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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 purpose of this Bill is to effect two amendments to the Migration Act 1958- 1964. The objects of the amendments may be stated briefly. First, to reduce, as far as possible, the documentation required in respect of persons included in the complements or crews of vessels; and, secondly, to revise certain provisions of the Act relating to penalties, consequent upon the introduction of decimal currency.

In connection with ships' crews, the Migration Act requires that the master of a vessel must have in his possession an identification card, in an approved form, for each member of his crew, that the card must be produced when required, and surrendered on demand. In court proceedings to establish desertion, the Department is required by the Act to produce a document "purporting to be an identification card, signed by the master of the vessel ". The need for the identification cards is to ensure that deserting seamen can be traced, and that in any court proceedings their desertion can be proved.

Practically all seamen in ships entering Australian waters are in possession of identity documents of one variety or another - such as seamen's continuous discharge books. These documents contain sufficient identification detail to facilitate search for deserters; and in many cases masters are in a position to hand these documents over to my Department. However, they do not purport to be identification cards and do not carry the master's signature. Therefore, they are not at present acceptable as the Migration Act stands.

Shipping companies are involved in considerable clerical work and inconvenience in preparing special identification cards for the sole purpose of complying with Australia's Migration Act, and British companies particularly, supported by the British Board of Trade, have asked the British seamen's discharge books be accepted. The amendments to the sections of the Act referred to in the schedule have been rendered necessary upon the introduction of decimal currency. I commend the Bill to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.

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