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Thursday, 29 May 2003
Page: 15486


Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) (3:57 PM) —The member for Lalor has said that the gentleman in question or someone on his behalf went to a fundraiser, made a $3,000 donation and said, `This donation is on behalf of the gentleman in question and he expects a visa.' I guarantee that that did not happen. Nothing like that ever happens at Liberal Party fundraisers, and nothing like that should ever happen at any political party fundraiser. I can understand why the member for Reid did not move this censure motion yesterday; I can understand why the member for Reid was unwilling to move this censure motion today until forced to by the House. It is because the member for Reid is incapable of moving a censure motion. He is incapable of moving a censure motion because he has no evidence whatsoever upon which a censure motion should be based.

I suppose the first point that the member for Reid made was that the gentleman in question should never have been let in. He must be the only person who has ever applied to come to Australia who members opposite do not think should have been let in. The members opposite are the people who believe that anyone who gets here should be able to stay here. They are the people who want to see an open door immigration policy being run by Australia.



The SPEAKER —The member for Werriwa!


Mr ABBOTT —The other point that the member for Reid tried to make is that you cannot have a fundraiser without cash changing hands and ministers watching. That is the claim that members opposite are making—that there is no such thing as a party political fundraiser without scads and scads of cash changing hands, probably not even in brown paper envelopes, that ministers watch all this and that ministers are advised of exactly what—


Mr Wilkie —How big was the restaurant?


The SPEAKER —The member for Swan is warned!


Mr ABBOTT —each bit of cash is for. That is an utterly absurd allegation. It is a contemptible allegation, and it should never be made without evidence. The next claim that is clear in the member for Reid's censure motion is that no-one ever comes to a fundraiser without seeking corrupt favours. Again, this smears every single person who has ever been to a party political fundraiser. The idea that it is impossible to go to a fundraiser without seeking a corrupt favour is simply wrong, simply and utterly false. It demeans this parliament—



The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Rankin!


Mr ABBOTT —it demeans the member for Reid and, most of all, it demeans the Leader of the Opposition that he should have been party to this pathetic effort. Members opposite have speculated—



The SPEAKER —The member for Werriwa for the third time!



The SPEAKER —The member for McMillan is warned!


Mr ABBOTT —Mr Speaker, members opposite have speculated that I may have been the other minister at the fundraiser in question. To put them out of their agony and to put their minds at ease, I am prepared to say: yes, I was at the fundraiser in question. The fundraiser in question took place, some time not too long before the last election, at Romeo's Restaurant. There were about 50 or 60 people there. I do not know whether the gentleman in question was there, and I do not know whether the gentleman who is alleged—




The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Watson and the member for Lyons!


Mr ABBOTT —to be the friend of the gentleman in question was there. I do not know who made donations. I do not know whether particular raffles were run or whether particular auctions took place. I do not know, and the minister for immigration would not know either. I did not know how much money was raised until I read about it in the newspaper, and the minister for immigration, likewise, would not have known how much money was raised until he read about it in the newspaper.

The truth is—as you would know, Mr Speaker—that Liberal members of parliament are governed by a strict code of conduct. Amongst many other things, the code of conduct says that members of parliament should not solicit donations and should not handle donations. It is a very good code of conduct, and I commend it to members opposite. I suggest to members opposite that they should not think that ministers in this government and coalition members of parliament act by the same sorts of standards which are obviously only too common in the Labor Party—a party which regularly asks people to spend $1,500 or more to come to dinners so that they might get to know `ministers'. This is an absurd suggestion that members opposite are trying to make.

Let us again review what the member for Reid has been saying. He has been saying that the gentleman in question, the visa applicant, was at the fundraiser in question. He has presented no evidence whatsoever. He has said that a donation was made by this gentleman or by someone else on behalf of this gentleman. No evidence has been presented. Is there a stat dec anywhere from anyone? Is there a report anywhere about this? There is no evidence whatsoever; it is just a disgusting, dirty, grubby fishing expedition by the member for Reid, who should know better. Finally, the member for Reid has alleged that a corrupt decision was made. Again, not one shred, not one skerrick, not one scrap of evidence has been produced to justify this grubby, dirty, unworthy, disgusting smear on a good minister.

Let us consider the censure motion that the member for Reid put before the House. He moved:

That this House censures the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs for failing to adequately explain to the House the alleged new information that he relied upon to approve the visa application ...

That is almost embarrassingly weak, Mr Speaker. He has no evidence that the gentleman in question was there, he has no evidence that the friend of the gentleman in question was there, he has no evidence that a donation was made, he has no evidence that conditions were placed on a donation—because no such donation would ever be accepted—and he has no evidence that a corrupt decision was made. So he is reduced to coming into this house and censuring the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs for failing to adequately explain himself. This is one of the worst and weakest censure motions that have been moved in this House for a very long time. The member for Reid has fallen into the trap that we laid for him, because we on this side knew that there was nothing whatsoever to justify the outrageous smears and imputations that the member for Reid, egged on by the Leader of the Opposition, was making.

