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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Immigration: "one hell of a job trying to manage this"

And that's just responding to questions. During a marathon Senate Estimates hearing Immigration and Citizenship Secretary on the Department's difficulties:
Mr Bowles : I accept that we need to improve our performance in this area. I just want to give some context, though, about what we are dealing with. We have actually seen a 500 per cent increase in questions on notice in the last couple of years. 
Senator Cash: Perhaps that reflects the percentage increase in the number of boats arriving.
Mr Bowles : I am not quite sure there is a correlation there, Senator, so I will keep moving. We received 647 questions on notice in the October supplementary budget estimates; 133 of them were taken on notice at the hearing and a further 500-odd were put just on the record for us to answer. That is obviously a significant issue for us. Basically, what I end up having to do is divert resources to try and answer all these questions. If you look at the calendar year for 2012, we answered 1,676 questions, and that is about 25 per cent more than any other department in the Commonwealth. We have also had to deal with 22 parliamentary inquiries and FOIs and all sorts of activities. I know it is no excuse, particularly, but it is one hell of a job trying to manage this. I accept and I acknowledge that there is a growing interest in our business, and all I can try to commit is that we will try and improve on this; but we do have to make sure that we get the right answer. We deal with 34 million border crossings and 4.5 million visa issues and all sorts of different things, and some of these questions go to quite specific issues. 

Later, a compliment-well, sort of:
Senator Abetz: Can I turn to the FOI documents that I received under cover of a letter of 8 February 2013. I commend the department for putting in grey those areas that were blocked out or redacted, because some departments are very kindly providing the redactions to us in white, so you do not know if a whole page or only half a page has been redacted. This methodology is very helpful to let us know exactly what has been redacted. 

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