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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ETHNIC AFFAIRS
Program 1-MIGRATION AND VISITOR ENTRY
Subprogram 1.2-Migration and Resident Status
- Committee Name
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ETHNIC AFFAIRS
Program 1-MIGRATION AND VISITOR ENTRY
- Sub program
Subprogram 1.2-Migration and Resident Status
- System Id
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Table Of ContentsPrevious Fragment Next Fragment
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
(SENATE-Tuesday, 15 May 1990)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
- Program 1-AUSTRALIAN PROPERTY SERVICES
- Program 2-OVERSEAS PROPERTY SERVICES
- Program 3-AUSTRALIAN CONSTRUCTION SERVICES
- Program 4-TRANSPORT AND STORAGE
- Program 6-AUSTRALIAN PROTECTIVE SERVICE
- Program 8-AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING SERVICE
- Program 10-METEOROLOGY
- Program 14-PARLIAMENTARY AND MINISTERIAL SERVICES
- Program 16-ELECTORAL SERVICES
- Division 121-PARLIAMENT HOUSE CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY
- program 20-PURCHASING REFORM
- SENATOR PARER
DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING
MR ST JACQUES
- Program 2-HIGHER EDUCATION
- Program 3-SKILLS FORMATION
- Program 4-SPECIAL EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND INCOME SUPPORT
- Program 5-LABOUR MARKET OPERATION
- Program 6-CORPORATE SERVICES AND PORTFOLIO ADVISING
DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ETHNIC AFFAIRS
Program 1-MIGRATION AND VISITOR ENTRY
- Subprogram 1.2-Migration and Resident Status
- Sub-program 2.1-Settlement Services
- Program 2-SETTLEMENT AND ETHNIC AFFAIRS
- Program 5-OFFICE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
- ACTING CHAIRMAN
Content WindowESTIMATES COMMITTEE D - 15/05/1990 - DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ETHNIC AFFAIRS - Program 1-MIGRATION AND VISITOR ENTRY - Subprogram 1.2-Migration and Resident Status
SENATOR PARER -I would like to ask a general question which may have been pre- advised on notice, but I will ask it on notice and you could provide me with the answer at a convenient time. How much, including the additional estimates, is budgeted for commercial newspaper, magazine, radio and television advertising in the Department's 1989-90 budget?
MR LYNCH -I would like to take that on notice.
SENATOR TEAGUE -The Minister brought a statement to the parliament with regard to modifications of the Immigration Regulations. I am not clear as to whether these supplementary estimates are affected by the Minister's statement and so I ask, before coming to some particular questions about regulations, whether there is reflected in the supplementary appropriations anything that relates to the Minister's announcement in his statement on 9 May.
MR LYNCH -The impact of the recent changes in the regulations will fall in the subsequent financial year. These additional estimates were prepared some months ago and prior to those recent changes.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Are there any fin- ancial implications in the Minister's 9 May statement?
MR LYNCH -Not related to the current financial year.
SENATOR TEAGUE -With regard to some of the immediate announcements in that statement, I have a few questions. One relates to a paragraph which states:
I might also emphasise that I have no intention of intervening under my review powers unless there is serious reason. That is, I shall not be setting aside decisions reached in accord with the criteria established by the Regulations unless I am convinced that there is a gap in policy, that the refusal is an unintended consequence of the Regulations or that an individual case requires special consideration. In these circumstances I shall move to amend the Regulations as necessary.
To what extent are those definitions an advance on the Minister's decision- making under the regulations up to that time?
MR GIBBONS -You have referred to the two areas in the Migration Act where the Minister has power to make decisions without regard to the regulations. The only constraint on the exercise of his power is that the decision that he makes must be a more favourable decision to the applicant and it must be judged by the Minister to be in the public interest. The Minister's predecessor, Senator Robert Ray, set out in the second reading speech, when he introduced the amendments to the Act to provide for that power, his view of the scope of public interest. That was fairly broad power embracing the needs of the individual in compassionate circumstances. The phrase used by the Minister in the statement last week does not represent a change from that position. It is up to the Minister to determine whether the matter is for public interest and for that decision to be scrutinised by the Parliament.
SENATOR TEAGUE -What is meant by `a gap in policy'?
SENATOR BOLKUS -If there is a gap in policy means if there is an incident or situation which arises for which there is no policy.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Is the reference to `unintended consequence' an admission that there are some unintended consequences in the regulations?
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think in coming down to questions of semantics and legal drafting, there are always eventualities that people in any permutation cannot anticipate.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Let me be more concrete. The Minister has now undertaken to give reports to Parliament every six months. When is the first to be expected?
SENATOR BOLKUS -At least six months from now, I imagine.
MR GIBBONS -The Minister is required by legislation to report twice yearly in respect of his interventions under section 115 of the Migration Act, within so many sitting days of a date in June and a date in December. Where he intervenes in respect of his power under section 137 of the Act, he must report within so many sitting days of each decision. In his statement the Minister indicated that in addition to following those statutory requirements, he would report to the Parliament each six months where he made a decision as a primary decision-maker; that is, where he exercised the power that is available to officers in the Department. I do not believe he has made a firm commitment as to when that will begin but I guess that he would be looking to coincide the report with the first report due in respect of section 115 intervention, which would be within so many sitting days of the date in December that is set out in the Act. I cannot recall the date.
SENATOR TEAGUE -With regard to the mention of June, would that not imply a ministerial report early in the Budget session?
MR GIBBONS -If the Minister has taken any decision at that time under section 115. I think that is probably unlikely because there are very few matters at that stage in the review process.
SENATOR TEAGUE -That is now very clear. Thank you for the answers. I want to ask about the reinstatement of the immigration review panel. Does that mean the full range of panels in each State or does it mean one panel? How many people are involved?
