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Wednesday, 11 September 1985
Page: 447

Senator BOLKUS —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Is it true that one of the locally engaged staff members of the Australian Embassy in Santiago, Mrs Quena Jimenez, has a close working and personal relationship with the Chilean secret police? Is it also true that Australian immigration or embassy staff in Santiago have expressed concern at the potential breach of security which the continued employment of Mrs Jimenez represents? Is it possible that security leaks from the Embassy, should they occur, could endanger the lives of potential refugees seeking to come to Australia? In view of these concerns and the concerns of the Chilean community in Australia, will the Government take immediate action to remove this person?

Senator GRIMES —The allegations repeated by Senator Bolkus about Mrs Jimenez were first raised with the Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in February 1984. They were investigated by the Government. They were investigated by the Australian Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace through its Chilean counterpart and were found to be unfounded. Mrs Jimenez has worked as a locally hired staff member at the Australian embassy in Chile for more than 10 years. She is a family friend of a CNI officer. Part of her duties in that embassy has been to undertake liaison with Chilean authorities, as officers in Australian embassies throughout the world do, as a routine practice to make investigations about people who are asking to migrate to Australia. There is no evidence in all the investigations that have been conducted that there have been any breaches of security by the Embassy in Chile. If people who make approaches to the Australian Embassy have cause to fear reprecussions from the Chilean authorities they do not have to submit their names or any other information for checking when they make inquiries at the Australian Embassy.

As I have said, allegations have been made in the past. They have been investigated. It has been concluded on several occasions that the allegations are unfounded. The Minister and the Government have no evidence that any member of the staff of the Australian Embassy in Chile has made any such complaint at all. The connection of Mrs Jimenez with one member of the CNI is, in fact, an extended family connection. Having regard to the unsubstantiated nature of the allegations, the Minister has announced that he is not prepared to damage the career and livelihood of a long serving officer. As I have said, these allegations have been put forward by some members of the Chilean community in Australia since February 1984. I repeat that they have been investigated by the Australian Government and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. Those allegations have been shown to be unfounded so far. While that situation exists the Minister has no intention of terminating the employment of Mrs Jimenez.