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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1628


Senator Stott Despoja asked the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, upon notice, on 12 February 2008:

(1)   Has the Minister or the department received any complaints regarding the practices of the Australian International Trade Association (AITA), including the practice of arranging inadequate visas for Australian teachers recruited to teach in China.

(2)   Does the practice of facilitating employment in China with inadequate visas breach any Commonwealth laws.

(3)   Has the department ever engaged in business with AITA, Mr Michael Guo or Mr Steven Guo (also known as Steven Moon); if so, can details be provided of the nature and extent of any such dealings.

(4)   Has the department or any of Australia’s consulates or embassies received any complaints in relation to the conduct of AITA, Mr Michael Guo or Mr Steven Guo; if so, can details be provided of the nature and extent of any such complaint.

(5)   Will ministers be required to declare membership of AITA’s ‘honorary board’, pursuant to the Prime Minister’s ‘Standards of Ministerial Ethics’.


Senator Chris Evans (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   My Department has not been in receipt of any complaints regarding the practices of AITA in relation to the arrangement of inadequate visas for Australian nationals in China.

(2)   My portfolio is responsible for administration of the Migration Act and associated regulations. This legislation addresses issues associated with the right of people to enter Australia, not other countries. Questions on other Commonwealth laws should be addressed to the relevant Minister or the Attorney-General.

(3)   AITA is known to my Department. AITA representatives, including Mr Michael Guo, communicate frequently with the department’s posts in China on specific cases. All three posts in China (Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou) have processed visa applications supported by Mr Guo. Mr Guo has supported numerous visa applicants by signing invitation letters from AITA as the inviting party. This is a common practice in China where many business visitors utilise Australian business partners to facilitate their travel. In May 2007, Beijing Office staff met with Mr Guo to explain the legislative criteria and the normal evidence required to support a case. An invitation from The Events Company was made to the Melbourne Office of the Department to participate in an event called Business Week Expo 2008. At the time the invitation was received there was no suggestion that AITA was involved in the event in any way. The Department agreed to participate in the expo on the basis that the event appeared to offer a suitable forum to promote departmental products such as General Skilled Migration and Visa Entitlement Verification Online, at a relatively low cost. The Department subsequently discovered that the event was being organised by AITA and a number of changes to the nature of the event had been made without consultation with the department. The Department has advised the event organiser that it will not longer support the event. In addition, my Department has also had dealings with Mr Michael Guo’s brother, Mr Steven Guo (also known as Steven Moon and Xue Wing Guo). His interaction with my Department has been limited to his role as a sponsor on a visa application. The visa applicant was a member of his family unit.

(4)   My Department has not received complaints in relation to the conduct of AITA, Michael Guo or Steven Guo (aka Steven Moon).

(5)   The Standards of Ministerial Ethics (the Standards) requires all Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries to declare their personal interests, including but not limited to pecuniary interests, as required by the Parliament. A copy of the Standards can be downloaded from the website of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet: www.pmc.gov.au .