SENATOR BOLKUS -That is one of those matters that we will have to take on notice. As I said at the start of the preceding session, we have officers here to address the additional estimates. To the extent that anyone goes over that -obviously we will tolerate questions in those areas-we will have to take those questions on notice. This is a good example of that situation.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Is it envisaged that members of the Tribunal will wear another hat as members of the panel?
SENATOR BOLKUS -That is matter of policy which is being addressed.
MR GIBBONS -It is a matter under consideration but no decision has been taken on it.
SENATOR TEAGUE -One aspect I am interested in concerns the financial implications. We have supplementary estimates for the Department in front of us. I imagine the joint committee on migration regulations will begin its work as soon as the Parliament determines its members or is there an initiative with the Minister and the Department?
SENATOR BOLKUS -The first statement you made is probably right.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I would like follow that through a little more. The last time there was the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee, it was a matter negotiated between certain parliamentarians and the Minister. I have not been involved in any negotiations about this one, so I am wondering whether it is an expectation of this Department that the Minister will take an initiative or whether Parliament will take an initiative.
SENATOR BOLKUS -That is a question best left to be referred to the Minister.
SENATOR TEAGUE -There was a series of administrative changes announced in the last paragraph of page 5 of the Minister's statement last week with regard to application procedures-for example condensing or collapsing the current 97 entry permit classes down to a possible seven. What progress has been made with that and the other listed matters in that paragraph?
MR GIBBONS -The Minister in his statement foreshadowed that in phase 2 of the review he would be looking at reducing the application procedures so that an applicant would not have to choose from one of up to 97 entry permit classes. These have been grouped into logical groupings, probably as few as seven. That will require some amendment to the regulations and revision of procedures. We are looking at trying to get that work completed so that that particular change can be introduced in August. It is a fairly optimistic timetable, given the amount of drafting needed. Depending on how quickly that particular part of the exercise progresses, we will meet that. If not, the introduction date will probably be 1 December. Similarly, the other measures which the Minister foreshadowed there in phase 2 are targeted for implementation either in August or in December. At this stage no firm arrangements have been made. We have still to discuss some of these issues further with the Minister. I understand that he has in mind further consultation on some of them before finalising a decision.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Thank you for those answers. I turn to three other areas of general question, and first to the People's Republic of China citizens who are temporarily in Australia. Those who were here in June 1989 have been allowed to remain without particular application to change their temporary resident status, I think until July of this year. What is the date that now operates?
MR LYNCH -January 31 next year.
SENATOR TEAGUE -In the meantime, Minister, you made a statement in the Senate last week on behalf of the Minister to say that a resolution of what would happen with regard to those persons is likely to be resolved in the next few weeks. Is that the case?
SENATOR BOLKUS -I said that it was under consideration. I cannot remember my precise words, but what was the case last week is the case now.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Will the Government and the Department consider each individual on his or her own merits?
SENATOR BOLKUS -Answers to that question come very much within the definition of what the policy may turn out to be, and I do not think we can pre-empt.
SENATOR TEAGUE -There are some financial implications, are there not?
SENATOR BOLKUS -There well might be, Senator Teague, but we would be going into policy. The Government has made it clear that policy is yet to be determined.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Has the Government made extra resources available to process an increased number of refugee applications?
MR LYNCH -Within the additional estimates before us there are some additional amounts for processing of PRC citizens in Australia. That refers to a number of processes. Some have applied for residence on the grounds of humanitarian change of status; some have applied for refugee status. Some of the processing involved has been the provision of work permits for those who were here illegally in June but who were granted permission to work. They had to be processed, so additional costs were involved. There was an upsurge of inquiries from applicants or potential applicants about their status, so the processing of those inquiries was an additional cost. There was also an extension of temporary entry permits for legal entrants initially to 31 July this year, and it subsequently grew to 31 January next year. Those are some of the additional processes that have been involved for which additional estimates have been included here.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I see from page 9 of the explanatory notes that there are additional costs in Beijing as well.
MR LYNCH -That is correct.
SENATOR TEAGUE -What is meant by the minor computer upgrade in Beijing?
MR SULLIVAN -We have a computer system operating in Beijing which runs a program called IRIS, and which is a computer-assisted issues of visas. When it reaches a certain plateau, the machine needs to be upgraded from one level of machine to another level. The number of visas issued from Beijing hit that plateau and the upgrade was required. Basically it is a doubling of capacity of the machine, but obviously it is a small increment to require that doubling . It does not mean doubling the process.
SENATOR TEAGUE -So extra hardware went to Beijing.
MR SULLIVAN -Yes.
SENATOR TEAGUE -From Canberra.
MR SULLIVAN -The purchasing of that hardware was organised through Canberra.
SENATOR TEAGUE -When was that put in place?
MR SULLIVAN -In the last three months-in February, I believe.
SENATOR TEAGUE -With regard to the $2.4m addition to assist in the recording and initial processing of applications from these persons, could I have a breakdown as to how the figure of $2.423m was arrived at?
MR LYNCH -That was based on some expectations at the time our additional estimates were calculated. In practice it is unlikely that we would be spending all that money, in part because with the intervention of elections and so forth there has been a delay in the consideration by government of some of the issues involved. I can give you a breakup of what the expected costs were at that time, if you wish, although to some extent they may have been overtaken by events. The initial acceptance of applications for grant of resident status or determination of refugee status was estimated at $286,000; renewals of temporary entry permits, $130,000; issue of work permits to illegal PRC citizens, $15,000; compliance activities, $1.8m; and forms and leaflets, $161,000. One of the big variations since then has been caused by the agreement to extend the opportunity for people to remain in Australia- people who may have become illegal or who had illegal status but were allowed to stay have been allowed to continue. So the compliance element of that has not been required in fact.
