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Thursday, 12 May 2005
Page: 71

Senator ROBERT RAY (3:21 PM) —As a former immigration minister, if I had deported an Australian citizen when I was minister, does anyone in this chamber believe that Senator Santoro would have remained silent? Absolutely not. His contribution today reminds me that he is almost a reincarnated Senator David Vigor. This particular individual was deported on Mr Ruddock’s watch—he was minister at the time. One of the things I want is to hear an explanation from Mr Ruddock as to why this happened on his watch. He was not too busy to do press on children overboard. He was not too busy to engage in dog-whistle politics. If he had been concentrating on the administration of his department rather than appealing to the lowest nature in the electorate during 2001, this event may never have happened.

The fact is we had 21 months of silence on this issue. The message comes in about kids overboard and you have a press conference within 44 minutes, and press statements. Within two days you have fake photos pulled out. There was big action then, but it takes 21 months for this news to get out that an Australian citizen has been deported. And within a couple of weeks of that occurring, guess what? She gets found not by the Federal Police, not by the immigration department and not by consular officials but by the very publicity. Thank heavens the Catholic priest was watching the television at that time or she still may not have been found. And if that publicity had occurred 21 months ago, that would have been 21 months less that she would have had to spend in a hospice for the dying—an Australian citizen!

Thirty-three people have been illegally detained! I lived months of my life over the ASIO legislation that allows ASIO to detain people for 168 hours. We put all those safeguards in, and in fact no-one has been detained yet. Yet we and this government ignore the fact that 33 people have been illegally detained. Why would we do that? Senator Santoro says: ‘We’ll leave it all to the Palmer inquiry.’ I am glad there is an inquiry going into all this, but we do not just leave it to an inquiry. We are elected to pursue these things. Scrutiny of government is an integral part of the Senate, which is not understood by the blowhards opposite. It is our duty as an opposition to pursue these matters.

I heard all the explanation on AM this morning; I do not hear it in here. I hear of the fake attack on the ABC this morning; I do not hear the facts being put down here. Why not? Because they are too unpalatable. I raised the question today: one of the real problems is the developing culture in the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. I do concede extenuating circumstances. They do have to put up with a lot of false information and false claims. But it is their duty to be able to discern the truth from the false claims—do not just dismiss every lawyer that contacts them as sleazy; do not just dismiss every social worker as marshmallow hearted.

Senator Santoro —But they don’t do that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —They do indeed, Senator Santoro. Of course they do! They were told about Ms Rau well before they acted upon it. They were told about these people and failed to act. And guess what? It does not matter what the result of the Palmer inquiry is; all of them will get their performance pay. That is the history of this government, every time in the past.

Senator Santoro —How do you know?

Senator ROBERT RAY —Because the major architect of children overboard in the Public Service got a Public Service Medal and then got promoted to department secretary—the great Anastasia of the Public Service, who, in giving evidence in the ‘children overboard’ inquiry, on 57 occasions had to answer: ‘I don’t know,’ ‘I don’t recall,’ et cetera. And what happens? You get promoted by being loyal to the government and covering up. Senator Santoro does not care about the deportation of an Australian citizen. The rest of us do. We do care, and we demand answers to it. We are not coming in here to cover it up. We are not coming in here because we have verbal diarrhoea like the senator opposite—he is known as ‘Santo the silent’ in this place—and putting outrageous claims in. The fact is the minister has to take responsibility and has never taken responsibility in the whole time she has been the minister.

Question agreed to.