed and transferred earlier, regardless of whether she was
Australian or non-Australian.<br>
It further raises questions as to the suitability of immigration
authorities as guardians of mentally incapacitated detainees.<br>
While immigration authorities owe a duty of care to all detainees, the
Migration Act makes provision for the appointment of guardians or
independent persons for "incapable persons". The South
Australian Public Advocate has both jurisdiction and expertise in
relation to the care of mentally incapacitated persons under the
Guardianship and Administration Act. So why was no guardian appointed to
Ms Rau?<br>
Mentally incapacitated persons in the community have guardians appointed
to manage their affairs and act in their best interests. Why would
immigration detainees not have the same entitlements?<br>
This is especially so as immigration authorities are not legally obliged
to act in the best interests of detainees, but to only to administer the
Migration Act, thus raising a fundamental conflict of interest. For
example, the removal from Australia for someone with a chronic mental
illness to a dangerous third country is unlikely to be in their best
interest. They should be independently represented.<br>
Unfortunately Ms Rau's situation is not uncommon. Many detainees are
victims of serious human rights abuses and this combined with the policy
of indefinite and mandatory detention of those arriving without visas
frequently results in detainees suffering from mental illness.<br>
Ms Rau's situation highlights the need for an independent review of the
mental health of all persons in immigration detention, the development of
procedures to ensure that detainees with mental illness receive proper
care in appropriate facilities, and the appointment of independent
guardians for such persons.<br>
Protection of the rights of the most vulnerable should be a fundamental
value - particularly in the "black holes" that are our
detention centres.<br>
<i>Martin Clutterbuck, solicitor, Asylum Seekers Resource Centre<br>
</i><b>Could this be our wake-up call?<br>
</b>How would we know when our society - which has been slowly, perhaps
inexorably, sliding into a state of indifference for the welfare of
fellow human beings - reaches a point of no return, beyond which
tolerance and concern can no longer be remembered? Would an alarm
Would our daily landscape be so filled with episodes of injustice we
wouldn't need the alarm? Or would we return from our trip to the markets
on Saturday morning to read about it in our papers? Would it be
camouflaged as an article about Cornelia Rau, an Australian woman with
schizophrenia who was held in immigration detention for 10 months (The
Age, 5/2)?<br>
If this were a one-off incident, perhaps, perhaps we could agree with
Cornelia Rau's sister who, with generosity fuelled by realising a sister
she thought dead is really alive, kindly suggests a lack of co-ordination
between the police and the Department of Immigration.<br>
But this isn't a one-off. Far from it. It is another in a long list of
events symptomatic of the indifference shown by the Howard Government,
and, through them, the Australian public, to the wellbeing of not just
people from other lands but also our fellow Australians (think of Mamdouh
Habib and David Hicks).<br>
I choose not to believe that our Federal Government sets about to be
evil, but nor am I as generous as Ms Rau's sister. When policies and
practices of a government result in cruel and degrading treatment of men
and women, not once or twice but in a systematic and predictable way,
then there must be in the members of such a government an erosion of
moral principles and confusion about the value of human life.<br>
And in the exposed earth such erosion leaves, dark and terrible things
can be done. If individual members of society refuse to reject such
behaviour, then eventually they and their families will also be at
The road to evil isn't signposted; there will be no alarm.<br>
<i>Stephen Lambert, Richmond<br>
</i><b>Amanda Vanstone plumbs new depths<br>
</b>It is now clear that a permanent resident of Australia has been
incarcerated in a camp meant for punishing refugees. Instead of jailing
the world's poor and suffering, the Commonwealth has traumatised a
vulnerable Australian. In a typically caring response, Senator Vanstone
tells us that Ms Rau "did not meet the criteria for a mental
Rather than confronting our nasty immigration system and its culture of
bureaucratic sadism, Senator Vanstone supplies another empty soundbite.
Honestly, the mealy-mouthed, self-serving cruelty of this Government
continually plumbs new depths.<br>
<i>Damon A. Young, Kew<br>
</i><b>Not just Vanstone<br>
</b>Amanda Vanstone shows no remorse for what she has done, but every
member of the Howard Government - from the most inconspicuous backbencher
up - owns and shares the guilt over this Government's mistreatment of
detainees. The silent backbench best not think that her coarse denial of
culpability absolves them too of blame.<br>
History is littered with figures who failed to speak out against wrong
when given the opportunity - and history judges them poorly.<br>
<i>Shaun Monagle, Mordialloc<br>
</i><b>Incompetence 1<br>
</b>So let me get this straight - the police departments and Department
of Immigration don't communicate well enough to prevent the prolonged
detention of an Australian citizen? For almost an entire year?<br>
After all the millions of dollars spent on both the war against terrorism
and the detention of immigrants, it does make you wonder exactly how much
care, thought and effort is being put into this whole mess.<br>
My heart goes out to both her and her family and I pray we see serious
consequences for those responsible.<br>
<i>Rob Kemp, St Kilda East<br>
</i><b>Incompetence 2<br>
</b>If the Immigration Department is so inept that it cannot determine
the difference between someone who has been brought up in Australia (and
as well happens to know another language) and a person who has lived in
and is a national of another country, how can they be trusted to
determine the nationality of people on the basis of complex language
nuances? It becomes even more incredible that they could be sure
individuals came from Pakistan and not from Afghanistan.<br>
<i>Brigid Arthur, Albert Park<br>
</i><b>Coalition of compassion<br>
</b>In the tragic story of Cornelia Rau and her imprisonment by the
immigration authorities, we Australians should note that two of this
country's most marginalised people - Aboriginal people in Australia's far
north, and fellow detainees in Baxter detention centre - were the ones
who showed her compassion.<br>
And by the way: does Baxter have adequate medical services? Obviously
not, if a woman suffering from a serious mental illness was never
diagnosed as such.<br>
<i>Margaret Banerji, Burwood<br>
</i><b>Latte power<br>
</b>Cornelia Rau and her family can be thankful that there are elitist,
caffe-latte-sipping, chattering-class, bleeding-heart, un-Australian
do-gooders in this country because one thing for sure is that the
average, everyday, ordinary Australians would never have saved her from
her plight.<br>
<i>Mick Stojcevski, Canterbury, NSW<br>
</i><b>Poetic justice<br>
</b>What poetic justice if the tragic incarceration of an Australian
citizen were to bring about an end to mandatory detention. As your
editorial states: "the system is inhumane, strips people of their
dignity (not to speak of their sanity) and ought to be abandoned".