SENATOR TEAGUE -With regard to those costs, I can see how the additional work would be required. Does that mean that there have been additional persons employed by the Department?
MR LYNCH -There are ASL implications for that as well I can run through and give you the ASL costs. For initial acceptance of DORS-determination of refugee status-and GORS-grant of resident status-were 7 ASL; TEP renewals were 3.6 ASL; work permits were 0.4; compliance, 17; and forms and leaflets, 0.1 of an ASL. The total comes to 28 or 29 persons, or the equivalent of a full- year person.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Was there particular expertise or qualifications required of those persons, such as the speaking of Chinese and familiarity with the cultural and social background of People's Republic of China nationals?
MR SULLIVAN -In gaining the increases and the agreement of the Department of Finance, it was basically internal recruitment where we recruited the base level and looked for the types of skills within the Department. Yes, we did see a need and pursued a need to have Chinese-speaking officers on our counters, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, and generally we found those from within the Department.
SENATOR TEAGUE -There is a related area and that is the change in the regulations relating to new enrollers in various courses in Australia from the People's Republic of China. The regulations were changed in October by the Minister for Employment, Education and Training. What has been the change in the numbers of persons coming from China to study in Australia as a result of the October announcement?
SENATOR BOLKUS -We will take that on notice.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Could I have a month by month breakdown of the figures of persons coming from China over the past 24 months so that I can compare like months in two successive years?
MR SULLIVAN -Our figures will be for the number of visas issued.
SENATOR TEAGUE -That is okay. I understand that as of about May 1989, there was an overstay rate of about 40 per cent for these students. Is that correct?
MR SULLIVAN -There is some problem with the definition of `overstay rate'. On some counts that rate was around 30 per cent and on others it was 40 per cent. I think it would be fair to say that there was a significant overstay rate of at least 30 per cent among those Chinese students.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Leaving aside those who have been given an extended status until January 1991, what is the current overstay rate for those students who have arrived since October?
MR SULLIVAN -We would not have an overstay rate yet calculated for those students. Generally, students who arrived from October onwards would not have had an opportunity to overstay until now anyway.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Could the question be taken on notice so that if any figures at all are available to show any comparison in overstay rates before and after the October 1989 change in the regulations relating to students from China, I could see them? What numbers of nationals from the People's Republic of China who were in Australia in June 1989 have returned to China?
MR SULLIVAN -We would have to take that question on notice. The figure that we can give you is for those nationals who indicated on their departure cards that they were returning to China. We cannot tell you whether they did return to China.
SENATOR TEAGUE -My next general question follows a very clear and good statement by the previous Minister, Senator Robert Ray. He said that he would table all reports relevant to his portfolio, regardless of their content, as he was of the view that such information would ultimately become publicly available and he would be compromised if such documents were later to become public knowledge. Is that a fair summary of Senator Ray's statement?
SENATOR BOLKUS -For the purposes of argument we will take it as such, but obviously we reserve the right to go back and read it.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Is this still the approach of the Department?
SENATOR BOLKUS -If you are asking me what the current Minister thinks about this matter, I think it would be best if we took this question on notice and asked him for a considered reply.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Thank you, Minister. In the meantime I wish to ask a question relating to the period when Senator Ray was still Minister. A lot of publicity was given to the controversy about Vietnamese crime that arose from an Australian Institute of Criminology study and a report that was considerably publicised in Sydney. Indeed, there was a major editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald about the report. Why did the former Minister not live up to his statement and see that that report was made public?
SENATOR BOLKUS -Dismissing the last premise, I think an answer can be given about the report and what happened to it.
MR LYNCH -There was a report published by the Australian Institute of Criminology on the subject of crime rates amongst Vietnamese youths which was commissioned by the Department. That report was published. There was a newspaper report of another document-a document which reportedly had 64 pages and which, to my knowledge, has never been seen by the Department. Some work was done by one researcher who presented her work to the Institute. It was found to be inadequate in a number of respects and, quite frankly, I believe it was unpublishable in the form that it was presented. An additional researcher was engaged to work on the material. Finally, a report was produced and it was published. I understand that the second researcher, whose name is attached to the report, has written to the Sydney Morning Herald in very strong terms about the content and tone of that article to which you referred.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Was that person Ms Uyen Loewald?
MR LYNCH -No, that was the original researcher. Dr Easteal, the researcher whose name was attached to the report, had her letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 10 May.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I see. That had not come to my attention. I thank you very much for the answer. If it is possible, could we have a copy of that letter made available to the Committee.
MR LYNCH -Yes.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I am glad to see what has apparently been an exoneration of Senator Ray's profession to have reports published.
SENATOR BOLKUS -We take that as a withdrawal, do we?
SENATOR TEAGUE -I will look at the letter with great interest. I would be very happy to commend the Minister after I have read it. My final question relates to the activities of a person called Mr Michael Ross. Has the Department undertaken any investigation into the activities of Mr Ross, in particular, with regard to claims that he may have been involved in some 20 to 30 immigration matters in which he was a lobbyist or a person who gained immigration decisions?
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think it is pretty well known that this matter is under investigation by, amongst others, the Independent Commission Against Crime. Senator Teague would probably serve the interests of justice best if he did not insist on an answer to his question.
CHAIRMAN -As the matter is currently under investigation, I rule that question out of order.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I certainly would not want to be unprocedural and follow the example of Senator Tate in his recent activities.
SENATOR ZAKHAROV -I would like an explanation of what is meant by global bona fides testing. I would have thought that bona fides testing was always there. What is meant specifically in this case relating to ELICOS and short course non-formal study?
