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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2058

Senator VANSTONE —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Justice. It follows his hopeless answers to my questions last week. I will give him another go. Was a paper under the name of the AFP entitled `Italian Organised Crime in Australia' prepared for presentation by Commander McDonald at the FBI convened conference on organised crime in Florida in 1990? I ask him whether the text of that paper included the remark:

There is little doubt that Italian crime syndicates have penetrated a number of government and non-government agencies and at least one political party in Australia?

At what level in the AFP was that paper cleared for delivery and was the minister offered and/or given a copy of the report? What efforts specifically has his department made to assist in the fight against organised crime by properly vetting entry of known criminals into Australia? Is he and is the Minister for Justice satisfied with the current vetting system?

Senator BOLKUS —I did not get the full impact of the second part of Senator Vanstone's question. I can say with respect to the first part that she referred to matters that are some four years old, I believe, and I will get information for her in respect of those inquiries. With respect to the second part: the cooperation between my department, the AFP and other arms of the government when it comes to security and law enforcement is very strong and ongoing.

  This is a matter that has been canvassed previously in this place and in committees. We work very closely with the police and other relevant agencies to ensure that when we do make character checks on people who apply to come to Australia for permanent residence those character checks can draw on the resources of our police security organisations as well as those international links that we do have. For instance, it has been only in the last few months that I have had the opportunity to assess a couple of cases of people who have been involved with the Japanese Yakuza organisation. I have been able to withdraw visas that had previously been given to those people. This has come about because of the close and ongoing links that we have with and through the AFP. I think that covers the second part of Senator Vanstone's question. I will take the first part of the question on notice.

Senator VANSTONE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for finally undertaking to get an answer to the question. When he answers those specific questions, will he also answer the elements of that question put to him last week, namely, what action did his government take on the report? If it took none, how did it justify taking none? What facts did it have in mind that would justify ignoring such an AFP report?

  As to the matter of the vetting system organised by his department, he did not answer whether he was satisfied with it. I repeat the question: is he satisfied with the vetting system? Is it true that 40 members of the Italian organised crime syndicate N'drangheta have visited Australia in the last 10 years, during the term of his government, and that as recently as last year one of the leading cell members visited Australia? These people seemed to move in and out freely without any concern being expressed by the department of immigration.

Senator BOLKUS —It is very easy for Senator Vanstone to draw long bows and that is what she has done again. With respect to the first part of the question, which related to previously asked questions, I canvassed the questions that were asked. I also made point of the fact that the reports that she referred to were organisational and those reports do not come to government. I made that very clear.

Senator Vanstone —This was at an international conference.

Senator BOLKUS —Just listen for a second, Senator. Does the honourable senator want an answer or not?

Senator Vanstone —Yes, I would like an answer, not babble.

Senator BOLKUS —If the honourable senator keeps quiet, she might get one. In respect of the whole issue of Mafia related N'drangheta organised crime, the government has sent a reference to the NCA. All other governments in Australia have been part of sending that reference to the NCA. That is direct action that the government has taken in respect of this particular problem. There has been not one reference that any government in Australia has wanted to send to the NCA in respect of organised crime that we as a government have stopped.

  In respect of the last point, I have discussed the operational aspects of our involvement with our police forces and, through them, with other police forces throughout the world. I am satisfied that we are doing as much as we can. Senator Vanstone raised those specific problems. I do not know where she got the figures from but I will go back to my department and get a check on them for her. Let me say once again, we have had this particular point tested in this place. The degree of cooperation and the links between Immigration and AFP are very strong, as they have to be in our national interest. That is a point the government recognises and will always be committed to.