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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 751


Mr MacKELLAR —I refer the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to an article in today's Bulletin with reference to a visit of a delegation of 11 Libyans to Australia. I ask the Minister: Is the leader of the delegation a Mr Ahmed Shuhati? Was Mr Shuhati formerly director of the Libyan Foreign Liaison Office, a key element in Libya's intelligence network, which has a particularly violent record and has conducted terrorist operations? Did the Minister personally approve the entry of Mr Shuhati and his delegation? Has he, or any other Minister, met with the delegation?


Mr WEST —The Government's policy on visitor entry is that, if there is no perceived threat of terrorism, no perceived threat to the security of Australia, no perceived threat of public disorder, and unless there is some matter of particular concern to the Department of Foreign Affairs and to the Government, we should not, on political grounds, debar visitors from entering Australia.


Mr MacKellar —Did you get advice from Foreign Affairs?


Mr WEST —If the honourable member will just listen he will get the answer. I point out that it is true that at present 11 members of the Libyan delegation are in Australia. I have consulted with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. To the best of my knowledge no objection has been put to me as to why they should not be allowed into Australia. They have been processed in the normal way. I had a prior look at their suggested agenda. I noted that some members of the Federal Opposition were listed on the agenda to meet the delegation. In fact, it is no accident that the shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs did not ask this question. He does not agree with the honourable member for Warringah. I noted that a number of State government and State administration people were on the agenda to meet the delegation and that various important people in public life in Australia were to meet them. Their agenda involved visiting prominent Australian universities and agricultural areas. I knew that the previous Government, I think on three occasions, had allowed delegations from Libya to come here.


Mr MacKellar —What about the composition of the delegation?


Mr WEST —The previous Government allowed three delegations to come here, in the past.


Mr MacKellar —I am talking about Mr Shuhati.


Mr WEST —With regard to Mr Ashahati, the Department had not put any reason to me , nor had the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, why he should be kept out of Australia.


Mr MacKellar —You asked ASIO, did you?


Mr WEST —That is the answer to the honourable member's question. I received nothing from them to say that he should be kept out of Australia.


Mr MacKellar —Did you ask them?


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Warringah since he sat down has asked a series of questions by way of interjection. I suggest that he should cease interjecting and listen.


Mr WEST —This Government allows, as did the previous Government, a bureau representing the Government of Libya to remain in Canberra, although we do not have a post in Tripoli. The Libyan People's Bureau had been here under the previous Government for a long time. I add that there is significant trade-$100m Australia's way-with Libya. That is to our advantage. In conclusion, I suggest that the Opposition, instead of taking its cue from journalists who write for the Bulletin or various other newspapers in Australia, in the future act in a manner which is in accord with the best interests of our international relations .