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Thursday, 17 February 2000
Page: 12067


Senator Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, upon notice, on 2 December 1999:

With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 1429 (Senate Hansard, 12 October 1999, p.9523):

(1) Why are people from Tibet classified as Chinese nationals.

(2) Have people from East Timor, only in 1999, been classified as Indonesian nationals with no reference in the department's records to their East Timor identity.

(3) What is the Minister's definition of a `refugee'.

(4) Will the department's records be amended to identify people who are of Tibetan origin.


Senator Vanstone (Minister for Justice and Customs) —The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) classifies countries on the basis of information obtained from standard reference material, users of data and experts in the field. Reference sources universally include Tibet as part of China with the status of Autonomous Region. This practice is supported by the United Nations which does not separately identify Tibet in its publication Standard Country or Area Codes for Statistical Use. The ABS also ensures it remains consistent with government policy by obtaining the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on the content and nomenclature used in its Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC). DIMA follows the ABS approach in classifying people from Tibet as Chinese nationals.

(2) The ABS classified East Timor as part of Indonesia in its first standard classification of countries in 1990 and in its subsequent SACC classification. It should be noted that, in consultation with DFAT, the ABS is preparing a revision document to the SACC to reflect the changed circumstances in East Timor. Consistent with the ABS approach, the Department in 1999 continues to classify people from East Timor as Indonesian nationals.

(3) The Migration Act 1958 incorporates into Australian law the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The definition of a refugee contained within the Convention and used by Australia is a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

It is not practical to amend the Department's records to identify people who are of Tibetan origin.