Chapter 2 - Immigration and Citizenship Portfolio
This chapter summarises areas of interest and concern raised during the
committee's consideration of the additional estimates for the Immigration and
Citizenship portfolio for the 2007-08 financial year.
Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC)
The committee sought information from officers on the increased Commonwealth
Specifically, the committee questioned officers on how DIAC and its programs
would be affected by the increase. Officers told the committee that DIAC was
still to decide on how to meet the increased efficiency dividend and could not
yet identify specific programs that may be affected.
In relation to DIAC's finances, officers told the committee that DIAC was undertaking
a financial 'health check' in conjunction with the Department of Finance and
Deregulation to examine overall funding arrangements for DIAC.
Officers explained that:
The previous government decided that the resource agreement was
not working satisfactorily and agreed that there should be an agency health
check and financial health check of the departments (DIAC's) funding...The
concluded work of that agency health check will be contained in the budget
itself later this year.
The committee continued its long standing interest in the subclass 457
visa program and skilled migration more generally. The Minister advised the
committee that a reference group had been established to:
...examine how we can make the temporary skilled visa program, the
subclass 457 program, work more effectively to meet the skilled needs of the
resource, construction and infrastructure sectors.
The Minister advised the committee that the government had allocated an
extra 6,000 permanent skilled visas for the current financial year together
with an expansion of the working holiday maker scheme.
The committee also questioned officers on how processing times could be
improved for skilled migrant applicants. Officers advised the committee that
the government was considering an accreditation system whereby applications
could be fast tracked from '...employers and sponsors who have impeccable
credentials and a sound track record of compliance with immigration
As with previous hearings the committee questioned officers on the
citizenship test (the test). The Minister told the committee that a review of
the test would be undertaken.
The committee questioned officers on pass rates for various cohorts undertaking
the test. Officers told the committee that pass rates for the test on the first
or subsequent attempts were as follows:
Pass Rate (%)
The committee notes that the pass rate for Humanitarian Entrants is
lower than other migrant cohorts. The committee also notes that during its
inquiry into the Australian Citizenship Testing Amendment (Citizenship
Testing) Bill 2007 [Provisions] concerns were raised about the potential
impact of the test on specific groups seeking to gain citizenship, in
particular refugee and humanitarian entrants. The committee continues to be
mindful of these concerns and awaits with interest the outcome of the review
announced by the Minister.
During the course of the hearings, the committee also questioned the Minister
on the use of ministerial powers and discretion in relation to the Migration
Act. The minister told the committee that:
On coming to government I sought to review all ministerial
powers...the act is unlike any act I have seen in terms of the power given to the
minister to make decisions about individual cases. I am uncomfortable with that
not just because of a concern about playing God but also because of the lack of
transparency and accountability for those ministerial decisions, the lack in
some cases of any appeal rights against those decisions and the fact that what
I thought was to be a power that was to be used in rare cases has become very
much the norm.
The minister also told the committee that figures indicated there had
been a substantial increase in the use of ministerial powers.
The committee notes that these concerns have also been raised during several
previous Senate committee inquiries most notably the Senate Select Committee on
Ministerial Discretion in Migration Matters and the Senate Legal &
Constitutional References Committee's inquiry: Administration and operation
of the Migration Act 1958. The committee is encouraged by the Minister's
decision to review ministerial powers and awaits the outcome with interest.
Ms Cornelia Rau
The committee sought an update on the case of Ms Cornelia Rau. Officers
told the committee that Ms Rau's lawyers had accepted an offer of compensation
from the Government, but that the terms of settlement had yet to be finalised.
Committee members sought details on the total legal costs to the Commonwealth
in relation to Ms Rau's case. Officers undertook to provide the information on
Senator Trish Crossin
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page
Back to top