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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2153

Senator SHORT (10.57 a.m.) —I would like to put a few questions to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Multicultural Affairs (Senator Bolkus). The reason why we are debating this bill is that the government was forced to defer the implementation of the major changes introduced in the Migration Reform Act in December 1992 because it subsequently found a large number of technical and other corrections that needed to be made to that legislation. Hence, the implementation date, which was to have been 1 November 1993, was put off for a further 10 months until 1 September 1994. So, as I said in the second reading debate, we have the extraordinary situation that a bill is being implemented almost two years after it was introduced but at the time of its introduction it was said by the government to be urgently required. There is a fundamental inconsistency in that situation. It reflects gross sloppiness, at best, and incompetence, at worst, in terms of the administration of this issue.

  Initially I ask the minister: when the government considered its decision to delay the implementation date of the Migration Reform Act, was the government conscious of the impending decisions, which were taken a couple of months afterwards, with respect to the People's Republic of China nationals and/or the boat people? I am referring particularly to the special assistance category that was determined for the Cambodian people just before the November decisions.