MR SULLIVAN -The reference to global bona fides testing for ELICOS students is really to enhanced bona fides testing. Bona fides testing in respect of students was a reasonably perfunctory process. Now it is a more rigorous process, particularly in countries which had displayed high overstay rates. Basically, it relates to an assessment of a person's intention when coming to Australia and an assessment of whether the person shall comply with the entry permit granted, particularly with respect to the person's leaving Australia on or before its expiry.
SENATOR ZAKHAROV -I note that a fee of $130 is charged to the applicant. Are similar bona fides investigations being carried out on the people who purport to be agents in Australia who I understand are still offering courses which in my view are not bona fide.
MR SULLIVAN -The matter of an institution's bona fides is a matter for DEET, that is, as to whether an institution appears on the register of approved institutions. We take that register as our basis as to whether a student is attending an approved institutioin. Our application fee is a visa application fee. Part of the reason why the Department of Finance agreed to further compliance funds for us was on the basis that that additional revenue was coming by way of application fee.
SENATOR ZAKHAROV -Is cost recovery all from the applicant?
MR SULLIVAN -Yes.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Why did the Secretary to the Department step down from his office?
SENATOR BOLKUS -It is probably outside of the competence of the officers to answer.
SENATOR TEAGUE -They are very competent officers, Minister.
SENATOR BOLKUS -But to ask them why a certain person took an action is probably outside of their competence.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I ask you, Minister, to ask of the relevant Ministers, including the Prime Minister, why the distinguished former Secretary of this Department, Mr Ron Brown is no longer holding that position.
SENATOR BOLKUS -I will do so and come back with an answer.
SENATOR TEAGUE -How many other senior members of the Department left the Department at about the same time as Mr Brown?
SENATOR BOLKUS -One person, Mr Tony Harris, has left.
SENATOR TEAGUE -What is the reason for Mr Tony Harris's leaving the Department ?
SENATOR BOLKUS -We will come back to you with a full answer to your preceding question in terms of whether anyone else has left. As for Mr Harris, once again for the sake of completeness we will come back to you with an answer on that.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Was any pressure applied by the Prime Minister, other Ministers, the Public Service Commission or the Secretary to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to see either of those two officers no longer in their positions in the Department?
SENATOR BOLKUS -That question goes to the heart of your previous question and that will be addressed.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Was any pressure applied to any other serving member of the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs?
SENATOR BOLKUS -Once again we will take that on notice. What we have to discover is who left and a statement as to the reason for their leaving.
SENATOR TAMBLING -In looking at those issues, can I ask that the Committee also be acquainted with not necessarily the names but the positions of members of staff who have taken either long service leave, leave or sick leave from the Department since Mr Brown's departure?
SENATOR BOLKUS -The easy answer is to say yes, but you are talking about a department with a large number of employees.
SENATOR TAMBLING -I mean at the SES level and the immediate support staff of those members.
SENATOR BOLKUS -We will try to get an answer to that as quickly as possible.
SENATOR TEAGUE -In the light of the answers, we may raise this in the Committee of the Whole or in the Senate generally on another occasion. It is within the responsibilities of an Estimates committee to ask and expect answers to questions that go to the staffing outcomes within a department. It would be most unfortunate as we represent various constituents to see any undue pressure upon serving officers of any department of government. I turn to the statement by the Governor-General on the opening of Parliament that a national bureau for more effective interpreter and translation services will be provided throughout Australia. Is it too early to ask what is in mind there ?
MR LYNCH -I think it is too early except to say that work has been undertaken by a consultant as to the range of services provided in the public sector. You may be aware that, in addition to services provided by the Commonwealth, by DILGEA and other departments, notably Social Security, a number of State governments also provide some translating and interpreting services, particularly in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. A consultant has examined that and come up with a number of models of how a more effective total service might be provided. It is too early to indicate what direction may be taken on that. Work is still being undertaken on that whole notion.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Please say only what is appropriate, but will this national bureau be new or just a reformulation of NAATI?
MR LYNCH -NAATI is a quite different organisation. It is responsible for the accreditation of translators and interpreters and for their standards of professional excellence. It tests those people and awards them accreditation. It is not an employing agency. It does not provide translating and interpreting services; it is quite a separate outfit.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Can I put the question conversely: When the bureau is established, will there be a parallel review of NAATI? I want to ask some questions about the viability of NAATI. I understand it is underresourced and not meeting its own targets because of that lack of resources.
MR GRIFFITHS -As far as NAATI is concerned the moment for a reassessment of its work is really now because NAATI, which is jointly steered by the Commonwealth and the States, is at the moment negotiating and developing its next five-year plan. In that context we are looking at some of the issues of its operations.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I at least want to make the suggestion that, in determining the terms of reference of this bureau, NAATI be re-evaluated and we get some positive outcomes not only in terms of implementation of services but also in the accreditation of those services. Also, with regard to the Governor-General 's reference to an independent Bureau of Immigration Research, what progress has been made with that bureau, which we have heard of before?
MR STRUIK -The Bureau was established on 1 May last year when Dr John Nievwenhuysen took up his appointment as the inaugural director, and since that time it has developed a wide range of research activities. A number of research fellowships and grants were awarded following a public advertisement last year in that process. There were about 10 research consultancies, mainly focused on the economic aspects of immigration, which are presently due in about June or July of this year, and these will lead into a major paper being prepared by the Bureau for the Immigration Outlook conference for November of this year. In addition, there is a range of studies on the social and environmental issues as well that have been either conducted in-house or are being undertaken by appropriate consultants. In fact, there is quite a lot of information available in the new bulletin which will be released in the next week or so. I think it will certainly be widely distributed and I would be happy to ensure that all members of this Committee receive that, if they wished.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I would certainly be glad to receive a copy. The Governor- General, in the opening of Parliament, referred in particular to your Bureau's reseach into the impact of immigration on our population growth and economic development. You have already mentioned the economic and social references, but what is meant by singling out population growth and economic development?
