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Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Page: 6550


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (1:42 PM) —We oppose schedule 1, item 5 in the following terms:

(3)    Schedule 1, item 5, page 4 (lines 12 to 21), item to be opposed.

I also move Australian Greens amendment (5) on sheet 5911:

(5)    Schedule 1, page 4 (after line 27), after item 6, insert:

6C  After subsection 24(2)

Insert:

Minors

      (2A)    In making a decision under subsection (1) in relation to a person who is eligible to become an Australian citizen under subsection 21(5) (the child), the Minister must give primary consideration to the best interests of the child.

I understand that we will have to vote on them separately, but I will speak to them collectively. The amendment goes to concerns that I raised in the second reading amendment in relation to the exemption item on minors under the arrangements currently in place. Amendment (5) builds on this notion. As I mentioned during my contribution and to the department when my office received a briefing, we are concerned over removing the ministerial discretion clause. As it currently stands, the legislation allows the minister to grant citizenship to a child or a young person who is not a resident. I have already spoken at length about our concerns with decisions that may, if this is removed, not be made in the best interests of the child as per our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Amendment (5) builds on what the Greens were trying to achieve with my previous amendment, and this is to insert a new requirement into section 2A that the minister would have to give primary consideration to the best interests of the child. It is understood that this affects only a small number of people. I am completely aware of that and recognise that. I guess, in the same tone, I therefore think that, if it is only a small number of people, the last thing we want to see, even if it were only for one child, is a decision not made in their best interests. Often they do not have a say over their applications for various visas and different types of immigration status. If it were in the best interests of the child to apply for citizenship and there was no ability to do that because we had removed the ability to apply without being a permanent resident, I am just concerned that down the track there may be a child or children subject to decisions not made in the best interests of their welfare.

That is the crux of the argument. I am concerned about it and I have raised it. I understand that the coalition and the government have a different point of view. There was also a concern that those issues need to be managed through the migration process and the Migration Act as opposed to the Citizenship Act. I accept that, but until I see where we might move to address those concerns I would not want us to leave a child in a situation where a decision is being made that is not in their best interests.