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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Friday, July 15, 2005

The Palmer report

The release yesterday of the Palmer report into Australia's Immigration Department was a depressing affair. Minister Amanda Vanstone may argue that her department "gets it right most of the time", but a long list of damaged refugees would disagree.

The Sydney Morning Herald's David Marr neatly summarises Palmer's findings. The Immigration Department, writes Palmer, operates "a culture in which detention of suspected unlawful non-citizens is the paramount consideration." Furthermore, "a culture of denial and self-justification that the inquiry found to be at the heart of the problem. Rigid, narrow thinking stymies initiative and limits the ability to deal successfully with new and complex situations."

Christine Rau, sister of wrongly imprisoned Cornelia Rau, writes of profound anger and shock but also hope that a dysfunctional Immigration Department will be restructured:

"I hope that Cornelia's and Vivian's legacy will be for us as a society to take a long, hard look at our immigration detention policies and explore humane alternatives. Surely this can be done without exploiting people's fear of being overrun by hordes of 'others'."

A permanent stain on Australia lives and breathes through our government's inhumane policies. Let history judge them harshly.


Anonymous michael said...

I sure wish the corporate media would stop treating Christine Rau as if she were Cornelia's appointed spokesperson. She's not even her official guardian and the fact that none of the Rau family are indicates that the family and Cornelia are not in agreement over how she should be treated.

I don't know what the internal family dynamics are, but Cornelia made it plain that she didn't want to speak to family members after she had escaped from the locked ward they sent her to, been missing for many months then turned up at Baxter - only to be promptly returned to a mental hospital. After Cornelia gave her first press conference Christine was quick to delegitimise what she had said by suggesting that it revealed that she 'urgently needed treatment' rather than revealing what Cornelia wanted to say.

Christine consistently returns the focus to the abuses perpetrated by DIMIA and ignores the abuses of the mental health system that seem to have most concerned her sister.

This is pretty typical of family relationships affected by long term serious mental illness. Carers eventually become burned out and locked in bitter conflict with the sufferer. Eventually the family passes its unmanagable responsibilities onto institutions then wilfully blinds itself to the shortcomings of those institutions so as to absolve itself from any abuse they perpetrate on the sufferer.

That's what makes carers groups so easy to capture by the mental health industry - especially the drug companies. You will find that all Australian mental health carers groups receive significant funding from the companies that make the pills used to keep their family members quietly institutionalised.

Christine's comment about "discarding them onto the streets and into the jails because they are not quite acute enough to warrant proper treatment" is typical of a carer captured by the mental health industry. The fact is that there is no 'proper' treatment for schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medications can suppress some symptoms at the cost of often serious short term and long term side effects but are of benefit to only a tiny minority of sufferers. The people they do benefit are those who find it easier to run a locked ward with all the patients bombed to the eyeballs and - of course - drug company shareholders.

Christine Rau is just another Fairfax hack. She has nothing particularly insightful to say about the immigration detention system and nothing but apologia to offer on the mental health industry. She does not seem privy to Cornelia's views of how she was treated and certainly does not speak for her. Its about time she was allowed to settle back to her own level of journalistic competence.

Friday, July 15, 2005 12:40:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Michael, fair enough. Hadn't really thought of the issue in this way, but will take your comments on board.

Friday, July 15, 2005 12:51:00 pm  
Blogger weezil said...

Ant, there's very little that's 'fair enough' about attacking Chris Rau's journalism skills when a fully broken system of immigration detention is the issue- not Chris Rau.

And BTW, Chris Rau is a damned competent writer, whether she is Cornelia's 'official spokesperson' or not.

Chris is Cornelia's sister- which gives her all the right in the world to comment on the torture DIMIA inflicted on Cornelia.

Ant, all I can figure is that your blood caffeine level musta been down when Michael commented... ;)


Friday, July 15, 2005 2:23:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I hear you. The real issue, of course, is DIMIA. No issues there.
Btw, I don't drink coffee. Or any caffeine at all.

Friday, July 15, 2005 2:55:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No caffeine? What are you, Mormon or something?

Friday, July 15, 2005 4:45:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Er, no. Just don't like the taste of any drinks with caffeine. No political statement, just my tastebuds.

Friday, July 15, 2005 4:59:00 pm  
Anonymous michael said...

Jeez Weezil, Chris Rau's journalism skills were about the only thing I didn't attack (unless you are suggesting that all of her recent coverage is merit based). Is excess caffeine the excuse for your reading skills?

What I attacked, primarily, was the media seeking her two cents worth at every turn of Cornelia's story when she is clearly not in agreement (or in touch) with Cornelia's views on the issue.

My secondary target is Christine's way of playing to her reflected celebrity - which includes trying to delegitimise Cornelia's own stated opinions in favour of her own spin.

Beyond mouthing empty truisms, perhaps you would like to explain exactly why sharing parents (and working for Fairfax) automatically gives someone the right to speak on behalf of someone who refuses to talk to her and who is perfectly capable of speaking for herself.

And the immigration system is a major problem that should be addressed on its own (lack of) merits - not by using a mentally ill person as a means to that end. Whether you're a dog whistling politician or a dedicated refugee activist, using vulnerable people to flog your own agenda while ignoring their stated concerns is immoral. If you actually aspire to help people, its also counterproductive.

Friday, July 15, 2005 10:29:00 pm  

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