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Wednesday, 25 June 2003
Page: 17559

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (7:30 PM) —The adjournment debate represents my first opportunity to refute the continued comments by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations on the manipulations and fabrications of Karim Kisrwani. The minister has raised three matters. Despite my clear statement last night that I have never discussed these matters with Karim Kisrwani and have never met, spoken on the phone to, met in the street or visited the home of Mr El Dirani, he continues with these comments. I will make a few points again.

I understand that this person's fees are paid from his credit card. To me, this represents a very significant refutation of two points made by the minister. Firstly, I supposedly promised his friend Mr Karim Kisrwani that I would pay this person's membership fees. The reality is that this person had paid membership fees from his credit card for a number of years. This does not seem like the kind of person who I would have to pay fees for. Secondly, this also refutes the alleged statutory declaration which the minister read from today—based on hearsay, as you will know if you listened to it—from Mr Karim Kisrwani which said that he `never paid any membership fees'. This lacks credibility.

I turn to the reference of September 2002. The minister implied that this was a very personalised, intimate reference from me for Mr Karim Kisrwani. The reality is that it was for a community radio station of which he was one of the proponents. It included statements that I still stand by this evening about his ceaseless activity, his contacts, his experience and his analysis of the community. I stand by those comments about Mr Kisrwani. We are all asked on many occasions to defend groups that seek government assistance. This group wanted a radio station, Mr Kisrwani was one of the people who approached me about it, and I was not opposed to the committee of which he was a member. If some other people had walked into the office and asked me to support this concept, I would have done the same thing.

Mr Kisrwani certainly gave a donation of $300 to me in 2001 and I have discovered a similar donation in 1999. I will check my records further to see whether he gave me donations in previous years. When this issue was first raised I knew that he had given me political donations in the past, but I am not going to be intimidated by the government raising that. `So what?' I say. It is clear that I have given receipts and thankyou letters. This is in stark contrast to the activities of the member for Parramatta, who was dragged screaming into the public light to reveal a donation by Mr Kisrwani of $10,130 many months after it should have been reported to the Australian Electoral Commission. The donations to me of $300-odd on two occasions pale into insignificance beside the $10,130 concealed by the Liberal Party in the run-up to this issue and the $5,950 in 1998-99. They are the ones who have had to reveal a donation and, as we have seen, they were dragged screaming to reveal it only when the heat went on about the Romeo's function at which both Mr Tan and Mr Kisrwani were major players.

Any comments I might have made about Mr Kisrwani predate the exposure of material to me in May this year. In May this year two of my constituents raised with me the question of the interaction between the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Mr Karim Kisrwani in the matter of Mr Bedweny Hbeiche. I assure members that my attitude has changed very dramatically. My earlier attitude to Mr Kisrwani predates my knowledge that he was in a business relationship with Filipino fugitive Dante Tan and that their operations were part of eventually persuading the immigration department to ignore the previous cancellation of Mr Tan's visa and expedite the conferral of his citizenship. The Liberal Party can quote till the cows come home what I have said about Karim Kisrwani in the past. The reality is that since May I have become aware of the racket that is operating in immigration—the way in which Mr Kisrwani has arranged that the constituents of a wide variety of members of this parliament are approached by relations of claimants and phone calls are then made to the minister's office to fix cases. That is the operation that has been going on. That is the racket that has been operating in regard to immigration in this country. You can start tracing through ancient history in 2001 and 1999—or 1742—but that is the situation. (Time expired)