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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 6028


Mr SIMPKINS (7:05 PM) —This motion is about the exercising of the discretion of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship in relation to individual immigration cases. This issue is very important because the exercising of ministerial discretion and intervention in the cases of individuals whose circumstances fall outside the letter of the law allows a minister to take a humane and compassionate approach in such cases. It is the reality, and a necessary reality at that, that it is up to the government to decide who comes to this country; it is not up to the unelected courts. That is why we have laws that allow the immigration minister to take action and allow a person to be granted a visa, even when the Migration Review Tribunal or the Refugee Review Tribunal has already decided otherwise.

As the member for Cowan, I see a lot of success stories that have arisen from the successful migration of those who have embraced the values and the institutions of our society. I see whole communities, such as the Vietnamese in Cowan, who greatly appreciate the freedoms and the opportunities that Australia allows them. Also in Cowan, the great heritage of Italian migration is evident across the electorate in the businesses, the history and even the resulting road signs that commemorate that heritage. The Italians and the Vietnamese are examples of the success of our immigration system, yet it is the case that such success was achieved under a system of immigration whose integrity was maintained through the policies of the former coalition government. While I am concerned that the same systemic integrity is now being eroded by the Rudd government, this matter is about individual cases that fall outside the anticipations of law. This matter is about the ordinary men, women and children whose cases do not fit the template and guidelines that exist.

It is a good opportunity to raise one of these cases. It may just be a name on a form residing within the bureaucracy; it may just be a name and another case on a letter in the minister’s office. But this is a big issue for that person, their family and their friends. I speak on behalf of John Gagliardo, one such case where a man and his family and a lot of friends are in need of ministerial intervention and the granting of residency. John Gagliardo is a citizen of the United States. He first visited Australia in 1982 as a tourist. He returned in 1984, was employed on a mine site and chose not to leave Australia when his visa expired. Of course I do not condone that action, but the case of John Gagliardo is a case where one man, although doing the wrong thing almost 25 years ago, has nevertheless added great value to this country since then. John Gagliardo worked through till his 70s, when he retired to Fremantle. He paid taxes but did not claim through Medicare or other benefits. Since his retirement, he has lived from his savings and from the proceeds of a United States pension.

John has been a giver to this country and never a taker; economically, he has added value to Australia and never been a burden. Beyond the economics of his case, there has been a social side to John Gagliardo’s life. His younger sister Leona and her husband Edward are my constituents. Leona has told me how much John is part of not only her life but also the lives of her children and grandchildren. I have seen the family photos and heard the accounts and strong endorsements from John’s friends about the part he plays in their lives. In 2006, after a doctor’s visit and being unable to provide a Medicare card, John Gagliardo came to the attention of the department of immigration. His application to stay was first rejected by the department and then rejected by the MRT. There is just one final chance for John, and that is the intervention of the minister. So here is a good example of where the minister can do the right thing and exercise his power for an individual, his family and a great many friends.

In looking at the guidelines for the exercising of ministerial powers, I clearly see the strong compassionate circumstances of damaging a close-knit Australian family. I also see grounds to allow John Gagliardo to stay based upon the time he spent in Australia and, by all reports, adding great value with his presence. Finally, I see that to repatriate him, after 25 years, to the United States, a country he rejected in favour of Australia, would not be compassionate based upon the harm and hardship it would cause to him. I reiterate that the exercising of these powers by the minister is important, and, in my view, he should do so in the case of John Gagliardo. The minister has acted a great many times in the last 18 months—over a thousand times—and, although the manner in which ministerial intervention occurred in certain cases under the former Labor government is questionable, this is a great example of where it should be exercised for the right sort of person who has always had the right sort of values but has made just one mistake.