A proposed law to prevent non-citizens convicted of serious crimes from entering or staying in Australia is being met with opposition, while the Department of Home Affairs has advised it is compatible with human rights and freedoms obligations.
The federal government is attempting a third iteration of proposed changes to migration laws first introduced to parliament in 2018.
One key change in the new draft of the legislation is an expansion of discretionary powers to the minister to refuse or cancel a person’s visa who fails a character test based on having committed a “designated offence” resulting in at least two years jail.
Liberal senator Sarah Henderson says in a committee report tabled on Friday that the bill provided “balanced measures” along with further discretion to the minister to cancel the visas of non-citizens who posed a threat to safety.
“It does not create a blanket obligation to cancel or refuse a visa on the basis that a non-citizen has committed a designated offence,” Henderson said in the report.
A parliamentary joint committee on human rights late last year took issue with bill because the cancellation of a person’s visa could subject them to mandatory detention, could include the cancellation of a protection visa, and could be “decided by the minister personally”.
But Home Affairs said a non-citizen would not be removed to a country that would breach Australia’s obligations with protection visas.
The department also argued the bill was compatible with human rights and freedoms in relation to mandatory detention. It argued limiting some rights was “reasonable, necessary and proportionate to the objective of predicting the Australian Community”.
In a dissenting report, Labor senators questioned the purpose of the legislation given the minister already had broad powers to cancel a person’s visa.
“As the recent Novak Djokovic saga demonstrates, the minister has extremely broad, discretionary powers,” they wrote.
“There is no need to further broaden the powers of the minister, as there is ample scope to cancel or reject visas under the current laws.”
They argued the bill risked infringing on the rights of visa holders and did not increase protection for the community.
The Greens said in their dissenting report that migrations laws should prevent any non-citizen who has lived in Australia for more than 10 years, or who arrived in Australia before the age of 10, from having their visa cancelled.