MR STRUIK -I think that the overall long term future of Australia's population is something that needs to be looked at as part of the Bureau's research program. We need to see the annual immigration programs in the context of a longer term direction of some form. In that context, we need to look very closely at economic and social issues that are going to determine both the short term and the long term context. The economic development, therefore, is part of that broader interaction of all economic, social, environmental and other aspects that will be coming together at the Immigration Outlook con
ference. That will be the first opportunity to have that kind of national dialogue on all those issues.
SENATOR TEAGUE -What is the Department's current population objective?
SENATOR BOLKUS -Are you talking in terms of immigration or population?
SENATOR TEAGUE -The Department has various programs and various objectives for programs and evaluates programs against certain objectives, and there are references even in the supplementary estimates to population objectives. What is the Department's current working objective with regard to Australian population?
MR LYNCH -The current objective of the Department is to deliver a particular immigration program for the current year. The Department does not have a specific Australia-wide population; nor does the Department in fact control many of the factors involved in population growth. It is certainly interested in the factors and monitors those. But questions of birth rate, mortality and morbidity of the Australian population and so on, of course, are factors external to the Department. The Department does not even control in a total sense the volume of arrivals in Australia, because there is free movement between Australia and New Zealand. So our direct control is confined to visa issue for migration and temporary entry purposes, and that excludes New Zealanders.
SENATOR TEAGUE -So there is not a current objective that informs the Department of Immigration with regard to an Australian population target.
MR LYNCH -There is no Australian population target stated by any government. From time to time individual Ministers or members of Parliament have stated a belief that a particular population target by a particular time might, in their view, be appropriate, but no such figure has ever been established to my knowledge.
SENATOR TEAGUE -On page 8 of the explanatory notes, under program 1, there is the word `Objective' and at the first dot point it says, `To contribute to Australia's long-term population objectives through migration'. Is that rhetoric?
MR LYNCH -Having said that, there are some population objectives within the migration program which may not relate necessarily to a total population figure. For example, we do give priority in our points test to youth, and that is seen in part as offsetting the ageing of the population. So that is a population objective which does not go to total numbers, but it certainly goes to the demographic profile of the population. Simarly, much of the skill migration stream of the migration program is related to filling gaps within the population of the Australian work force. So in those more narrow objectives of filling out gaps in the existing population, be it in terms of age or skills, certainly there are population objectives in our program.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I understand that, but you are denying that there is any number as a target for Australia's population.
MR LYNCH -We have no such target.
MR STRUIK -May I add to that. I think part of the work of the Bureau will be looking at the kind of issues that would be relevant to looking at a long term population target, but I do not think you will ever, or you should never, set one single figure and say that that is the one to aim for, because circumstances change. You need to be continually reviewing both the resources you have available and the kind of conservation strategies that people wish to adopt, be it pricing policies for various resources or new technologies that may develop. I think that all you can ever have is a broad longer term context against which you evaluate present migration policies and in the context of present fertility and mortality trends of the population. So I think there may be a broad scenario which the Burea will be developing or making available for people who want to discuss these sorts of questions without necessarily ever saying, `This is where we must go'. It must be a reviewing situation, a constantly monitored situation.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I will not go on too long about this, but the second dot point under `Objective' on page 8 is, `To sharpen the economic focus of the migration and temporary residents programs'. What does `To sharpen the economic focus' mean?
MR LYNCH -I guess one very firm indicator of that would be the skill level obtained within the migration program, and over the last few years that skill level has increased to a point where it is now about 20.7 per cent of the intake, and that represents a skill level higher than that of the Australian population by about 27 per cent, from memory. So that certainly represents a sharper economic focus to the program than pertained some years previously. I could point to other examples of that, but I think that is the single most noteworthy indicator.
SENATOR TEAGUE -That is very meaningful. That is some way towards the FitzGerald report.
MR LYNCH -It is very consistent with what the FitzGerald report advocated, which was a sharper economic focus. That was something which was already being undertaken in the Department and was confirmed by the CAAIP report.
SENATOR TEAGUE -There is no resiling from that focus at the moment; it is not under re-examination, is it?
MR LYNCH -There has been no re-examination of that. We would expect that, as much as you can predict these things in advance, the skill level of the migration intake for this year will be higher than the skill level last year as a result of the policy settings that were put in place after the CAAIP decisions.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Mr Brown and Mr Harris were not leaving the Department because they were too good at achieving that objective, were they?
SENATOR BOLKUS -I do not think that question can really be addressed to the officers. Senator Teague does know better.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Can I refer to another matter then; that is over the last two months persons like my colleague Senator Walsh, Mr Carr, my Leader, Dr Hewson, and others have talked about the economics of immigration. It is my view that the more factual information about issues related to analysing the economics of immigration such as can be made available from the Bureau will be greatly to the advantage of that continuing discussion. Are there likely to be any results from the Bureau or other parts of the Department before the national outlook conference in November?
MR STRUIK -I think you will be aware of one paper that was published a couple of months back through the Centre for International Economics which tried to look at the short-term effects of immigration for macro-economic policy. But of the others that I mentioned, as I said, the main group will be completed during July and August and we expect to bring those together with the Bureau's outlook paper, which means that we do not anticipate other than a small number of those being released before about August. The printing process takes some time and we would like to get the reports widely available when they are ready, but it takes about two or three months after the completion of each report to print them.
