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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 963


Senator HILL —My question is directed to the Attorney-General, and I am sure it will not surprise him. Will he confirm the facts reported in today's Age newspaper about representations he made on behalf of Mr Stuart John Perry? If not, what inaccuracies are there in that report?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am indebted to Senator Hill for his question because it does enable me to put the record straight. The Age this morning published a long article commencing on page 1 under the heading: 'Efforts for ex-criminal put Evans in dilemma over rights'. The article purports to deal with the so-called dilemmas faced by members of parliament generally when asked by constituents with criminal records to make representations on their behalf. The great bulk of the article, however, deals with the specific case of Mr Stuart Perry, on whose behalf, in my capacity as a senator rather than Attorney-General, I made certain representations to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in April, July and September last year. Although the article has obviously been worked over very carefully by the Age's defamation lawyers in the three months since the issue was raised with me by the newspaper, it is difficult to read it, timed as it is, as anything more than yet another attempt to suggest a less than proper or wholehearted approach to organised crime issues by me in particular and the Government in general. As such I cannot let the matter go by without responding and making it clear that any such imputation is in this case, as so many times before, utterly without foundation.

What has obviously attracted the Age's attention is that Mr Perry-although this was unknown to me or my office at the time-was the subject last year of investigation by the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, in a subsequent reply, advised me that his departmental files on Mr Perry, including the only copies of the correspondence from me of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, were subpoenaed by the Costigan Commission on 27 September and delivered on 30 September last year.

The essence of the matter is set out in the memoranda and correspondence which I shall shortly table and seek leave to incorporate in Hansard. In short, it is as follows: Mr Perry approached my office in March last year, through a mutual trade union acquaintance, seeking clarification of his immigration status following advice to him from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that if he left the country he would not be allowed to return-not following his 'arrest as an illegal immigrant' as the Age story put it. He was dealt with throughout by a senior member of my staff in whose judgment and capacity I had, and retain, total confidence. I did not personally see or speak to Mr Perry at any time, and my evaluation of the merits and sincerity of his case was based entirely on the judgment of my staff member, which I have never had occasion either before or since to call in question on a matter of this kind.

The letter to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, which I signed on 28 April 1983, and which features prominently in the Age story this morning, did the following things: It set out Mr Perry's story, including an account of his extensive criminal record and his claim that he was no longer engaged in criminal activity. It stated that he wanted to leave and return to Australia and had been told by Immigration that he could not. He sought my intervention to find out what the situation was. The letter finally stated that I would appreciate the Minister's consideration of the matters raised and his advice to me adding as a concluding sentence:

I know that cases such as this are difficult, but it does at least appear to me that Mr Perry is making some determined effort to make a clean break with his past.

A routine acknowledgement was received from Immigration on 16 May, and two subsequent representations were made seeking resolution of the matter, but a final decision-which involved questions as to whether Mr Perry's status should be regularised, or whether in fact he should be deported-had not been made at the time and the Immigration file was subpoenaed last September, and the matter has not been able to be progressed by the Minister since.

The Age raised the matter with me on 18 June this year in the form of a set of questions directed to me from Lindsay Murdoch of that paper, all premised on the false assumption that I had written to the Minister for Immigration expressing personal support for a citizenship application by Mr Perry. I replied the following day with the memorandum and attachments which, together with the Murdoch questions, I now table and seek leave to incorporate in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The documents read as follows-

QUESTIONS FROM LINDSAY MURDOCH OF 'AGE' RE YOUR SUPPORT OF CITIZENSHIP APPLICATION BY STUART JOHN PERRY

1. How did you come to support in two letters to the Immigration Minister, Mr West, last year, the Australian citizenship of Stuart John Perry?

2. Did you know that at the time of those letters on 28 April and 4 June 1983 that Perry was an illegal immigrant?

3. Did you know that Perry had a long criminal history with convictions in NSW, Vic & Qld, and England where he served 5 years for assault and robbery?

4. Are you aware that Costigan has questioned Perry about his illegal immigrancy, his association with Painters and Dockers and possible involvement with several murders and the Great Bookie robbery?

5. Do you know that Perry has confessed to Costigan to being a liar and a thief ?

6. Did you meet with Perry before supporting his application for Australian citizenship and if not, did someone from your office?

7. Did you seek from any law enforcement agency the background of Perry and his suitability for Australian citizenship and, if so, which agency(ies)?

8. Did you write any letters to West other than the letters of support in April and June and did you ever withdraw the support you gave in those letters?

