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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 497

Mr DUTTON (DicksonMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (11:59): I want to say thank you to all of those members who have contributed to this debate. I was here for the contribution by the member for Hughes, who made a fine contribution. I thank him very much for his strong stance on these important matters.

The amendments of schedule 1 of the Migration Amendment (Visa Revalidation and Other Measures) Bill 2016 will help Australia's international tourism sector by establishing a visa revalidation framework within the Migration Act. This framework will underpin the introduction of a long-term visitor visa for Australia, which will have a validity period of 10 years and will allow for entry and stay for up to three months. This new long-term visa will reduce red tape and streamline repeat visits to Australia by genuine tourists and businesspeople.

The framework supports this long-term visa by providing a mechanism which will enable a longer validity visa to be periodically assessed to ensure they continue to meet the requirements for holding their visa. This includes existing health, character, security and other requirements for entry to Australia. Allowing for the periodic review of these requirements is necessary to ensure that both the integrity of the visitor visa framework and public confidence in the visitor visa program are maintained.

I need to correct some misinformation being peddled by those opposite—that the visa revalidation framework will apply to everyone. This is simply incorrect. Visa revalidation will only apply to those visa classes prescribed in the regulations, which are disallowable by this parliament. The government has been very clear that the only visa being prescribed will be the subclass 600 visa, which will enable a 10-year visitor visa trial for Chinese nationals.

Additionally, the bill introduces a ministerial power to manage specific, serious or time-critical risks in relation to an identified cohort of visa holders. This power will enable the conduct of public interest revalidation checks for prescribed visa holders. This provision will ensure potential risks to the Australian public are able to be effectively managed and effectively mitigated.

It is intended that this power be exercised only in exceptional circumstances necessitating an immediate response where it would be in the public interest to do so. For example, the power would be available in situations where there has been an assessment of increased risk to the Australian community due to a significant health or national security incident overseas. Without this power, the government would have limited scope to manage risks associated with the travel to Australia of large cohorts of travellers who have a valid long-term visa in effect.

Noting that the foreseeable circumstances in which a public interest revalidation would be required are of a time-critical nature, it is appropriate that a legislative instrument related to this power not be disallowable. To make the public interest revalidation a disallowable instrument would introduce uncertainty and weaken the effectiveness of the measure in managing the potential risk to our country. The government has ensured that sufficient parliamentary oversight of public interest revalidation exists through a legislative provision which requires the minister to table a statement in a house of parliament explaining the minister's reasons for making the determination. It is important to note that the government has drafted these provisions consistently with other public interest provisions already contained within the Migration Act, which are also non-disallowable.

The regrettable part is that this is a complete overreaction and an obvious failed political stunt by Labor. In November last year, Labor senators sat on an inquiry into this bill that recommended that the bill be passed. Labor had only ever raised one small technical issue with the bill—that is, whether or not clause 96E was disallowable, a request which the government opposed as it would weaken the effectiveness of the provision.

All of a sudden, yesterday, the shadow minister raised wide-ranging issues and has claimed on that basis that they are unable to support the entire visa revalidation framework. This is in direct contrast to a conversation that he and I had on Sunday night where he expressed in no uncertain terms that he had no problem at all with this bill except for a major issue which they would seek an amendment in relation to. That is the exact conversation that I had with this dishonourable person opposite on Sunday night. I only raise it because he has in his conduct in the last 24 hours gone completely against his advice to me on Sunday night. There were other witnesses to this exact conversation. Without directly quoting him, he said to me, 'Look, mate, we have no problems with the bill, but there is one section that we would like to have a look at as to whether or not you can disallow it.' I said, 'Look, I've been distracted by other issues. I will have a look at it. I will come back to you,' which we did. His office contacted mine to confirm the conversation and ask for advice in relation to it. I said that we would not allow this amendment by Labor at that stage, for whatever reason.

This member opposite has never asked a question of me in this parliament. It will be interesting to see whether he asks a question today, because this is his biggest issue and he has tried to make an issue of it. The problem is that he has got it wrong. The problem is that he has misled the Australian public in feigning his position in relation to this bill. It is a disgrace and it should be called out. It shows that the shadow minister opposite is not worthy of the office that he holds.

In schedule 2, a further amendment in this bill will ensure that if a person holds a visa that is not in effect and a ceasing event applies to the visa, such as the cancellation of the visa, the visa period for that visa will in most circumstances end and the person will no longer hold the visa. This will provide certainty as to when a person is no longer the holder of a visa and supports the amendments establishing the visa revalidation framework.

Additionally, schedule 3 in this bill enables the use of leading edge contactless technology in automated immigration clearance. A traveller will be able to self-process through SmartGates without having to present their passport. The live facial image of the traveller at the SmartGate will be compared with a verified image from departmental holdings to confirm the traveller's identity. This will reduce the time it will take for a traveller to self-process through a SmartGate. In addition to faster processing, this measure delivers stronger security at our border. Implementing this technology also expands the self-processing option to a greater number of travellers.

In summary, this bill deserves support by all members in this chamber.

The SPEAKER: The question is that this bill be now read a second time.