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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 225

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Social Security)(10.09) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

It gives me great pleasure to introduce this Bill into the Senate, for it will remove another piece of totally discriminatory legislation.

The Aliens Act, which applies only to non-British subjects, succeeded the war- time National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations. The Act, when passed in 1947, was intended principally to provide information concerning the non-British population, including its distribution by industries and localities, and to provide a basis for imposing limitations, if considered desirable and necessary, on the entry or stay of non-British subjects of any specific nationality.

As a result of amendments made to the Act from time to time, non-British subjects are required only to register, notify my Department if they marry, and obtain consent to change a surname. For many years the Department has not fully maintained the aliens register, and moreover, few people now comply with the notification requirements.

Having regard to the high proportion of Australian citizens born overseas and the large number of non-citizens who have irrevocable permanent residence in Australia, I believe the Act is based on outmoded concepts. The Act has been left in place essentially to satisfy national security interests. Until recently , there was no suitable alternative means of providing informatiOn on all non- citizens in Australia, particularly at a time of national emergency.

An alternative means of obtaining information is now available through the Government's visa and entry permit systems. Almost all foreign nationals are required to supply information before obtaining authority to travel to Australia and upon arrival are required to complete passenger cards before being granted entry. The gathering of this information is being computerised by my department so as to enable it more effectively to monitor and identify those who are entering and departing Australia.

My department has been tasked with the responsibility of preparing guidelines for access to this computerised information, in consultation with other interested departments and authorities. The Government will closely and carefully consider these guidelines to ensure that personal information provided to my department by those seeking to enter and remain in Australia, is properly protected from unnecessary disclosure.

The financial impact of this proposed legislation is minimal given that there are no staff engaged full time on maintenance of the Aliens Register. The additional cost of building the requirement to replace the Aliens Register, into systems that the Department is developing to meet needs associated with control over entry, is $380,000 for microfilm and associated data entry equipment. Some of this money was spent in 1983-84 and the balance will be spent in 1984-85. There will be on-going costs of $50,000 per annum for the operation of this equipment.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.