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MIGRATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 1998
- Parl No.
- Question No.
Kemp, Sen Rod
- System Id
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- Start of Business
- NOTICES OF MOTION
- LEAVE OF ABSENCE
- EAST TIMOR
- JABILUKA URANIUM MINE
- ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION BILL 1998 (No. 2)
- NUCLEAR WEAPONS
- BUSINESS INCOME TAXATION REVIEW
- MIGRATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 1998
- SPACE ACTIVITIES BILL 1998
- DELEGATION REPORTS
- Economics References Committee
- REFERENCE OF BILLS TO COMMITTEES
- EDUCATION SERVICES FOR OVERSEAS STUDENTS (REGISTRATION OF PROVIDERS AND FINANCIAL REGULATION) AMENDMENT BILL 1998 (No. 2)
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Taxation Reform: Advertising
(Conroy, Sen Stephen, Kemp, Sen Rod)
Taxation Reform: Regional Australia
(Calvert, Sen Paul, Kemp, Sen Rod)
Economy: Current Account Deficit
(Cook, Sen Peter, Alston, Sen Richard)
Telecommunications: Regional Australia
(Crane, Sen Winston, Alston, Sen Richard)
Telstra: Hobart Work Management Centre
(Mackay, Sen Sue, Alston, Sen Richard)
(Stott Despoja, Sen Natasha, Newman, Sen Jocelyn)
Victoria: Gas Emergency Relief Package
(Collins, Sen Jacinta, Alston, Sen Richard)
Multilateral Agreement On Investment
(Margetts, Sen Dee, Kemp, Sen Rod)
Goods and Services Tax: Olympic Games
(Faulkner, Sen John, Kemp, Sen Rod)
Health Services: Regional Australia
(Ferris, Sen Jeannie, Herron, Sen John)
Centrelink: Asset Calculations
(O'Brien, Sen Kerry, Newman, Sen Jocelyn)
Aboriginal Communities: Violence
(Woodley, Sen John, Herron, Sen John)
- Taxation Reform: Advertising
- TEMPORARY CHAIRMEN OF COMMITTEES
- ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- TELSTRA: SELL-DOWN
- TELSTRA SELL-DOWN
- FIRST SPEECH
- TELSTRA SELL-DOWN
- Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976
- Department of Social Security
- Australian Defence Industries Ltd
- Wool International
- Australian Industrial Relations Commission and Australian Industrial Registry
- Privacy Commissioner
- QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Thursday, 12 November 1998
Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) (9:57 AM) —I table the explanatory memorandum and move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows—
This bill implements a number of the Government's important policy initiatives within the Immigration and Multicultural Affairs portfolio, particularly in relation to merits review.
The measures contained within the bill are consistent with the Government's commitments to improve the immigration decision-making system and continue the process of restoring community credibility in the management of immigration matters.
On 20 March 1997, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs announced a range of significant changes the Government would make to refugee and immigration decision-making and review systems. These changes will improve the efficiency, credibility and accountability of immigration decision-making.
The bill is largely the same as one which was before the Senate in the last Parliament.
The Government has however made three changes from that bill. The first change will allow the Migration Review Tribunal to commence operation at a time to be set by proclamation. This will allow time for administrative arrangements to be put in place. Nonetheless the new Tribunal will be operational within 6 months of this bill receiving the Royal Assent.
The second change provides that the Migration and the Refugee Review Tribunals are to formally hand down decisions in cases where there has not been an oral decision and the applicant is not in immigration detention. The third change provides for certainty in relation to despatch of documents from the Tribunals.
The main thrust of the bill is the streamlining of the current two tier review process of non-refugee visa decisions into a single review by an independent review agency. The bill gives effect to this by merging existing internal review undertaken by the Migration Internal Review Office of the Department Immigration and Multicultural Affairs with the external merits review carried out by the Immigration Review Tribunal.
Under the changes introduced by this bill, the single tier review will be conducted by a new external review body, the Migration Review Tribunal.
The Migration Review Tribunal will be required to conduct fair, impartial and expeditious review of migration decisions, at lower cost to the Australian taxpayer. This will be achieved through the introduction of more streamlined and flexible review decision-making processes.
The Tribunal's Principal Member will have clear authority to apply efficient processing practices. This may include the introduction of a case management system where much of the preliminary research and investigative work would be undertaken by administrative staff of the Tribunal. Tribunal members would be responsible for directing that any further investigation be undertaken, and for the final decision.
