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Thursday, 29 May 2003
Page: 15471

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (2:52 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. I refer to the minister's last answer and ask: on what date did the minister or his department first become aware of the visa applicant's relatives in Australia, specifically the three sisters? On what date did Bishop Darwish first write to or contact the minister or his department? Will the minister confirm that the matters are—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The SPEAKER —The member for Blaxland seemed to find it very useful to make sure that points on order on my left were heard. He might extend the same courtesy to members on my right.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Standing order 76 says that `all imputations of improper motives' which are implied shall in fact be considered `highly disorderly.' Standing order 77 says that if it is disorderly you must intervene. You then go to standing order 303, 304A or 306 and request that the member either desist or be removed from the House. The imputations that the member is making are quite plain and clear to see. Accordingly, Mr Speaker, I would ask you to rule in accordance with standing orders 303, 304A or 306.

Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, on the point of order, everything that the member for Reid has asked and said in this House yesterday and today is an allegation, in effect, of improper conduct. If the member for Reid wants to proceed that way, there are clear forms under the standing orders. If the member for Reid wants to proceed that way, he must move a substantive motion. This disgusting fishing expedition should be ruled out of order.

The SPEAKER —There are of course forms of the House and substantive motions for when allegations of improper conduct are being made. I have listened closely to the member as he has asked each question and he has, to date, asked the minister to nominate a series of dates. I have not considered that to be out of order. Whether or not the minister takes that as a question without notice is entirely the minister's prerogative but it is a reasonable question.

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON —Will the minister confirm that the two matters detailed today are the limit of the alleged new information received after 31 August 2001?

Mr RUDDOCK (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —In relation to the way in which this matter was dealt with, the first document I would have seen was on 1 October 1998. That was an intervention request which was in the form of a schedule, in which no reference was made to the gentleman's family. The second relevant document is the letter from the member for Parramatta. I probably have the date of it, but I refreshed my memory earlier by reading it. The questions in relation to his family were not raised in that matter. I outlined that in response to the earlier question. The bishop wrote to me on 27 September after I had met with him on 25 September 2001. I have no idea whether my department may have received any other advice.

Mr Crean —Find out.

Mr RUDDOCK —I could ask but I do not think it is relevant because it was not before me at the time I first considered the matter. It was not before me or the department at the time Mr Cameron wrote his letter but it was before me when I made the decision in January 2002. I simply affirm what I said before. The fact is, I considered it at that time. The letter that initiated this matter followed our meeting with the bishop on 25 September 2001 and the letter was written on 27 September.