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Friday, 12 June 2020
Page: 2963

Senator BROCKMAN (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (13:37): I rise to give a brief contribution on this very important bill.

The government reintroduced a bill package to remove certain legal practitioners from dual regulation by the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, the OMARA, on 27 November 2019. The bill package consists of the Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Bill 2019 and the Migration Agents Registration Application Charge Amendment (Rates of Charge) Bill 2019. The Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Bill 2019 contains measures to implement the recommendations of the 2014 independent review of the OMARA and makes other amendments to improve the effectiveness of the regulatory scheme governing migration agents. The bill removes legal practitioners with unrestricted practising certificates from the OMARA scheme such that legal practitioners will be entirely regulated by their state or territory legal disciplinary bodies. Eligible legal practitioners with restricted practising certificates will still be able to register with the OMARA for two years, which can be extended to four years.

The bill reflects the government's commitment to deregulation by removing the unnecessary administrative burden of dual regulation of lawyers, who are already subject to a strict professional regulatory regime. Legal professional bodies and the statutory schemes underpinning them apply a broader range of powers to resolve consumer related issues, including penalties outside the OMARA's jurisdiction. These penalties include financial penalties for improper conduct and recommending compensation for affected clients.

It's important to note that this bill was subject to extensive consultation with industry and key stakeholders prior to being initially introduced to parliament. It's very important to recognise that there is no evidence that removing any legal practitioners from the migration agents registration scheme would result in any reduced consumer protection. Lawyers who are no longer subject to OMARA's regulatory scheme will remain subject to a strict professional regulatory regime administered by their state or territory disciplinary bodies. I will leave it there.