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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2457

Senator McKIERNAN (3.20 p.m.) —I listened very carefully to what Senator Hill had to say and I agree with him that this is a matter of national importance. I would even take it further than that: it is a matter of international importance.

  Last week, I was present at the estimates committee hearings when Senator Short addressed his questions on Mr Obeid to the minister. I participated in that debate, as sometimes government senators do on estimates committees. I was looking forward to the responses from the department to the questions that were asked.

  Yesterday, I listened with great interest to Senator Short's question and to the answer provided by the minister. It is a matter of national and international importance if we are going to have one-year-old terrorists running around the world. In addressing questions to estimates committee hearings last week Senator Short was clearly asking about a specific individual. Senator Short named him, the name was clearly understood, and yesterday Senator Bolkus addressed the individual about whom Senator Short was asking. That individual is one year old. To the best of my knowledge, there are no one-year-old terrorists in this country or any other country.

Senator Short —You are misleading the Senate as well; it's endemic with you lot.

Senator McKIERNAN —It is all very fine for Senator Short to come into the chamber and bluster and make accusations against the minister, but clearly he had his facts wrong last week, and he had his facts wrong yesterday when he again addressed the question. The matter of immigration policy has been brought into question. The matter of immigration policy needs to be put under scrutiny from time to time. Hopefully, I participate in a productive manner in that scrutiny.

  Today, we were told that the second named individual concerned actually came into this country on 29 June 1993. I do not think there is any dispute about that date. We were also told that the bombing in Lebanon took place in February of this year. Today, we were told in this chamber that the second named individual had not departed Australia to the best knowledge of the Department of Immigration. Investigations are taking place to see if perhaps the individual was able to depart and re-enter by other means. Undoubtedly those questions will be answered in due course.

  One thing that Senator Short said concerned me greatly. He was referring to the alleged ASIO report—and I say `alleged' because I have not personally seen it. I would not like to look at ASIO reports; not even the one on me. Senator Short said that ASIO reported that the individual may not be guilty of these charges. I have some doubts and some very real concerns if Senator Short is accurately repeating what ASIO is reported to have said. That would be putting ASIO in the position of judging matters, and I do not think that is ASIO's role; nor is it the role of this chamber or illustrious senators to judge individuals. There are proper processes to do that, and that is certainly not here in the Senate.

  I do not accept what Senator Hill said about Senator Bolkus hedging and hiding on this issue. Yesterday he was asked direct questions and he gave direct answers. If the individual asking the questions gets it wrong, there is no point blaming the minister for directly answering the question.

Senator Short —That is nonsense.

Senator McKIERNAN —Senator Short asked about a one-year-old terrorist in the Senate estimates hearing last week. If he cares to read his full questioning, he actually tried and convicted the individual as well. He has egg on his face—a whole omelette in fact—because he got it wrong. But because he gets it wrong he cannot turn around and say that the minister had it wrong—no way in the world. Senator Short will have to lift his game. He has done a reasonable job as the shadow immigration spokesperson but if he goes on making fundamental errors they will reflect on him.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.