Hear, hear!<br>
<i>Diana Greentree, Highlands<br>
</i><b>A similar story<br>
</b>Cornelia Rau's relatives have my sympathy, as a similar thing
happened to my son who also suffers from schizophrenia. He disappeared
from Mildura where he was fruit-picking and I reported him as missing to
the Victorian police, who sadly were not very interested in the
After a year's anguish, wondering what had happened to my son, the
Salvation Army rang to tell me that he had just been discharged from
prison in Brisbane.<br>
Some time later he went missing again, but having been in prison the
police were able to identify him by his fingerprints when he was involved
in a serious road accident, found unconscious on a highway with no
Civil libertarians may strongly oppose fingerprinting or electronic
tagging - but weigh it up against false imprisonment. I know which option
I would prefer.<br>
<i>Warren Scanlon, Newrybar, NSW<br>
</i><a href="http://www.theage.com.au/letters/index.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.theage.com.au/letters/index.html</a><br>
7. We cannot say sorry, says PM<br>
Sydney Morning Herald<br>
By Mike Seccombe and Andra Jackson<br>
February 7, 2005<br>
The Prime Minister has refused to offer an apology to Cornelia Rau but
has promised an inquiry into her harrowing case: how was this mentally
ill Australian woman mistakenly held as an illegal immigrant in the
Baxter detention centre?<br>
On Saturday, the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, said there would
be no apology for the bungle, despite claims that Ms Rau's condition was
misdiagnosed and she was held for extended periods in solitary
confinement and denied access to psychiatrists.<br>
Senator Vanstone described criticism of officials involved as
"opportunistic in the extreme".<br>
However, after John Howard pronounced himself "unhappy"
yesterday and called the detention of Ms Rau "unsatisfactory",
Senator Vanstone issued another statement, promising an inquiry and
seeking the co-operation of authorities in three states.<br>
But Mr Howard, too, refused to apologise, citing fear of legal action if
he did. Neither he nor Senator Vanstone promised the investigation would
be public or independent of the bureaucracy.<br>
Ms Rau, 39, who is being treated for schizophrenia, was released from
Baxter after the Immigration Department contacted her parents last
Thursday, almost 11 months after she fled from a Manly psychiatric
Ms Rau was found by Aborigines in north Queensland last April. They
handed her over to police, who suspected her to be an illegal immigrant
because she spoke German, and passed her to immigration officials, who
put her in Brisbane women's prison.<br>
From there she was sent to Princess Alexandra Hospital and determined
not to be mentally ill. In October, she was sent to Baxter, where her
case came to the notice of refugee advocates.<br>
Now in Adelaide's Glenside psychiatric hospital, she is refusing to
accept she is Cornelia Rau and insists she is Anna Schmidt.
"Cornelia is still not here mentally even though physically she is
in hospital," said her sister, Chris, backing the call for an
independent inquiry.<br>
It has been alleged she was the only woman held in Baxter's high security
section, and kept in solitary for 18 to 20 hours a day for two months.
Although she often cried, ate dirt and said she wanted to die, she had
been denied independent psychiatrists, allegedly because she was unable
to give written permission to be mentally examined.<br>
Senator Vanstone said: "I'm advised that the woman maintained in
interviews with Immigration that she was a German citizen, recently
arrived in Australia on a temporary visa. She provided details of her
background in Germany, which could not be substantiated by German
Her Opposition counterpart, Laurie Ferguson, said: "If you don't
have any documents and are confused you are automatically an over-stayer
or illegal immigrant ... although this woman is obviously very ill the
department only saw fit to place her in appropriate care once they found
out she was an Australian resident ... Suddenly it is dangerous to speak
a second language in Australia."<br>
The Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, said an independent inquiry should
determine whether it was a unique case or reflected "extremely bad
"It is a terrible story and it does put a question mark in your mind
... what's going on inside the minds of people in the detention centres
that would permit something like this to go on for so long," he told
Channel Seven's Meet The Press.<br>
Max Phillips, of the NSW Refugee Action Coalition, said: "This
monumental stuff-up is the inevitable result of constructing a system of
detention under the Migration Act that is outside the norms of Australian
law and that is deliberately kept away from media and public
<a href="http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/We-cannot-say-sorry-says-PM/2005/02/06/1107625065196.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/We-cannot-say-sorry-says-PM/2005/02/06/1107625065196.html</a><br>
8. 'Aussie was mistreated in Baxter'<br>
The Australian<br>
By Andrew McGarry and Patricia Karvelas<br>
February 07, 2005 <br>
REFUGEE activists have called for the release of video footage of
Cornelia Rau's time in the Baxter Detention Centre, saying it would prove
whether the mentally ill Australian resident had been mistreated by
John Howard said yesterday there would be an inquiry into Ms Rau's case,
but sought legal advice on whether the German-born 39-year-old woman
should receive a formal apology for the 10 months she was detained as a
suspected illegal immigrant. <br>
The former Qantas flight attendant walked out of a psychiatric ward at
Manly Hospital last March, and was found in April in a distressed state
by Aborigines in north Queensland. <br>
They took her to police who could not establish her identity, but on the
basis that she had no documents and was speaking German, they handed her
to immigration officials as an illegal immigrant. <br>
She spent 10 months in detention before being identified last Thursday by
her family from a photograph taken inside Baxter. <br>
Refugee activist Pamela Curr said Ms Rau had been housed in the
management unit and the Red One compound at Baxter. <br>
Ms Curr said both areas had video surveillance and she called on the
Government to release footage relating to allegations of mistreatment,
including that guards had watched her shower. <br>
"There was another report that one day in the compound she was
eating dirt and weeping, and that the guards went up and kicked at her.
