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Tuesday, 30 May 1989
Page: 3027

Senator JENKINS(6.13) —I wish to respond to some of the remarks that were made about the Democrat amendment. It is very easy to presume a facility in English because people can manage their day to day affairs very well-they can carry out their work, do the shopping and manage their household duties and so on. However, when people find themselves in a more formalised situation it is very often a different state of affairs. In fact, the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs has backed up what I said initially-that is, that it is presumed that because a person can carry out necessary daily duties comprehensively, he or she can both communicate and comprehend in a situation which is very different and in which very different language is used. Although Senator Ray has stated that he is not looking at an adversarial situation in such tribunals, nonetheless much will hinge on the result of the decision by the Tribunal. Because of that I suggest that where these tribunals take place in Australia-or indeed elsewhere-I was previously not aware that they would sit outside Australia--

Senator Robert Ray —They take evidence overseas. Another section of the Act says that evidence can be gathered overseas.

Senator JENKINS —Just evidence, but not the Tribunal as such?

Senator Robert Ray —No.

Senator JENKINS —My amendment deals with the Tribunal only and so does the Government's. The Minister's amendment says `. . . where a person appearing before the Tribunal to give evidence . . .' and that is also the spirit of my amendment. Nonetheless, although the National Authority for the Accreditation of Translators and Interpreters is quoted as the authority, that national authority, which has its headquarters here in Canberra, gives accreditation to people who have overseas qualifications. In any case, that authority could cope with overseas qualifications, but as I see it, we are looking at a situation which deals with the Tribunal within Australia.

I believe that this is a very good opportunity for this more comprehensive sort of provision for an interpreter to be incorporated into legislation and the Migration Amendment Bill would be the best piece of legislation to start with. The Minister said that he had taken the wording from the Social Security Act with regard to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. One of the problems is that when the wording is loose-and the Minister has said that he is prepared to tighten up his own wording, and I appreciate that-there is a danger that proper proceedings will not take place. Although the Minister has said that he doubts very much that the Tribunal would not make a proper inquiry or decision, nonetheless if the legislation is there to make sure that a proper decision is made, surely that is the way that we, as responsible legislators, should go.