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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 6343


Senator ARBIB (New South WalesMinister for Sport, Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development and Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness) (12:38): I thank all the senators for their contributions to the second reading debate on the Migration Amendment (Complementary Protection) Bill 2011. I remind the chamber that this bill amends the Migration Act to eliminate a significant administrative hole in our protection visa application process. I remind senators that the bill will build on Australia's framework for assessing claims for protection under the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and provide a protection visa decision-making process that is more efficient, transparent and accountable. The amendments in this bill are important and necessary to address inefficiencies in the current protection framework.

This bill permits claims made by protection visa applicants which may engage Australia's non-refoulement obligations to be considered under a simple, integrated and timely protection visa application process. Under the Migration Act as it currently stands, only those people seeking protection for one of the five reasons outlined in the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees—race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion—are eligible to receive a protection visa through the usual process. Applicants who fall outside these categories are not considered refugees and consequently their applications must be rejected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and also by the Refugee Review Tribunal.

But some of these people are fleeing significant harm, such as women fleeing so-called 'honour killings'. These people can fall outside the categories recognised by our current protection visa process. Under the current system these people, who have often fled their countries in fear of their lives, must go through several administrative processes knowing that they are going to be rejected, in order to access ministerial public interest powers. At present we make them go through a process of applying, failing, seeking review and then failing again, just so that they are then able to apply to the minister for personal intervention.

I commend the bill to the chamber.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.