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Aust. Govt still not compensating Cornelia Rau

Minister confirms government still can't agree on compensation for Cornelia Rau

In Senate question time today Immigration Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone confirmed that the government has not paid one cent in compensation to Cornelia Rau and in the meantime she is living on benefits from the Department of Family and Community Services.

"The Minister could offer no explanation as to why, after more than a year, the government paid one cent in compensation," Senator Nettle said.

"This government was happy to pay Trevor Flugge nearly $1million for his 9 months in Iraq but is clearly reluctant to show similar generosity to Ms whom they wrongly imprisoned for 10 months.

"The Minister has dealt with compensation arrangements for Vivian Solon but that experience has apparently not equipped the her to deal quickly and fairly with compensation for Cornelia Rau.

"It shouldn't require Senators to put public pressure on the government to quickly and fairly resolve compensation for Ms Rau."

Question:
NETTLE, Senator Kerry, New South Wales 2.30 pm Nettle, Sen Kerry
South Wales Senator NETTLE (2.30 pm)-My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Vanstone. Minister, it is now over a year since Cornelia Rau was found suffering untreated schizophrenia in Baxter detention centre. The Prime Minister has said: Both Cornelia Rau and Mrs Alvarez are owed apologies for their treatment, and on behalf of the government I give those apologies to both of those women who were the victims of mistakes by the department. Is it correct, Minister, that Cornelia Rau has yet to receive one cent of compensation for her detention and is instead left to survive on sickness benefits? Do you consider this to be acceptable treatment for an innocent woman who was so badly treated by your department? Why has it taken so long and what are you going to do about it?

ANSWER OVERLEAF

VANSTONE, Senator Amanda Eloise, South Australia Vanstone, Sen
Amanda South Australia LP Minister for Immigration and Multicultural
Affairs1Senator VANSTONE-I thank the senator for the question. Some senators may have seen some coverage given to this matter recently, alleging that no money had been paid-not saying by way of compensation, but saying that no money had been paid. Those statements were incorrect.

An amount of just under $8,000 had been paid, but that related primarilyto travel expenses for legal advice. The advice I have in relation to this matter is that Families, CommunityServices and Indigenous Affairs are dealing with the short-term needs of Ms Rau and that a question in relation to those short-term needs should be directed to that minister. The compensation issue is being dealt with, as is normally the case, by the Australian Government olicitor. So questions in that regard could go to the Attorney-General but as we are the client they should probably stay with me.

The most recent advice I have on this matter is that parties are looking to get a negotiated settlement of this matter. That will be much quicker than court proceedings and would be, I think, in everybody's interest.

It is not that I am opposed to lawyers but I am sure it will provide less money to the lawyers and be more efficient. However, there are some issues to be resolved before all parties can come to such an agreement.

Those issues pertain to whether other parties that might subsequently be pursued would agree, because if I am properly advised at this point, if we make an agreed settlement and action is then taken against other parties, they make seek to join the Commonwealth, so the Commonwealth would not be finished with the matter. We are trying to get to a point where all parties can come together, agree and resolve the matter.

It does seem to be taking some time. I have to say that I do not agree with everything that you said, Senator Nettle, in the introduction to your question, but it is quite common for you and I to disagree about what you say, so I do not put too much emphasis on that. But I am sure it is in everybody's interest, and in particular in Ms Rau's interest, for this matter to be brought to a final conclusion-not that there is a final conclusion for the Commonwealth and then some other issue is started up. She can then get on with her life and put this matter behind her. She cannot do that until we can get to a negotiated solution that all parties can agree is the solution.

NETTLE, Senator Kerry, New South Wales Nettle, Sen Kerry New South
Wales Senator NETTLE-Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for her answer. My concern relates to the six months that it took for that process of negotiation to occur in Vivian Solon's case, with disagreements about compensation and arbitration. Can the minister guarantee that Cornelia Rau will not have to take the Commonwealth to court and fight the government in order to get adequate compensation for her detention?

VANSTONE, Senator Amanda Eloise, South Australia Vanstone, Sen
Amanda South Australia LP Minister for Immigration and Multicultural
Affairs Senator VANSTONE-Sometimes Senator Nettle can't help herself.
The answer was pretty clear: the Commonwealth thinks it is better not to have litigation. Obviously, the Commonwealth thinks it is better not to have litigation. The senator made reference to some time period in relation to Ms Solon. I make the point with respect to Ms Solon that the government very quickly sent a Centrelink social worker to the Philippines. I can see no reason-I could not then and cannot now-why Ms Solon was not brought back to Australia earlier and why we could not then have proceeded to have a negotiated settlement, which is what is under way in relation to that matter. But I think the questions in relation to that are best addressed to her lawyers. At the time they issued a press release saying that I was delaying, when I was in fact not the negotiator-in this case it was Family and Community Services-which indicated to me that they were not quite sure what was going on. (Time expired)

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