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Thursday, 31 March 1966

Mr OPPERMAN (Corio) (Minister for Immigration) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The objective of the Bill is to place beyond doubt the legality of two administrative reforms designed to make aliens' registration a more simple and efficient process. A procedure was introduced last year whereby necessary details for registration of an alien after arrival are secured at the time when he is applying, in his own country, for a visa for Australia, instead of forms of application for registration being collected at time of arrival in Australia. As was confidently expected, this has saved delay in clearing ships and aircraft on arrival in Australia and has ensured more accurate information about non-British migrants arriving here. From the alien's point of view the procedure has the advantage of permitting his application for registration to be completed with the help of the officer who is interviewing him about. his migration to Australia, and, if necessary, with the assistance of a qualified interpreter also. A good deal of time and trouble is saved at points of arrival in Australia for migrants, ships' staffs, and Immigration officers; and this the more important because of the need to clear ships and aircraft quickly.

In addition, as another simplification, aliens coming to Australia for a stay of less than a year are not now required to be registered. In the past, registration was required for such aliens in order to provide a means of checking that they left when their authorized stay expired. Now a better way of doing this has been introduced. Each incoming alien completes the usual incoming passenger card. Instead of this being used solely for the Commonwealth Statistician's purposes, it is placed in an alphabetical visitor index. The departing alien visitor completes an outgoing passenger card, and this also goes to the visitor index and provides the necessary departure information. If no outgoing card is received, enquiries are then made. All this makes it unnecessary to obtain additional aliens registration forms from alien visitors.

The Bill contains eight clauses, the first two of which deal with the title and date of commencement. Clause 3 simply provides a definition of the exact time at which a person is to be deemed to enter Australia. Clause 4 can be understood by reference to section 7 (1) of the present Aliens Act which specifies that an application for registration must be made by a person who has arrived in Australia. Section 7 (2) of the Act exempts from this requirement a person who has previously been here and been registered as an alien, but this does not satisfactorily provide for the alien who has never been in Australia before, has only completed an application for registration when applying for his visa to come here, and has not been registered. Therefore an addition needs to be made to section 7 (2) of the Act, and this is done by clause 4 of the present Bill.

Clause 5 provides authority for our officers overseas to receive applications for registration, and to cancel them when the aliens abandon their plans to come here. Clause 6 provides the desired exemption from registration for aliens coming here for visits of a year or less. At the present time section 8 paragraph (c) of the Act exempts only people coming here for 60 days or less, and clause 6 extends this to those coming for the longer visits in question. Clauses 7, 9 and 10 simply change the amounts of penalties from pounds to dollars.

Clause 8 is another necessary consequence of the new procedure of accepting applications for registration overseas and ensures that persons making false statements in such applications can be prosecuted, after entry to Australia, on the same basis as if they had committed the offence in Australia.

I can assure the House that the changed procedures contemplated by this Bill will be of considerable benefit to non-British people coming to Australia and at the same time will ensure greater efficiency and accuracy in recording essential information. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.

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