They were laughing and kicking at her," she said. A Department of
Immigration spokesman denied the allegation of mistreatment. He said
there were no cameras on individual rooms in any accommodation block, but
there were cameras over the public areas in the compound. <br>
Cornelia's sister, Chris Rau, said her family "were not
interested" in suing the Government, and that her parents did not
want an apology. <br>
Her family had been told Cornelia did not want to see them, since she
still believed her name was Anna Schmidt and that her passport was at
Baxter. <br>
"Perhaps she has been tipped over the edge by this. She's never been
like this before," Ms Rau said. <br>
Mr Howard described Ms Rau's detention as unsatisfactory. "The
Immigration Minister is looking at the best way to have a proper inquiry
as to how it happened," he told the Nine Network. <br>
"Obviously, it's a very regrettable incident." <br>
Labor leader Kim Beazley said any inquiry needed to be independent and to
check whether other cases had occurred. <br>
"It does put a question mark in your mind over the character of the
care and the character of understanding what's going on inside the minds
of people in the detention centres that would permit something like this
to go on for so long," Mr Beazley told the Ten Network. <br>
"There certainly should be an independent inquiry put in place by
the Government as to how this could happen and the extent to which it is
a unique case or if it ... reflects extremely bad practice." <br>
In a statement, Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said she would
receive a full briefing before deciding on the nature of the inquiry and
who would conduct it. <br>
<a href="http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,12170276-2,00.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,12170276-2,00.html</a><br>
9. This could happen to you: warning<br>
The Age<br>
By Andra Jackson<br>
February 7, 2005<br>
Permanent residents face the nightmare of detention if they have no proof
of identity.<br>
Cornelia Rau's nightmare entrapment in the immigration detention system
could easily happen to someone else, refugee advocates have warned.<br>
Pamela Curr, co-ordinator of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in
Melbourne, who tried to help Cornelia, said her fate could befall
Australia residents who could not confirm their identity, whether ill or
It highlights that section 189 of the Immigration Act is open to abuse
with its proviso that "an officer may require a person they
reasonably suspect to be a non-citizen to prove who they are and their
visa's status, and if they don't produce evidence of that, they can then
be detained".<br>
An immigration department spokesman confirmed that someone believed to be
"an unlawful citizen" could be required to produce records of
identity such as passports, birth or marriage certificates.<br>
"If they are not co-operative, it is possible they may be
detained," he said.<br>
According to the 2003 census 950,000 permanent residents who have not
taken out citizenship are potentially in this category.<br>
What Ms Rau's case highlights is that measures meant to prevent someone
simply "disappearing" without trace in Australia do not
A new national missing persons unit operating from Canberra did not have
comprehensive records that included all reported missing cases with state
police. There seemed to be no cross-referencing between state
Perhaps even worse, a story and photograph of the missing Ms Rau ran in
an Adelaide newspaper in November but was not spotted by the Baxter and
Immigration authorities. Lawyers and refugee groups are now asking
whether anyone else is wrongfully "lost" in immigration
The Kafkaesque aspect to the "Anna" case is that for 10 months
alarm bells that were meant to bring about intervention against wrongful
detention and treatment were rung. But those who should have been
listening were not.<br>
Ms Curr details calling the immigration department, Senator Vanstone's
office, the federal Ombudsman office and writing to the Immigration
Detention Advisory group in Canberra in December and January.<br>
The president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of
Surgeons, Helen Newman, the South Australia Health Authority, and QC
Gordon Barrett from the Refugees Advisory Service in South Australia were
all blocked by the department when they tried to get access to
Under the Immigration Act, a detainee has to sign a written request
authorising such interventions and, even with a psychiatrist's
recommendation, the department has final say in whether a detainee
receives hospital treatment.<br>
David Manne, from the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, said he had a
number of detained clients with psychiatric problems who had been refused
independent pro bono psychiatric assessment by a regime in which
medication is administered by non-professionals.<br>
He points out that under the Immigration Act "Anna" was liable
for the cost of her treatment, which he estimates would run at $50,000 to
The department has so far kept quiet on this aspect, perhaps mindful that
Australian compensation cases for wrongful imprisonment have reached
Ms Curr said the whole episode was "a bureaucratic nightmare"
in which "police were very quick to jump to the conclusion that she
is an asylum seeker, so let's lock her up" while all the immigration
department had to do was to go to the missing person's folder.<br>
<a href="http://www.theage.com.au/news/Immigration/This-could-happen-to-you-warning/2005/02/06/1107625064227.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.theage.com.au/news/Immigration/This-could-happen-to-you-warning/2005/02/06/1107625064227.html</a><br>
10. The one death that made us sit up<br>
Sydney Morning Herald<br>
By Alan Ramsey<br>
February 5, 2005<br>
Sean Maher, an American marine, was due home from Iraq on Friday. He died
in an ambush on Wednesday, the 687th day of the US-British occupation.
Maher was shot driving a Humvee near Falluja, in Iraq's north. He was 19.
He was the 1442nd American soldier killed in Iraq and the 1613th to die
among all forces, cajoled or coerced, of what politicians in Washington,
London and Canberra insist on parroting as the coalition of the willing,
like some April Fool's Day joke.<br>
The additional dead since the invasion 22 months ago, according to
Pentagon figures, are 86 Brits and 85 "others" from 14
countries, among them 20 Italians, 17 Ukrainians, 16 Poles, 11 Spaniards,
seven Bulgarians and three Slovaks. Other client countries with troop
deaths are Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia,
Kazakhstan, El Salvador and Thailand.<br>
You rarely read in Australia of this growing toll. You never read an
official figure of how many Iraqis have died. The Americans insist they
do not keep tally, though deaths among Iraqi civilians since the March 20
invasion almost two years ago were estimated last November, by an
Anglo-American science group, to be 100,000. Confirmed US
"wounded" now exceed 15,600 - another figure US newspapers
report is continually fudged, understated or suppressed. What we did read
this week was news of the first Australian killed in action there.<br>
Americans have died, on average, in multiples every day of Iraq's
occupation. However, our media lost interest a long time ago. So did most
Australians. Either we're inured or totally indifferent. One Australian
changed that. One dead Australian - particularly the first - out-rates,
in news value, 1442 dead Americans, 1613 Coalition dead and certainly
100,000 dead Iraqis, even if they are civilians. Either we don't care
about the others or we don't want to know. We do care about Flight
Lieutenant Paul Pardoel. At least, our media's judgement was we care.
