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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20481

Ms GAMBARO (12:26 PM) —It is always very interesting to follow the member for Lowe. Apart from his giving us a wide and divergent view on when the next federal election will be held and what the triggers will be and offering up an insightful date, he did actually come back to what we are discussing today, which is security at airports. I found his contribution quite far-swinging in many regards. He says that he and his party are for better and stronger protection at airports and seaports, and yet he offers objections to many different aspects of the Migration Legislation Amendment (Identification and Authentication) Bill 2003.

The upholding of national security is one of the things that, as citizens, this government is absolutely committed to. Any government that aspires to anything less than protecting its national and international borders quite frankly does not deserve to be in office. There are few members here who would argue with Thomas Jefferson's famous phrase:

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Indeed, all in this House who lay claim to membership of the Returned Services League of Australia will proudly quote it as their national motto. John Curran, Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1790, said:

It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

It was quite interesting to listen to the member for Lowe. We have to fight against transnational identity fraud and terrorism. It is not okay to be warm and fuzzy about this sort of stuff and to think that `she'll be right' strategies will help us get through this; nor is it okay to oppose this particular bill that is before us.

The sophistication of modern identity fraud and its growth prove that there are many who start from a position of distrust of the laws of this country and there are those who uphold those laws and their intentions. People who breach national borders show a bloodcurdling lack of concern for those who trust them with their lives. The boats that people smugglers use are never the latest generation state-of-the-art marine technology; they are criminally unsafe rust buckets. Nine times out of 10, they are unseaworthy floating deathtraps, whose cheapness reflects exactly how little those who cram them full to the gunwales really value human life.

When you are ingenious, unscrupulous, dishonest or intent on abusing the trust of others, you really have a head start. You can buy a ticket. You can board a plane. You can fill in a form. You can assume a name. You can assume another person's identity. You can bypass the time-consuming protocols and procedures required by law. You can also apply to welfare and for jobs to which you are not legally entitled—all the things that Australians freely give to those who follow rules, take their turn through the proper legal channels and do not abuse the trust of the Australian people and laws. Worse, you can threaten the very physical safety, the lives of those who trusted you. That is the real terror of terrorism—not just of the deed but of the mentality behind it.

This legislation equips us with the technology we need in order to combat identity fraud. It allows us to use personal identifiers, like photographs and signatures, from noncitizens in order to quickly and accurately identify those who seek to enter and remain in Australia and to do it at an integrated Commonwealth and state agency level. The mobility of the modern world, with globalised and international trade, is perfect for people smugglers and terrorists.

As at December 2001, Australia's resident population was 19.6 million. The 2001 census revealed that 22 per cent of those people were born overseas. So one in four people living permanently in Australia have entered the country using documents of identity which were accepted by DIMIA as verifying their identity. Millions of people travelled to Australia on identities they provided as part of those visa-processing procedures.

It is difficult to determine the number of people seeking to enter Australia using fraudulent identities or identity documents at any one time. But, between July 2001 and July 2003, DIMIA staff in New South Wales identified 132 cases of people who had applied for a protection visa in Australia and whom the department could not identify from movement records under the names provided in their applications. In some cases investigations revealed that they had entered Australia under their true identity but claimed protection under a false identity to disguise previous protection applications in other countries. Another study of protection visa application data for the period of 2001-02 revealed that there was immigration and identity fraud among applicants who purported to be citizens of the Republic of Korea but who were in fact citizens of the People's Republic of China of Korean ethnicity. This activity is subject to ongoing investigation.

There are a number of methods of identity fraud, including the absence of verifiable identity documents, which occurs quite frequently; the use of multiple identities or variations of a real identity in order to support spurious claims or avoid detection of a previous successful claim for protection in another country; multiple applications for a protection visa; use of constructed identities or nationalities to avoid detection; change of identity by successful applicants for a protection visa, through freedom of information requests or during citizenship processing in order to perpetrate fraud in Australia; and use by some refused applicants for a protection visa of a new identity to facilitate entry into Australia. The department has identified cases where persons deported from Australia for a whole host of reasons have been able to obtain a new passport in their home country through legal name change procedures and then re-enter Australia using the new passport. People have found many ingenious ways of getting into Australia by avoiding detection of their true identity.

The term `personal identifier', as defined in section 5A of the bill, includes fingerprints or handprints; measurements of weight or height; photographs of the face and shoulders; audio or video recordings; iris scans and signatures; and other identifiers prescribed by the regulations, provided they are not identifiers that would involve the carrying out of an intimate forensic procedure within the meaning of section 23WA of the Crimes Act 1914 and provided they meet the description of an image, measurement or recording of an external part of the body. In the above cases the absence of a unique identifier, such as that provided by a fingerprint or facial image, means that DIMIA's ability to identify noncitizens relies largely on overseas documentation that they present. By introducing a framework for the collection of personal identifiers in prescribed circumstances, the bill will provide a mechanism for confirming the identity of noncitizens.

