Senator Amanda Vanstone  Senator Amanda Vanstone
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 MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND MULTICULTURAL AND INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS
Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

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Report of Palmer Inquiry into Cornelia Rau Matter

VPS 087/2005

Introduction

The Government welcomes Mr Palmer’s Report, and thanks him for his work. I have today tabled the Report in Parliament and am releasing the full report publicly.

The Report provides an independent and thorough analysis of the matters related to Ms Rau’s immigration detention.

Mr Palmer finds that mistakes were made. The Government acknowledges these mistakes and accepts that changes need to be made within the Department.

Mr Palmer has identified systemic weaknesses in DIMIA which contributed to the length of Ms Rau’s detention, the failure to establish her identity and meet her mental health needs.

On his preliminary analysis of Ms Vivian Solon’s case, he finds that the same systemic problems are involved. The Government regrets that DIMIA systems have failed in these cases.

The Government apologises to Ms Rau and Ms Solon for the treatment they received. The Government will provide ex gratia assistance, including health support, to both Ms Rau and Ms Solon to enable them to re-establish themselves in the community.

The Government will strengthen the role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman in relation to immigration and detention matters, with the Ombudsman to be designated the Immigration Ombudsman in the same way he performs the role of the Taxation Ombudsman. Additional resources will be provided to support his enhanced role.

Lessons to be learned

The Government accepts the thrust of the findings and recommendations of the Report.

Mr Palmer acknowledges changes have already been made to improve DIMIA processes and systems. Particularly:

I outlined these changes in detail in statements on 26 February and 25 May 2005. These are attached.

However, Mr Palmer recommends, and the Government accepts, the need for a wider re-thinking of the way DIMIA handles its responsibilities in relation to compliance and detention.

To address the DIMIA system and process failures identified by Mr Palmer, he recommends three key areas for improvement:

Case Management

Mr Palmer recommends the need for new systems for active case management across DIMIA for all immigration detention cases. This will result in organisational change and further investment to improve current IT systems and case management practices.

Contract Management

Mr Palmer found that the current contract structure creates inflexibility, contributes to the lack of effective case management and impedes the achievement of the outcomes sought by Government. This needs to be addressed.

Training

Mr Palmer has recommended that training of compliance and detention staff needs to be improved, with a particular focus on:

Implementation

The Government is committed to the immediate implementation of Mr Palmer’s recommendations. This will include:

In addition, the Government will seek:

To drive the necessary organisational reforms in DIMIA, new appointments have been made to the Department’s executive. The new Secretary will also appoint a change management taskforce to support him. A separate press release from the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet outlines these changes.

The new Secretary of DIMIA will provide a full implementation plan, including timetable and costings, to me by September 2005. This will be tabled in Parliament. A further implementation report will be tabled in Parliament in September 2006.

The Prime Minister will write to Premiers and Chief Ministers seeking their cooperation on implementing recommendations in the report that are relevant to state and territory responsibilities.

Other cases referred to Mr Palmer and Mr Comrie

Consistent with the Government’s decision that the Ombudsman should have a strengthened role in immigration and detention matters, the Government is requesting the Ombudsman to complete under the Ombudsman Act 1976 the investigations into Ms Solon’s case and the other 200 cases which were referred to Mr Palmer and Mr Comrie by the Hon Peter McGauran MP as acting Minister. In accordance with Mr Palmer’s recommendations, the Government is also requesting that the Ombudsman have Mr Comrie continue to lead the work on Ms Solon’s case under the Ombudsman’s legislative authority.

A strong DIMIA

In releasing this Report, I am conscious that I need to acknowledge the professionalism and dedication of DIMIA staff. Mr Palmer formed the view during his investigations that there is “considerable evidence of highly committed DIMIA staff”. I strongly endorse this view.

I know I can rely on the Department, its staff and its new Secretary to respond to the challenges identified by Mr Palmer. The implementation of Mr Palmer’s recommendations will ensure an even stronger DIMIA serving the Australian community.

A PDF of the Palmer Report is available at http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media_releases/media05/palmer-report.pdf (1.16MB PDF file)

14 July 2005


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Last update: 14 July 2005 at 15:05 AEST