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Thursday, 12 February 2009
Page: 1226

Mr ZAPPIA (6:40 PM) —I too rise in support of the Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2008 [2009]. I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary  for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services speak earlier today, and I believe that he very clearly outlined the purpose and intent of this bill—and that was added to by the member for Oxley just a moment ago. So I am not going to cover the purpose of the bill per se, but I do want to make some points with respect to it. The first comment I will make is that I believe that this bill brings a degree of efficiency and clarity to the implementation of our migration laws in this country, and that is a good thing.

I want to base my comments on two factors. Firstly, since being elected to this place, migration cases have resulted in being one of the most significant areas of constituency work that we do in my office. Therefore, I have been able to look at a whole range of different issues that arise from the migration laws of this country. Secondly, as a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, I have been able to visit a number of detention centres in and around Australia. As part of visiting those detention centres not only have I been able to listen firsthand to comments made to the committee by people who were in detention but also, and just as importantly, I have been able hear and listen to many, many people who, on behalf of refugees and people in detention centres in this country, have made submissions to the committee—submissions which, I might add, are based on their own experience of having been involved with literally hundreds and hundreds of cases dealing with immigration matters.

The point I would like to make in relation to that is that, in almost all cases—whether it is a person who has come into my office or whether it is someone who was in detention—these people would have liked to have had their matter dealt with much more expeditiously. Looking at the announcement made by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship last July, where he said that processes relating to the refugees in this country are going to be dealt with a lot quicker, I have to say that this legislation is consistent with that inasmuch as the whole objective and intent is to bring clarity to the process and deal with the matters as efficiently as possible.

In listening to the people who were in those detention centres and to their advocates, two or three things became very, very evident to me. Firstly, many of those people who were seeking an application for residency in this country simply did not understand the processes or their rights and quite often were put in situations where they would never have been had they been able to access good and proper information in the first place. Secondly, there were also people who were in the situation that they were in because they had in fact sought information but unfortunately had sought information from people who were not in a position to provide them with accurate information—again resulting in people being held for lengthy periods in detention centres. Thirdly, there are people, in perhaps the legal fraternity, who feel it is in their interests to go from one appeal to the next. Some people who have found themselves in those situations have expended several thousands of dollars hoping, and being led to believe, that there would be a positive outcome for them at the end of the process, when in all reality it was never likely that their circumstance would have met the approval of the policies and laws of this country that would in turn enable them to remain here. All of those matters ought to be clarified as much as is possible.

The other comment I want to make is about people who find themselves in a situation where they believe they have rights or have been judged wrongly on their application and who rely on advice from migration agents. I have had constituents come into my office who have not only paid hefty sums of money but also been led to believe that they would be granted permanent residency in this country when, quite clearly, it was very likely that they never would be. Again, it is all based on bad advice. In some cases, perhaps it is genuine bad advice; in other cases perhaps the advice is bad because a person who is providing that advice has something to gain from prolonging the case and its outcome. Whether it is a decision that means they will stay here or a decision that means they will not be allowed to stay here or whether they have not even entered the country yet but are simply waiting in limbo, everyone wants to know what their future is. It makes a lot of difference. If they know they will not be granted residency in this country, they can get on with their lives and do whatever else they wish to do. However, quite often they wait, and sometimes that time runs into years and it is simply a waste of their lives, because their whole lives are put on hold. They cannot find work. They cannot make other plans. Sometimes perhaps they cannot have families. Whatever the case is, to put someone’s life on hold unnecessarily is not in anyone’s interests.

The last point I will make is with respect to the courts. I was pleased that the member for Oxley quoted statistics about appeals in the courts of this country. All of these processes cost money. In fact, the whole administration of the Migration Act by the government and by the department costs a lot of money. If we can reduce those costs simply by bringing clarity and efficiency into the system, then we ought to do so. There are two separate issues here. We need to have absolutely fair and just policies—and I do not think anybody would disagree with that—but then we need to have an efficient system for administering those policies. They are separate and distinct, and the objective of this bill is to bring some efficiency to the administration of those policies. Other members may disagree with the policies themselves—that is their prerogative—but that is not what this bill is all about. In my view, if it does bring about those efficiencies, everybody is a winner. That is why I support the legislation.