Migration Review Tribunal members will be independent decision-makers, able to reach their own conclusions on a decision under review, in accordance with the law. However, this independence does not amount to non-accountability.
Members will be accountable, on matters of procedure, to the Parliament through the Principal Member for ensuring that they conduct reviews, fairly and expeditiously. The bill will give the Migration Review Tribunal's Principal Member power to make directions on the efficient conduct of reviews. These directions only relate to review procedures. The Principal Member can not make directions on policy issues related to the merits of a case.
For the purposes of ensuring efficient conduct of reviews, the Principal Member will be able to reconstitute the Tribunal provided specific preconditions are satisfied. Reconstitution may only occur where, following consultation with the member constituting the Tribunal and a Senior Member of the Tribunal, either:
the Principal Member is satisfied that there is insufficient material before the Tribunal for it to decide the review; or
the prescribed time has elapsed since the case was constituted to that member.
These preconditions emphasise that reconstitution is solely for ensuring efficient and timely reviews and safeguard against misuse of the power.
These changes will set the framework for significant reductions in both the time and costs of review of general migration visa decisions. However, I should stress that the bill will not alter the entitlements of persons to seek review of decisions by the Department refusing or cancelling visas. Those persons who are currently able to seek review of particular decisions by the Migration Internal Review Office or the Immigration Review Tribunal will be able to seek independent review of those decisions by the Migration Review Tribunal.
The Principal Member of the Refugee Review Tribunal will be provided with the same authority to apply efficient processing practices as those of the Principal Member of the Migration Review Tribunal. This includes clear authority to give directions on the operation of the Refugee Review Tribunal and the efficient conduct of reviews.
The provisions allowing the Minister to appoint persons to act in a senior office of the Refugee Review Tribunal for periods of up to 12 months will be brought into line with the equivalent provision which currently exists for the Immigration Review Tribunal and that proposed for the Migration Review Tribunal. This will allow the Minister to appoint members to act as Senior members.
The bill also includes certain safeguards for applicants by introducing a code of procedure for both the Migration Review Tribunal and the Refugee Review Tribunal which is similar to that already applying to decisions made by the Department. This code includes such matters as the giving of a prescribed notice of the timing for a hearing, and a requirement that applicants be given access, and time to comment, on adverse material relevant to them.
In addition, the bill contains a number of measures to allow for more flexible processes in both Tribunals. These include:
enabling the Tribunals to use telephone or other media to conduct personal hearings or to require other witnesses to appear before them; and
allowing Tribunals to proceed to a decision without delay, if an applicant does not respond to a notice to attend a hearing or provide comment.
Taken together, these changes mean that people with bona fide review applications will be given a decision more quickly and a better decision if the initial decision is wrong. Those persons intent on fraud, deception or delay will not have the benefits of a delayed decision.
These changes are consistent with foreshadowed Government moves to introduce further reform of merits review tribunals across all portfolios by consolidating all tribunals into one, new Tribunal.
The bill includes a number of other changes. These relate to measures to enhance the visa cancellation powers, including:
the power to ensure that there is more effective cancellation of visas which were granted on the basis of incorrect information, for example, where a previous visa was granted on the basis of incorrect information; and
the tightening of certain notice provisions which are integral to the visa cancellation process.
One further measure which is consistent with other proposals in this bill to improve flexibility in migration processes, is the introduction of a waiver of the condition which is placed on certain visas to prevent the visa holder from being granted a further visa.
Finally, the bill rectifies an anomaly in the penalty provisions in the Australian Citizenship Act 1948. The proposed changes will ensure that those provisions are in line with the Commonwealth's criminal law policy.
The similar bill which was before the Senate prior to the election was the subject of an inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee. The majority report recommended that the bill be passed without amendment.
However the minority report recommended a number of changes; the most significant of which would have been the loss of the powers of the Principal Members of the MRT and RRT.
This bill clarifies the authority of the Principal Member for the RRT and aligns the Principal Member's powers with those of the Principal Member of the MRT. This bill will provide each Principal Member with the power to run their respective tribunals efficiently while ensuring reviews are conducted fairly and expeditiously.
In conclusion, this bill is part of a continuing process adopted by this Government to ensure that the integrity of the migration program is not undermined. It complements other moves to strengthen the Government's ability to control who may be granted and who may continue to hold Australian visas.
I commend the bill to the Senate.
Ordered that further consideration of the second reading speech of this bill be adjourned till 14 days after today, in accordance with standing order 111.