DR ANNE ALY MP
MEMBER FOR COWAN
MIGRATION AMENDMENT (REGULATION OF MIGRATION AGENTS) BILL 2019; MIGRATION AGENTS REGISTRATION APPLICATION CHARGE AMENDMENT (RATES OF CHARGE) BILL 2019
SECOND READING SPEECH
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WEDNESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2020
I rise also to speak on these two bills that are before us: the Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Bill and the Migration Agents Registration Application Charge Amendment (Rates of Charge) Bill 2019. Before I get to the bills, I would like to acknowledge the work that migration agents do. It is no understatement for me to say that the majority of cases that come before me in my electorate office are in relation to visas. Often it is people who have spent tens of thousands of dollars using the services of migration agents to get a visa, sometimes for their parents, sometimes for their partners, sometimes for their children, sometimes for members of their families and sometimes for themselves. Often they come to me at a point of frustration—frustration with the delays in the visa approval system. As I mentioned, at that point they have often exhausted all the avenues before them. That again points to the important work that migration agents around Australia do in circumstances where we have a visa system that has some pretty incredible delays.
Just the other day I took a phone call from one of my constituents whose parents have been here for 12 years. They are applying for a visa. They are paying $110,000 for their parents' visas. They have been told it is a 51-month wait, and that in that 51-month period they could be deported. So, obviously, this individual who called me was in a very desperate state.
Considering the valuable contribution which immigrants make to Australia, as well as those on temporary visas of all kinds, I think it is vitally important that the right immigration advice is given to visa applicants. This bill certainly won't solve the kinds of issues that we see, particularly with delays around visa applications, but it will go some way to adding some regulation to the industry of migration agents.
The Member for Scullin outlined Labor's position on the bill. As the shadow minister, he moved an amendment to the bill, which I will talk about in a minute. In conjunction, both bills seek to do a number of things. Most importantly, they seek to amend the Migration Act to remove the requirement for lawyers who hold a practising certificate from also having to register as a migration agent when providing immigration assistance to their clients. In that regard, it really does away with the dual registration requirements for lawyers who are providing immigration advice.
That's going to be achieved by removing them from the regulatory scheme that governs migration agents, meaning that lawyers cannot register as migration agents and are entirely regulated by their own state and territory legal professional bodies when providing advice. I think it's a good thing not just to regulate the industry but also to ensure that lawyers are able to give that kind of timely and essential advice to people in need. Because it also ensures that the time period in which a person can be considered an applicant for repeat registration as a migration agent, it removes the 12-month time limit in which a person must apply for registration following completion of a prescribed course.
Another thing that the bill will do, which I would like to mention, is ensure that the definitions of 'immigration assistance' and 'immigration representations' include assisting a person in relation to a request to the minister to exercise his or her power under the section of the Migration Act to revoke character related visa refusal or cancellation decisions.
As the shadow minister and the Member for Scullin pointed out, Labor will not oppose this bill in the House, but it is important to note—and the Member for Scullin made this point—that this bill is long overdue. In fact, the bills before the chamber today contain measures from recommendations of the 2014 Independent review of the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority to improve effectiveness of the regulatory scheme governing migration agents. That was five years ago.
The bill was originally introduced in 2017 and the government allowed it to lapse. Considering the importance of this industry and considering the importance of this field of expertise to Australia, to Australia's immigration intake, to tourism in Australia and to education, for example, for people looking for student visas to come to Australia to study—considering the importance of this industry for a whole range of areas—I find it quite perplexing that the government should take five years to pass this essential bill, which will streamline the process and remove the dual regulation requirements that currently exist.
The amendments that were moved by the Member for Scullin and shadow minister recognise this. They recognise the incredibly long time lapse between when the recommendations were first made followed by when the bill was first introduced and followed by what we have before us now. In doing so, they also recognise that the situation may have changed. In doing the due diligence for these bills, I think it's important that we scrutinise the bills in more detail, as the situation has changed and the context in which these bills are now introduced may have changed over the last five years or even the last three years.
In conclusion, I reiterate the position of Labor in that we will not oppose this bill in the House, but I support the amendments moved by the Member for Scullin, to ensure that this bill is thoroughly scrutinised through a Senate process.
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