MR LYNCH -Perhaps if I could just elaborate a little further, those studies go to topics such as immigration and regional growth, immigration and living standards, immigrant employees and equal opportunity measures, the economic status of migrants, immigrant incomes and expenditure, immigration, trade and capital flows, migrant unemployment and labour market programs, immigration and skills development, immigration, wages and price stability, and immigration and scaled economies, quite apart from those mentioned earlier of population and environmental questions. So there is quite an extensive program of research being undertaken to facilitate the kind of debate that you and others have been calling for recently.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I thank both officers for the answers. Just to get that really clearly, the actual publications will be circulated in August?
MR STRUIK -A couple will not be integral to the conference. We will release those then they are publishable, which I suspect will probably be about September depending on printing, but the main group of these are integral with the conference and we expect to release them simultaneously with the presentation at the conference by the authors.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I just make the plea that if additional resources can be made available to get them published more quickly, all the better then for the preparation of the conference in November and other aspects of the debate. While I am still on page 8 of the explanatory notes, I will ask about the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) aspect which refers to refugee resettlement assistance. What is meant by a loan fund scheme?
MR LYNCH -That refers to an arrangement which has been put in place to enable people who are part of what is called the camp clearance program in South East Asia to obtain loans to cover the cost of their fares to Australia. Under the comprehensive plan of action agreed by the International Conference on Indo- Chinese Refugees, a number of resettlement countries agreed to resettle people who were in those camps prior to particular cut-off dates, many of whom previously had been examined and not accepted as refugees. As part of the total package of arrangements those resettlements countries undertook to take those people from the camps. Australia was party to that and has agreed to take up to 11,000 refugees over three years. As I said before, in many cases those people had not been identified as being refugees; they are in a slightly different category. If they were unlinked to Australian family, relatives and so forth and did not have the funds to pay their own fares, a loan arrangement was set in place for the international migration organisation to do that.
SENATOR TEAGUE -The loan is usually the fare per person?
MR LYNCH -That is as I understand it, yes.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Is the repayment an obligation of a sponsor or of the individual who undertakes the journey?
MR LYNCH -My recollection is that it is the individual.
SENATOR TEAGUE -With regard to persons from Cambodia in camps in Thailand, such as Kao-I-Dang, has there been a negotiated agreement between the Australian Government and the Thai Government?
MR LYNCH -I am not quite sure what you mean by a negotiated agreement, but I am not aware of any such agreement.
SENATOR TEAGUE -During the month of April a wave of letters came from immigration officers of the Australian Government in our Bangkok Embassy to former Cambodian families in Australia who were sponsors of persons in such camps, saying that their applications in respect of persons in the camps were unsuccessful and that they could make fresh applications for a limited category of persons, such as spouses, dependent children and the last remaining relative, so long as it was not a refugee application and so long as the application was processed according to general Australian immigration criteria. Is that not correct?
MR LYNCH -I would prefer to take that on notice.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I thank you for taking it on notice. I regard it as a very significant wave of letters that came in April, again just following the election. They appear to point to a negotiation between the Australian and Thai governments whereby most applicants who had, up to that point, been considered as refugee applicants would not be successful in Australia, that persons with close family relatives, who ordinarily would be successful from any part of the world, would be the only ones to be successful, and that, perhaps a little like the orderly departure program for Vietnam, the Thai Government would facilitate those persons coming to Australia. You have taken the question on notice. I ask whether each of those elements is true or not?
With regard to these letters being sent from immigration officers in the Australian Embassy in Bangkok, how many letters were sent? Were they sent in respect of all applications relating to persons in camps in Thailand; that is, persons from Cambodia? Finally, up to 11,000 refugees and other persons are expected to come to Australia from Indo-China in the next three years. Have Australians officers access to interview persons and to, as it were, select or to give some priority to those who have connections with Australia?
MR LYNCH -That is correct. There have been priorities established. The top priority is to those who do have links to Australia.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Are any particular procedures or criteria involved in that selection?
MR SULLIVAN -There are particular criteria. It largely is to do with links to Australia. It is estimated that 80 per cent of the camp clearance exercise in total shall have a link to Australia in the form of at least a first cousin. Beyond that I think it would be fair to say that our officers are selecting people on the basis of family units and character.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Is there an educational or skill element to the criteria?
MR SULLIVAN -No, Senator.
SENATOR TAMBLING -I wish to raise a series of questions with regard to property. Mr Chairman, I will be guided by you as to whether they should be raised under 2.2 or 3. I notice in the papers that some properties are being exchanged under Settlement services. Alternatively the questions could be raised under program 3-Corporate services.
CHAIRMAN -I guess they should be dealt with under 2.1, unless the Minister has a preference.
SENATOR BOLKUS -It may save all our time if I took the question now. I imagine that you will be referring to the sale of Immigration Department staff houses in Darwin. It probably comes under the category of an earlier series of questions. The matter has been referred to the Australian Federal Police to ascertain whether there has been a conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth and a question of possible civil action against the valuer for professional negligence will also be considered should no charges be laid by the AFP. In the light of that it might be very hard to canvass any of the issues relating to those programs. I give you that answer now with a view to maybe saving you staying around for half an hour or so.
SENATOR TAMBLING -I have a number of questions, Minister, and I appreciate the gravity of them. I am not aware that there are any legal actions currently in train. I am aware that the amounts of money involved are very considerable. Perhaps I can ask a couple of general questions and leave a series of questions on notice with the Committee. Are there any reviews currently under way by senior management of the Department, and has the Auditor-General been acquainted with the problem and any of the serious matters that are involved?
