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Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Page: 8402

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services) (12:28 PM) —in reply—At the outset, I would congratulate the new shadow minister for immigration and citizenship, the member for Murray, in regard to her role. However, I think it is a bit rich for her to basically argue that what we are seeing here today is part of a continuing Howard government approach to detention policy and immigration. Certainly, the government reiterate that we need to ensure we have a process in this country which maximises the possibility that those who have genuine claims are those who are actually protected by the country. And, of course, as a matter of last resort, there will be detention.

However, when we look at issues such as the onus with regard to whether or not people will be detained, the closure of offshore sites and the definite commitment that children will not be detained, as well as the broad swathe of immigration changes—quite frankly, overwhelming changes in the last few months in that policy area—I do not think that argument really stands up to rational analysis. We are supporting strong border control but a fair and more humane treatment of asylum seekers and those who do need to be detained.

I will not detain the House at length; I understand there are some other pressing matters. The Migration Amendment (Notification Review) Bill 2008 will make amendments to provisions of the Migration Act 1958 which set out the requirements for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the tribunals to notify a person about important matters such as decisions on visa applications and visa cancellations. The amendments will clarify the way the department, the Migration Review Tribunal and the Refugee Review Tribunal communicate with their clients.

Many speakers have repeated ad nauseam the three particular thrusts of change, so I will not reiterate those. I would, however, remind the House that the ‘substantial compliance’ amendment sought to ensure that substantial compliance with the required content of a notice will be sufficient to effect notification. Under this amendment, minor technical errors in the content of the notice will not render the notification ineffective unless the applicant can show that the error or omission substantially prejudices him or her.

Following introduction of the bill into parliament, it became apparent that the provisions relating to substantial compliance produced unintended consequences both in terms of errors in the notification document and also in relation to the compliance operations of the department. Consequently, the government-sponsored amendments withdraw the substantial compliance amendments from the bill. I note in this respect that the amendments regarding actual notification will cover most of the circumstances that have caused difficulties in the past and ensure that a person who is actually notified cannot seek to rely on a technical error in the notification process. It is not expected that withdrawing the substantial compliance amendments from the bill will affect a large number of cases.

The remaining amendments assist in ensuring that notification will be legally effective and provide certainty regarding future action based on notification, while still maintaining fair and reasonable dealings with the department’s and the tribunals’ clients. I commend the bill to the chamber.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.