There’s something rotten in Immigration, Mike Steketee writes in today’s Australian:

The Palmer report unravels a story as frightening as a plot
from Kafka about Cornelia Rau’s ten-month journey through jail, although
she had committed no crime, and immigration detention, despite being an
Australian resident.

But it does more than that. The ramifications of its findings about
government abuse of power are profound and long-lasting. At least they
should be, unless John Howard is allowed to escape by managing them
away as a short-term political problem…

Good timing, with the release this morning of the Whang children and
their mother from Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre. Their lawyer
claims they were not in Australia illegally. “They’ve been in detention
for four months so the Department’s had many opportunities to review
their file,” she told the ABC. “It appears that they only realised within the past couple of days that there had been an administrative error.”

An Immigration spokesman says the children were put into detention
because their mother requested she be reunited with them before being
deported – yet 11-year-old Ian Whang has been acting as her
interpreter? Heavy handed? What was that Mick Palmer said about
Immigration’s “exceptional, even extraordinary powers” to lock people
up? “That they should be permitted and expected to do so without
adequate training, without proper management and oversight, with poor
information systems and with no genuine checks and balances on the
exercises of these powers is of great concern”

Palmer made his findings
within incredibly narrow terms of reference. He was only initially
asked to investigate one matter, the case of Cornelia Rau. He was not
free to look at the government’s overall policy directions and how it
has created the DIMIA culture he warned about. Also, he conducted a
closed-door inquiry and there were no opportunities to cross examine
witnesses. Yet DIMIA disasters seem to keep trickling out.

The full story of what happened with the Whangs and their mother is not
yet clear – but surely it’s time for a royal commission into
Immigration.

Peter Fray

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