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Friday, 29 May 1987
Page: 3656

Mr MOUNTFORD(4.20) —I raise a matter which, firstly, reflects badly on the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Government; secondly, devalues the work done by members of parliament; and, thirdly, abuses the vulnerable and desperate in our community. It concerns the activities of a Mr Leslie Hardy who heads a firm called Hardy's Investigations. This firm advertises daily in a leading Sydney newspaper under the heading `Immigration'. The advertisement states:

We are a firm of professionals and specialise in the following:

Change of Status

Fiance Visas

Sponsorship Overseas

Any Immigration problem

For the information of honourable members I seek leave to table a copy of the advertisement from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of Tuesday, 12 May 1987.

Leave granted.

Mr MOUNTFORD —My involvement with Mr Hardy occurred when he sent one of his clients, a Korean man, Mr Young Hur, to my office because of the pending deportation of Mr Hur following Mr Hardy's shoddy and unprofessional handling of his appeal to the review panel for reconsideration of Mr Hur's rejected change of status application.

Mr Hur desperately wanted to remain in Australia and, being vulnerable and unaware of the assistance provided by members of parliament and other agencies free of charge, paid Mr Hardy $1,000 to provide him with professional and specialist services. What he got was a rip-off. Mr Hardy failed to lodge the appeal with the review panel within the 14 days stipulated. It was therefore not even accepted.

I raised this case with the investigations section of the Department and was surprised to find that this man, who was advertising his specialist services daily, was up on four charges of fraud and four charges of uttering forged documents to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. He was obviously well known to the Department. Apparently, Mr Hardy deals with hundreds of cases at a time. His services include the introduction by mail to prospective brides and the introduction of change of status applicants to unmarried Australian citizens.

In one of the cases under investigation, Mr Hardy charged two families seeking change of status $5,000 each, telling them he had discounted his normal charge because there were two of them. Apparently, he indicated to the families that he had a senior contact in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and had a Federal MP on side, the clear implication being that he needed the money to pay them off.

In regard to the case concerning Mr Hur, I was advised that the original application for change of status was also under investigation. The Department believed that the signature of the justice of the peace who witnessed the application was fraudulent, in which case the whole application was invalid. In retrospect, Mr Hur said that no one had witnessed his signature in writing, although at the time he did not realise this needed to be done. This matter has now been referred to the Australian Federal Police for investigation. This is not a simple matter. It involves illegality, allegations of corruption and deception, not to mention the financial and emotional abuse of vulnerable people.

This Government has done much to strengthen the image of Federal departments as a fair and helpful Public Service. People such as Mr Hardy make a mockery of this effort. He convinces people that in order to get a fair hearing with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs they must pay inordinate sums of money to a so-called expert. At present the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has the authority under section 48 of the Migration Act to prevent Mr Hardy from continuing to advertise his services. From information that I and his own Department can provide, I feel sure that the Minister has every ground to do so. Such action may at least reduce the number of people being taken for a ride by Hardy's Investigations pending the court hearing later this year.

I also mention my concern over proposed changes to this section of the Migration Act which will rescind the power of the Minister to act in cases such as this. The draft provision apparently relies on market forces to control any abuse. But when one is dealing with susceptible people willing to pay any amount to be assured of permission to live in Australia, market forces simply do not apply. I urge the Minister to reject such proposals. I also request the Minister to take appropriate action under the Act to stop Mr Hardy advertising his so-called services and so protect vulnerable people from his dishonest and callous actions.