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Tuesday, 4 May 1965

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This is a short Bill, designed to amend the Aliens Act 1947-1959 to require aliens resident in Australia, in addition to their obligation to register initially under the Act, to notify the Department of Immigration annually, at a specified time, of their address, occupation and marital status. This requirement would replace the present obligation to notify a change of address or occupation within a specified time of any change in such detail taking place.

The two main purposes of the Aliens Act, which was introduced in 1947, are first, to ensure that the Commonwealth will have knowledge of aliens in Australia; and, secondly, to provide basic data for analysis of Australia's alien population to enable the Government to implement its immigration policy on sound and scientific lines.

The principal provisions of the legislation are -

(a)   that a Register of Aliens shall be maintained in each State or Territory of the Commonwealth;

(b)   that aliens shall be required to register;

(c)   that a registered alien shall notify any change of address, or occupation, or if he marries; and

(d)   that the Minister's consent must be obtained before any alien may change his surname.

The Register of Aliens is complete so far as initial registrations are concerned, as these are effected under official supervision. However, the degree of failure to notify subsequently a change in address or occupation is high, despite endeavours to encourage compliance by aliens, and the introduction of procedures to facilitate the notification process. We have therefore been concerned for some time that the Register is far less accurate than is desirable, so far as the current address and occupation of aliens are concerned. A recent exploratory check has confirmed this. However, to assess the degree of accuracy of the present Register would require a separate approach being made to each individual alien in the country. Apart from this there would be no other practicable method for establishing whether the addresses currently recorded are accurate or not. The requirement for an annual notification by every alien would provide a basis for an immediate check to be made with respect to those aliens who, having registered initially, fail subsequently to comply with the annual notification requirement. In this way follow-up action would be confined to actual defaulters; that is, those persons only who fail to comply with the annual notification requirement.

The Government considers that the replacement of the present ad hoc notification of changes of address and occupation as they occur by a system of annual notification by all aliens of these particulars, together with detail of marital status, not only will result in a more accurate and upto date Register of Aliens, but also will be a less onerous requirement for the aliens themselves, especially those who in their early years of residence frequently change their address.

It is proposed that the period in which annual notification would be required will be from 1st to 30th September in each year, with respect to any alien who was in Australia on 3 1st day of August that year. These dates will be prescribed by regulation. The necessity for the alien, after registering initially on arrival, subsequently to notify his address, occupation and marital status during a specified period each year would be the subject of wide publicity in advance of its being introduced. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Fitzgerald) adjourned.

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