MR SULLIVAN -The Auditor-General has not been involved in the matter to date. Regarding any review of sale of houses in Darwin-to the extent that it was a review-the Regional Director in Darwin has been directed that further sales of staff housing in Darwin shall be done through public auction.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Can I ask why the Department did not elect to use the facilities of the Australian Property Group of the Department of Administrative Services to handle either the sale of the houses of the purchase of the executive housing?
MR SULLIVAN -The Australian Property Group was one of a number of groups approached to handle the sale of the houses. The Department is not tied to the services of the Australian Property Group in the sale of property and on this occasion it was determined that its services would not be use. It was approached and invited. It submitted a tender and its tender to organise the sale was not the preferred tender.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Was that on the basis of cost, or how was that tender assessed?
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think this does go to the matter of the investigation, Senator: I am sorry.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Mr Chairman, with your permission I will pass a series of proposed questions to the Minister and the Department. Perhaps they can appraise them and see whether there is any sensitivity with regard to the Australian Federal Police investigations. If the Minister and the officers believe that they can proceed for this Committee, I ask that the questions be formally put on notice. However, I appreciate that there may be some degree of sensitivity concerning the conspiracy case. I also have a series of departmental letters, copies of which I will attach, and a report from the real estate agent to the Australian Federal Police. I believe that in time the issues will have to be addressed, whether it is at this Estimates Committee or subsequently to the Parliament. But because of the gravity of the situation I will put the questions before you to see whether there is any sensitivity and I will take your advice.
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think that is the most sensible approach.
CHAIRMAN -As no charges have been formally laid, I see nothing wrong with that procedure. The Minister can use his own judgment as to the way in which the questions are answered so as not to prejudice any subsequent activities.
SENATOR BOLKUS -You do not want to prejudice either the charges or the investigations that are going on.
CHAIRMAN -You are in a position to make that sort of judgment.
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think it might be best-rather than my making a decision tonight-if we were to view them and come back to Senator Tambling as soon as I can get back to him.
SENATOR TAMBLING -That is fine.
CHAIRMAN -We will take those questions on notice.
SENATOR BOLKUS -Not formally on notice. We will take the questions for sighting and then we will come back to Senator Tambling and the Committee.
SENATOR TAMBLING -I have given a copy to the Minister and a copy to the Department. I will hold onto the other copy. If we then submit them I will make them available to the Committee.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Why can we not incorporate the questions in Hansard?
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think there is a danger in doing that because, firstly, we have not seen them and, secondly, Senator Tambling intimates that there are some documents involved in them as well. It may very well be that they are the sorts of things we do no want to be made public.
SENATOR TAMBLING -I do that in light of the Department's response that the matter was under investigation by both itself and the Australian Federal Police. If I had not been acquainted with that I might have taken a harder line.
SENATOR JENKINS -How many mandatory deportation orders have been enforced since 19 December? If any have been enforced, to which countries have those people been deported? How many non-mandatory deportation orders have been enforced since that date?
SENATOR BOLKUS -We will take that on notice. There have been no mandatory deportations.
SENATOR JENKINS -And non-mandatory?
MR SULLIVAN -We will take that part of the question on notice.
SENATOR JENKINS -What is the Department's policy on giving information to the Australian Federal Police about deportation orders? This has happened in the past. I wondered whether the policy had changed in that regard. What sort of liaison or information exchange is there?
MR SULLIVAN -I will take that on notice, Senator. There is no automatic liaison with the Australian Federal Police or any other police force on the execution of deportation orders.
SENATOR JENKINS -Senator Teague did touch on this area. I apologise if this is a repetition: what provisions are made in the present estimates for the new review of migration policy announced last week by the Minister?
MR GIBBONS -There is no provision in these estimates because of the impact of the changes announced by the Minister in the Parliament last week will fall into the next financial year.
SENATOR BOLKUS -This was canvassed rather exhaustively at the start of consideration of this Department's estimates.
SENATOR JENKINS -Was the cost of the reviews of the Migration Act to date also canvassed-that is, the reviews which started in about March last year? Has there been a costing of the review process to date?
MR GIBBONS -Are you referring to the process of examining the legislation, drafting Bills and regulations, and the process of the former joint committee?
SENATOR JENKINS -Yes, and also the cost of drafting and printing of the explanatory manuals which I believe will need to be redrafted and reprinted.
MR GIBBONS -They have been redrafted, reprinted and re-issued. We can take that question on notice.
SENATOR JENKINS -How many professional airline pilots were given visas to enter Australia between August last year and 19 December-pilots who came in specifically to work in the Australian airline transport industry?
SENATOR BOLKUS -At the start of consideration of this Department's estimates and previous ones we have indicated to the Committee that we have officers here to answer questions that relate to the Additional Estimates. In respect of questions outside that area, firstly, we do not have the officers here; secondly, it is outside our charter; but, thirdly, we will take them on notice . I think there is another complicating factor here in that the matter is still before the courts, but we will take the question on notice and see what we can give you as quickly as possible.
SENATOR JENKINS -I cannot see that that particular number will be a problem.
SENATOR BOLKUS -That may not be, but the first two parts of my response are very pertinent.
SENATOR JENKINS -I would also like to know how many pilots have been permitted to enter Australia since 19 December and, as far as all of them are concerned , what classes of visa and/or entry permits were issued to them. How many have been given permanent residency permits? Also, how many Australian airline pilots have left Australia to work overseas since August last year?
SENATOR BOLKUS -We may not be able to answer that one.
SENATOR JENKINS -Does the Department not have exit figures?
MR SULLIVAN -Not by employee category.
SENATOR JENKINS -What are the costs in respect of the processing of visa applications and related migration matters as a result of the recruitment of overseas pilots?
SENATOR BOLKUS -It may be possible to single that out, but to the extent that it is humanly possible, we will do so.