News of his death dominated Tuesday's front pages before slipping inside
on Wednesday and vanishing on Thursday, no doubt to our Government's
relief. We want no body bags from Iraq, thank you.<br>
Pardoel wasn't part of Australia's risible military commitment in Iraq,
half of whom aren't even based there. That didn't matter. It was enough
his parents live in Victoria, that he was an RAAF officer until three
years ago and that, with dual Australian/British citizenship, he was
serving in the RAF when he died. Alexander Downer, our clot of a Foreign
Minister, distinguished himself in London by mouthing that most cringing
of political banalities about senseless death: "I want his family to
know, and his friends to know, that he certainly did not die in
Rats. Pardoel's mother said so, too.<br>
In a brave interview, given our Government's hubris about Iraq, Margaret
Pardoel told ABC radio AM's Rachel Carbonell in Melbourne on Tuesday:
"He said, 'Mum, it's very risky in Baghdad. There's nowhere to hide.
It's very, very dangerous.' [His wife] Kelly [in London] was getting very
nervous, but he told her, 'Well, it's coming to an end, it'll be all over
and we'll be back in Canberra and we'll start our new life."'<br>
Carbonell: So what do you think, then, of the security situation in
Pardoel: Well, it's American ... It's very American. He even stayed at
the American base. Very disturbing.<br>
Why is that? - Because I don't like Mr Bush. I don't think this should
have gone on. I think it's just cold-blooded murder. Look at all those
young American boys that have been slaughtered, and there's more and more
happening. I don't like the man ... what he's doing.<br>
Slaughtered, indeed. Two-thirds of all 1442 US deaths in Iraq have been
troops aged under 28, a full third 23 or less. John Howard, in Singapore,
wasn't as crass as his Foreign Minister in London in reacting to
Pardoel's death. "I extend to his parents, and to his wife and other
members of family, my personal sympathy and that of the Australian
people," was all he said. It was more than enough.<br>
Why does Howard think he speaks for the rest of us when somebody dies in
a senseless war about which he lied, quite blatantly, in committing
Australia while pandering to that dangerous twerp in Washington? How
about an apology rather than condolences? What about a bit of grovelling
to all of us for that fabricated twaddle he fed the country - and went on
feeding it - about weapons of mass destruction? Even the Americans have
given up trying to sustain that one.<br>
Then there is Mamdouh Habib. He arrived home a week ago after three years
of military detention in Egypt and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Americans in
the end charged him with nothing and let him go. Our Attorney-General,
Philip Ruddock, one of the Government's hard men, had to concede the day
Habib got back here that "it does not appear likely Mr Habib can be
prosecuted for his alleged activities" under Australian law. Which
raises the question, if the Americans would not charge him and Australia
cannot charge him, why persist in verbal slagging Habib with
"alleged activities"?<br>
Instead, all we get from Ruddock is the slur, as sinister as it is sly:
"Mr Habib remains of interest in a security context because of his
former associations and activities. It would be inappropriate to
elaborate on those issues. Relevant agencies will undertake appropriate
measures. Consistent with long-standing practice, the Government does not
intend to detail the nature of these measures."<br>
What this means, of course, is ASIO and the Federal Police will bug
Habib's phone, watch him day and night and generally hound him until they
lose interest or lose office. That is what Australia has become under the
Howard Government's foreclosure on the rights and civil liberties of
individuals and minorities who come under suspicion and "remain of
interest in a security context".<br>
And what does our recycled Opposition Leader think of Habib's freedom
after being held by the American military for three years without charge?
Kim Beazley told reporters last weekend: "Understand this, we have
no truck with terrorism and we are firm in our resolve to ensure
Australia is free of that threat, under any circumstances. But we also
have principles we believe is [sic] important for us to uphold if we're
going to win this conflict long term. It may produce different views on
the situation of this gentleman. On the one hand, if there is any
association between a person and a terrorist organisation they must
expect to be surveilled, and we would expect that to happen. On the other
hand, if a decision has been taken that a person must be incarcerated,
then charges should be laid. I mean, these are simple propositions. You
don't have to have all of one view or all of another view in connection
with a particular case."<br>
What on earth is he saying?<br>
Beazley always was an on-the-one-hand, on-the-other kind of politician
when you sorted through his forest of words. Nothing has changed.
Principles? Neither Habib in his freedom nor David Hicks, still in the
hands of the Americans who continue to lose in the civil courts in their
illegal attempts to try him before a closed military tribunal, can expect
much "lustre or clarity" (see panel) from the "new"
Beazley Opposition.<br>
However, when it comes to political and public indifference, the story of
the deportation of a Pakistani who sought and was denied political asylum
should shame us all. Reporter Andra Jackson wrote the story in
Melbourne's The Age eight days ago. She told of a woman passenger, Sonia
Chirgwin, who saw two "burly men" drag the struggling man
through a flight's rear door in Sydney. The aircraft was on its way to
Melbourne before returning to Bangkok.<br>
The man was handcuffed, and chained from the handcuffs to a harness
around his waist, with another chain from the harness to shackles around
his legs. "Gaffer tape was wound around his head, covering his
mouth, so tightly as to distort the shape of his face," the woman
passenger was quoted as saying. "He appeared to be in a state of
terror. He was shaking his head a lot. They put a blanket over him and an
eye mask on him during take-off. What I saw was brute force." She
was speaking out, she said, "to increase awareness that this is how
people leave Australia".<br>
The National Party's Peter McGauran, as acting Immigration Minister,
confirmed the story. He told The Age the restraint had been used after
the man had tried to "bite his escorts". The paper published
the story in 12 paragraphs on page two. It got minimal publicity anywhere
else. Nobody seemed to get upset. The Opposition said nothing.
