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Wednesday, 22 August 1973
Page: 228

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (Minister for Immigration) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The objective of the Bill is to eliminate the annual notification of address, occupation and marital status by aliens required to register under the Aliens Act. Although the register of aliens has been satisfactory insofar as initial registrations are concerned, a large proportion of aliens fail to provide the information necessary to keep their addresses current. Non-compliance with the provision of the 1947 Act which required notification of change of address, occupation or marital status within seven days of any change developed to a high level.

In 1965 the Act was amended to provide for only annual notification of address, occupation and marital status, but the noncompliance rate persisted. In the first year (1965) after the introduction of this amendment, 84 per cent of registered aliens complied. In 1972, however, only 46 per cent responded despite improved methods of handling notifications, including the dispatch of computer prepared notification requests to last known addresses and the provision of business reply paid envelopes for the return of the notification forms.

Although provisions exist in the Act for prosecution for non-compliance with the notification requirement, these are defective from a legal and practical standpoint and prosecutions have not been instituted for some years. If prosecutions were to bc instituted it would mean prosecuting something like 150,000 people a year and I do not believe it is in the interests of migrants, or the nation, that this draconian action should be taken to secure information which is on file basically anyway. Because of these factors the requirement of annual notification is not serving the purpose for which it was introduced and should be abolished.

The Bill contains 9 clauses of which the first 2 deal with the title and date of commencement. Clauses 3 and 4 simply provide for amendments to delete references to 21 years of age in sections 7 and 7A of the principal Act and to substitute instead the new age of majority - 18 years. Clause 5 deletes from section 8 of the principal Act references to section 9, which is to be repealed. Clause 6 repeals section 9 of the principal Act which is the section under which aliens have been required to notify annually, their address, occupation and marital status. It is the removal of this requirement which 'is the objective of the Bill. Clause 7(a), like clauses 3 and 4, provides for amendment to delete references to 21 years of age and substitute references to 18 years of age in section 17 of the principal Act.

Clause 7(b) provides for the omission of sub-section 3 of section 17. This particular sub-section provided penalties for the parents or guardians (of aliens under the age of 21 years) who had failed to comply with the annual notification requirements. With the repeal of section 9 of the principal Act, subsection 3 of section 17 no longer has relevance. Clause 8 simply deletes reference to section 9, which is being repealed, from section 18 of the principal Act. The opportunity has also been taken to make some formal amendments of the principal Act to accord with current drafting practices. These are covered in a schedule of formal amendments under clause 9. Requirements with respect to initial registration of aliens will remain unaltered and the updating of records from information received through departmental sources will ensure the maintenance of an adequate register of aliens. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.

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