Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone
recently issued a press release on the changes DIMA
was implementing post-Palmer Report to, as Amanda put it, “make my department
more open and accountable, ensuring fair and reasonable dealings with
clients
and providing the organisation with well-trained and supported staff.”
But those words may be ringing a little hollow to recently returned deportee Robert Jovicic.

Since returning from Serbia, Jovicic was informed last Friday by
acting Immigration
Minister Julie Bishop that he would be issued a Special
Purpose Visa (SPV) that would expire 6 April 2006. in addition, he couldn’t be
guaranteed a Resident Return Visa (RRV) and was required to apply for
Serbian
citizenship “in good faith”. And despite trying to get some answers
from DIMA and the Minister’s office, Robert and his family currently
have no idea what will happen when his current
visa expires.

Since Friday, the Minister and Acting Minister’s office have not returned any of the Jovicic team’s emails or phone
calls. So is the department, whose new slogan is “People – Our
business”, reneging on its promise to usher in a new era of transparency and accountability?

Ross Waraker, a spokesperson for the Jovicic family, said that he,
lawyer Michaela Byers and Robert’s sister Susanna have been
shunted from the minister’s office (Vanstone is currently overseas) to
acting Immigration Minister Julie Bishop, who is yet to respond
to their phone calls and emails. DIMA has also failed to shed any light on
Robert’s situation.

“How does this fit
within the new culture of accountability and transparency?” asks
Waraker. When informed of the minister’s decision on Friday “we
were repeatedly asked to leave the meeting room once the minister’s
decision … was communicated” and “nobody was
available…to comment on or clarify issues relating to the the
decision.”

When Vanstone initially informed Jovicic that he would be
returning to Australia, she wrote that she may consider “issuing you with a
Resident Return Visa (RRV).
The RRV will then enable you to remain in Australia and give you access
to Medicare and Income Support Benefits.”

Jovicic was then issued a case worker, Tim, who travelled
to Serbia to assist with his
return. Tim reported to the head of Reconnecting People, headed up by Victoria Bishop, and Jovicic’s family was given the forms
for
the Reconnecting People Assistance Package. Waraker told Crikey that
“Victoria initially met with the family and outlined the care and
accommodation offer, and discussed Robert’s history in detail.”

That offer was subsequently
scaled down and then totally withdrawn, but Jovicic and
his family have no idea why. Victoria Bishop is not returning
their calls, and neither is Tim. Both Victoria and Tim have “disappeared,” says Waraker.

And no-one seems to be able to answer why, a week after Jovicic’s return, he is still
being asked to apply for Serbian citizenship.

Amanda Vanstone’s office told Crikey that
as the Minister is currently overseas it could not elaborate on the
situation. Acting Immigration Minister
Julie Bishop’s office also told Crikey that they couldn’t elaborate.
Crikey also contacted Sandi Logan, National Communications Manager at
DIMA, but he did not get back to us before publication.

Peter Fray

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