Indifference everywhere seemed monumental.<br>
What are we doing with Australia?<br>
<a href="http://www.smh.com.au/news/Alan-Ramsey/The-one-death-that-made-us-sit-up/2005/02/04/1107476797867.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.smh.com.au/news/Alan-Ramsey/The-one-death-that-made-us-sit-up/2005/02/04/1107476797867.</a><a href="http://www.smh.com.au/news/Alan-Ramsey/The-one-death-that-made-us-sit-up/2005/02/04/1107476797867.html" eudora="autourl">html<br>
11. Howard orders inquiry into Rau case<br>
The Age<br>
By Andra Jackson<br>
February 7, 2005<br>
Prime Minister John Howard yesterday said an inquiry would be held into
how a mentally ill permanent Australian resident came to be held in an
immigration detention centre for 10 months.<br>
He bluntly refused to issue an apology to the woman, Cornelia Rau, or her
family. Her sister, Chris, believes the experience may have worsened
Cornelia's schizophrenia.<br>
Ms Rau's family suffered for 10 months believing she must be dead while
she was in Brisbane's women's prison and then Baxter detention centre as
"a suspected non-citizen".<br>
Mr Howard said her detention was "regrettable" and gave the
reason for not apologising as the need to be cautious in "a
litigious society". He was responding on Channel Nine's Sunday
program to the news that the 39-year-old former Qantas flight attendant
had escaped from a psychiatric hospital and "disappeared" into
immigration detention for 10 months.<br>
Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said an independent inquiry should
determine whether the case was unique.<br>
"It is a terrible story and it does put a question mark in your mind
over the character of the care and the character of understanding what's
going on inside the minds of people in the detention centres that would
permit something like this to go on for so long," he said
Speaking on Channel Ten's Meet The Press, Mr Beazley said Ms Rau could
well have a compensation claim against the Immigration Department.<br>
The Australian Democrats indicated they would seek a judicial inquiry
into her case and a Senate inquiry into mental health services.<br>
"State and federal governments have allowed our prisons and our
detention centres to become the new psychiatric asylums," Democrats
leader Lyn Allison said.<br>
The NSW Refugee Action Coalition has called for a royal commission into
Ms Rau's detention and for Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone to resign
"for allowing such a brutal episode to take place in one of her
detention centres".<br>
Ms Rau escaped from Manly Hospital in March and made her way to Coen in
Northern Queensland where Aborigines, concerned for her welfare, took her
to police.<br>
Queensland police say they were unable to identify her, even though she
was listed as missing with NSW police. They handed her over to
immigration authorities after she gave an alias of "Anna" and
spoke some German, leading them to suspect she was "an illegal
During her detention she was subjected to physical restraint in Brisbane
prison. At Baxter she was isolated for a week and then locked in her room
for 18 hours a day, despite exhibiting highly disturbed behaviour.<br>
After her family found her through an Age article about a German-speaking
woman held in Baxter, she was transferred to Adelaide's Glenside
psychiatric hospital on Friday.<br>
Yesterday, hospital staff told the family she was refusing to accept she
was Cornelia Rau, insisting she was "Anna Schmidt".
"Cornelia is still not here mentally even though physically she is
in hospital," her sister Chris said. She said her parents would
write to Senator Vanstone to convey their feelings about their daughter's
Mr Howard said he did not know how her detention occurred, but considered
the episode unsatisfactory. He said he would talk to Senator Vanstone
today about the case.<br>
Premier Steve Bracks yesterday said Senator Vanstone owed Australians an
explanation for the episode. "She should fully explain what has
happened, what will happen in the future and what remedies will be put in
March 17 <br>
Discharged herself from Manly Hospital where she had been receiving
treatment for schizophrenia.<br>
March 31 <br>
Taken by a group of concerned Aborigines in northern Queensland to police
after being found wandering in a disoriented state.<br>
April 5 <br>
Handed to Immigration authorities and taken to Brisbane Women's
Correctional Centre where she remained for the next six months.<br>
August <br>
Family files a missing person's report with the NSW Police.<br>
Transferred to Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia. <br>
February 3<br>
Family reads a newspaper report about a mystery German woman being held
in Baxter and contacts NSW Police Missing Persons Unit who use a
photograph of the woman held at Baxter to confirm she is Cornelia
February 4 <br>
Cornelia Rau is discharged from Baxter and taken to Glenside Psychiatric
Hospital in Adelaide.<br>
February 6 <br>
Ms Rau remains at the hospital in a delusional state, believing she is a
German woman called Anna Schmidt.<br>
<a href="http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2005/02/06/1107625064851.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2005/02/06/1107625064851.html</a><br>
12. Andrew Bartlett Blog: Human rights in Iran<br>
posted by Andrew Bartlett @ 12:36 AM<br>
Human rights in Iran - how Australia, Europe and the USA are
A little over a week ago I met in my office with an Iranian man who is
currently living in Brisbane. He is a widely published writer on science
issues, and he has also written about the situation many Iranians
currently face at the hands of their Government. He is trying to get
protection from having to return to Iran.<br>
When I was in Baxter detention centre a few days ago, I met with Iranian
writer Ardeshir Gholipour whose situation has received a bit of media
coverage. He seemed a very humble man - maybe even a little embarrassed
by the specific attention he had received and repeatedly stressing that
all the others locked up in Baxter were just as much in need of help as
he. I also met some of the Iranian asylum seekers involved in the hunger
strike prior to Christmas to assure them that many people were still
working hard in support of them. Whilst some of them were clearly
extremely despondent, it is amazing how well many of them are holding up,
given what they have been through and the uncertain future they
There have been many reports of the Iranian Government cracking down on
journalists and internet writers. To quote from this item in the Online
Journalism Review, "in Iran, when reformist bloggers and journalists
fact-check the government they are put in jail and their publications are
So what are some recent actions by other nations about human rights in
Iran? The European Parliament recently passed a resolution denouncing the
continuing human rights abuses in Iran.<br>
The USA Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, gave her views about Iran
during her visit to Europe. She is quoted in the New York Times as saying
"I don't think anybody thinks that the unelected mullahs who run
that regime are a good thing for the Iranian people or for the region. I
think our European allies agree that the Iranian regime's human rights
behaviour and its behaviour toward its own population is something to be
In contrast, two years ago, the Australian Government signed a Memorandum
of Understanding (MOU) with the Iranian Government. The two countries
agreed their "first priority is to work together to promote the
voluntary repatriation of those Iranians currently in detention in
Australia." The MOU also enables non-voluntary deportation of asylum
seekers back to Iran, something which occurred in at least one instance
as recently as last month.<br>
The MOU also established a Work and Holiday Visa scheme for "young
Iranians and Australians to work and holiday in each others'
country." Iranians wishing to make use of this have to gain the
approval of the Iranian Government.<br>
Despite a specific order by the Senate, the Australian Government refused
to release the contents of the MOU - something I expressed annoyance
about at the time.<br>
For once, I wish the Australian Government would share the views of the
USA Administration and stop trying to deport asylum seekers back to a
country whose Government's human rights behaviour and actions towards its
own people is "something to be loathed".<br>
<a href="http://andrewbartlettonline.blogspot.com/2005/02/human-rights-in-iran-how-australia.html" eudora="autourl">http://andrewbartlettonline.blogspot.com/2005/02/human-rights-in-iran-how-australia.html</a><br>
13. Australia: The Sickening Of Democracy <br>
ZNet Commentary<br>
By John Pilger <br>
February 04, 2005 <br>
National myths are usually partly true. In Australia, the myth of an
egalitarian society, or "fair go", has an extraordinary
history. Long before most of the world, Australia had a minimum wage, a
35-hour working week, child benefits and the vote for women. The secret
ballot was invented in Australia. By the 1960s, Australians could boast
the most equitable spread of personal income in the world. Today, these
are forgotten, subversive truths. As schools are ordered to fly the flag
(its British Union Jack still mocking from on high), the maudlin story of
Australian soldiers dying pointlessly for an imperial master at Gallipoli
is elevated, along with barely veiled colonialism and racism.
