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Tuesday, 24 May 2005
Page: 128


Mr Murphy asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, in writing, on 17 March 2005:

(1)   Is Australia a signatory to the (a) Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954) and (b) Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1954).

(2)   Has the Government fulfilled its international obligations as a signatory to the (a) Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954) and (b) Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1954); if so, will the Minister explain how; if not, why not.

(3)   Can a person who is not found to be a refugee but is found to be a stateless person seek protection in Australia as a stateless person under Australian law; if not, why not.

(4)   What steps is the Minister taking to fulfil Australia’s obligations under international instruments to which Australia is a signatory, to reduce the incidence of statelessness; if no steps are being taken, can the Minister explain why not.


Mr McGauran (Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs) —The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

(1)   Yes, Australia is a party to both (a) the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954) and (b) the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961).

(2)  

   Yes, Australia fulfils its obligations under these Conventions through a range of laws and policies.

   (a)   Key obligations in the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons include non-discrimination, freedom of religion, treatment not less favourable than other non-citizens who are not stateless in relation to access to certain services, provision of travel documents and non-expulsion of stateless lawful non-citizens except in certain circumstances. These obligations are implemented through migration legislation and policy and a range of Commonwealth and State and Territory laws (for example in relation to non-discrimination and provision of welfare).

   (b)   Key obligations in the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness relate to the acquisition and loss of nationality and have been fulfilled through the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 since before the Convention came into force in 1975.

(3)   The Statelessness Conventions do not confer a right for stateless persons to enter or remain in Australia. The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons is primarily concerned with ensuring that stateless persons are not treated less favourably than persons who have a nationality. In the context of the Refugees Convention, Australia meets this obligation by ensuring that stateless persons are not disadvantaged in applying for protection because they do not have a nationality.         Where it is determined that Australia does not owe a stateless person protection obligations under the Refugees Convention, unique or exceptional circumstances may exist which warrant the exercise of the Minister’s discretionary, non-compellable public interest powers under s417 of the Migration Act 1958. Obligations under other relevant treaties such as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights may be assessed in the context of these powers.

(4)   The most comprehensive international instrument in relation to the reduction of statelessness to which Australia is a party is the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. As explained in response to question (2)(b), Australia fulfils these obligations through the Australian Citizenship Act 1948.