Bills Digest 153 1996-97 Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1997

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This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.


Passage History

Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1997

Date Introduced: 28 May 1997
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Immigration and Multicultural Affairs
Commencement: Royal Assent


To extend the Migration Agents Registration Scheme for a further six months to 21 March 1998.


The Migration Agents Registration Scheme (MARS) was established in 1992 by the Migration Amendment Act (No. 3) 1992 following concerns about incompetent and unscrupulous conduct and poor advice given by some people providing immigration assistance.

MARS provides for:

  • a registration scheme for would-be providers of immigration advice;
  • a code of conduct for registered agents;
  • procedures for investigating complaints against agents;
  • processes for suspending and deregistering agents; and
  • criminal sanctions for unregistered practice.(1)

The legislation contains a 'sunset provision'.The scheme was originally established for three years (until 21 September 1995) with a government commitment to evaluate it after two years.(2)

In 1994, the then Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Senator the Hon Nick Bolkus, announced the terms of reference for an inquiry into the scheme by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration.The Committee presented its report entitled Protecting the vulnerable? in May 1995.The report concluded that after only two years of operation the scheme had achieved mixed results but recommended that it be retained for another three years.

On the basis of all the evidence presented toit, the Committee concludes that the Scheme should be retained for the time being, but that it should be reassessed by the Committee after a further three years of operational experience.The Committee was swayed in particular by the arguments that the Scheme only now is beginning to show results and that further time is required to achieve the Scheme's intended objective.(3)

The government extended the scheme for another 12 months so it could consider the report.(4) The scheme has now been extended twice, first until 21 September 1996(5), and then for another 12 months, until 21 September 1997(6), to allow for further review.

In the Second Reading speech for this Bill, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Philip Ruddock said that the scheme had recently been reviewed by a task force within his Department, under the guidance of Mr Ian Spicer, former Chief Executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

[The Review] was supportive of the industry moving to self-regulation where its members voluntarily join an industry body and agree to meet the competency and ethical standards set by the body.The body, in turn, sets in place procedures for disciplining members who breach its code of conduct.(7)

The role of industry regulator is to be taken over by the Migration Institute of Australia.(8)

With the revised deadline now just three months away, this Bill seeks to extend the existing scheme for another six months, until 21 March 1998.This will give the government time to introduce legislation for the statutory self regulation of the migration advice industry.It will also allow the Migration Institute of Australia time to establish the infrastructure to take on the new self-regulation role.

Main Provisions

There are only three amendments required to extend the existing scheme by another six months to 21 March 1998.All amendments are to the so-called 'sunset provisions' which terminate the scheme after a specified time.

Item 2 of Schedule 1:The effect of the amendment to s.333(1) of the Migration Act 1958is to extend the Migration Agents Registration Scheme for another six months until 21 March 1998.

Item 3 of Schedule 1:Amends s.333(4) to read:

The regulations may provide for the refund of all or part of registration application fees and renewal fees paid later than 21 March 1997.

Migration agents pay registration application fees and renewal fees for a period of twelve months.(9) The Explanatory Memorandum for this Bill says that this amendment is necessary so that when the existing scheme is terminated:

Refunds may be provided for under the Migration Regulations for fees paid later than 21 March 1997.


  1. Joint Standing Committee on Migration Report, Protecting the vulnerable? the Migration Agents Registration Scheme, May 1995. Canberra, AGPS, 1995.
  2. Hon Gerry Hand, Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), House of Representatives, 27 May 1992: 2937.
  3. op cit: Joint Standing Committee on Migration Report: 1
  4. Second Reading Speech Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1995.
  5. Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1995.
  6. Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1996.
  7. Second Reading Speech Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1997.
  8. The Migration Institute of Australia was established in 1992 as the professional body representing the interests of the migration consultancy industry in Australia. The Institute sets and monitors the ethical and professional standards of its members. More information about the Migration Institute of Australia is available in The Australian immigration book by Peter Thoeming, edited by John Sexton. Neutral Bay, Made-to-Measure Publications, 1997: 126
  9. Migration Act 1958 s.299.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Rosemary Bell
17 June 1997
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

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ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1997

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1997.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 18 June 1997

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