Self-promoted as a bastion of human rights, Australia has become a
sideshow of their denial and degradation. <br>
Many Australians are aware of this, not least those who filled a small
Sydney theatre on 26 January, "Australia Day", which celebrates
the dispossession of the Aboriginal people by the British in 1770. The
Australian playwright Stephen Sewell's remarkable play Myth, Propaganda
and Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America was showing at the
Stables Theatre. Inspired in part by Franz Kafka's The Trial, it strips
away the democratic facade of Bush's America - "if you want to see
America, look into the eyes of its prisoners", says one of the
principal characters. Rapacious power dressed as democracy, and the fear
and silence of its privileged - notably academics - are Sewell's theme
and one that is rarely discussed in public in Australia. When the
performance ended, a lawyer, Stephen Hopper, stood and spoke. It was as
if a long silence had been shattered. Hopper is the lawyer for Mamdouh
Habib, one of two Australians imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. He described
Habib's suffering and torture, first in Egypt where he was
"rendered" by the Americans after they had kidnapped him in
Pakistan. In a CIA-supported prison in Egypt, he was suspended from the
ceiling with only an electrified barrel to stand on. <br>
"He would stand and get a shock or hang painfully by his arms until
he'd collapse," said Hopper. He was blindfolded and locked in rooms
that were flooded with water and charged with electricity. In Guantanamo
Bay, the guards brought a prostitute who "stood over him naked while
he was strapped to the floor and menstruated on him". Photographs of
Habib's wife and four children were defaced. <br>
"The Americans in their wisdom have taken the heads off the
pictures," said Hopper, "enlarged them and superimposed them
with the heads of animals and then strung them up all over the walls of
the interrogation room. [They said to him]: 'It's a shame we had to kill
your family.'" <br>
We know about these atrocities from the earlier accounts of the British
prisoners. What is different here is that no government calling itself
democratic has so completely collaborated with the Guantanamo regime as
that of John Howard. Stephen Hopper described how an Australian official
stood by as Habib was tortured by the Americans and dragged on to a
plane; there is documented evidence of this. The Australian attorney
general, Philip Ruddock, claims he knew nothing about this. Ruddock has
relentlessly slandered Habib, and the other Australian prisoner, David
Hicks, as terrorist suspects when not a shred of evidence has been
produced. It was only when it seemed the US Supreme Court would examine
his case that Habib was hurriedly sent home. <br>
Gareth Peirce, who represents the Guantanamo Britons, told me: "The
fact that David Hicks is before a military commission is entirely due to
the Australian government doing nothing for him." Even Hicks's
American military lawyer says his "trial", with its vaporous
conspiracy charges, is a travesty. <br>
Yet Ruddock, whose job is to resist the abuse of liberties bestowed by
the law, has allowed a mockery of the judicial process to be used
brutally against Australian citizens. Having placed Habib under constant
surveillance and prevented him from leaving the country, he now is trying
to stop him speaking publicly about the grotesque things done to him.
What is clear is that this squalid politician fears the truth that Habib
is now free to tell. It is a fear faithfully reflected by most of the
Australian media. The Sydney Morning Herald shamefully allowed an Israeli
propagandist, Ted Lapkin, to say that Habib, an innocent man under any
proper legal system, had "paid the price for his actions with
incarceration by American authorities". <br>
A leading "liberal" commentator, Michelle Grattan, has
described Habib, who is clearly damaged by his abuse, as having
"entered the celebrity category", and says he "cannot
reasonably complain about [remaining under watch] by Australian
authorities". It is hardly surprising that, according to Reporters
sans Frontieres, the Australian press rates 41st on the world's press
freedom index, its obsequiousness to power just ahead of autocratic and
totalitarian states. <br>
Like those in Sewell's play, many Australian journalists remain silent
(as do most Australian academics; I can think of only three who speak out
regularly). Some of the most prominent journalists form an adoring court
for a prime minister who has out-Blaired Blair in his rank deceptions and
is out-Bushing his mentor in Washington in his demonstrable contempt for
human rights. Under Howard and Ruddock, Australia has built its own Gulag
in the Pacific, imprisoning behind razor wire Iraqis and others fleeing
dictatorships. These innocent people are held in some of the most
isolated places on earth, including Manus Island and Nauru. They include
children. A Kashmiri refugee, Peter Qasim, has been locked up for nearly
seven years. <br>
The head of a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Louis Joinet, who
has made more than 40 inspections of mandatory detention facilities
around the world, says he had not seen worse abuse of human rights than
in Australia. <br>
The first Australians have experienced this for a long time. Under the
Howard government, support for Aboriginal health and legal services has
diminished. In western New South Wales, the life expectancy for
Aboriginal men is 33; Australia is the only developed country on a United
Nations "shame list" of countries that have not conquered
trachoma, a preventable blindness that affects mostly Aboriginal
children, and is a disease of poverty. Six years ago, I interviewed
Ruddock when he was the federal minister responsible for ensuring that
uppity black Australians did not embarrass the government in the run-up
to the Sydney Olympics. I asked him: "How do you feel receiving
Amnesty reports on human rights violations with 'Australia' written
across the top, such as 'Aborigines are still dying in prison and police
custody at levels that may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment'?" Smiling, he replied: "Why do they use the word
'may'?" The land of fair go deserves better than supercilious
cruelty. <br>
<a href="http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2005-02/04pilger.cfm" eudora="autourl">http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2005-02/04pilger.cfm</a><br>
14. Justice adjourns bid to transfer baxter detainees<br>
Thursday, February 3, 2005. 6:22pm (AEDT)<br>
A lawyer for three Baxter detainees is making a bid in the Federal Court
to get her clients out of the detention centre and into a psychiatric
hospital in Adelaide. <br>
Claire O'Connor says two of the three men are suicidal and their
surroundings at Baxter are only making things worse.<br>
She says the Commonwealth Government has a duty of care and should
immediately transfer her clients to Glenside Hospital.<br>
The Commonwealth is resisting the move, saying the three men will be
examined by a psychiatrist in nine days time.<br>
Justice Paul Finn said he did not have enough evidence before him to make
any decision and has adjourned the application to next Tuesday.<br>
<a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200502/s1295475.htm" eudora="autourl">http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200502/s1295475.htm</a><br>
15. The British illegal immigrants <br>
BBC News | UK<br>
By Tom Geoghegan <br>
BBC News Magazine <br>
British backpackers make up the largest nationality of illegal workers in
Australia. Why? <br>
When British people think of illegal immigrants, they don't usually
consider their own countrymen and women in that light. <br>
But figures from the Australian Immigration department reveal UK citizens
are propping up their labour underworld. Among a total of 51,000 people
who had overstayed their visas at June 2004, 5,500 were from the UK.
