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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9941

Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (13:01): I rise today in support of the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014. The bill amends the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to allow a person adopted outside Australia by an Austrian citizen to acquire Australian citizenship in accordance with a bilateral arrangement between Australia and another country. Many members have spoken on this bill and have provided the details of the legislative framework. However, in essence, this bill provides Australian citizenship to adopted children of Australian parents. The adopted child will be able to travel to Australia as an Australian citizen without needing to obtain a passport from the home country or an adoption visa under the Migration Regulations 1994. The bill is compatible with human rights. It does not raise any human rights issues. Rather, for children adopted outside Australia by an Australian citizen, it will make their transition to a better life a whole lot easier. It is also another commitment that this government is fulfilling to the Australian people.

On a personal level, I wanted to speak very briefly on this bill today as I have met a number of loving couples in my electorate who would have made wonderful parents. They wanted to offer their homes and were prepared to open up their hearts to a child who did not have a home and family. While many of these couples have waited years and have been disappointed, this legislation will assist others in their situation. Anything we can do to assist these couples is worthy, and this bill seeks to address some of the problems.

The other reason I wanted to participate in this debate today is that I also hope that by speaking on this bill and by raising awareness of the benefits of adoption we can start a conversation within the community and hopefully make adoption of children from within our own country also easier. I know this is an emotive issue; however, it is a conversation we should have.

This bill is about creating an entitlement to citizenship for the easier processing of children adopted under the Hague convention arrangements and under bilateral arrangements. As the Prime Minister has said:

The government wants to make it easier to adopt when it is in the best interests of the child.

The government announced in December 2013 that we would improve overseas adoption by the end of this year. We are delivering on that commitment. We have improved the process for families adopting from Taiwan and South Korea. We have considered a report by senior officials on options to reform overseas adoption. It was informed by more than 100 public submissions. We are running a new overseas adoption program with South Africa and are in discussion with seven other countries about the possibility of new overseas adoption programs.

I congratulate the minister and the Prime Minister. These amendments will reduce even more red tape when it comes to intercountry adoption. And I thank those couples willing to open up their homes and hearts to these children. Our community will be stronger for their efforts.