To: Lindsay Murdoch, The Age

From: Gareth Evans

Re: Perry Matter Date: 19 June 1984

I had no personal recollection of this matter at all when it was raised yesterday, but having now checked my office file and with the Immigration Department and my former Electorate Assistant Geoff Gardner (who now works for the Minister for Finance, and a note from whom is appended below: Attachment A) I can answer your questions as follows. Please note that the whole matter concerned a question of current immigration status and entitlement to a re-entry visa, and had nothing whatever to do with any application for citizenship.

1. The matter was dealt with in a routine way by my Melbourne Electorate Office , and by me in my capacity as Senator for Victoria. My former Electorate Assistant Geoff Gardner handled the case throughout, and I have no recollection of ever meeting or speaking to Mr Perry myself. He was introduced to my office by a mutual acquaintance, Mr Ron Chadwick, whom I know as a member of the Storemen and Packers Union and ALP. My personal role was confined to signing the original letter to the Minister for Immigration on 28 April 1983 (Attachment B), a follow-up letter on 4 July 1983 (Attachment C) and giving papers from my office file to the Minister personally on 16 September 1983 (following a memo from Mr Gardner on 13 September, Attachment D) with a request that he expedite an answer. My office has no record, and neither I nor my staff have any recollection, of any further movement on the matter since then.

2. Mr Perry's status as an immigrant was the very matter in issue, as my letter of 28 April 1983 makes clear.

3. Yes. Mr Perry gave a full account of his criminal record to Mr Gardner, and my letter of 28 April again makes this clear.

4. I am aware of the report of Mr Perry's appearance before the Costigan Commission in The Age of 1 October 1983, which-according to a file note-was marked for my information by Mr Gardner on 3 October 1983.

5. My knowledge of what Mr Perry may have told the Costigan Commission is confined to the press clipping referred to above.

6. I did not meet or speak to Mr Perry. Mr Gardner interviewed him in my Melbourne office on 29 March 1983 and spoke to him several times subsequently by telephone.

7. The question in issue was not Mr Perry's suitability for citizenship, but rather clarification of the question whether, if he left the country, he would be re-admitted. Given that context-as made very clear in my letter of 28 April- no such inquiry would have been appropriate.

8. See my answer to question 1. My letters of 28 April and 4 July were routine representations-of the kind that any Member of Parliament makes in the hundreds- seeking clarification of status and putting forward matters which might assist the Minister's consideration of the question. ''Support'' terminology implies something in the nature of a character reference, which my correspondence clearly was not.

Concluding note. I would be grateful if you would bring your questions and my answers to the personal attention of the Editor, and if Mr Burns were to speak to me before any publication of any of this material occurs. I will be in my Canberra office until 4.20 this afternoon (tel. 72 7301, 72 7260), at home in Melbourne this evening after approximately 8.00 p.m. and in my Melbourne office tomorrow (tel. 63 4071).

GARETH EVANS

Senator Evans

You have asked me to recall the circumstances concerning the representations you made to the Minister for Immigration on behalf of Mr Stuart Perry.

As I remember, Mr and Mrs Perry came to see me in company of Mr Ron Chadwick, an official of the Storeman and Packers Union.

Mr Perry was concerned about his immigration status following an application he had made for a visa to leave Australia to visit the Philippines. He needed the visa to return to Australia.

He advised that he had been informed by the Immigration Department that their records indicate that he should not be in the country and should have been refused re-entry the last time that he returned. As I recall he had been to England.

Mr Perry's concerns were:

1. that he should be allowed to remain in Australia

2. that he should be allowed to obtain a visa which would permit him to return to Australia if he were to leave.

In connection with the latter he spoke of a desire to see his aged grandmother in Britain.

Mr Perry then explained that he had a long criminal record and had served several prison sentences. He freely conceded that he had been involved in violent crime. He claimed that his last conviction and prison sentence in Australia had been for possession of a weapon. At the time of it he said he felt his life was in danger and he felt it necessary to carry a gun for self- protection.

Mr Perry claimed that he had not been involved in crime for some time. He had married an Australian woman and had legally adopted her children as his own. He no longer carried a gun though he still felt threatened. He was living on the dole and had been declared bankrupt following the collapse of a company he was involved in which had gone broke.

In my assessment of the case I believed that Mr Perry had been frank with me about his past. The fact that the problem of his immigration status had arisen was a shock to him and lead him to seek assistance from a political source. By doing so, and by asking for official representations to be made it seemed to me that he was prepared to have his case decided by officials on the basis of his desire to change his lifestyle. This view was re-iterated by him in his appearance before the Costigan Commission which basically took him through incidents that had occurred some years ago.

As a result, representations were drafted for you to sign which requested sympathetic consideration of his case by the Minister for Immigration. In such cases, we generally prepared such representations on the notepaper which was headed Senator for Victoria. Without seeing the originals I cannot remember whether this practice was followed in this case.

