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Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Page: 151


Mr MARLES (Corio) (09:10): I rise to speak in support of the Migration Amendment Bill 2013 and, in doing so, commend the minister on the appropriate length of his speech, which has allowed me to speak at this moment. This bill does a number of important things in relation to the Migration Act and providing certainty. It clarifies the intent of the legislation and makes the protection visa process more stringent. We support the bill as it clarifies the intent of the principal legislation and provides greater clarity for the decision makers within the system.

The bill contains three schedules. The first is a technical but very important schedule which deals with the timing of a decision by a decision maker in relation to the granting or not of a protection visa. It makes clear that the date on which a decision is taken to be made is the date when the decision is put in writing as opposed to the date on which the decision is notified to the person to whom it applies, which had been the finding in the court decisions. This is important because a circumstance where the date of a decision is taken as being the date of notification—and indeed the appropriate fulfilling of the making of a decision requires the appropriate notification—can lead to a situation of uncertainty for the decision makers, the department, and that is something that needs to be clarified. It is a technical matter but a very important matter and the opposition support this amendment to the Migration Act to provide for certainty around that issue.

The second schedule deals with the grounds upon which a person can make an application for a protection visa and specifically prevents somebody from making an application for a protection visa where they have failed in a previous application for a protection visa on another ground. To make that more clear, it ensures that a person seeking a protection visa must put all their grounds in the first application and not be in a situation where they can put a subsequent application in on differing grounds. This is an important measure because it prevents working the system such that a person might be able to put in an application for a protection visa on a particular ground, have it go through the entire process, have that process end in an unfavourable result and then make another application on a separate ground.

There are basically four grounds on which a person could seek a protection visa and were this not dealt with there would be an ability to have four separate processes which could extend into years. This schedule makes it very clear that once a person has failed in the granting of a protection visa, having gone through the entire appeal process, that is then the end of the matter and they are then prevented from being able to make another application for a protection visa. The opposition supports this amendment to the Migration Act.

The third schedule deals with the sensitive issue of persons who have a negative ASIO assessment. This schedule now makes it completely clear that persons who have a negative assessment from ASIO will be unable to gain a protection visa and that fact will not be reviewable by any tribunal or indeed, ultimately, by the minister. This is a significant step to be taken and a decision we come to very cautiously and carefully, but ultimately we accept this change to the Migration Act. We do so on the basis that the Stone review process within ASIO, which is a mechanism for having one's negative assessment by ASIO reviewed within the ASIO system, remains intact. It is an important safety valve for persons who have a negative ASIO assessment to be able to have that reviewed. But if that is not successful and a negative assessment remains—and indeed so long as a negative assessment remains in relation to a person—then a person with such a negative assessment is prevented from gaining a protection visa within the migration review and application system. We are pleased that the Stone review process has been kept intact. That is an important consideration for us in taking the decision that we have. We note that this, in essence, removes any review rights within the migration system itself and actually removes the minister's ability to review these circumstances, but the reality is that no minister is going to review a decision to prevent a person from getting a protection visa based on a negative ASIO assessment without some comfort through a process such as the Stone review process. In those circumstances, this legislation, I believe, confirms the reality of the way in which the immigration system was being managed by the former government and is being managed, I am sure, by this government as well.

The opposition supports these three schedules. We see these as matters which will provide for greater certainty and clarity within the Migration Act. We see these as matters which honour the intent of the Migration Act. They make the process of obtaining a protection visa more stringent but in doing so they also make the process more certain for everyone concerned.

Finally, I make this point: it is important to have a robust and fair system in place for the granting of protection visas—one which meets our international obligations. I note that in the explanatory memorandum there is an extensive discourse about how these particular amendments to the Migration Act conform with our international obligations; that is an important consideration from the point of view of the opposition in supporting this bill. It is important that we get the balance right when we put our migration system, and the way in which decisions are made and reviewed, in place—that there is in that process a fairness, a dignity and an efficiency and indeed, importantly, a certainty, but that it remains a rigorous and stringent process as well. Ultimately we see this bill as being consistent with those objectives and so, on that basis, the opposition are supporting these amendments.