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Thursday, 24 February 1977

Mr ELLICOTT -I have been asked to accept questions on behalf of the Minister for Immigration, who I think is still ill. I am sure we all wish him a speedy recovery. On a question that was raised yesterday and the question that the honourable member has now raised, I point out that the Government's visit visa policy and the procedures followed in implementing that policy are designed to ensure that the many thousands of genuine visitors throughout the world each year who seek to spend a short period in Australia receive their visas with a minimum of formality and delay. At present visit visas are being issued overseas at the rate of approximately 27S 000 per annum. Applicants for visit visas are required to complete a declaration which includes a question relating to any criminal record. The procedure provides that the cases of any applicants who indicate that they have a criminal record should be subjected to special inquiry prior to a visa decision. This applies also where overseas posts consider, on good grounds, that further inquiries should be made in relation to applicants who may have declared that they have no record.

The need for special inquiry arises only in isolated instances and this means that the many thousands of genuine visitor applicants are able to receive their visas without impediment. It would be unthinkable, even if it were practicable, that visa issues should be withheld in respect of all applicants to enable detailed checks concerning possible criminal records to be conducted. Individual cases do arise from time to time in which it is learned that a visitor who has entered Australia has a criminal record which he failed to disclose at the time of his application for a visa. The immigration powers enable the Minister to deal appropriately with any such cases which come to notice. As honourable members will be aware, the person referred to in questions asked yesterday has since been asked to leave. I gather he has left the country.

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