Chapter 2 - Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs Portfolio
This chapter summarises areas of interest and concern
raised during the Committee's consideration of the Budget Estimates of the Immigration
and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs portfolio for the 2005-2006 financial
Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA)
The Committee questioned officers from DIMIA concerning
a number of aspects relating to the Palmer
inquiry which was initially set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding
the detention of Cornelia Rau.
In response to questions, the Committee heard that DIMIA had nominated two
officers to act as contact points for the inquiry. It was explained that the
officers were not part of Mr Palmer's
staff, who are accommodated within the Department of Transport and Regional
Services, but would remain within DIMIA and not be directly involved in the conduct
of the inquiry.
Officers informed the Committee that over 200 additional
cases concerning persons who may have been unlawfully detained had been
referred to the Palmer inquiry. The inquiry now
comprises Mr Palmer,
and 5 other staff, not including the two DIMIA liaison officers. The Committee
heard that, as at May 26, the cost of the inquiry totalled $450,622.
The Committee again raised the issue of the authority
by which the Palmer inquiry is able to receipt
documents classified as 'law-enforcement-in-confidence.' Minister
Vanstone took on notice to provide the
Committee with an answer.
Officers from DIMIA were asked a range of questions
regarding the case of Ms Vivian
Alvarez, an Australian citizen who was
deported to the Philippines.
Officers undertook to provide on notice, information including file notes from
interviews with Ms Alvarez,
the grant of a bridging visa, accommodation arrangements and the reason why Ms
Alvarez was unable to sign a transcript of
an interview with DIMIA officers at Southport, Queensland.
The Committee inquired as to the status of the skilled
portion of the migration program. Officers advised that the total skilled
migrant intake for the current 2004-05 year was expected to be in the order of
77,500 places and would expand by approximately 20,000 places for 2005-06.
Officers were asked to provide the Committee with
details concerning the role, functions and costs associated with the National
Indigenous Council. The Committee was advised that the primary role of the
Council is to advise government on Indigenous related issues. It reports the outcomes
of each of its meetings to the Minister and meets at least twice yearly with
the ministerial task force. Officers were unable to breakdown the cost of the
secretariat support functions supplied by DIMIA to the Council, as these costs
were contained within the general corporate resources of the Office of
Indigenous Policy Coordination. Officers advised that the cost per meeting of
the Council was in the order of $30,000.
Other issues canvassed by the Committee included:
- the recent release of Ms
from immigration detention;
- mental health facilities available to persons in
- the HREOC report into children in immigration
- student visa cancellations;
- the cost of recent additional facilities at the Christmas
Island processing centre; and
- the purpose and use of the 'Red One' compound at
the Baxter immigration detention centre.
Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA)
Officers were questioned on the role that MARA has in
monitoring the code of conduct for migration agents and what action may be
taken should the code be breached. The Committee heard that the MARA continually
reviews the code and makes recommendations concerning its operation directly to
the Minister. Officers advised that breaches of the code could be handled in a
number of ways depending upon the seriousness of the breach. Action taken could
include a warning, a letter of caution, the suspension or even cancellation of
an agent's registration.
Migration Review Tribunal (MRT) & Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT)
The Committee asked officers to provide an update of
the amalgamation of the MRT and RRT joint case management system which had been
discussed at previous hearings. The Committee was informed that workshops were
currently being undertaken to develop the system and that the system would also
have the capacity to share data with DIMIA.
Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA)
The Committee asked officers for an update on the
progress of the infrastructure development program and for an outline of the
different stages of the program. The Committee heard that approximately 85% of
stage two was now complete. Stage one of the project was an upgrade of the Torres
Strait region water supply. Stage two encompasses improvements to
sewerage, drainage and subdivisions while stage three will see additional
improvements to water and sewerage supplies.
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