Cash for visas claims boost applications

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The publicity surrounding unproven claims Attorney-General Philip Ruddock granted visas in return for political donations had resulted in thousands more applications landing on the immigration minister's desk.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said she had an aircraft carrier worth of paperwork to trawl through as she assessed each request to use her power to intervene to grant visas.

She admitted she had intervened in a large number of cases since she took over last year as immigration minister, partly because the government was committed to giving visas to most East Timorese in Australia.

Senator Vanstone said she was confident in the ministerial intervention system, despite a Senate committee recommending the system become more accountable and transparent.

The committee spent the past six months investigating the immigration minister's discretionary powers on migration issues following claims concerning Mr Ruddock's handling of visas when he was immigration minister.

Labor claimed Mr Ruddock granted visas after money was donated to the Liberal Party.

The Senate inquiry report said there was no way to determine whether Mr Ruddock granted visas in return for donations to the Liberal Party.

Mr Ruddock claimed the inquiry had vindicated his decisions.

Senator Vanstone promised to look at the report but would not commit to accepting its recommendations.

"When I've had a good chance to have a good look at it the government will respond," she said.

"But I'm pleased to note... that those who thought that inquiry would somehow show indiscretions on behalf of minister Ruddock were unable to find such evidence because it doesn't exist."

Senator Vanstone said the publicity regarding the cash for visas claims had resulted in increased caseloads and she admitted a lot of work was involved to keep on top of it.

"It is true, as I'm advised, that the publicity given to this inquiry has generated thousands more applicants, the bad news is that means more work for me," she said.

"It is a lot of work and it therefore requires you to be very organised in how you do it.

"I thought the previous portfolio had a... lot of paperwork but this one is the aircraft carrier of them all."
 


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