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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17090

Mr BAIRD (9:58 AM) —I rise to speak on the issue of ministerial intervention and applications to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. There have been implications in the House regarding the process, with reflections on the minister. I wish to say at this point, as someone who has been involved in applications to the minister, that I think it is appropriate that we look at his track record in this area, which I think has been outstanding. He has, in fact, approved more applications and intervened in more cases than any other minister, which shows not only his conscientious nature and his attention to detail but also his compassion. The cases that I have been involved with have required compassion and understanding.

In the process, when people apply for refugee status, they apply for a primary decision. If they are unsuccessful there, the next stage is to move on to the Refugee Review Tribunal. While the tribunal does an excellent job in general terms, from time to time cases are brought to members of parliament, and we then apply to the minister for intervention. I am sure that most members have had these cases. They continue to increase, and up to this very day I have had new cases brought to me. I have had a number of cases in which the minister has intervened. There was the case of a young Iranian man who came by way of Greece and who failed both the primary decision and the Refugee Review Tribunal decision. His case was brought to me by some people who regularly visit Villawood. I subsequently met him, I believed his case had considerable merit and a number of representations to the minister followed. He conscientiously reviewed the case in detail and finally provided his signature for ministerial intervention. This was a case of a very fine young man who will make a great contribution to Australia, and I personally thank the minister for his intervention.

There have been other cases, including a Russian family who were applying for citizenship and then the husband was seriously injured in a motor car accident. He received brain damage and he would have been sent back to Russia under the medical requirement, but there was a full representation from a major swimming club in my area. The case was brought to the minister, and he intervened. There was a major celebration dinner in my electorate when the decision was made. Every man and woman in the club believed the decision was highly appropriate and commended the minister for it.

I had another case in which a group of Cambodian Christians had failed the process. Their case was brought by the entire church. They started a letter-writing campaign to the minister and, while he initially said no, after the church suggested there was new information during the review he finally approved it. At Christmas that church sent me a huge card, which was signed by every member of the congregation, saying to pass on to the minister their great thanks and appreciation for what he had achieved in that case—that a group of fine young women were allowed to stay in this country.

I also brought to the minister the case of a group of Chaldean Catholics that I met in Villawood. The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission was involved as well, and there were representations from the Bishop of Wollongong. These people had been in Villawood for several years, and there were questions as to whether they faced discrimination as Catholics if they returned to Iraq. The minister again intervened. The Catholic community that I am aware of in my own electorate and in the Wollongong area were deeply appreciative.

This minister is intervening with integrity. Not one cent passed hands in any of those cases. There was never any question of it. He has been very conscientious in this. He has come to the fore in making decisions on the basis of compassion and integrity, and I think it is about time that we recognised the minister's great contribution in this area. He is a man of compassion and integrity, and the slurs that are being brought forward by the opposition are not worthy of him. (Time expired)