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Saturday, 28 October 2006

The Australian Sheik - Always the eye of the storm, An Historical Perspective

Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali

In April of 2005 Australian Radio Announcer Alan Jones interviewed Phillip Ruddock the then Minister for Immigration and multicultural affairs in relation to Australia's Mufti, Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali

This is a part extract of a rather lengthy interview.
...[...] Interview continues

ALAN JONES: Well, he wrote at the weekend - and I just want to take you through some of this because my listeners want some answers - that 11 years ago, as Opposition spokesman on immigration, you pursued questions never answered as to why the Hawke Labor Government granted this bloke, Al Hilaly, permanent residency in 1990, that eight years earlier, he said, the Sheik had arrived in Sydney from Egypt under the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils on a three-month visa and his family never left.

Now there were several convictions, intellectual convictions against this bloke and many want to know how he still remains in the light of saying the things he said.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, I mean, Alan Ramsey's story went through it and I think there were some other stories at the same time, that related what happened. I mean, this…

ALAN JONES: He was accused of inciting racial hatred.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Yes, and Chris Herford, who was the former Minister, determined that in character terms he should not remain in Australia. (that was in 1986)

[Click Read More...]

ALAN JONES: That's r! ight.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: And he issued a deportation order.

ALAN JONES: That's in 1986.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: And that was overturned because there were representations made by essentially the Lebanese Muslim Association in Sydney to the Members of Parliament - I think Leo McLeay was one and Paul Keating was another.

ALAN JONES: Alan Ramsey said that Hilaly had been supported by strong New South Wales and federal ALP lobbying [in US speak democrats] and survived.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, as I understand it, there was very strong lobbying, and I spoke to Robert Ray at the time. He made the decisions that he would be able to continue to remain here on a temporary basis. They were renewed, as I understand it, for a number of years, and Ray I think was a bit nervous that there may be a change in an election. It didn't happen. There was a Labor Government was returned and Hilaly was given permanent residency.

And once he was granted permanent residency, provided he remained i! n Australia, he was eligible for citizenship.

ALAN JONES: Let's go back a bit, just go back a bit, because…

PHILIP RUDDOCK: …while Gerry Hand was Minister…

ALAN JONES: Let's go back a bit though before we get to Gerry Hand because you're going fairly quickly but my listeners would want us to go a bit more slowly.

In October 1998, you demanded his visa be withdrawn after, as Ramsey rightly reports, a series of virulent anti-Semitic comments were attributed to a speech he made at the University of Sydney. I should repeat that Ramsey at the weekend said the comments were published in a Jewish newspaper and contained a reference to Jews as the underlying cause of all wars and that Jews who "used sex and abominable acts of buggery to control the world."

And this bloke, in spite of overtures that such a person shouldn't be kept in this country, has been kept here.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: And the reason he's been kept here is that the decisions the Labor Government took at that time gave him permanent residency and then citizenship, and once you achieve citizenship, it cannot be revoked. And you know, when we came into office…

ALAN JONES: So the deportation order of Herford was revoked by Herford's successor?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: That's right.

ALAN JONES: To placate an ethnic community in the run-up to the July '87 election?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: There were very significant pressures put on at that time, and former Prime Minister Keating, I believe, was the person who pushed for the Minister at that time to take those decisions.

ALAN JONES: Ramsey wrote on Saturday that privately the Sheik had travelled to Canberra for a meeting with McLeay and Keating and when Robert Ray learnt of it - the Minister - he deferred the Sheik's application for a year on the grounds of collusion. And Ramsey said that Keating wouldn't speak to Robert Ray for months.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, I know none of that. But ! I know that Ray was not keen to make the decision, but I know the decision was made and I know when I came Minister in 1996 it was a fait accompli.

I mean, citizenship is something that cannot be revoked unless it was initially obtained by fraud, and there is no suggestion here the information that you are speaking of was not known to the Government at the time.

ALAN JONES: Right. But Ramsey does say in September 1990, when Hand then approved Hilaly's permanent residence, you, Philip Ruddock, sought under Freedom of Information "all briefings and advisings" in the "grant of resident status to Hilaly and his family." And you were quoted as saying the Minister must be able to justify the decision, and yet you've never had those questions answered.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: No. I mean, you might - the question I would expect from you is why I haven't asked for those papers now and what would I do with it. And essentially I've come to the view that if I can't do anythin! g about the decision, it's going to be pretty silly of me just seeking to look at the papers.

I mean, I know of the concerns. There were security concerns and they were mentioned in that article as well as the vilification of a segment of our community. And I make the point every time I speak in front of Hilaly about the importance of our culturally diverse society and what that means. And I make the point very strongly that, you know, when you've settled in Australia, while we acknowledge that people have different cultural backgrounds, we have an expectation that they'll observe our laws.

And one of the things that disappoints me in relation to immigration laws is that some people seem to think - and Hilaly is arguing this - are entitled to ignore our laws if they relate to immigration. And I don't think you have a society that believes in the rule of law where you say, well, there are some laws that I'll obey and some that I won't.

ALAN JONES: But when a bloke says that the Prime Minister of a country has opened the gates to death because asylum seekers have drowned, isn't this an incitement to mobilise his people against those who support the Government?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Look, I mean it is very clear that remarks of that sort, if they were being made - and the sort of remarks that he's made elsewhere - would be matters that we would take into account under the character provisions if we were dealing with a migration application de nevo. They are matters…

ALAN JONES: He's already a permanent citizen.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: He's a permanent resident and citizen.

ALAN JONES: And citizen. But in January last year, is it right that he was sentenced to a year in jail with hard labour after being convicted of smuggling antiquities from Egypt to Australia?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: I believe there was a conviction which he has appealed and that appeal is still being dealt with.

ALAN JONES: And the Sheik's son and four other people were also jailed.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: I don't know about that, but I do know that those proceedings were taking place in Egypt and he was the subject of a conviction and that matter has been appealed and that appeal is still being dealt with.

ALAN JONES: It's not fair to the Muslim community, surely, to be represented in the public place by people who speak like this, is it?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, I think the Islamic community have been very concerned about this matter themselves and he's been at times relieved of some of his responsibilities. And as I understand it, he is no longer the Mufti - which was the terms used - for the Supreme Spiritual Leader in Australia. He is just one of a number of imams.

ALAN JONES: Good on you. Thank you for your time because many of my listeners wrote and asked me to ask you those questions. I've done that and you've answered them. I thank you for that.

ALAN JONES: Philip Ruddock, the Immigration Minister. There you are, we're inundated with letters and faxes and emails here about all of that. I hope that clarifies it for you. He is an Australian citizen.


BB: So in essence, we have the joys of the Mufti's presence in Australia because the Labour party was threatened by Lebanese Muslims to change their vote if he wasn't allowed to stay! Threats , violence, Policy change ,Threats , violence, Policy change , Threats , violence, Policy change .... mmm any one seeing a pattern here?

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