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Monday, 4 September 1989
Page: 856

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs. When does the Minister intend to answer my question on notice No. 1163 which asks, among other things, when he will determine the status of Imam Al Hilaly of the Lakemba Mosque. In a submission to the Minister last week on this matter, a copy of which I have here, which `relevant Government agency' is his Department referring to in claiming that on the information then available to it-this is on the question of the imam's links with Libya-it indicated no objection to the imam's continued presence in Australia? Does the Minister accept this view? I ask the Minister whether he also accepts this assertion in the submission by his Department:

It is difficult to know, amid all the claims and counterclaims in this case, where the real truth lies.

The submission continues:

Most allegations against Imam Al Hilaly are not supported by factual evidence.

This statement is made, despite a finding against him by the New South Wales Ethnic Affairs Commission. Will the Minister accept direct submissions from concerned Australians that establish the truth of allegations against the imam that his Department apparently cannot discover?

Senator ROBERT RAY —Senator Michael Baume asked me when I will make a decision. I will be making a decision this week. I will be making a decision on the basis of facts, not on the basis of views put to me either by him or by anyone else. I will be looking at the file in its entirety and will make, I hope, a fair and impartial decision. I will not be making a decision on the basis of representations to me by the Islamic community, the Christian community or the Jewish community; nor should I. Were I to do so, I would probably end up in court. I am not going to confirm or say anything about the document to which Senator Baume has referred, other than that an investigation has indicated that that document was stolen from a post office and then distributed around Sydney. I think it is ironic that only a few weeks ago when Opposition senators were complaining about misuse of documentation, I made the statement that if they had a stolen document they would use it, and this has now been proven.

Senator Baume asked me whether I would take into account the views of the New South Wales Ethnic Affairs Commission. I have read its report several times, and I will certainly refresh my memory by reading it again before I make a final decision. As I say, I will make a decision on the matter later this week, based on the facts, not on prejudices, and based on a whole variety of matters, but not on the basis of political pressure or representation.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. My question was directed at the facts of the matter. I asked the Minister specifically about the establishing of facts, particularly relating to the submission by his Department which said that the facts of the matter could not be established. In that case, once again I ask: Does the Minister accept the view reported in the submission to him that an unnamed relevant Australian agency found no matter of concern in the imam's link with Libya? What is that agency? Will the Minister accept details of matters of fact to supplement the departmental report which says it cannot establish the merit or otherwise of those facts?

Senator ROBERT RAY —I made it patently clear to Senator Michael Baume that I was not going to debate the contents of submissions that are submissions to me, and only to me. The fact that he wants to quote from stolen documents is his business. If he wants to do that he can have a debate with himself.