The Principal Solicitor of the National Justice Project, George Newhouse today was dismayed by media reports that two Australian citizens were mistakenly detained and sent to the Christmas Island detention centre several months ago.

The reports came with the news that the head of the Australian Border Force, Roman Quaedvlieg had gone on leave.

Quaedvlieg who earns $731,000 a year, was appointed inaugural commissioner of Border Force and his stewardship has attracted controversy, most notably a bungled operation to check the visas of “any individual we cross paths with” on Melbourne streets in August 2015, which was cancelled after mass protests.

“I was the lawyer for Cornelia Rau, who was wrongfully detained in Baxter Detention Centre for 10 months and for Vivian Solon, an Australian citizen who was thrown out of her own country by the Howard Government. I have seen lives destroyed by bungling in the Department of Immigration” said Prof. Newhouse.

“Over a decade ago I criticised the Department of Immigration for acting like a bunch of cowboys because of their failure to implement due process and to make proper investigations – all because they were under pressure to deport people and please their political masters.”

“After the Rau and Solon cases the Howard Government set up an Inquiry run by Federal Police Chief Mick Palmer. The recommendations from that Inquiry went some way to address the Cowboy Culture in the department but they were subsequently rolled back by the Abbott Government,” he noted.

“It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest if the Turnbull Government and Peter Dutton are going back to those bad old days.”

“I don’t know the details of these two new cases”, he continued, “But whoever they are and whatever they are alleged to have done, they are Australian citizens. To wrongfully detain two citizens on Christmas Island is a worrying sign that the department that may be out of control once again.”

“Questions need to be asked about who made the decision to detain and remove these individuals? Was the minister involved?”
Jane Salmon