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Thursday, 26 June 2003
Page: 17679

Mr WAKELIN (2:07 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Has the minister any further information on any representations made to him following a lunch at Brighton-le-Sands?

Mr RUDDOCK (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —After this issue was raised yesterday, I said I would follow it up. As I advised the House yesterday, my 60th birthday was in March this year.

Mr Swan —We can't hear you.

Mr RUDDOCK —You are obviously not listening carefully, are you?

An opposition member—He's not speaking up.

The SPEAKER —Order! I have no doubt it would be facilitated if members were silent. I will listen for the minister. If I cannot hear him, I will instruct the radio monitors to do something about it.

Mr RUDDOCK —I did attend a function at the Rimal Restaurant at Brighton-le-Sands on 14 April 2003. It was arranged as a surprise but belated birthday celebration—as I said yesterday, not by Mr Kisrwani. In attendance, as I recall, there were approximately 100 people: a former premier, three bishops, community leaders, a consul-general and a large number, I believe, of both Liberal and Labor supporters. The organisers of the function made it clear that there were no immigration issues to be raised. Again, as I advised the House yesterday, I do not recall any immigration cases being raised with me at the function. My office has confirmed that no matters were brought to it following the function. As with the other matters that the opposition have raised over the last three weeks, their assertions have been, sadly, astray.

Further, I did not instruct any member of my staff to attend a follow-up meeting, nor was there any such meeting involving my staff a week later in the meeting hall of the Lebanese Christian Community in Punch-bowl. I know of no body known as the Lebanese Christian Community. I do know that the Australian Lebanese Christian Federation is located at Punchbowl. This federation is a community settlement service scheme fun-ded body, funded by the department to offer settlement services to the Arabic-speaking community.

For completeness, I should advise the House that I do have representations from the Australian Lebanese Christian Federation, and from time to time they are in touch with my office—as are representatives of most other like bodies. On one occasion, departmental liaison officers from my office have visited the premises of the federation, and that was on 18 February 2003—two months before the birthday function. In discussions with federation representatives on that day, some eight immigration matters were raised with departmental officers. Four related to my intervention powers, in one I have declined to intervene, and three are currently under consideration. None has been acceded to by me—not, as alleged, 25. The other matters were various immigration cases being processed routinely by my department against standard legislative criteria.

While it is clear that that meeting had nothing to do with the function in April, I think it was important to reiterate what I advised the House yesterday. It would not be unusual for me to ask my office, in relation to matters that have been raised with me, to follow up those matters with those who make inquiries. It would not be unusual or unexpected. I think anybody dealing with me or my office would expect that inquiries would be properly dealt with by departmental liaison officers in the office; to do otherwise would be an abrogation of my responsibilities.