A number of other countries have already responded to the growing incidence of fraud in the immigration context. This legislation enables Australia to coordinate and exchange information to combat terrorism and people-smuggling and to fight immigration fraud. It will also prevent Australia from being seen as a soft target by terrorists, people smugglers, forum shoppers and other noncitizens of concern.

The measures in the bill protect the privacy of noncitizens by placing limits on the access to and disclosure of identifying information provided under its provisions. Identifying information will not be disclosed to a foreign country if that noncitizen has made a protection visa application to that country. However, this prohibition on disclosure will not apply if the person requests or agrees to return to that foreign country. It will also not apply if the noncitizen's application for a protection visa is refused and finally determined.

There are also sections in the bill—sections 261AL and 261AM—that provide that minors aged 15 and under and incapable persons will only be required to provide height and weight measurements and photographs of face and shoulders and that minors under 15 years of age can only be required to provide certain personal identifiers. New subsection 261AL(1) applies only to those minors who are under 15 years of age. It provides that a noncitizen under 15 years of age, whether or not in detention, can only be required to provide the measurement of his or her weight or height or a photograph or other image of his or her face or shoulders as a personal identifier. The age of 15 was chosen because this is consistent with international comparisons in the migration context.

Subsections 261AL(5) and (6) deal with persons to be present during identification tests concerning a minor and provide that a parent, guardian or independent person—if the minister is the minor's guardian—must be present during identification tests concerning a noncitizen minor, whether the minor is in detention or not. That is a very important measure contained in this bill. New subsection 261AL(2) provides that a noncitizen minor must not be required to provide a personal identifier by way of an identification test carried out by an authorised officer under subsections 40, 46, 188 or 192 unless a parent or guardian consents to the minor providing personal identifiers.

Listening to some of the previous speakers, you would think that this government were introducing something totally radical and absolutely beyond the rest of the world. We do have to keep pace with global technology and we have to ensure that we work with other countries. A number of countries are looking at personal identifiers and Australia is not unique. Some moves have been made, particularly in this country, to increase security with regard to passports. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will soon be issuing passports featuring a hologram-like floating kangaroo which will have biometric information. That will ensure that biometric information of a digital image of a person's face is stored in a microchip in a passport. That is in progress. The image will allow a computer to check a person's face more accurately to ensure that the person carrying that passport actually owns it.

The United States is also working in this particular area and has basically said that Australians visiting the United States will require visas if a program which has this biometric information available for passports has not been introduced into Australia by next October. So if anyone is applying to visit the United States they will have to apply for new passports and they will have to ensure that that biometric information is available. If it is not, the United States is requiring that visas now be sought. So around the world—starting with the United States—you have stricter passport and visa requirements and you have more and more countries that are looking at biometric information.

I see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Gallus, is in the chamber. She introduced measures recently so that, when people require a new passport, they now have to have a change-of-name certificate, such as a marriage or divorce certificate, as statutory declarations are no long sufficient. I applaud her for taking those measures, because the world is now a less safe place and we have to become more vigilant. Passport security is a foundation of that international movement.

I have mentioned the United States, but I also want to speak about some other countries. Mexico has, for years, been using recognition files to prevent people from registering to vote more than once in an election. But, because of the movement of people across Mexican borders and also into the United States, there will be considerable work in this area as well. Biometric systems are being used all over the world and, clearly, it is something that we as a country need to look at as well. Homeland Security is expected to start taking fingerprints and digital pictures of incoming travellers to the United States at air- and seaports in January. Biometric scans at land borders with Mexico and Canada, which handle 80 per cent of America's 440 million annual inspections, are due to begin in 2005. And many other countries are looking at this technology also.

In England, millions of would-be visitors to Britain will now be fingerprinted or undergo iris scans before being given visas. The aim is to tackle the huge number of people who are given temporary permission to enter Britain each year—whether they are students or people who are visiting relatives—and never go home. Some lodge asylum claims, and many overstayers are caught destroying travel documents and claiming asylum or inventing new identities to cover their tracks. It is very difficult to deport to another country anyone without relevant travel documents. Up to 90 per cent of asylum seekers present themselves in England without travel documents, and officials will now be able to use fingerprints, taken as part of the visa process, to identify those who are lodging claims. These measures have been trialled in Sri Lanka, where anyone going to the UK is obliged to be fingerprinted. These fingerprints are stored electronically and they are compared with the prints taken from people later claiming asylum.

These measures are not new; we are not doing something that is totally revolutionary. We have to keep up with technology. The world of international terrorism and people smugglers is becoming much more sophisticated. People are using electronic means and devices in ways never before used. Technology has ensured that the ways around things are becoming much more ingenious. We really do have to look at using technology to its best advantage. I fully support this bill, because I believe that we must ensure that we provide absolute security to not only our residents but also those who are travelling to Australia. We must ensure that we maintain the highest levels of security for this country.