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Bolkus damages IRT credibility

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and Ethnic Affairs


Senator Jim Short

Shadow Minister for Immigration Assisting the Leader on Multicultural Affairs

IMEA 37/94


Minister Bo&us' complacent and arrogant refusal in Question Time today to explain his reasons for making a number of dubious, and highly political, appointments to the Immigration Review Tribunal (IRT) will seriously undermine the credibility of this important review body.

The Minister refused to look into serious allegations, apparently supported by affidavits held by a Labor Party member of the Victorian Parliament, of 411eged activities by one of the Victorian reappointees, Mr Joe Italian°.

He did not explain to the Senate the reason for appointing two pre-selected Labor Party candidates for the next Victorian State Election, Mr Garth Head and Ms Lyn Kosky, and for re-appointing another preselected candidate, Mr Joe Italiano.

The Minister has given a totally inadequate explanation of his reasons for not reappointing the highly respected principle IRT member in Victoria, Mr Michael Clothier, and for replacing hta with Ms Michelle Scott.

The Minister failed totally to address concerns about the reappointment of Mr Tony Labbozzetta, a member ot the ALP in New South Wales, despite his having sat on only 4 cases in the last 4 years, and made only 1 decision in that period. The Minister only

insisted that all appointments were made on merit! What about performance?

The Coalition believes that as a result of Senator Bolkus' reckless and capricious handling of appointments to the lRT, the Government now has no responsible option but to establish an independent public inquiry into the political stacking of the 'RT. It is essential that the Tribunal have the community's respect and confidence. This is even

more the case since the commencement of the Migration Reform Act on 1 September 1994. The new Act greatly curtails judicial access for review of decisions. The IRT,


therefore, is the final review body for most applicants.

The 1RT's integrity and standing is being put in serious jeopardy by the iinmistakable political stench of the Minister's actions.

also call on Senator Bolkus to readdress the questions I put to him on these matters more than six weeks ago. His response to date has been. pathetic, and insulting to the Senate and to the Australian community at large.

Unless the impartiality of the 1RT is, and is seen to be, beyond reproach, its ability to carry out its essential role will be severely compromised. The Tribunal has a role which is far too important for Minister Bolkus to continue to play politics with.

Canberra 11 October 1994 For further information contact Senator Short (06) 277 3119

The Senate

11 Oct 1994

than it needs to be.

Senator MURPHY - Mr Deputy President, I ask a supplementary question. Given all of those things, will the delay in the United States congressional vote on the Uruguay Round legislation mean that it could fail to be ratified by the United States? What are the implications of that for Australia?

Senator McMULLAN - This is an important question. Many Australians who are potential beneficiaries are concerned about the delays in the United States' consideration of this matter. In the Jakarta trade ministers' meeting last week the

deputy United States trade representative made it clear that her view was that the legislation would pass the house on 29 November and the Senate on 1 December and that there would be a comfortable majority. While we prefer that it be not delayed, we have to note that it is probable that it will pass the United States Congress before it passes the Australian parliament because our timetable will finish slightly later than 1 December.

Senator Alston - Whose fault is that? Senator McMULLAN - It is nobody's fault. They are both perfectly ample times. I am simply saying that a lot of people are concerned about the timetable. I am trying to put it in context. There is no fault in either case. We greatly support what the Clinton administration has tried to do in getting the legislation through Congress. We hope it is successful. When the Congress re-convenes after the election, it will be the existing Congress and all the indications are that there should be a majority. It is Important for Australia that the legislation is passed and for that reason we have been working very hard to build up a consensus of support for it. (Time expired)

Immigration Review Tribunal Senator SHORT - My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer the minister to his recent appointments and reappointments to the Immigration Review Tribunal. Firstly, is the minister aware of

allegations, supported apparently by affidavit, of corrupt dealings by one of the Victorian reappointees, Mr Joe Italian°, and if so, what action does he propose to take? Secondly, can he explain to the Senate the reasons for

appointing to the IRT two preselected Labor Party candidates for the next Victorian state election, Er Garth Head and Ms Lyn Kosky, and for reappointing an already preselected candidate, Mr Joe Italiano? Thirdly, can he also explain the

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reasons for reappointing Mr Tony Labbozzetta, a member of the ALP, to the IRT in New South Wales despite his having sat on only four cases in the last four years and having made only

one decision in that four-year period?

Senator BOLKUS - I have seen some of this information, some of this scuttlebutt, around the place. I suppose that I, in a sense, have been sickened by it. We have found that there has been the degradation of people's reputations under parliamentary privilege by the other side in the Victorian parliament. Senator Short raised the question of Mr Italian°.

I have written to Mr Cooper, the person in the Victorian parliament who raised these allegations under parliamentary privilege, and said to him, 'If you have got something, we would like to see it. Please provide it and we will act on

it.' I say to Senator Short that I think the matters raised about Mr Italian° were raised some six or seven years ago. They had no legs then; if they have got legs now, then obviously we will have a look at them.

It does Senator Short no good to drag up a case and, under the protection which he has but which the person concerned does not have, raise allegations about criminality. If Senator Short has got something, he should put it up or shut up. That is what I have said to Mr Cooper and that is what I say to Senator Short.

