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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9987

Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (16:00): I thank members for their contributions to the second reading debate on this bill. This bill was, as we know, introduced by the Prime Minister, which emphasises his strong personal commitment and the commitment of his government to the reform and improvement of intercountry adoption. I remind the House that the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014 amends the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to facilitate the grant of Australian citizenship to children adopted by Australian citizens under bilateral adoption arrangements between Australia and countries that are not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of Intercountry Adoption.

The bill is a reflection of this government's commitment to reform overseas adoption and to streamline processes to assist parents and their adopted children. The bill gives effect to one of the recommendations made in the report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Intercountry Adoption published in April 2014. It means that children adopted by Australian citizens under bilateral adoption arrangements between Australia and other countries will be able to apply for Australian citizenship as soon as the adoption is finalised. They will then be able to apply for an Australian passport to travel to Australia with their new families as Australian citizens.

The bill seeks to place children adopted by Australian citizens under bilateral arrangements in the same position as children adopted by Australian citizens under the Hague convention. Since 2007 children adopted by Australian citizens under Hague convention arrangements have been able to apply for Australian citizenship in their home country. Countries with which Australia establishes a bilateral arrangement must meet the same standards and safeguards as those required with adoptions made between countries that have ratified the Hague convention. Where a non-convention country meets those standards, the government contends that there is no reason why adoptions should not be recognised in the same way as adoptions contracted between convention countries.

As the process for children adopted under bilateral arrangements, including automatic recognition under Australian law, is in substance identical with those processes under the Hague convention, it is the government's position that the children should be treated the same in regard to access to Australian citizenship. This was recognised by the interdepartmental committee, which identified this issue as suitable for immediate reform. The government has moved quickly to act on that recommendation.

This bill acknowledges the hard work, dedication and perseverance of Australians who have embarked on the challenging journey of intercountry adoption. They have our admiration and respect. On a personal note I wish to commend all of them for their deep, longstanding desire to be a parent. This is something that goes to the very core of our being. I know the pain that they feel when they have been unable to realise their own dreams of being a parent naturally. The fact that they can get over that personal disappointment—although I suspect that can never occur fully—and then turn around and look at a new opportunity and bring a young life in another place into their own home and take them under their care and treat them as their own is truly an inspiring feat. It is a wonderful thing that we can come together in this chamber, and I am sure as will occur in the other chamber, and pass this bill, which will make that process just that little bit easier. It should not have to be so hard. Certainly, there have to be protections, certainly there have to be proper processes and certainly these things need to be in place. But for all of those parents who want to fulfil that opportunity to be parents, because in their hearts they have always been parents, this gives them the opportunity to take that step just that little bit more easily than it could be done before.

It is the intention of this government, and I am sure all members of the House, that we continue to work on these matters and make these processes and systems more effortless if we ever can. It is work in progress. It is work that is occurring in a bipartisan and multipartisan way in this parliament. Above all, I hope that those who are going through this process see the passage of this bill as an encouragement and an endorsement of what they are seeking to do in their own lives and in the lives of others. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.