The report says: "Many people who are recorded as overstayers are
simply extending their stay in Australia by a few days or weeks, and
leave of their own accord in a short period." <br>
There's a "huge culture" of working illegally, says Conor
McCormick, 33, who spent two years doing just that after his working
holiday visa expired in 1997. <br>
Enjoying himself too much to go back to his native Northern Ireland, he
falsely declared himself a resident on his new tax form and continued
doing agency work and a bar job. When his employers asked for his new
visa, he just made excuses. <br>
"I was surprised how easy it was, it was so simple. What I did
fooled everyone. I had become a resident and no-one questioned that at
all." <br>
There were nervous moments, like being interviewed by police as witness
to a fight in the pub or when friends of his were deported for staying
illegally. And of course, when he finally decided to leave the country.
A few days before his flight home, Conor declared himself to the Darwin
authorities, who interviewed him for 90 minutes. They then issued a new
short-stay visa for Conor to leave the country and gave him a three-year
ban. <br>
"The questioning was far from hostile, they gave me a cup of tea and
asked me why I overstayed. I told them I had met someone, who is now my
wife, and didn't want to go back. They asked me where I worked but never
asked for names or addresses." <br>
Too much fun <br>
Eighteen months after leaving Australia, Conor returned, halfway through
his ban. He says they let him in because he had applied for residency.
Now he's an Australian citizen.<br>
Although his method for staying on even fooled the tax office, most
illegal workers get paid in cash. <br>
Jane, now a 32-year-old teacher in the UK, was forced to leave Australia
due to a bereavement, so by the time she returned, her working visa had
expired and the authorities refused to extend it. <br>
"I got cash-in-hand jobs, in a restaurant, fast food, a sandwich
shop. They didn't know I didn't have a working visa but they didn't ask
"I knew not to go to the larger companies in the city centre, where
they do check, so I went to the corner shops near where I lived. All the
people I knew had working visas but my circumstances were
different." <br>
The main reason for the number of illegal British workers is they're
having far too much fun to leave, says Emily, a legitimate worker at a
backpackers' hostel in Surfers Paradise, Queensland. <br>
"I've found that many backpackers visiting on tourist visas,
especially those who like to drink, simply run out of money long before
they're ready to go back home. <br>
"I also think many underestimate the scale of the country and the
numerous places to see. Cost of travel is not cheap, even with backpacker
or student discounts, and distances are great." <br>
For cash-in-hand workers, there's fruit-picking or labouring on farms,
plus working as "glassies" in bars or waitressing, she says.
"They don't offer great pay, but enough to live off and save a
little. While cash-in-hand jobs are not openly promoted here, it's well
known that they're available." <br>
White faces <br>
So what does this mean for Britain, cast in the unusual role of exporter
of illegal workers?<br>
For a start, we could take this on board and see immigration in a
different light, says Rhian Beynon of the Joint Council for the Welfare
of Immigrants. <br>
"This shows that international immigration is a very natural, normal
and human process. People are moving around the globe for settlement,
travel or work. Hopefully this makes people think differently about what
typical immigrants are." <br>
We should also question whether it's easier for white immigrants, either
in the UK or in Australia, to overstay, says Keith Best of the
Immigration Advisory Service.<br>
The previous home secretary, David Blunkett, reformed a
"racist" immigration policy which had favoured white immigrants
since 1971, Mr Best says, and instead fairly based entry on economic and
social need. But attitudes need to change as well as rules. <br>
"There's a legitimacy that comes with a white face and people tend
not to question these people, but not if you're from Africa or the Indian
subcontinent, where people wrongly regard second or third generations as
immigrants." <br>
The Australian High Commission was unavailable to comment, but the report
said British illegal workers are classed as "low risk" because
they make up a small fraction of their total visas. <br>
Immigration is a huge issue in Australia, where the population has
doubled in the last 50 years. It operates a carefully controlled
migration system, based on a series of quotas - an idea adopted by the
Conservatives in the UK. <br>
[Add your comments to this story using the form below....]<br>
<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4226949.stm" eudora="autourl">http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4226949.stm</a><br>
16. Whitlam minister's sanctuary for Habib<br>
Daily Telegraph<br>
February 3, 2005<br>
A FORMER federal defence minister has befriended freed terror suspect
Mamdouh Habib because he believes he was jailed on "doctored"
CIA intelligence.<br>
William Morrison, who held several ministries in the Whitlam government
including defence in 1975, is leading the charge to clear Habib's
Mr Morrison said yesterday he and the 48-year-old had talked extensively
about Habib's ordeal since his return to Sydney from a US military
But Mr Morrison refused to divulge what the pair had discussed or any
details of Habib's time in prison.<br>
As revealed exclusively in The Daily Telegraph yesterday, Habib used Mr
Morrison's picturesque Palm Beach retreat to relax after three years in
jail in Egypt and Guantanamo Bay.<br>
He said the pair took lengthy walks and spoke about the ordeal during a
weekend-long stay at Mr Morrison's Coasters Retreat home on the edge of
the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.<br>
Mr Morrison said he was still a card carrying ALP member but said, like
the Howard Government, his party was "devoid of principle" and
had failed to take a stand on the jailing of Habib and Australian David
Mr Morrison said that, as a defence and foreign minister and top diplomat
