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Wednesday, 13 August 2003
Page: 13578


Senator BOLKUS (6:52 PM) —I seek leave to make personal explanations with respect to two different migration matters.

Leave granted.


Senator BOLKUS —On 8 March 2003 the West Australian newspaper, under the headline `Brutal rapist stays here', claimed that the department of immigration wanted to deport a Colombian man who had been found guilty of rape and abduction in 1988, and it said:

But Labor immigration minister Nick Bolkus decided not to deport him unless he committed another crime.

The crikey.com web site, in their own peculiar manner, compounded these allegations— adding, of course, their colourful interpretive language—when on 26 March 2003 they reported:

Bolkus decided that, following the horror abduction and repeated rape of a young Perth woman by a Colombian citizen, the criminal responsible did not deserve to be deported.

They went on to say:

Senator Bolkus decided not to deport him unless he committed another crime.

And in the last paragraph of their article they said:

Mr Ruddock's spokesman Steve Ingram said the minister looked at deporting the man in late 2001, however he had legal advice that assurances given to the man by Senator Bolkus prevented him doing so.

As a consequence of those articles, and given the fact that I had absolutely no recollection of being involved in these matters, I sought from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs the documents to which I had access as minister in respect of this case. I received a reply from the secretary of the department, Mr W. J. Farmer, on 28 April 2003 in which he says:

Thank you for your letter of 31 March with regard to the recent article that appeared in the Internet site crikey.com.au. The article refers to an instance in which, as the then Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, you had allegedly decided against deportation of a convicted criminal.

Having now reviewed the relevant files relating to the case cited in the crikey article—

and I must say also in respect of the West Australian article—

I can advise that on that occasion the decision to which the article alludes was taken by a departmental officer. I can find no evidence to suggest your personal involvement in this matter. I trust that this information is of assistance.

Yours sincerely

W. J. Farmer.

So I think in that respect my recollection was substantiated by departmental records.

Over the last few days there has also been some quite sensational reporting in the media, in Melbourne and Adelaide, with respect to an application by Mr John Ng for a temporary entry visa in 1996. In the Melbourne Herald Sun of the 12th of this month there was the hysterical headline `Controversial decision revealed: Bolkus gave killer a visa'. The article follows on from that to say in the first paragraph:

... Bolkus personally intervened to allow a convicted killer into the country despite three earlier rejections by the Immigration Department.

It went on to say:

... Bolkus ... gave him—

Mr Ng—

the ministerial tick of approval for temporary residency in Australia in 1996.

Later on the article says:

As immigration minister from 1993-96, Senator Bolkus had the power to intervene in visa cases.

In Adelaide there have been a series of articles in the Messenger, and I must say they have been a bit more careful in their language. And in today's Advertiser, under the headline `Panel to pursue Bolkus over visa for killer', there was the following assertion:

South Australian Senator Nick Bolkus' decision to grant a visa to a convicted killer will be investigated by a Senate committee.

They go on to say:

The former Labor immigration minister approved temporary residency for Kong-Shan “John” Ng in 1996 ...

Once again I have sought from the department documents to which I had access in respect of this decision. I have been advised this afternoon by the relevant departmental officer that (1) there are no documents that came to me as minister in respect of Mr Ng's application; (2) the decision was taken by a departmental officer, and the department advised me; and (3) there was no instruction from the minister in this case.

I did not have a legal right to interfere in this type of case. I had no discretion which could have been or was in fact used or exercised. It is not unusual for the department to inform or to advise the minister of its intention or decision, particularly where you have a potentially controversial case that has been dealt with. As such, my recollection was that I was advised verbally that the department had decided to grant a temporary visa, and I accepted that decision, as of course I would under the law. So once again I think we have a misstatement of facts in both the Melbourne Herald Sun and the Adelaide Advertiser.