House debates

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Test Review and Other Measures) Bill 2009

Consideration in Detail

1:11 pm

Photo of Laurie FergusonLaurie Ferguson (Reid, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services) Share this | Hansard source

This part of the amendment is opposed on very similar grounds to those on which we oppose the other part of the amendment. We have a group of people here, including oil rig workers, people that fly our international planes and people who might be involved in very important trade work, who cannot meet the current stipulation with regard to how long they are in Australia. These are people with very real problems. These are people who, by the nature of the work they do, are particularly contributors to this country. To say that this involves some disrespect to the country, some undermining of citizenship, some lack of commitment to the nation, is really preposterous.

As I indicated earlier, we have a portfolio area where there is a very extensive amount of ministerial discretion. It is a portfolio where we see people making repeat applications for ministerial discretion in relation to refugee protection visas. It is a portfolio where the minister has more than enough duties—I can assure you—with regard to border protection, citizenship rules and multicultural policy without having his life taken up with handling the multitude of possibly vexatious claims that would be launched under the amendment the opposition is putting forward.

With regard to this provision, we have people with very concrete, very real reasons that they are not in the country. This is not a provision which is going to cover people without a legitimate claim. Yes, there is some questioning of whether ministerial discretion is the best way to go. Even when it exists, it is quite clear that it is abused in this country. I reiterate that, under the previous government, we know that it was a subject of very widespread controversy in the refugee and humanitarian area. To come here today and advocate that the minister should have to consider not only legitimate claims but also go through the application of every oil rig worker that was not here for the requisite number of days—that he should be personally involved in this—is preposterous. The provisions are sensible and they deal with very real personal circumstances. We reject the amendment.

Question put:

That the amendment (Dr Stone’s) be agreed to.


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