Peter Lindsay, the retiring LNP federal Member of Parliament in Queensland and his senior staffer have been accused of having double standards on immigration, talking tough on boats while doing all they can to bring foreign workers to Townsville.
Lindsayâ€™s website contains emphatically anti-boats talk, which is believed to play well in northern Queensland:
Boat loads of asylum seekers infiltrating Australian waters are exploiting the Labor Governmentâ€™s penetrable borders and using Kevin Ruddâ€™s policies as a â€œmarketing toolâ€, according to the Coalition.
While reports that there are another six boat loads are on their way to Australia are being sidestepped by Mr Rudd, the Government has been forced to expand the Christmas Island Detention centre to avoid transferring incoming asylum seekers to the mainland.
MPâ€™s OFFICE INVOLVED IN IMMIGRATION BUSINESS
Despite this strong anti-asylum seeker sentiment in Townsville, there are chronic labour shortages in the area due to the mining boom which have prompted many businesspeople to seek out the services of those who can assist them in obtaining cheap overseas labour.
The same website reveals that the outgoing LNP MP Peter Lindsay employs Steve Hawker, a former Liberal candidate for the Townsville council and a registered migration agent.
The mobile phone number he lists on Peter Lindsayâ€™s website is the same mobile phone number he lists in a promotion in the Ukrainian language for his business Freeman Migration Services Australia.
He appears to charge nearly ten thousand dollars for each successful visa.
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
That the MP employs a currently active migration agent is a serious enough problem, with many potential conflicts of interest.
This unusual and morally ambiguous situation appears not to have been reported previously, despite Townsville having its own media market.
Those familiar with the operation of federal electorate offices say the possible conflicts of interest by having electorate officers also running migration agent businesses are many and serious. MPs are frequently invited to provide letters of support to those making applications to the Department of Immigration. The idea is that they only do this with good reason and certainly not for any commercial benefit.
IT COULD BE EVEN WORSE THAN HUMBUG
But it gets worse for the MP and his so-called â€œright-hand manâ€. VEXNEWS understands that Townsville has been abuzz with talk that Hawker and Lindsayâ€™s perceived conflict of interests may have descended into even more dangerous territory.
VEXNEWS has learned that the Townsville Bulletin has been sitting on a story they researched earlier this year where a local businessman Sona Singh Bhela is said to have made gravely serious allegations against the Member of Parliament and his staffer.
The VEXNEWS Investigations Unit has obtained documents in relation to this matter, which have not been corroborated or verified, but which raise troubling issues that could do much to undermine the LNPâ€™s strong position in the northern Australian seat on unauthorised arrivals.
Because they havenâ€™t been corroborated, we have decided that we ought not publish them.
But what is beyond question is that LNP MP Peter Lindsayâ€™s so-called senior adviser was running a business bringing migrants to Australia while working for the taxpayer and while his boss was positioning his party as strongly anti-boats. We understand that Steve Hawker had this business prior to working for Lindsay but has certainly maintained it during his time as an electorate officer.
Peter Lindsay has been a popular MP in Townsville, the LNPâ€™s Ewen Jones will be hoping to draw on that community support to prevail in the hotly contested marginal seat.
An observer of the Townsville political scene told VEXNEWS:
â€œWhen hapless Immigration Minister Chris Evans referred to the boats issue â€œkilling the government,â€ he was talking about the political damage it did in seats like Herbert. The LNP will need to be careful to ensure that none of its prominent figures whether they be migration agents or real estate agents are seen to be talking loudly tough on immigration when the TV cameras are on while slyly whispering about the sweet deals they can arrange for migrants in return for cash. It may well be perfectly legal but itâ€™s not ethical and itâ€™s not consistent with their tough talk.â€
UPDATE 3PM: A very charming Peter Lindsay MP has been in contact with VEXNEWS and explained that his electorate officer’s business as a migration agent was done in entirely his own time, “after hours and on weekends.” He made the quite valid point that there is a distinction to be drawn between unauthorised arrivals and those people properly coming to Australia in the ordinary way. He also strongly disputed the bona fides of the businessman who has made claims in sworn statements about immigration matters referring to them as “bitter and twisted sharpies” engaged in quite outrageous immigration practices. The retiring MP who noted (with some relief we think) that he would no longer be an MP as at 4.59pm today after ably serving since 1996 remarked that he was proud of the work of his office (including Steve Hawker) in bringing people into Australia as immigrants and that he was at all times careful to avoid conflicts of interest of the kind we highlighted above. We have no reason to doubt his word but wonder whether the popular marginal seat MP was understood by his constituents to be as pro-immigration as he now seems to be.
UPDATE 4PM: Tony Abbott reading VEXNEWS earlier today on his Blackberry at the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce luncheon where Peter Costello was apparently in raucous form. ‘Abbo’ as his Liberal chums call him seems unimpressed with the idea of Liberal electorate officers moonlighting as immigration agents to arrange visas for people from Pakistan and the Ukraine, even on their own time.