:: Monday, 18 July 2005 ::
The Benefit of the Doubt
60 Minutes ran an interview with Cornelia Rau on Sunday night following the Palmer Report into her detention, find that she was incorrectly detained as a German tourist who had overstayed her right to be in Oz when she was in fact a nut Oz resident of German ethnicity wandering far away from her family.
DIMIA took too long to find out that she was not who she said she was. Took too long to find out she was in fact somebody else entirely. And they took too long to sort out just how nuts she was and remains. That she had every right to remain in Oz. And no status at all to warrant her being locked up in immigration detention.
The Palmer report finds fault with DIMIA and quite right too.
But I cannot for the life of me get worked up about her case.
Seems to me Cornelia got the benefit of the doubt - she said she was German tourist and the DIMIA folks believed her.
How is Mandy Vanstone supposed to guarantee no errors by the DIMIA team?
She cannot, neither can John Howard. That is why Mandy need not be sacrificed over Cornelia Rau's incorrect detention and the 20/20 hindsight being played out in the Palmer report.
As it happens while the 60 minutes interview was screening cable teevee was showing an Austin Powers movie.
I was flipping channels but I caught Cornelia explaining:
PETER OVERTON: So, you left Manly hospital on your own accord?
CORNELIA RAU: Yeah.
PETER OVERTON: What was your plan?
CORNELIA RAU: Just to get away from the whole situation and maybe start a new life up in Queensland.
PETER OVERTON: Cornelia headed north, and two weeks later, turned up in the Queensland town of Coen, telling locals she was a German backpacker. She was eventually picked up by police, tipped off about her bizarre behaviour. Not only was she penniless, she also had no identification. Her nightmare had begun. What did you say to them when they asked you, "Who are you?"
CORNELIA RAU: Well, I just said, "What's that to you?" in a way, "because I'm just travelling around Australia, I don't need to identify myself, really, I'm just a traveller to you and what is there I need to say any more?" I just made up a name, you know. I just said the name that's always been repeated in the news.
PETER OVERTON: Which was?
CORNELIA RAU: Anna Brotmeyer.
PETER OVERTON: Believing she was a German tourist who had overstayed her visa, the police took Cornelia into custody and sent her to the Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre at Wacol. Here, immigration officials attempted to confirm her identity. She was to languish in prison for six months.
She had been already telling folks she was Anna Brotmeyer and when asked by authorities who she was she said the same name. h
It was not just "made up". It was her personal identity at the time. On account of how her illness is mental and she has different identities. Why no hard questions about this from the interviewer?
Oh, what would be the point? She is nuts. So I cannot complain about the softball interview.
She is ill. A sad case with a family that must feel awfully responsible for not knowing where she was, for not being able to help her when she was detained.
Anyhoo I was bored with the soft focus approach to Cornelia so I flipped back to Austin Powers to catch Dr Evil describing himself:
"..very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with a low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds - pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe.
Try telling that to a DIMIA officer and you'll find yourself locked up no question.
DIMIA took Cornelia at her word. That was not their error. Validating her professed identity or finding out that it could not be validated and doing it so damned slowly. That was their mistake.
Giving her the benefit of the doubt was not wrong.
She deserves her apology from the PM. But that is all. The whole thing is just awful. But for the life of me I cannot get worked up over having Mandy Vanstone resign.
20/20 hindsight applied to DIMIA is pretty harsh given all the cases they deal with and all the effort they go to to be accurate about detention.
:: WB 4:15 am [link+] ::