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Friday, 12 June 2020
Page: 2919

Senator KENEALLY (New South WalesDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (11:42): I rise to speak on the Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Bill 2019 and the Migration Agents Registration Application Charge Amendment (Rates of Charge) Bill 2019. As we are debating these bills in concurrence and they're complementary to one another I will refer to them in the singular, as one bill.

I make clear from the beginning that Labor supports this legislation and hopes the government seeks to pass it through parliament expeditiously. This was a commitment I as the responsible shadow minister gave at the Law Council of Australia Immigration Law Conference on 6 March 2020.

They say a week is a long time in politics, so imagine how long six years feels by comparison. It's been six long years since the recommendations in this bill were first put forward. It's been six long years for lawyers who provide migration advice to have been operating under a scheme of dual registration.

The aim of this bill is to improve the effectiveness of the regulatory scheme governing migration agents. It contains measures stemming from the recommendations of the 2014 Independent Review of the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, otherwise known as the OMARA review. In fact, Tony Abbott was Prime Minister when these recommendations were made. The current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was the immigration minister who received the OMARA review. I must give some credit to the government. They did introduce this bill into the last parliament in June 2017. It managed to get introduced into the Senate in May 2018. The Senate even debated that bill for a short amount of time in December 2018. Then, despite bipartisan support, that's where the legislation stopped. The bill sat on the Notice Paper for 211 days—a simple, straightforward bill which Labor has supported and recommendations that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government has failed to make law for six long years. Even government senators recommended 'the Senate pass the bills without delay', in the report from the Senate Standing Committees on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. After six years, multiple reviews, many sitting weeks and three prime ministers, this bill is finally before the Senate. Let's understand here that this bill will make changes to how migration agents are registered—that is, specifically to how lawyers are registered—

Debate interrupted.