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Thursday, 21 June 2012
Page: 7578

Mr BOWEN (McMahonMinister for Immigration and Citizenship) (12:27): I thank honourable members who have contributed to this debate, particularly the honourable member for Makin for his learned and considered approach in his work on the committee on this. He has clearly given these matters a lot of thought. I also thank the member for Brisbane for a likewise thoughtful approach. I note the contribution of the member for Cook, which was heavier on rhetoric than substance, but I do note his contribution. I thank the honourable members for their comments.

As honourable members have said, this bill presents a package that will enable the government to impose a charge for the production of visa evidence. This is the first of a series of new related charges to be implemented under the Visa Pricing Transformation Program, which I previously announced as a major reform to the way we price our visas to bring Australia into line with international best practice, ensure our competitiveness and also ensure that taxpayers are receiving an appropriate return for the work that goes into visa processing.

As honourable members have said, visa labels are not required in the vast majority of circumstances, yet a very large number of people still request visa labels for the reasons that the member for Makin and the member for Brisbane referred to—often as simple as requiring a souvenir in their passport of their trip to Australia. While I understand that and respect that, it is not necessarily the job of the Australian taxpayer to subsidise that, so it is appropriate that a charge be in place to say to people, 'If you want that souvenir there is a cost to it, and this is the cost.' The cost has been announced in the budget at $70 per visa label. We believe that is an appropriate cost. This would encourage clients and stakeholders to use electronic confirmation of a person's visa as the primary driving force behind the introduction of the visa evidence charge. The money raised is substantial. That is appropriate, and we make no apologies for that. It is substantial based on the fact that these are not labels that are required in the majority of circumstances. Our substantial consultation shows no or limited impact on those key markets to the Australian economy: tourism, students et cetera because they are not requirements under any of those visas for travel to Australia. Therefore this is a sensible bill. I welcome the support of the opposition. I thank honourable members for their contribution and commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.