The second letter that was written to Mr West was a reminder that the case had still not been resolved. No substantive additional information was included though it referred to Mr Perry's desire to see his grandmother before a certain time as her health was failing.

At this stage therefore Mr Perry's case had still apparently not been resolved. The case is not one involving an application for citizenship. Mr Perry simply wished to be allowed to stay in Australia with his family and be given the opportunity to leave and return.

I must say I am fairly astonished that a newspaper can have raised this case with you in the way it has. The questions you have been asked smack of a desire to implicate you in some underhand way. Clearly they also reflect on my own capacity for personal judgment and carry the inherent suggestion that people with a criminal record have no right to seek assistance from their elected representatives.

Your letters clearly indicate that you were simply carrying out your duty as a Senator to assist people who seek your help. In fact you made no mention that supports the claim but simply requested its fair consideration. As for the effect on Mr Perry, clearly it can only do harm to his case and I think it is to be regretted if it means it is not treated on its merits. There is a hint of character assassination of both you and Mr Perry about the whole exercise which I personally find offensive. I assume that the whole thing has become public as the result of a misleading leak of information designed to embarrass you.

28 April, 1983

Hon. S. J. West, MP

Minister for Immigration

Parliament House

CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600

Dear Stewart,

I have received representations from Mr Stuart Perry, of Spotswood, Victoria, who is concerned about his immigration status in Australia.

Mr Perry is a British subject who, I understand, first came to Australia in 1960. He has, as he freely admits, an extensive criminal record. Some time prior to June 1979 he visited his relatives in Britain. He returned to Australia in June 1979. Since that time he has had two convictions for possession of a pistol . He has also been involved in a building company which went bankrupt in Queensland as a result, he claims, of the general recession that is still taking place.

A short time ago, Mr Perry applied for a visa to go to Manila. He believed that he would be able to arrange for finance for the development of a property in Noosa. He was then told that he should not have been allowed back in the country when he returned in 1979, and that if he left again he would again not be allowed back into Australia. Mr Perry is most concerned at this and has asked for a clarification of his position, as he wishes to visit his relatives in England and hopes to do so during the European summer which is starting shortly. Mr Perry claims, and in this he has the support of Ron Chadwick of the Storemen and Packers' Union, that he is no longer engaging in criminal activities and, despite the danger to himself that he feels exists, no longer arms himself. He has been married to an Australian woman for almost two years and has legally adopted her three children. He wishes to be issued with a re-entry visa so as to be able to return to Australia if he does visit England and has sought my intervention to ascertain whether this is possible.

I would appreciate your consideration of the matters I have raised and your advice to me. Mr Perry is worried that he is under threat of deportation, particularly as not only his wife, but also his mother and brothers are all living here. I know that cases such as this are difficult, but it does at least appear to me that Mr Perry is making some determined effort to make a clean break with his past.

Yours sincerely,

GARETH EVANS

Hon. S. J. West, MP

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Parliament House

Canberra A.C.T. 2600

Dear Stewart,

You will recall that I wrote to you on 28 April 1983 about Mr Stuart Perry of Spotswood, Victoria, concerning his current immigration status.

As some time has elapsed since I wrote to you, Mr Perry has contacted my office again to ascertain if there is any further development in his case. As I explained to you earlier, he was hoping to visit Europe in July, largely for the purpose of seeing his aged (83 years) grandmother. Mr Perry advised that his grandmother's eyesight is failing and that this is possibly the last opportunity she will have to see him and if possible, his family.

As this case is now taking on some urgency, I would appreciate it if a reply could be provided as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

GARETH EVANS

ATTACHMENT D

STUART PERRY

Gareth

Ron Chadwick of the Storeman and Packers Union rang about the abovenamed again.

We first wrote to Stewart West about him on 28 April. We received an acknowledgement of 16 May. We sent a reminder on 4 July.

Considering its now been 4 1/2 months this is starting to get a bit over the odds in the amount of time its taking. A note on file by me done on 18 July indicates that an official rang and said there would be ''some slight delay'' in presenting the case to the Minister. That's starting to assume the class of massive understatement.

Can you have a quick word to Stewart West at a meeting or something just to say that everyone is getting a bit agitated at the lack of any communication.

GEOFF. 13/9

ATTACHMENT E

Gareth

This is the bloke whose case we have taken up with Stewart West. He wants to stay, the Dept. of Imm & E. A. wants to deport. For info.

Costigan witness recalls 'war' that killed five

By JILL BAKER

An unemployed man told the Costigan Royal Commission yesterday that he had carried a gun for protection during a factional fight involving the violent deaths of five Melbourne men.

