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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 3658

Mr WEST (Minister for Housing and Construction) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented and I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Leave granted.

Mr WEST —I thank the House and I thank the Opposition, because I have no wish to be discourteous to honourable members who are waiting to participate in the continuation of the debate; but there is something that I must deal with in regard to misrepresentation. On the Willesee show last night on Capital 7 television, during an interview between Ms Jennifer Byrne and two Turkish Australians-a Mr Gurpenar, President of the Council of Australian Turks, and a leader of the Sydney Armenian community, Mr Haj Ivakian-the following exchange took place. I should say to the House that this was in reference to certain violence committed against the Turkish community in Australia. I quote:

Jennifer Byrne: You have said that certain politicians carry part of the blame, in fact you've named them, because you said they are wittingly or unwittingly supporting terrorist activity.

Mr Gurpenar: We are saying that they are supporting anti-Turkish groups. Might be terrorist, might not. It's up to the police to find out where we are trying to assist them.

Jennifer Byrne: Don't you think if you come out with allegations that former Immigration Minister, Stewart West and Left-Winger, Jerry Hand are in some way assisting terrorists, that's a fairly hefty allegation.

Mr Gurpenar: When did I say that?

Jennifer Byrne: You said that today.

Mr Gurpenar: To whom?

Jennifer Byrne: To our researcher.

Mr Gurpenar: Did I? I don't remember. I have only said that they have attended some meetings with anti-Turkish groups.

I want to make it clear to the House that in the two years for which I was Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs I attended almost countless meetings with migrant groups and many migrant functions. But I have never knowingly attended a meeting or a function where terrorists were present and I absolutely refute that allegation.

Being concerned that this was mentioned by the interviewer on the CTC7 Willesee show and with the agreement of my colleague the current Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Hurford), this morning I examined the files of this period. I have reason to believe that Mr Gurpenar may have been referring to a seminar which took place on 28 May 1983 regarding democracy in Turkey and the so-called `come back home' letters. It is true that I spoke at that seminar. To the best of my knowledge, it was conducted by the Committee for Information on Turkey. Other people who were listed for the program were Caroline Hogg, a State member of parliament, Peter Spyker, then Minister of Ethnic Affairs for the State of Victoria, Gary Sheppard, Chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Commission of Victoria, and of course, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Hand). The background to that seminar was this-and I think it is quite important--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Blanchard) —Order! I suggest that the Minister has made his personal explanation. He has already said that he is in no way connected with any terrorist organisations. I think that is sufficient for the House.