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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15756

Ms GILLARD (3:19 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Is the minister aware of comments in today's Sydney Morning Herald by Mr Karim Kisrwani stating that Mr Dante Tan, formally known as Shaoghi Chen, has now been granted Australian citizenship? Can the minister indicate whether the minister or his office received representations from either Mr Kisrwani or Mr Tan regarding Mr Tan's immigration status in Australia? Can the minister confirm that this is the same Dante Tan who has been described as `the Philippines' most wanted corporate fugitive'?

Mr RUDDOCK (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —Mr Speaker, the matters raised in the question are serious. They have been canvassed in newspapers today, and obviously some questions are going to be asked about that matter, so I will deal with it fully. Can I first confirm that I suspect the box number that was quoted is mine. I do not remember the box number, but I suspect it is mine.

An opposition member—You know it is yours!

Mr RUDDOCK —No, I do not. I do not write to myself every day. That is the reality.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER —The minister will resume his seat. After a good deal of soul-searching, I allowed the question to stand, assuming the issues being raised were largely on the public record. I was obviously contemplating what the status of the question ought to have been. Given the nature of the question, the very least that could be extended by way of a courtesy to the minister is adherence to the standing orders—that is, his answer ought to be heard in silence.

The SPEAKER —The member for Watson will excuse himself from the House.

The member for Watson then left the chamber.

Mr RUDDOCK —I wish to affirm to the House that if during the course of a campaign any donations are received at my office, they are directed to the treasurer of the Berowra federal electorate conference. That is the proper way for them to be handled, and any donations are properly declared. Any information you have about that is because the donation was properly declared.

Mr Tan is a business migrant from the Philippines. I regret very much that, in wanting to make this a political issue, his personal affairs are being canvassed in this way. Let me say that. People are entitled to some privacy. In the Migration Act there is an expectation of that. He is a business migrant from the Philippines who was granted a business skills visa for migration to Australia on 11 September 1998. I have been advised that his application was lodged in Manila on 20 January 1998 and that all criteria set down in the migration legislation, including local penal clearances from the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation, were met. I had no involvement in the processing of his application at the Australian embassy in Manila.

All business migrants to Australia are monitored for three years after their arrival to assess whether they are making genuine efforts to engage in business, as this is required by this particular category of migration. Mr Tan did not provide an initial contact address in Australia. Such an address or contact is normally necessary to complete a business skills monitoring survey. My department sought out, from his initial application, the only address that was available to them. Business migrants who do not engage in business activity may be liable for visa cancellation under section 134 of the Migration Act. On 25 May 2001 a notice of intention to cancel was sent to Mr Tan at the only address the department had.

Ms Gillard —Mr Kisrwani's?

Mr RUDDOCK —No. I am told that it was a registered migration agent. But that was the only address that we had at the time in relation to this matter. These notices were returned to the department, and all of the envelopes were marked, `Left this address'. In the absence of any information about Mr Tan's business activities, Mr Tan's visa was cancelled on 5 September 2001. Notices of cancellation were sent to the same address and, again, returned to sender with the envelopes marked, `Left this address'. Subsequently—I believe it was in November 2001 and I assume it was Mr Kisrwani, although my notes, which were prepared by the department, do not indicate that—a business partner of Mr Tan's contacted my office to inquire about the status of his visa. Much to his surprise, I suspect, he was advised that Mr Tan's visa had been cancelled under the provisions that I referred to.

As a result of that he appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. My department assessed that the procedural requirements set down in the migration legislation were not met, as an incorrect address was used for the notification of Mr Tan's cancellation. I should say that I was provided with a brief to look at the question of costs—that is, whether we should continue, in the light of that advice, to insist that the AAT proceedings continue or whether we should withdraw.

Mr Martin Ferguson —What date?

Mr RUDDOCK —I do not remember the date. The decision was taken to withdraw from that matter. Mr Tan subsequently provided a completed business skills monitoring survey to my department, detailing his business activities. Key elements of these details were confirmed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. On the basis of this new information and the error of notification of cancellation, my department vacated the decision to cancel Mr Tan's visa, as he had met his business requirements.

In relation to the citizenship matter, my department processed his application, which satisfied the criteria to be eligible for Australian citizenship. As part of the criteria for Australian citizenship, all applicants must pass Australian police checks. The character issues with regard to Mr Tan that are reported in today's newspaper did not emerge in the processing of Mr Tan's migration application in 1998. I think that is fairly obvious because they were not laid until 2000. Australian citizenship character checking involves Australian police checks only, and Mr Tan's were clear. As part of the processing of Australian citizenship applications, people are required—and this, I might say, was a change made by this government to enhance the integrity of the migration program and arrangements—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr RUDDOCK —Yes, I might say that; it will become clear as to why I am saying that. Mr Tan signed a declaration, in applying for Australian citizenship, that he did not have any criminal convictions and that he was not subject to current charges. My department is investigating whether Mr Tan's statement in his citizenship application would bring him within the scope of the powers that allow deprivation of his citizenship. I view the character issues that have been raised in this matter seriously. On the surface it appears that he may have misled my department by his statements in his citizenship application, and I have asked the department to pursue that matter vigorously.