SENATOR JENKINS -I do not think you will be able to answer this question, either. I would like it to be placed on notice. I suppose the Department does not fingerprint migrants these days when they come into the country. Would that be correct?
SENATOR BOLKUS -Only departing senators in the future!
SENATOR JENKINS -The Department used to, and this is a very serious question. What has happened to the fingerprints which were taken in 1947 from migrants who arrived on the SS Asturias?
SENATOR BOLKUS -We will take that on notice.
SENATOR JENKINS -Page 8 of the explanatory notes refers to the second objective of sharpening the economic focus of the migration and temporary residents programs. To what extent does the Department liaise with the Department of Employment, Education and Training with regard to skills and education programs in order to meet that objective of the migration program?
MR LYNCH -Quite extensively. DEET supplies to us a list of professions and occupations that are in demand. Applicants who apply under the concessional family or the independent skilled migration categories whose occupations are on those lists get top marks under the points test. We also liaise very closely with DEET in terms of individual employer nominations and for tripartite negotiated arrangements, whereby individual industries or sectors of industry come to a tripartite agreement with the appropriate unions, the employer body and the Government. Those agreements are co-signed by both DEET and ourselves. We do the migration facilitation; DEET provides the input in terms of industry needs analysis and in terms of the training trade-offs required of industry under those agreements. So we have quite extensive liaison with DEET on a number of fronts of that kind.
SENATOR JENKINS -A case has recently been drawn to my attention of a person from Myanmar-Burma-who has sought to stay in Australia because of fear of returning to his country of origin because of the situation there, which appears to have worsened rather than improved in many respects. The decision taken seems to me to be particularly harsh. I wonder whether the Department is prepared to review its present policy on that score.
SENATOR BOLKUS -Mr Chairman, I do not know how many times I will have to repeat this, but we are here to consider the Department's additional estimates . Senator Jenkins is raising an immigration case which is obviously not within the ambit of the Committee. In respect of the second part of her question which relates to policy, I think the best thing she could do is raise her concerns about policy in another forum. We are talking about estimates rather than trying to formulate policy in respect of other countries.
SENATOR JENKINS -It is not always easy to have people face to face to answer these questions.
SENATOR BOLKUS -It is impossible to get the information through this process, I would have thought.
CHAIRMAN -If we start allowing questions on specific immigration matters we will be here for a long time.
SENATOR CHAPMAN -I have some questions of which I gave the Department notice this morning. Has the Department received those questions and provided answers ?
MR SULLIVAN -We have provided you with answers to the first three questions. Firstly, the annual fee for accredited agents is $4,000; secondly, the application fee for each business migrant application is $1,000; and, thirdly, the lodgment fee for each application lodged by an accredited agent is $500. We will need to take the rest of the questions on notice.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Can the questions be incorporated in Hansard?
CHAIRMAN -They have just been read into it but we can incorporate that into the Hansard transcript if that is the wish of the witness.
The document read as follows-
Questions for Estimates `D'
Subject: Immigration-Business Migrant Program
1. What is the Annual Fee for Accredited Agents
2. What is the Application Fee for each Business Migrant application?
3. What is the Lodgement Fee for each application lodged by an accredited agent?
4.1 What is the number of Officers processing BMP applications in each of the following stations:
4.2 What is the annual average cost of employing each officer, including salary and all on-costs?
5. What is the average number per week of BMP applications lodged by accredited agents in each of the above places for the last six months?
6. What is the average number per week of BMP applications finalised in each place listed for the last six months?
7. What is the average length of time taken in each place listed to finalise BMP applications?
8. What was the number of outstanding applications in each place listed six months ago?
9. What is the number of outstanding applications in each place listed now?</INC.DOC>
SENATOR TAMBLING -What resources of the Department are given to facilitating any change of status for the illegal fishermen that have been arriving in north-west Western Australia and the Northern Territory?
MR SULLIVAN -Fishermen arriving in north-west Australia have limited access to change of status. Largely it requires a refugee application. In the past we have not received such applications from such fishermen. They generally are keen to be repatriated.
SENATOR TAMBLING -None has been given any form of permanent status?
MR SULLIVAN -To my knowledge, none has been given any form of permanent residence.
SENATOR TAMBLING -What resources of the Department are required at the moment to service the incursions through Broome and northern Australia?
MR SULLIVAN -A number of departments service the fishermen. Our major role in servicing fishermen is that we provide for their repatriation. So we have incurred expenditure in their removal from Australia and return to Indonesia.
SENATOR TAMBLING -What would be the annual costs of that to the Department and where are they reflected in the Estimates?
MR SULLIVAN -I will take the first part of this question on notice. The figures are recorded in the Estimates in the running costs under deportation expenses.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Has the Department expressed any concern at the increase of this incursion problem, particularly in recent months?
MR SULLIVAN -The problem has been on the increase for some time. In recent months there has been another surge and the Department has participated in a number of interdepartmental committees on how to service the problem. It is not largely a matter for the Department in terms of attempting to stop the problem.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Are resources of the Department having to be redeployed from other jobs or other locations in order to handle this particular problem?
MR SULLIVAN -The problem is being handled within the resources of the Department at the moment.
SENATOR TAMBLING -Is it placing any undue pressure at other offices that may be depleted of staff assigned to this task?
MR SULLIVAN -It is largely a cash resource requirement in that other agencies do the servicing. Customs, Quarantine and Fisheries are involved at the pointy end of the problem; that is, in Broome and other places. Our involvement is largely in organising and paying for charter flights from north-west Australia to Indonesia.
SENATOR TAMBLING -You will provide us with those costs for this financial year ?
MR SULLIVAN -Yes.