in Jakarta, Washington and Moscow, he had liaised with and seen reports
from ASIO, the CIA, M16 and the now defunct Russian KGB.<br>
"So when it comes to these sorts of things, unfortunately I am only
too well aware of what happens in our glorious intelligence
community," he said.<br>
"There is no such thing as factual intelligence, it's all a question
of interpretation and every piece of intelligence you get is doctored
because people who are putting that out have got a vested interest in
doctoring intelligence to get their point across."<br>
Mr Morrison, 76, said he believed Habib had been hung out to dry and he
would not have been released from Camp X-ray had authorities had any
evidence against him.<br>
"There's been no evidence on [Habib] at all. The Americans would
not, repeat not, have let him go if there was," he said.<br>
Mr Morrison's American-born wife Marty said: "Some people are
anxious to put the name 'terrorist' on him, which is just such a great
As a diplomat, Mr Morrison was twice kicked out of Moscow by the Soviet
Government, the second time because they suspected he was a
When he left the Australian government, he was given the post of
Australian ambassador to Jakarta from 1985 to 1989.<br>
Mr Morrison later become a councillor on Rockdale Council until 1994, and
in 2003 was a recipient of the national Centenary Medal.<br>
He said Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, Foreign Minister Alexander
Downer and Prime Minister John Howard had many questions to answer on the
Habib case, as did the leadership of the ALP.<br>
"I am appalled by the performance of both Australian political
parties, both parties unfortunately," he said.<br>
"I think the Labor Party, the leadership of the Labor Party, has
just let this thing go on without any protest, without any active
Habib has told the Morrisons the only way he managed to survive his years
of imprisonment and torture was through prayer.<br>
"My God got me through," he reportedly told the couple during a
picnic lunch on Sunday.<br>
He also spoke about his return to Australia and what it would mean for
his family, particularly his two girls who this week began school.<br>
His lawyer Stephen Hopper said his client may never talk publicly about
his ordeal as he had developed emotional and psychological problems
during the past three years.<br>
Mr Hopper said getting him a "proper independent assessment"
for his mental condition was his priority.<br>
"We're addressing those, that's a priority for us . . . to get him
well and to make sure he'll be able to function as a normal human
being," Mr Hopper said. <br>
<a href="http://dailytelegraph.news.com.au/story.jsp?sectionid=1260&;storyid=2602201" eudora="autourl">http://dailytelegraph.news.com.au/story.jsp?sectionid=1260&storyid=2602201<br>
-|| This is the Project SafeCom Newsletter - also published<br>
-|| as the RAC-VIC Newsletter (Racvicnews) since July 2004 by
-|| with RAC Victoria, which endorsed that their news service be<br>
-|| managed by Project SafeCom. More information about us below.<br>
-||- RAC VIC information<br>
Refugee Action Collective Victoria meets every Tuesday, 6pm at Trades
Hall, cnr Lygon and Victoria Sts, Carlton, Melbourne VIC. Be sure to be
Phone: (03) 9659-3505 (Trades Hall RAC Office)<br>
Email: refugee-@mail.com<br>
Online archives of this newsletter:
<a href="http://lists.topica.com/lists/racvicnews/read" eudora="autourl">http://lists.topica.com/lists/racvicnews/read</a>
About RAC-VIC: <a href="http://www.rac-vic.org/about.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.rac-vic.org/about.html</a> <br>
RAC Events: <a href="http://www.rac-vic.org/events.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.rac-vic.org/events.html</a> <br>
Background articles: <a href="http://www.rac-vic.org/back.html" eudora="autourl">http://www.rac-vic.org/back.html</a><br>
-||- Project SafeCom info<br>
Online archives of the Weekly News & Updates: <a href="http://lists.topica.com/lists/safecom/read" eudora="autourl">http://lists.topica.com/lists/safecom/read</a> <br>
Project SafeCom has operated a "virtually full-time" operations office since TAMPA. At Project SafeCom, an Incorporated Association in Western Australia, we exist from donations, the sale of some items via our website, and from memberships. You can make a donation by transferring funds to our account at Bendigo Community Bank Kulin, BSB Number 633-000. Account name: Project SafeCom Inc., account 11564 3900, or by sending a cheque or money order to our address below.<br>
P.O. Box 364 - Narrogin WA 6312 - Phone 0417 090 130<br>
The bLog - FIXING AUSTRALIA: <a href="http://www.safecom.org.au/fixing-australia.htm" eudora="autourl">http://www.safecom.org.au/fixing-australia.htm</a> <br>
What's New - this page lists all the new additions to the website - hundreds of pages: <a href="http://www.safecom.org.au/whatsnew.htm" eudora="autourl">http://www.safecom.org.au/whatsnew.htm</a><br>
Project SafeCom events page: <a href="http://www.safecom.org.au/events.htm" eudora="autourl">http://www.safecom.org.au/events.htm</a><br>
The Reading Room: <a href="http://www.safecom.org.au/readings.htm" eudora="autourl">http://www.safecom.org.au/readings.htm</a><br>
The Project SafeCom shop: <a href="http://www.safecom.org.au/products.htm" eudora="autourl">http://www.safecom.org.au/products.htm</a><br>
Our Baxter page: <a href="http://www.safecom.org.au/baxter.htm" eudora="autourl">http://www.safecom.org.au/baxter.htm</a><br>
Project SafeCom's No War position: <a href="http://www.safecom.org.au/no-war.htm" eudora="autourl">http://www.safecom.org.au/no-war.htm</a><br>
. <br>
<font size=2><i>regards</i></font>
<dl><font size=1 color="#800000">
<dd>Jack H Smit
<dd>Project SafeCom Inc.
<dd><a href="http://www.safecom.org.au/" eudora="autourl">http://www.safecom.org.au/</a>
<dd>PO Box 364, Narrogin WA 6312
<dd>Phone 0417 090 130</font>
</dl><font color="#800000"><b><i>Want to read two hundred pages about Australian refugee issues?<br>
</i></b></font>Then visit: <a href="http://www.safecom.org.au/whatsnew.htm" eudora="autourl">http://www.safecom.org.au/whatsnew.</a><a href="http://www.safecom.org.au/whatsnew.htm" eudora="autourl">htm</a> <br>
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