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Thursday, 1 March 2007
Page: 127


Senator SCULLION (Minister for Community Services) (3:58 PM) —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—

MIGRATION AMENDMENT (MARITIME CREW) BILL 2007

The Migration Amendment (Maritime Crew) Bill 2007 amends the Migration Act to create a new class of temporary visa to be known as a maritime crew visa.

These statutory reforms are needed to strengthen the integrity of Australia’s borders.  Maritime crew wishing to enter Australia in the service of non-military ships will in future have to apply for the new maritime crew visa while they are outside Australia.  The application process for the new visa will enable crew to be appropriately security cleared before they enter Australia.  

Under current arrangements, the crew of non-military ships are granted Special Purpose Visas by operation of law, a process that does not permit security checks to be conducted before the crew of these ships are allowed to enter Australia.

While an application process before grant of a maritime crew visa will be new to foreign sea crew seeking to enter Australia, much of the procedure involved after the grant of the visa will be familiar to crew and those involved in the shipping industry in Australia.

To ensure this is the case, the Government has been working with the shipping industry so that the transition to the new visa will be as seamless as possible for those working in the industry.

As with most other visas, the detail governing the new maritime crew visa will be set out in the Migration Regulations.  In constructing the regulations for maritime crew visas, care will be taken to minimise the impact and cost to the industry after the new maritime crew visa regime commences. 

The visa application process will be available electronically and there will be no charge for the visa.  Shipping agents will be able to apply on behalf of members of crew.

The amendments made by the Bill will provide that the maritime crew visa is authority to travel to and enter Australia only by sea.  This will ensure that persons who enter Australia holding a maritime crew visa can be processed at seaports where there will be sufficient time, for example, to confirm that crew members are actually in the service of the ship.  These sorts of checks would not be possible at an airport where large numbers of passengers must be processed in a short period of time. 

Due to the nature of the maritime crew visa, the Government has provided sufficient flexibility in the visa arrangements to enable holders of maritime crew visas to be granted certain other kinds of visas to suit the purpose of their stay in Australia.

This recognises the fact that some crew members will need to fly to Australia to join their ship here.  It also takes account of the fact that maritime crew visa holders may wish to spend time in Australia for other purposes, such as holidaying.

It is anticipated that Transit visas and Electronic Travel Authorities are two such visas which will be specified by legislative instrument as able to coexist with maritime crew visas. 

To reinforce that a maritime crew visa is only authority to travel to Australia by sea, the amendments will make it an offence for an airline operator to bring a maritime crew visa holder to Australia by air. 

However, the Bill also provides airline operators with a defence where, at the time of boarding the aircraft, the non-citizen held another visa that permitted travel to Australia by air. 

Finally, the amendments in the Bill provide for a maritime crew visa to be ceased by declaration where it is considered undesirable for a person or class of persons to travel to, enter or remain in Australia, for example, when a master reports a crew member as having deserted the vessel.  This replicates the current arrangements for ceasing a Special Purpose Visa under subsection 39(9) of the Act.

The Bill also includes an express power to revoke such a declaration to allow for situations where additional information may come to light about a person’s suitability to travel to or remain in Australia.

To ensure that a non-citizen does not have to reapply for a maritime crew visa where a declaration is revoked, the Bill provides that the effect of revocation is that the declaration is taken to have never been made. 

Consequently, it has been necessary for the Bill to also include a provision to protect the Commonwealth from any civil claims if a non-citizen is detained in the period between a declaration ceasing their visa and the revocation of that declaration.

In conclusion, the creation of a new maritime crew visa will ensure that the necessary security checks are applied to crew entering Australia by non military ship in order to strengthen the integrity of Australia’s borders.

I commend the Bill to the Chamber. 


CUSTOMS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (AUGMENTING OFFSHORE POWERS AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2006

This bill, the Customs Legislation Amendment (Augmenting Offshore Powers and Other Measures) Bill 2006, contains amendments to the Customs Act 1901 and the Customs Legislation Amendment and Repeal (International Trade Modernisation) Act 2001 that relate to:

  • border enforcement powers under the Customs Act;
  • Customs brokers’ employment arrangements;
  • duty recovery and payments of duty under protest; and
  • false and misleading statements made under the new SmartGate system.

This bill empowers Customs officers and other Commonwealth officers, immediately after boarding a ship or aircraft for various border enforcement purposes under the Customs Act, the Criminal Code and any relevantly prescribed Act, to conduct personal searches for, take possession of and retain:

(a)   weapons;

(b)   items that may assist a person to escape detention; and

(c)   evidence of the commission of a relevant offence.

The new powers ensures the personal safety of the officers in exercising their enforcement functions, help prevent the escape of any person detained as a suspect, and help prevent the disposal of evidence. This bill will also make amendments to other provisions relating to search powers in the Customs Act.

To recognise the changing employment practices in the Customs brokers’ community, this bill will remove the current restrictions in the Customs Act prohibiting individual Customs brokers from being employed by more than a Customs brokerage at the same time.

The bill amends the Customs Act to limit the time for the recovery of Customs duty to 4 years in all cases, except in the case of fraud or evasion where no time limit will apply. The proposed new regime is a response to the decision of the High Court in Malika Holdings Pty Ltd v Stretton (2001) 204 CLR 290 and is consistent with the existing regime for the recovery of other indirect taxes.

The bill will also clarify the process for making a payment of Customs duty under protest. Further, the bill will amend the Customs Act to enable the CEO, in certain circumstances, to offset an amount of unpaid duty on goods against any amount of refund or rebate the owner would be eligible for if the owner pays the duty.

Customs will be introducing the electronic SmartGate passenger processing system in early 2007 that will allow eligible air passengers and crew to use an automated clearance process through the immigration point at the border.

This bill will amend the Customs Act to ensure that any false and misleading information provided using the SmartGate system is covered by the existing offence provisions relating to making false and misleading statements made to an officer of Customs.

Debate (on motion by Senator Scullion) adjourned.

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