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Wednesday, 25 November 2015
Page: 8916


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesAssistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (11:48): I will deal with issues that I think are currently outstanding in relation to that amendment dealing with coercion and other matters. Perhaps if I can address firstly matters that will be taken into account when considering whether to cancel visas and whether these are policy or legislation. Under policy, consistent with other cancellation powers in the act, the visa holder would be afforded procedural fairness during the cancellation process. In considering whether to exercise the discretion to cancel, the minister or delegate would consider a range of factors such as the person's complicity in the payment-for-visas conduct, the strength of their ties to Australia and contribution to the Australian community, and Australia's international obligations, such as the bests interests of children, family unit and the non-refoulement obligations. Further to these existing provisions, the government will include requirements under policy that it is not appropriate to pursue visa cancellation where payments have been extracted under force of threats or other forms of exploitation such as human trafficking or slavery.

In relation to whistleblowers who voluntarily come forward with information in relation to payment-for-visa conduct, the government will also prescribe under policy that the intent of a person is relevant when consideration is given whether to take action against them and what form that action might take. However, it is important that there be discretion to take action in circumstances where, for example, despite having volunteered information the whistleblower was found to have acted in such a way that they should not be afforded protection. Accordingly, the government does not support the proposed amendment.

I will also put on the record changes that are being made by the government to assist victims of human trafficking. As part of the 2015-16 federal budget the government announced major reforms to the Human Trafficking Visa Framework. The Human Trafficking Visa Framework enables trafficked persons to remain lawfully in Australia while they assist in the criminal justice process. This new framework ensures these vulnerable people are provided with the support they require, particularly as they assist authorities throughout the judicial process to help bring perpetrators to justice.

Under the changes, the government is improving social security access for trafficked people granted a permanent visa by exempting them from waiting periods for a range of social security payments. Qualification to a broader range of social security payments will allow people on this visa access to further job and educational services and develop options for life after they leave the Support for Trafficked People Program. This measure starts on 1 January 2016 and will be ongoing.

The changes will also provide a better pathway for those who have assisted authorities and would be in danger if they returned home to move onto a permanent arrangement. In particular a permanent visa is available for trafficked people who have assisted authorities and would be in danger were they to return home. The reforms are the result of significant work across government and reflect our commitment to fight these crimes and to support trafficked people.