What, in the end, is the crime of the minister for immigration? His first crime is that he listens to representations. Why shouldn't the minister for immigration listen to representations? He is a member of parliament, so why shouldn't he listen to other members of parliament? Let us face it: he gets representations. In this case, he got representations from, amongst other people, the member for Kingsford-Smith. Why shouldn't he have listened to those representations, and why shouldn't he have listened to the representations finally made by the bishop in question? The other crime of the minister for immigration is that he is close to a community. He is the minister for immigration; he is the minister for multicultural and ethnic affairs. Why shouldn't he be close to a community? In fact, it would be a tragedy if a minister of the Crown in this country were not able to get close to important communities.

Nothing whatsoever has been done wrong by this minister. More importantly, members opposite have demonstrated nothing whatsoever that this minister has done wrong. I will say to the House that there has, at times, been corruption in the administration of the immigration system, and a colleague of members opposite is now in jail because of that. The former member for Calwell is now in jail because of things that happened but should not have. The whole point—


The SPEAKER —The minister has raised an issue that, as the Clerk has reminded me, is subject to appeal and therefore ought not to have been raised.



The SPEAKER —The member for Batman is not assisting the debate, in the sense of the flow of the debate, and properly frustrates the role of the chair.


Mr ABBOTT —Mr Speaker, I certainly would not wish to say anything that trespassed on any of the standing orders, so I will not continue down that path. The fact is that this minister, when he came into office, was determined to clean up the administration of the immigration system, and that is precisely what he has done. I know the minister and members of this House know the minister. Any members of this House who have dealt with the minister would accept—should accept, if they are prepared to give credit where it is due—that this minister has been probably the most outstanding minister for immigration of recent times.

As the minister for immigration has made abundantly clear, he acted because new representations were made and new evidence and new information was provided. Why shouldn't he do precisely what he did on the basis of precisely what has happened in this case? The position of members opposite appears to be that, just because some representations are refused, all representations are refused and that, if some representations are refused, any representation that is not refused is somehow corrupt. It is a pathetic and a hopeless allegation.



The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Werriwa!


Mr ABBOTT —It is completely unworthy of members opposite and it is certainly completely unworthy of a leader of the opposition who has pledged to raise standards. It is clear that this is a grubby fishing expedition. It is clear that they have no evidence. In the end, all they could say was that the minister for immigration should have known about something before he finally did know about it. But it is not the minister for immigration's fault if people who are making representations on behalf of someone do not initially, or even subsequently, produce all the evidence that they might be able to to justify that case. When they finally did produce the evidence, the minister acted as he should. Then the member for Lalor suggested that, unless the minister for immigration was prepared to produce the file, that would prove that there was a confidential file dealing with people's lives and that somehow there would be proof of corruption. The suggestion that every decision should be justified to a feral opposition by the production of the complete file is absolutely, utterly and completely absurd.

It is pretty clear that what we have seen over the last couple of days is a sad and unworthy exercise in mudslinging, designed to prop up the failing leadership of the Leader of the Opposition. This is his muscle-up strategy. He tried the member for Lilley, but the member for Lilley, a man of some honour, had some standards that he would not transgress, so he said, `Okay, let's bring in the member for Werriwa; let's have a muscle-up strategy.' And that is exactly what we have seen. The words might be the member for Reid's; the words might be the Leader of the Opposition's, but the ideas and the grubby gutter tactics are nothing. The member for Werriwa is a man who just cannot wait to pull his knife out of the sheath and shove it in the back of the Leader of the Opposition.


The SPEAKER —This is not a censure of the member for Werriwa, nor is it a censure of the member for Lilley.


Mr ABBOTT —Mr Speaker, this is an unworthy motion from an unworthy opposition. This is an opposition that does not know where it stands and it does not know what it believes in. It is now racked by a fight to the death between two proven failures. As an amendment, I move:

That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: “The House censures the Member for Reid for:

(a) attempting unsuccessfully to conduct a campaign of innuendo, imputation and smear against the Minister for Immigration; and

(b) failing to substantiate his claims when compelled by the House to do so”.

I commend that amendment to the House.


Mr Martin Ferguson —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I thought I heard you requesting that the minister withdraw some unsavoury, uncomplimentary and un-Australian remarks. Is that true, Mr Speaker?


The SPEAKER —The member for Batman is right that there were words uttered that I felt were inappropriate. I did not require their withdrawal. I drew the minister's attention to the fact that the motion of censure, which does allow a little more latitude than normal, was a motion of censure of the minister for immigration, not a motion of censure of either the member for Werriwa or the member for Lilley—which seemed to me to be reasonably addressing what was an inappropriate remark on his part.

The original question was that the motion be agreed to. To this the Leader of the House has moved as an amendment that all words after `that' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.