In terms of the other people, I have seen in recent days as well that I have been criticised for appointing people with party affiliation. In that context, I have discovered that I have appointed someone with a Liberal Party affiliation to the

IRT. I refer to Ms Kosky and Ms Dollis. Those two people were assessed by an assessment panel. Kosky and Dollis were recommended to me for appointment, and it would have been against any -

Senator Short - I didn't ask about Dollis. Senator BOLKUS - I know that Senator Short did ask about Dollis but she is a person who has been raised as well. I - raise it in the context of the slur that Senator Short is trying to raise about political appointments. They were assessed by the panel, they were very highly recommended and I proceeded with those appointments.

Italian° was also recommended for appointment. He was assessed positively and he was also appointed. My point is that a number of people applied for these jobs. The jobs were advertised, a list of people was assessed by a panel, that panel made recommendations to me and, in many of those

instances, I accepted their recommendations. This process has, in my mind, been geared by a number of imperatives: first, to find the best possible people for the job; secondly, to rely ön,...pnd draw from a diverse group; and, thirdly, to Maintain the independence of this particular body.

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I say to honourable senators in that context - both in relation to appointments to the IRT and the RRT, the Refugee Review Tribunal - that I have gone out of my way to ensure that the people appointed are independent of any influence

from me and from the department. For that reason, we have come up with a very diverse batch of people, both here and in terms of the RRT. In fact, Senator Short at some stage in estimates committees reflected on the appointments to the RRT. The same principles apply. I want to see people in these positions who are not beholden either to me or to the immigration department

- and that is what we have here. I am quite happy with the talent of the people appointed. I refer to a couple of those reflected on by Senator Short - Italiano and Head. My information from the tribunal is that these people, who have been appointed for some time, particularly Italian°, have been performing extremely well. I would rather judge people on their performance and on their promise rather than blackguard them because of some political

affiliation that Senator Short would like to draw on in a very unfair way.

• Senator SHORT - Mr Deputy Presideni, I ask a

supplementary question. I cannot thank the minister for his complete non-answer, but I pick up a couple of his points. He said that all the positions filled were advertised. Is it a fact that one of the ALP preselected candidates, Mr Garth Head, was appointed in December 1993 - out of the normal term of appointments - and that the position to which he was appointed was not advertised? What were the reasons for that? As there is now a noticeable stench surrounding several of the

IRT appointments that Senator Bolkus has made, and the reappointments - and, I might add, the non-reappointment of Victorian principle member, Michael Clothier, who has been replaced by former Labor party staffer without a law degree -will the minister urgently re-examine his complete non-answer

to my questions on notice yesterday and come clean that the real reasons for many of his appointments are nothing other than jobs for his Labor mates?

Senator BOLUS - I am continually stunned by the ignorance and the lack of knowledge that Senator Short brings to this portfolio. Mr Head was appointed last year; vacancies do arise. That appointment was announced at the time and, as vacancies continue to arise, we will appoint people, as we always do. I find a very stark contrast between -

Senator Alston - Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. It is a simple question of relevance. The minister was asked whether the job was advertised. He simply talked about 'as positions arise we will fill them'. He was asked why the job was not advertised; he is now moving on to other

ground. You ought to direct him to be relevant.

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The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - I am sure Senator Bolkus is addressing it. Senator Short - No, he is not.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! I have made a judgment that he is. Senator BOLKUS - Casual vacancies are appointed from time to time by the government. With this latest batch a big number of appointments were advertised. Casual vacancies never are.

Senator Short asked me about Mr Clothier. The recommendation I got about Mr Clothier was very stark and very clear - and that was that there was someone better for the job. That came from that assessment panel. I would not preclude anyone from a position because of his or her party affiliation.

Senator Short is asking me to interfere and propose someone who was not recommended for a position because Senator Short has some affinity with him. I will not do that. The stench comes from the other side of the parliament. Senator Short is the one blackguarding people's reputations; he is the one who ought to go outside this parliament and do so if he really believes in his conviction.

National Grain Audit

Senator FORMAN - My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy and follows on from the comment made by the minister to the Senate yesterday regarding his request to ABARE to conduct a national grain audit, to give the government a clearer picture of the current

availability of grain. Can the minister advise us whether he has received any preliminary advice on this matter?

Senator. COLLINS - I have, and I stress that it is preliminary advice. Commonwealth officials are now embarked on a far more detailed examination in- a national audit in cooperation with the state authorities. Organisations such as the National Farmers Federation and the Grains Council of Australia are already urgently examining the situation as well. Our preliminary audit has indicated that wheat stocks will be sufficient to cover domestic wheat demands until the

1994-95 crop becomes available. Even allowing for around two million tonnes of -exports, and that is going on the most pessimistic forecast for crop production, we will have enough grain in aggregate - and I stress aggregate - to meet all of

our domestic food and feed requirements. But this is not the situation on the ground. That is simply to do with total tonnages. There will be significant grain shortfalls in the states of Queensland and New South Wales. These will have to be met

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