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Tuesday, 31 August 1993
Page: 675


Senator ROBERT RAY (Minister for Defence) (4.35 p.m.) —I move:

  That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

  The speech read as follows

This Bill amends the Migration Reform Act 1992 and other relevant legislation within the immigration portfolio, to defer to 1 September 1994 the introduction of those parts of the Reform Act which were due to come into effect on 1 November 1993.

The Migration Reform Act 1992 makes important changes to the Migration Act 1958. It simplifies the legal basis for administration of entry to and stay in Australia. It expands merits review by the Migration Internal Review Office and the Immigration Review Tribunal, establishes the Refugee Review Tribunal, and modifies appeal rights to the courts. It also establishes a detailed code of procedures for the processing of visa applications and reviews and clarifies the procedures in relation to cancellation of visas.

The government is concerned to ensure the smooth and trouble-free implementation of the Reform Act. Implementation involves far reaching changes to the administration of migration law and to administrative processes. The process of planning for implementation of these changes has been under constant review, and this review has highlighted the complexity of the task. To this end, when assuming office, I ordered a "stocktake" of the processes and laws to be implemented.

It is clear that the Reform Act requires fine tuning and this is to be expected in legislation of this nature. At this stage, a number of minor amendments has been identified, predominantly of a technical nature, which still need to be made to the legislation to ensure that it operates smoothly. These further amendments will be introduced in the autumn sittings of the Parliament.

Substantial drafting of subordinate legislation and consequential amendments to related legislation is necessary. Procedural instructions must be prepared. Major and complex changes are necessary to the computer systems and databases used to administer the migration program. Very significant training of migration officers is required, and a major information program to enable my Department's clients to understand the changes which will occur is essential.

In these circumstances, the government considers it preferable to defer the introduction of the Reform Act until all these issues can be adequately addressed. Deferment will ensure that the implementation of these complex and important changes will be smooth and trouble-free.

This Bill also provides that the provisions of the Migration Act 1958 relating to the detention of unauthorised boat arrivals continue to apply to persons who arrive up until 1 September 1994. The existing provisions cover the detention of such persons who arrive up until 1 November 1993. Extension of this date will mean that arrivals between 1 November 1993 and the new commencement date of the Reform Act will come under the same detention provisions as those which apply at present.

The issue of detention of boat arrivals is being examined by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration and it would be pre-emptive to change the existing arrangements prior to consideration by the government of the Committee's report, due in December 1993.

The establishment of the Refugee Review Tribunal will not be affected by deferral of the implementation of the major provisions of the Reform Act. The Tribunal commenced operation as originally planned on 1 July 1993.

This Bill introduces amendments which will put beyond doubt the power of the Refugee Review Tribunal to consider refugee status review applications made before 1 July 1993 to the former Refugee Status Review Committee and not considered by the Committee at that date.

These applications constitute a caseload of some 5,500 review applications and are considered as a priority. The provisions made by this Bill facilitate a smooth transfer of this caseload to the Refugee Review Tribunal and ensure that the Tribunal can get on with the work of clearing it.

The provisions of this Bill will not impact on the costs of administering the migration program.

I commend the Bill to the Senate and I present the Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill.

  Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.