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Wednesday, 25 June 2003
Page: 12553

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland—Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (4.45 p.m.)—I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—


This bill is to set the annual salary to be payable to the next Governor-General. Section 3 of the Constitution precludes any change to the salary of a Governor-General during the term of office. Therefore, whenever a Governor-General is to be appointed, changes to the salary of the office must be made by way of amendment to the Governor-General Act 1974 prior to the appointment. The salary needs to be set at that time at a level that will be appropriate for the duration of the appointment.

The salary proposed in the bill is consistent with the convention applying since 1974 under which the salary of the Governor-General has been set with regard to the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. As Dr Hollingworth was the first Governor-General to pay income tax on his salary, the relevant comparison before then was between the tax-free salary of the Governor-General and the estimated average after-tax salary of the Chief Justice for a notional term of appointment of a Governor-General of five years. As part of the convention, the practice had then been to set the Governor-General's tax-free salary at a level estimated to moderately exceed the projected average after-tax salary of the Chief Justice over the notional five year term.

In proposing a salary for the next Governor-General, the government has maintained the link with the salary of the Chief Justice. As the Governor-General's salary is now subject to income tax, the salary can be referenced directly against, and—in line with the convention—set to moderately exceed, the estimated average salary of the Chief Justice over a notional three year term of appointment.

Following its recent annual review, the independent Remuneration Tribunal has determined a 4 per cent increase for judicial offices, to take effect on 1 July 2003. As a result of this determination, the salary of the Chief Justice is expected to be $336,450 as of that date. It is therefore proposed to set the Governor-General's salary at $365,000, which also takes account of the fact that the Chief Justice's salary is reviewed annually by the Remuneration Tribunal while the Governor-General's salary will remain unchanged during the Governor-General's term of office. The Governor-General's salary over a notional three year term of appointment will slightly exceed the estimated average annual salary payable to the Chief Justice over the same period.

The proposed salary is therefore commensurate with the office and maintains the traditional relativity between the Chief Justice and the Governor-General.



This bill makes a number of amendments to the Migration Act 1958 in relation to sponsorship.

Sponsorship is an important element of the system for managing the entry and stay of persons in Australia. It plays a central role in protecting the Australian community from the costs and risks associated with the stay of non-citizens in Australia.

Sponsorship benefits the sponsored person, the sponsoring body and the Australian community as a whole by offering a degree of protection and certainty to all concerned.

The bill formalises the long-standing government policy that such costs should be borne by sponsors who bring persons to Australia, rather than by the Australian community. This is particularly relevant in the case of those temporary residence sponsors who gain a commercial advantage from the sponsorship arrangements.

The bill establishes a comprehensive and transparent framework for the Migration Regulations to deal with sponsorship requirements, enabling a formal recognition of the important and increasing role of sponsorship. It enables processes to be established in the Migration Regulations, relating to sponsorship application, sponsorship eligibility and approval criteria, sponsorship validity and so on.

In accordance with the recommendation of the report In Australia's InterestsA Review of the Temporary Residence Program, this bill aims to standardise sponsorship arrangements as much as possible. However it also recognises differences between types of sponsors and sponsorships, and the need to provide for different sponsor relationships.

The framework proposed by the bill provides for regulations to be made, depending on the type of visa, for:

· sponsorship to be a criterion for a visa (both a criterion for the application or for the grant of a visa);

· a process and criteria for the approval of sponsors; and

· undertakings to be made by sponsors.

The bill also allows certain actions to be taken against sponsors of prescribed temporary visa holders, if they breach their undertakings. These actions include the ability to cancel sponsorship, or impose bars on sponsors. These bars can prevent the sponsors from gaining further approvals as a sponsor, and from sponsoring further persons under their existing approvals.

The bill gives power to make regulations that differentiate between the approaches taken in different visa regimes. This is the case in relation to sponsorship approval criteria and processes, as well as the undertakings and sanctions applicable against sponsors. This will enable the government to take different approaches to sponsors of different types.

For example, it will allow us to differentiate between sponsors who sponsor large numbers of people or gain a commercial advantage from sponsorship, and sponsors in the family stream.

The regulation making powers provided in the bill are not intended to affect sponsorship regulations made under any other provision of the Act. This is further supported by the “opt in” provision of the suite of amendments, which will require that different visa regimes and their accompanying sponsorship requirements will need to specifically come within the new framework, before it will apply to them.

This is important, because it will allow the existing regulations relating to sponsorship to be changed and implemented gradually, following appropriate consultations. It also means that any regulations that are made pursuant to the new powers will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

Initially, regulations are proposed to be made to include the long stay sponsored business visa (Subclass 457) and the new sponsored Professional Development visa (Subclass 470) under the new framework.

Sponsored Business Visa

This is a very important visa class that has provided Australian businesses with rapid access to highly skilled labour from overseas to enable these businesses to remain internationally competitive.

The benefits of this visa class are well documented in research done by Access Economics. There is, however, a need to continue to make the operations of this visa as efficient as possible so that it remains responsive to the needs of Australian industry.

An important element of the proposed changes is to make sponsor undertakings clearer and to enable a range of possible sanctions to be applied where undertakings are breached. In particular, these sanctions will be designed to discourage any possibility of overseas employees being exploited and to make sure that all sponsor undertakings are enforceable.

Professional Development Visa

The ability to enforce sponsorship undertakings is an integral part of the new proposed Sponsored Training Regime. The sponsored Professional Development Visa is being developed in response to requests from the Australian international education industry to allow professionals and senior government officials to undertake tailored training. The ability to offer this training will enable Australia to establish itself in this niche market and support our bilateral economic and political relations with major countries in our region and beyond.

The sponsorship aspect of the visa enables education providers to assume responsibility for potentially large numbers of visa holders from markets that traditionally exhibit high immigration risk, and reduces risk for immigration integrity and the public purse. Our ability to enforce sponsorship undertakings in this regime is therefore essential to its effectiveness.

Although to date the number of sponsors who have failed to comply with their undertakings has been relatively small, it is likely that this number would grow with the increased use of sponsorship for temporary residence visas.

Sponsorship undertakings for this visa need to be legally enforceable, and should be underpinned by a system of sanctions appropriately targeted to ensure that sponsors comply with the undertakings they have entered into.

Associated Merits Review Change

In addition, the bill seeks to prevent abuse of the merits review process by certain temporary visa applicants who are required to have a sponsor but who, at the time of applying for review, do not have a sponsor or have not attempted to obtain one.

In these cases, the decision to refuse to grant the visa cannot ever be overturned by the Tribunal, because the requirement that the applicant be sponsored is simply not satisfied.

This amendment will effectively close off a loophole that has led to visa applicants pursuing what are clearly unmeritorious claims.

In summary, the measures in the bill will ensure that the integrity of Australia's migration and entry programs is not compromised.

I commend the bill to the chamber.

Debate (on motion by Senator Crossin) adjourned.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.