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Tuesday, 25 May 1993
Page: 1217

Senator NEWMAN (5.17 p.m.) —I thank the Minister. I am glad he recognises that it is a serious matter. I did not think that I got very serious consideration at the estimates committee hearing the other night. I appreciate the fact the Minister is apparently not ready to brush it aside. But I take issue with some of the detail of his answer. The Minister said that the TBUs are handed to the States which then have the responsibility for follow-up action. The States may have some sort of responsibility for follow-up action, but the problem is that there is no legal basis for the document that the Commonwealth requires the migrants to sign. The documents are not enforceable. There is no way that either the Commonwealth or the States know where these people are because, although they have undertaken to report in, at the most only 40 per cent of people actually do report in. They disappear into Australia, possibly incubating TB and spreading the infection.

  The Minister's department has responsibility for public health policy in this country. Therefore, I hold his department accountable for not having previously put in place a regime whereby these undertakings are in fact enforceable. I ask the Minister: why has that not occurred?