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Monday, 23 June 2003
Page: 17183


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (3:13 PM) —Mr Speaker—

Opposition members interjecting


The SPEAKER —Standing order 55 applies across the parliament. The member for Reid has every right to be heard and to be heard in silence.


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON —My question is to the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. Does the minister recall telling the House that the citizenship application by corporate fugitive and Liberal Party donor Mr Dante Tan was handled—

Opposition members interjecting


The SPEAKER —I will take instant action under standing order 303 or 304A against anybody who interrupts the member for Reid.


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON —Mr Spea-ker, my question is to the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. Does the minister recall telling the House that the citizenship application by corporate fugitive and Liberal Party donor Mr Dante Tan was handled by departmental officers `in quite normal ways'? Minister, what is normal about Mr Tan's application for citizenship being approved when he did not have the necessary two years permanent residency in Australia? Minister, what is normal about Mr Tan's citizenship being conferred at a special private ceremony attended by the member for Parramatta just nine days after his application was approved? Minister, did the member for Parramatta and/or Mr Karim Kisrwani make representations to get around the residency requirements and expedite the conferral of Mr Tan's citizenship?


Mr HARDGRAVE (Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs) —The member for Reid asks me another question—two question times and two questions; quite a trend. As I said in response to the first question ever by the member for Reid to me, it was a departmental officer who had the delegated authority to make those decisions in relation to Mr Tan's eligibility or otherwise as far as his citizenship was concerned. As the member for Reid should know—if he understands the Citizenship Act—there are provisions within the act for those who make those decisions to determine whether or not it is in Australia's interests for a person without two years of actual residency in Australia to be able to receive citizenship. As I said last week in response to the earlier question, that decision making took place at the officer level. With regard to the granting and conferral time, nothing unusual occurred there either.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr HARDGRAVE —Mr Speaker, they are happy to laugh and make all these allegations but, when the facts get in the way of their good muckraking, they do not want to hear the answers. At the end of the day, all that occurred with regard to the decision making as far as Mr Tan's citizenship application was concerned was in keeping with normal practice. In fact the dates are very interesting: the application was lodged on 25 March 2002, the grant of citizenship occurred on 9 May and the conferral took place on 17 May. There is nothing unusual with that. Due to my department's great efforts we have been able to ensure consistently over the last couple of years—including the year that this took place and this current year; in fact we will use the month of May past—that some 75 per cent of applications are decided within 30 days of lodgment. This year to date, some 94 per cent of applications have been decided with 90 days, which—



The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Lalor!


Mr HARDGRAVE —is all, from a performance point of view, we ask the department to try to undertake. Generally, where a candidate is seeking citizenship urgently or when a private ceremony is specifically requested by a candidate who can provide a valid reason to the officer making these decisions as to why a public ceremony is not appropriate, a private ceremony can occur. So, of course, it is not unusual for conferral to occur shortly after the grant of citizenship. In fact, the statistics are quite interesting on that too: nearly half of the applications, excluding electronic lodgments, are decided on the lodging day. So my department is hitting high levels of results in the whole process of people applying for citizenship, having it granted and indeed having the conferral which follows soon after.

The member for Reid asked about private ceremonies. He needs to understand that there is nothing unusual about private ceremonies. Citizenship ceremonies can be as large as 600 and as small as one person, and they happen every week and every month of the year. You could ask the Premier of Queensland for an example of that. Just a few weeks ago he presided over a citizenship ceremony for 600 and a couple of years ago he presided over a citizenship ceremony for one—somebody particularly close to him. Of course, another member of the Australian Labor Party—a member of parliament—happened to have a spouse who was not a citizen until recent times, and I was very happy to provide a discrete and private ceremony so that that member of parliament was not embarrassed.

Opposition members interjecting


The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Watson! The member for Dunkley has the call.