Migration Amendment (Strengthening Biometrics Integrity) Bill 2015

Friday 6 March 2015 @ 10.22 a.m. | Immigration

The Federal government has introduced the Migration Amendment (Strengthening Biometrics Integrity) Bill 2015 into Parliament. The bill is proposed to amend the Migration Act 1958 to implement a number of reforms which will consolidate and simplify the provisions relating to the collection of personal identifiers and will also address gaps and shortcomings that exist in the current legislative framework.

Biometric; Personal Identifier

A personal identifier (biometric) is a unique identifier that is based on individual physical characteristics, such as facial images, fingerprints and iris that are then digitised into a biometric template for storage and checking. Once the biometric is linked to an individual’s biographic information it significantly adds to the verification of individual identities and immigration information.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has implemented the biometric program since 2006 and the programme has become incrementally successful over the years in protecting Australia’s border and strengthening Australia’s migration program. Currently, the Act contains eight different provisions that authorise the collection of personal identifiers. These provisions create a complicated legislative framework for when particular types of personal identifiers can be collected, dependent on the circumstance in which the personal identifier is required, and what power is being exercised.

The Amendment

The goal of the introduced bill is to simplify the provisions relating to the collection of personal identifiers. It will also expand existing personal identifier collection capability, and provide for new capabilities which will assist in the increase of security and efficiency of immigration checks conducted by the Department.

The specific amendments to the Act will include:

  • Streamline the current personal identifier collection powers into one discretionary power;
  • Provide greater flexibility on the range of personal identifiers that may be required and the circumstances and places under which it may be acquired;
  • Enable personal identifiers to be collected from minors and incapable persons; and
  • Provider greater flexibility in the ways by which personal identifiers may be collected (identification tests or a life scan of fingerprints on handheld devices).

The Minister’s Speech

The Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, stresses that the bill is an important part of preventing persons of risk from entering Australia and remaining undetected. He explains:

“The amendments will expand the Department of Immigration and Border Protection's capabilities to identify individuals through biometric checks, which are more accurate than current document-based checks.”

The bill is another step in the current legislative reaction to the rising global threat of terrorism and the return of potentially radicalised individuals and minors after participating in conflicts in the Middle East. 

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