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Tuesday, 9 February 1999
Page: 2272

Mr Tanner asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 26 November 1998:

(1) Has his Department been made aware of an order by the Family Court on 28 October 1997, in the matter of ML6410 of 1989, that forthwith each party was to sign all documents and do such things as may be necessary, including the provision of certified photographs and a birth certificate, to obtain a passport and a visa for a child and until further order the passport was to be held by the child's father; if so, (a) when and by whom was his Department made aware of the order and (b) did it comply with the order; if not, why not.

(2) Did Justice Fogarty determine on 12 December 1997 that his Department had failed to comply with the terms of the order.

(3) Was the passport delivered to the child's father; if so, when.

(4) After 28 October 1997, did an officer of his Department refuse to deliver the passport to the child's father; if so, why.

Mr Downer (Foreign Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes, my Department was made aware of the Court Order on 4 December 1997 when the child's maternal grandparents submitted the passport application.

The Court Order mentioned the child's father would collect the child in Australia on or about 19 December 1997. The father resides in the United Kingdom. The Family Court ordered by consent that an order dated 1 August 1989, giving sole custody of the child to the mother, be discharged as and from 19 December 1997. In view of this order, the father's anticipated arrival in Australia on or around 19 December 1997 and the mother's undertaking to hand the passport to the father at that time, my Department acted in good faith and handed the passport to the mother after issue. The passport was delivered to the father after his arrival.

(2) My Department was advised by the child's father, in a letter dated 17 May 1998, that the Court had determined on 12 December 1997 that the Order had been breached. My Department does not hold a copy of the Court's determination.

(3) My Department understands the child's mother on or before 19 December 1997 delivered the passport to the child's father. Delivery was made through the respective solicitors of each party.

(4) My Department did not refuse to deliver the passport to the child's father, it was simply not in a position to do so as the mother held the passport at the time the father visited the Melbourne Passport Office on 11 December 1997.