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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 10305

Mr HARTSUYKER (1:22 PM) —I rise in the House today to speak on the Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2002. This is a very important bill, as throughout our history migrants have contributed to the success of this nation. I note that the member for Ryan mentioned his migrant background, and I would certainly like to commend him on the contribution that he has made to our country, both before entering politics and as a member of the coalition government.

Our migrants have provided a wealth of skills and have created the cultural diversity which we enjoy today. Our migrants have been engineers, builders, chefs, teachers, doctors and farmers. They have contributed to all areas of our society. This government have maintained a balanced migration policy under the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. The government balance the need for a skilled migration program, a family reunion program and a compassionate immigration program for purposes such as refugee intake.

The government have taken a firm stance on the issue of illegal immigration, and certainly this government have championed the cause for those people who seek to come to this country legally. They have certainly worked very hard to ensure that those who seek to come to this country legally are not disadvantaged at the hands of those who seek to come to the country illegally—those who seek to jump the queue and overtake people who have been waiting for quite some time for the opportunity to come to this wonderful country.

The government have upheld our sovereign right to determine who comes to this country and under what conditions. That is something that has attracted the overwhelming support of the people of Australia. Certainly at the last election they showed at the ballot box their overwhelming endorsement for the current stance of this government: for the idea that people who come to this country legally should have precedence over those who seek to come to the country illegally, and for the idea that this country should have the right to choose who comes to join us and work in this very fine land.

The opposition, by contrast, have flip-flopped repeatedly. They flip and they flop—we never seem to know where they are coming from. They are jumping from one place to another and it is very uncertain, very hard to pin them down—until recently, when something really amazing happened. After a year in opposition they released a policy. Out of that policy void that is the ALP, finally something appeared. Very interesting indeed. They finally released a policy. But what does this policy do? What is the actual effect of this policy? It weakens our stance on people-smuggling. It sends a signal that Australia is going to be open for business and that it is going to be a destination for people smugglers again, under the ALP. It sends a signal that a Labor government would unwind the current government's firm but effective stance on illegal immigration.

We all know that the member for Fremantle does not support the current policy as espoused by the opposition, and we are not sure about the member for Grayndler. It is a bit of a case of `We heard what he said but we did not know what he meant'. It is a bit unclear where he stands. The very strong and united stance of this government is a stark contrast to the disunity and uncertainty of the opposition. I am sure there are plenty of members opposite who do not support the policy that has been recently released, yet we just do not hear from them. They have been silent, but there is certainly a great degree of uncertainty.

The bill currently before the House makes certain amendments to the Migration Act 1958. The purpose of these amendments is to improve the integrity of the act and to ensure that the act operates as intended. The bill aims to clarify certain visa related matters, to create a deputy principal member position on the Migration Review Tribunal, to remove ambiguity surrounding certain offence provisions and to correct certain technical errors in the act. I would like to consider several of the schedules within the bill at this point.

Schedule 1 to the bill amends the act to clarify the immigration status of non-citizen children born in Australia. Despite what the opposition might say, the interests of children are of paramount importance to Minister Ruddock; and my National Party colleague Larry Anthony, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, is very interested in the welfare of children. Schedule 1 gives effect to that concern. Under the proposed changes, these children are taken to have entered Australia at birth. The schedule expressly provides that these non-citizen children are immigration cleared for the purposes of their entry at birth.

It is important to clarify this status, because it has significant implications for a person's entitlements under the Migration Act with regard to their ability to access bridging visas. Under the act, the usual way a visa holder must enter Australia is through a port or on a pre-cleared flight, but obviously the act does not take into account the possibility of people entering Australia by virtue of birth. Schedule 1 puts beyond doubt that any visas taken to have been granted to non-citizen children at birth do not cease to be in effect because of the way these children entered Australia.

Schedule 2 of the bill addresses issues which arose in the Tutugri case, which was heard in the Federal Court. The amendments to schedule 2 clearly authorise the taking of security for compliance with conditions to be imposed on a visa before a visa is granted. Schedule 3 of the bill makes two amendments to the act relating to special purpose visas. The first amendment deals with the cessation of a special purpose visa where the minister has made a declaration that it is undesirable for a person to travel to, enter or remain in Australia. The amendment will allow the minister to specify a time when such a declaration is to take effect. The second amendment in schedule 3 to the bill puts it beyond doubt that the rules of natural justice do not apply to making such a declaration by the minister.

Schedule 4 to the bill creates a deputy principal member position on the Migration Review Tribunal. Schedule 5 to the bill ensures that certain offence provisions in the act operate as they did prior to the commencement of the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

Schedule 6 to the bill makes several amendments to the act. These amendments, firstly, will prevent non-citizens from evading the intended operation of section 48 by travelling overseas on a bridging visa. Subsection 48(1) of the Migration Act provides that a non-citizen who does not hold a substantive visa and who, after last entering Australia, was refused a visa may only apply for a prescribed class of visa. Currently, a non-citizen who leaves and re-enters Australia on a bridging visa is able to circumvent this bar on subsequent visa applications because, on re-entering Australia, he or she has not had a visa refused after last entering Australia. It should be noted that it was never intended that these bridging visa holders would not be subject to the section 48 bar.

Secondly, schedule 6 to the bill amends the act to clarify that a non-citizen's bridging visa ceases to be in effect the moment his or her substantive visa is cancelled. Schedule 6 to the bill also amends the act to allow a time limit to be imposed on a non-citizen in immigration clearance seeking revocation of an automatic cancellation of his or her student visa. Schedule 6 also clarifies that the decision not to revoke the automatic cancellation of a non-citizen's student visa that is made while a person is in immigration clearance is not merits reviewable.

I would like to spend a moment talking about the opposition's proposed amendments. I am pleased to note that the opposition has generally supported the bill in its current form. However, I have some difficulty with the opposition's amendments. The degree of support that these amendments have from the opposition seems a bit uncertain. The opposition's position seems a bit unclear: some members are supporting it, but we are not so sure of the position of others, such as the member for Fremantle. The proposed amendments, as I understand them, would cause some considerable complexity with administration of the overall system; they would certainly, I believe, result in increased litigation. After observing the length of time taken with and the great expense to the community of longwinded litigation for asylum seekers, many of whom—in fact, most of whom, it seems—ultimately have their right to stay in Australia revoked, it seems rather peculiar that we would be seeking to make this system more complex rather than simpler and easier to administer.

In summary, I believe that this bill is a good bill. It will enhance the effectiveness of our immigration legislation. I commend the bill to the House.