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Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014

 

I thank the house for the opportunity to speak on this Bill today, which is about safeguarding the best interests of children and preserving the integrity of inter-country adoption for all Australians.

 

For many couples across Australia and around the world, adopting a child will be one of the most significant, momentous and joyful decisions of their lives.

 

For many children, being adopted by caring and loving parents into a stable home will be one of the most important parts of their life.

 

For children who do not have parents to look after them, adoption provides for a chance at a better life , where they are loved and looked after, in a nurturing and secure household.

 

For this reason, I believe this Bill should be supported by both sides of Parliament.

 

Mr Deputy Speaker, Australians are giving and charitable by nature; it is part of our egalitarian ethos. Australia is a country where individuals are selfless with boundless love to give to others, where parents dream of giving each and every child the best possible start in life.

 

The reality is, many Australians dream of adopting a child, whether as first time parents or to add to their existing family, and they would want nothing more than a seamless, efficient process that is in the paramount best interest of the child.

 

Unfortunately, this journey can be challenging, difficult and lengthy. Despite the fact that adoption allows for the mutual needs of the child and parents being addressed, the bureaucracy, lengthy waiting times and red tape surrounding adoption, makes for a heartbreaking experience, even though the joint benefits for all parties involved are obvious.

 

The Coalition encourages parents who are willing and able to adopt, to be allowed to do so with ease, particularly when it is in the best interest of the child. After all, adoption is about giving children a better life.

 

The Coalition believes that the role of government is to enable, and better facilitate this process, so that parents wishing to adopt children from overseas can do so, without the unnecessary red tape burden and lengthy periods of waiting time.

 

The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014 is the first key in the necessary reforms that the Coalition is committed to, so that children can be granted loving parents and a secure home.

 

This Bill is key in allowing for automatic Australian citizenship to be granted, to children adopted by Australian citizens, under bilateral adoption arrangements between Australia and countries that are not party to the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption.

 

Currently, children who are adopted through bilateral arrangements do not inherit automatic citizenship. Parents must organise a child category visa, for adopted children to come to Australia, even though the adoption process is correct and accepted both domestically and internationally.

 

Clearly, this imposes both additional costs and delay to the child and prospective parents.

 

Yet those who are adopted through the Hague convention, are given Australian citizenship status without the waiting times for a visa to come through. These children are able to be flown to Australia and start their new lives immediately.

 

This Bill allows for this key amendment, so that adopted children become citizens, just as those born in Australia are citizens, and are permitted to travel to our shores as Australian citizens to start a new life with their family.

 

This Bill will expand the current scope of the Hague Convention, so that the same permits are incorporated under bilateral agreements and children adopted from either arrangement have the same benefits.

 

The Coalition is committed to helping Australian families to be united with their adopted children within an appropriate time frame, to minimise the emotional ramifications of lengthy waiting times and unnecessary delays.

 

Mr Deputy Speaker, Australia has currently one of the lowest intercountry adoption rates in the developed world.

 

2 out of 5 adoptions in Australia are of children born overseas, with statistics showing only 129 adoptions for Australian couples in the year 2012-13.

 

Of these adoptions, 61 adoptions were under the Hague convention, with 68 being non-Hague adoptions.

Statistics also show that on average, the waiting time for intercountry adoptions was about 5 years as of 2013. Back in 2007-08, the waiting time on average was 3 years.

 

It has also been reported that depending on the circumstances, waiting times can extend up to 10 years.

Overall, international adoption has decreased by 13%.

 

Whilst there are many factors which contribute to the overall decline in intercountry adoption of children by Australian parents, no doubt, the average waiting time of 5 years is a major deterrent for parents seeking to adopt a child from overseas.

 

The waiting period is a combination of the process of adoption, plus the time it takes, for the child to be granted a visa to arrive in Australia.

 

Mr Deputy Speaker, whilst it is always prudent that we have disciplined visa requirements and entry permits, we must also not allow it to impede with the best interests of the child.

 

As I previously mentioned, Mr Deputy Speaker, the median length of waiting periods for intercountry adoption has increased continuously since 2012, from 37 months (3 years) to 61 months (5 years) and in some cases, up 10 years.

 

Whilst the reasons behind this can be attributed by an increase in processing times in the countries of origin from where the child was born, and the bureaucracy of application, it is fundamentally distressing for all parties involved when there is false hope of a successful adoption when a visa is delayed, and their child remains in their original surroundings.

 

Although Australia currently places no cap on the number of child visas it grants per year, the federal government department of Immigration sets the quotas for child visas to be granted each year, meaning that there is a backlog with each successful applicant waiting for a child visa to be granted to their adoptee.

 

Requests for child visas far exceed the quotas set per year and is a major contributing factor to delays between the time the adoption application is successful, to the time the child is united in Australia with his or her adoptee parents.

 

 The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has confirmed in the recent Government’s interim report on intercountry adoption, that the process time for adoption visas can exceed 12 months, depending on the location and complexity of cases.

 

Thus, to have a successful adoption application, only to be thwarted by the outcome of a child visa, does not make sense for what should be a seamless and joyful process, Mr Deputy Speaker.

 

The Coalition is committed to lifting Australia’s intercountry adoption statistics, to reflect the needs of the parents and child, and this Bill today, is one step in the right direction, to enable important streamlining for overseas adoption.

 

Making important reforms to the current immigration and citizenship requirements, so that one aspect of the intercountry adoption process is easier and quicker, will benefit children awaiting new homes and encourage willing Australian parents to adopt, without being hampered by unnecessary visa waiting times.

 

I would like to reiterate that this Bill is important to relieve some of the frustrations that current and prospective parents experience in the adoption process. It is an important first step for all parents wishing to adopt.

 

The essence of time is pertinent to intercountry adoptions, which are inherently about giving children better lives.

 

Mr Deputy Speaker, this Bill seeks to amend the existing Act, Migration Regulations of 1994 by allowing automatic citizenship for children adopted by Australian parents, the current benefit enjoyed by those adopted under the Hague Convention.

 

There is great value in having greater efficiency in the intercountry adoption process, which prioritises the needs of the children.

 

This Bill is focussed on the needs of children and is not about reducing the due diligence of the adoption process.

 

This Bill seeks to eliminate the unnecessary waiting time for a child to step foot on Australian soil by granting automatic citizenship to those adopted outside of the Hague Convention.

 

As an Australian and member of the Coalition, I hope that those on the other side would agree with me that Australia is right in recognising all children, whether domestically or abroad, who cannot be brought up with their respective family are entitled to grow up in a stable, secure and loving family.

 

By allowing this Bill to be implemented, we can unite children who are in need of stability, with their new loving families in an appropriate and timely manner.

 

I commend this Bill to the house.