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Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Page: 98

Mr MARLES (Corio) (18:14): I rise to speak in support of the Migration Legislation Amendment (Cessation of Visa Labels) Bill 2015. The bill is enabling legislation to give effect to the government's decision to formally discontinue the use of visa labels in Australia. A visa label is placed in a passport as physical evidence of someone holding a visa for Australia. Australian governments of both persuasions have been phasing out the requirement for visa labels in passports since the late 1990s. However, travellers have still had the option of requesting a label for their passport.

In 2012 the former Labor government introduced a package of legislative reforms to further discourage the use of visa labels, including a 'visa evidence charge' for those people who requested a label. The coalition increased the visa charge in July 2014. These charges have significantly reduced the number of visa labels issued. For example, in 2011 approximately 100,000 labels were issued per month. By comparison, in August 2015 only 2,816 were issued. The use of digital systems has also made the labels unnecessary, and the majority of visa holders travel to and reside in Australia without a label in their passport.

As part of the phasing out of visa labels over the past several years, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has consulted with industry stakeholders and we have been advised that they are supportive of the changes. In August 2015, the government introduced an amendment to the Migration Regulations that effectively ended the use of visa labels. This legislation will now give statutory effect to ending the use of visa labels, and that is why Labor supports this bill. With those few words, I commend the bill to the House.