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Thursday, 2 December 2004
Page: 136


Senator LUDWIG (6:15 PM) —In respect of the Report for 2003-04, including reports pursuant to the Immigration (Education) Act 1971 and the Australian Citizenship Act 1948, I would like to turn to a couple of issues raised in the citizenship and multicultural affairs portfolio within the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. I know they will interest those in the chamber tonight—and hopefully the Radio National listeners as well. The recent ANAO report into the citizenship function of DIMIA highlights multiple problems that seem to have occurred under the watch of Senator Vanstone and the previous minister, Mr Gary Hardgrave, and require significant work to be undertaken by this government. While the report says the management and promotion of citizenship services is generally well managed there remain serious concerns in relation to the risks of fraud and, particularly, identify theft.

In a survey of 159 applications for citizenship, the report found three cases where the signature of the person attesting to the identity of the applicant differed between that on the photograph and that on the declaration on the application form. Three files did not even have photographs attached. In a third of these cases there had been no check of whether the person was in Australia at the time. The department clearly lacks a proper approach to security issues.

In the case of descent applications, 14 case files were examined by the Australian National Audit Office. These relate to people born outside Australia who are applying for citizenship. A police check was onlyconducted in only two out of three cases. In two cases there was no photocopy of an original ID or evidence that an ID check had even been done. Clearly this documentation is important as the department requires these types of documents to establish eligibility in descent cases so that the grant of eligibility can be determined from the information held by DIMIA. At a time when we are trying to heighten our security measures these lax checks and ID loopholes are of concern and the minister is, in this instance, not doing enough to ensure that the department has proper processes in place.

Unfortunately for Mr McGauran, Mr Hardgrave has also left unfinished work in relation to the proposed changes to the Australian Citizenship Act, which were flagged in July this year. It appears the previous minister was too busy organising citizenship ceremonies at Bunnings Warehouse to progress important reforms in the Australian citizenship area. Rather than release the reforms so that we can get on with the task of dealing with the real issues of concern, the minister was busy trivialising the nature and meaning of Australian citizenship. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.