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Wednesday, 1 June 2005
Page: 142

Mr PRICE (7:40 PM) —Like the member for Banks, I am compelled to rise tonight because I was appalled today at question time by the Minister for Foreign Affairs mincing at the dispatch box, vacillating between supreme arrogance and extreme unction. It was all about Vivian Alvarez Solon, an Australian citizen who lived here for 13 years and who was deported to the Philippines in July 2001. The shadow minister asked this question:

Does the minister recall telling the Australian people on 16 May this year, in relation to the Vivian Alvarez Solon case, ‘I can only say to you that as far as my department is concerned we didn’t know anything about her case until the end of last month,’ meaning the end of April 2005? Is the minister aware of a letter from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and tabled in Senate estimates today that says that the immigration department has now ‘learned of an exchange between the Queensland police missing persons unit and DFAT in September 2003’ and that the papers we have received from DFAT relating to this exchange show that Queensland police—in providing DFAT with the context of their request—indicated that Ms Alvarez was actually an Australian citizen? Minister, is it not the case that, at the height of the public debate in this country on the Vivian Alvarez matter, on 16 May you misled the Australian people about when your department first knew that Vivian Alvarez was an Australian citizen, and why have you not corrected the record?

Mr Speaker, you witnessed the justification. There was no apology for the briefing note being wrong. The minister could not even say that he had launched an inquiry to find out why his department had misled him in that briefing note that he had relied on. This is all that the minister said:

The fact is that I provided at that time the information that had been provided to me in a written submission from my department.

Minister, it was wrong! It has been proven to be wrong. Your department knew 18 months ago that we had deported an Australian citizen but it did absolutely nothing about it. What did the minister say? ‘I provided all the relevant papers to the Palmer inquiry.’

We know that the Palmer inquiry will deal with only the one case. The minister cannot even table the papers in this House. Vivian is an Australian Filipina. I say in this House that I am very proud of the Filipinos that live in my electorate. There are a lot of them living in my electorate, as there are in the member for Greenway’s. There are other members in Western Sydney who have lots of Filipinos living in their electorates, and they cannot understand how a citizen who has lived for 13 years in this country can be deported. The minister is so arrogant that he will not even apologise for the incompetence of his department or the fact that he misled the Australian people. He is so arrogant. He will not apologise. He has not said to the parliament, ‘Look, I’m upset about this and I have launched an inquiry.’ There is no inquiry, Mr Speaker.

No-one on the other side wants to stand up and talk about this case or about the Filipinos in their electorates who are upset, who may have come here a very long time ago as refugees from a corrupt Marcos regime and who now fear that the very thing that happened to Cornelia Rau or to Vivian Alvarez can happen to them. I say it is an outrage. No citizen should live in fear of being deported. They should not have to witness an arrogant minister who refuses to apologise, thinks it is a laughing matter and wants to make a mockery of this place. I think it is an absolute disgrace. I know that Vivian was not from the establishment. She did not belong to the Adelaide Club or the Melbourne Club. She was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She was a battling Filipina who married an Australian and came to this country. She was deported, yet there has not been one word of sympathy, not one word of apology, not one bit of humility and no determination to get to the bottom of it. (Time expired)