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Thursday, 9 December 2004
Page: 26


Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) (11:09 AM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

Australian Passports Bill 2004

The package of Australian passports legislation will provide a modern legal structure to underpin our world-class passports system. It will replace the Passports Act 1938.

This package was passed by the House of Representatives on 4 August but was not debated in the Senate and lapsed when Parliament was prorogued. The bills re-introduced today are the same as the lapsed bills with the exception of a few amendments to the Australian Passports Bill, which I will highlight.

In summary, and most importantly, the legislation will ensure Australia and Australian travellers are protected by tougher laws.

The Australian Passports Bill will do this in a number of ways.

It will increase penalties for passport fraud up to A$110,000 or a 10 year jail term from $5,000 or 2 years jail in the current Act.

The bill will introduce an improved mechanism for the refusal or cancellation of passports of an Australian in cases involving specified serious crimes.

These crimes will include child sex tourism, child abduction, child pornography, sexual slavery, drug trafficking, people smuggling and terrorism.

This improved mechanism can operate:

when a person is suspected of being likely to engage in a serious crime;

when a person has been charged with a serious crime;

or when a person has been sentenced for a serious crime.

As the bill makes clear, in these circumstances it is the responsibility of competent authorities, such as law enforcement agencies, to assess that a person should be prevented from travelling. The person's passport would then be refused or cancelled to complement the law enforcement objectives.

The bill contains a package of measures aimed at minimising the problems caused by lost and stolen passports. These measures will complement the arrangements I announced during the recent APEC Joint Ministerial Meeting on trialling a Regional Movement Alert system. The trial will enable United States and Australian border officials to make immediate checks of passenger records and lost and stolen passport information.

Finally, the bill will enable us to combat identity fraud through the use of emerging technologies such as facial biometrics for ePassports. I should like to draw attention to an amendment made to the text of the bill since the House of Representatives which passed the bill on 4 August.

The provisions of the re-introduced bill now require that the minister's determination for the use of technologies such as facial biometrics must specify:

the nature of the personal information to be collected

- in the case of the biometric, the photograph which is already collected with the standard application

the purpose for which it may be used

- in the case of a photograph, to assist in identifying fraudulent passport applications and detecting fraudulent use of a passport.

This amendment is based on constructive discussions with the Opposition during the last Parliament.

The Government has consistently emphasised the need to introduce these technologies in a manner which maintains community confidence in the protection of their privacy. This change underlines that philosophy.

Another important element in the passports system is children's passports.

In some circumstances, where there is a dispute between parents about whether their child can travel internationally, officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are required under the current Act to make decisions to resolve the dispute.

The bill proposes that, in such cases, a declaration may be made that the matter should be dealt with by a court.

I should also like to note, for the record, that the Government has made some other minor technical amendments to the text of the bill which passed the House on 4 August, in addition to the important change I have already detailed.

The re-introduced bill clarifies that a passport may be cancelled `administratively' when a replacement is applied for, as well as when the replacement is issued.

Two other changes cover privacy provisions.

The first clarifies arrangements for requesting information from private sector organisations. The second removes the specific reference to disclosure of passport information for national security purposes. This ground is specifically covered under the Privacy Act.

A final change more closely aligns the legislation with administrative law principles. The lapsed bill set out a detailed regime for notice of decisions, repeating the provisions in the 1938 Act. These provisions have been removed as they overlapped with provisions in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975.

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Australian Passports (Application Fees) Bill 2004

Each year the Australian passports system provides 1 million Australians with passports. It is important that this substantial operation be put on a sound legal footing. The Australian Passports (Application Fees) Bill will establish a simpler structure to deal with changes in costs and validity of passports. The text of this Bill is exactly the same as the bill which passed the House on 4 August.

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Australian Passports (Transitionals and Consequentials) Bill 2004

The text of the Australian Passports (Transitionals and Consequentials) Bill is exactly the same as the bill which passed the House on 4 August. On a practical note, I should make clear that passports issued under the 1938 Act will remain valid.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of these bills be adjourned to the first day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.