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Monday, 18 June 2001
Page: 27681

Mr RIPOLL (1:08 PM) —It gives me great pleasure to speak on the 2001 review of migration regulation 4.31B. This is a significant review that the Joint Standing Committee on Migration undertook. It not only examines the imposition of a $1,000 post-decision fee for failed reviews of grant of a protection visa through the Refugee Review Tribunal but also looks at issues revolving around the imposition of that fee and the criteria for which that fee is supposed to achieve change. It has been the subject of much debate and discussion, with no clear view from any sector of the community or the government on the merit or otherwise and success of the fee imposition.

This review of the regulation by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration looked at the possibility of removing the sunset clause, which was applied in 1999 to run for two years. The committee accepted many submissions and held numerous public hearings, in most states, to review this clause. The resulting report is well balanced and makes a number of recommendations that will improve the effectiveness of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in dealing with the migration matters related to this report.

The real contention within our system is that it offers people the right to appeal a rejected application for a protection visa through the Refugee Review Tribunal but then imposes a $1,000 fee if they are unsuccessful at that point. This system creates the argument that the fee is needed to weed out those that are not bona fide applicants, while at the same time it imposes hardship on those that are genuine but still fail in their application. The effect of this fee became a central theme in our review and in the submissions. There is also some claim that the fee is a minor recouping of the costs involved in the department having to go through the review process.

The system of primary application, the number of days in which to apply on shore, the ability to appeal through the RRT and finally, if unsatisfied, seek redress through judicial review in the Federal Court creates a system that is confusing and expensive and can be corrupted. This whole system is what, in effect, creates the problems that we now see as needing to be addressed through such mechanisms as imposing a post-decision fee to try to sort out those who are bona fide and those who would otherwise be abusers of the system.

This is not to say that the system itself does not work effectively or deliver correct outcomes; it is more to say that the system itself opens the way for the full processes to be exercised and therefore contributes to the perceived problems of using or otherwise abusing the system. (Extension of time granted) When any system is created, there will always be the potential—and probably an expectation—that people will use the system to its fullest extent. This does not in my mind create a situation of abuse of the system because those people might seek to use it to its full extent. I think this is also a problem in the base understanding that when someone uses the full system right through to its final position—that is, seeking judicial review in the Federal Court—they potentially are an abuser of the system.

The purpose of review of the regulation was to establish a number of issues that remained unclear to that point: whether the sunset clause should be removed or whether perhaps the sunset clause should be extended for a further period of time, to fully ascertain the effectiveness of having this $1,000 post-decision fee. The most important and central part of all of those mechanisms put in place by the regulation is, of course, the $1,000 fee itself. The question, as can be deduced from the committee's decision to recommend a further sunset period and review, has not been satisfactorily answered by the evidence brought to the committee by any submissions or public hearings. This is not necessarily a failing of the review but perhaps a matter of many factors, including the difficulty in establishing a direct correlation between the imposition of one measure—that is, the $1,000 fee—and a range of other factors that may influence more or less movement in the system of application and review of a grant of a protection visa.

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs could not provide to us sufficient evidence or data that supported their claim that the fee was a direct disincentive to reduce the number of people that might use the system to its fullest or perhaps abuse the system. On the other hand, no other submission could show that the imposition of the fee was in any way preventing or deterring people who would be bona fide applicants from seeking further review. None of the statistics or empirical evidence provided could demonstrate clearly any correlation between the imposition of the fee and any change in numbers of applications or, further, any full use of the system. Claims by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs that the fee is part of a complete system—a package of measures, as it was put to us—that helps in deterring mala fide applications are accepted by the committee as being a more likely positive measure of its success or otherwise. The issues of migration agents and ethics in the industry rated highly in our deliberations.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—Order! The time allotted for statements on this report has expired. Does the member for McPherson wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a future occasion?