Stuart John Perry told the Royal Commission that he was concerned for his safety after hearing of a feud between his friend, Raymond Patrick ''Chuck'' Bennett, and the Kane brothers.

He said he had armed himself with a loaded .38 calibre pistol before a meeting with Mr Bennett to discuss the fight.

Senior counsel assisting the commission, Mr Douglas Meagher, QC: A violent fight?

Mr Perry: Yes.

Mr Perry said he had been newly-arrived back in Australia and wanted to tell Mr Bennett, whom he described as a friend, that he did not want any part in the fight. ''I didn't know how he (Mr Bennett) would take to the fact that I didn't want to be involved in it, but he said 'It's okay, Stuart'.''

Mr Perry agreed that the two had been arrested about an hour after the meeting outside a St Albans restaurant. He said it was later alleged that Mr Bennett had also ''had a pistol on him.''

Mr Perry said he had heard rumors that anyone who was a friend of Mr Bennett would be an enemy of the Kanes. ''After Ray Chuck (Bennett) got shot, I felt a bit vulnerable,'' he said, adding that as ''things turned out, . . . there was no problem.''

Mr Bennett was shot dead in the city court in November 1979. Brian Kane was shot dead in the Quarry Hotel in Lygon Street in November 1982 and his brother, Leslie Kane, disappeared from his Wantirna home in October 1981.

Mr Perry told the commission he had no intention of carrying a gun again. '' There is a time in everyone's life when they have to change,'' he said.

Mr Meagher asked whether that was because the ''war'' was over. Mr Perry replied: ''I wasn't involved in any way . . . I presume the fighting factions decided to call it a day. I hope so.''

Mr Meagher: The Kane family is almost wiped out?

Mr Perry: It is unfortunate thing, but yes.

Mr Meagher: I guess that means the end of the war?

Mr Perry: Let's hope so.

Mr Meagher asked a series of questions about a Mount Martha house where Mr Jan Carrol a former member of the Victorian executive of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers' Union and a friend of Mr Perry, was shot in January this year. Mr Perry said he had not been to the house with Mr Carroll and did not know whether escapee Russell Cox had been staying there. He said he was ''flabbergasted'' when he saw on television the number of weapons which were allegedly found in the house.

He was asked a series of questions yesterday about his property interests since his return to Australia in June 1979. These had included a block of units called Weyba Lodge at Noosa held through a company called Namsina Developments Pty. Ltd ., two flats in the Esplanade, Brighton, and two units in Hammer Street, Williamstown.

He said he had left $40,000 with Mr Carroll before leaving for England in 1974. He had earned $30,000 from legal horse betting and made the rest shoplifting, he said. Mr Perry said he could not transfer the money from Australia because he was absconding from bail but expected Mr Carroll to hold it for him or send it if required.

Further evidence in chief and cross examination of Mr Perry will continue when the royal commission resumes on a date to be fixed.


Senator GARETH EVANS —The documents should be wholly self-explanatory.

I had a long conversation on the evening of, I believe, 19 June with the Age Editor, Mr Burns, in which I explained with some patience the nature of the MP's role so far as representations to other Ministers on behalf of constituents were concerned. I also expressed some incredulity that the Age could possibly-in the light of my explanation-find any reasonable basis for running a story from which , however written, adverse inferences would inevitably be drawn. There the matter rested until the article appeared in the Age this morning.

I finally say that the dilemmas for MPs in making constituency representations are largely a product of the Age's imagination. Difficult questions do occasionally arise when one is approached, for example by persons who are clearly less than wholly sane, or whose cases are clearly such that no useful purpose could possibly be served by pursuing them with the appropriate authorities.

But the paper's suggestion that there might be some kind of duty to fully investigate the background and bona fides of a constituent before making representations on his or her behalf-at least in circumstances where someone with a criminal record is involved-simply cannot withstand any scrutiny. Not only is a member of parliament-even someone who, wearing another hat, is first Law Officer of the country-in no position at all to conduct any such investigation, nor should there be any pre-representation test run on each case. To do so would be, usually, to anticipate and predecide the very issue on which the representation is being made. Certainly that would have been the case in the Perry matter now before us. More importantly this needs to be said and said loudly and clearly for those whose hearing is limited in these matters. It would massively diminish the rights and expectations of ordinary citizens, who have a totally reasonable expectation that their elected representatives are there, not to pre-judge them, nor to adjudicate their claims, but to represent them.

That is the role that I have always played in the past, and one that I hope to go on playing-without fear of favour from the Age or anyone else-for a long time yet.