Character Test changes fail to pass

On 20 October the Australian Labor Party blocked legislation to bring in important new changes to the laws regarding character test under the Migration Act 1958 that would remove more dangerous criminals from Australia.

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke said the Australian Labor Party needs to explain why it joined with the Greens in the Senate to stop stronger laws to remove serious violent and sexual offenders from Australia.

“Under the Coalition, nearly 10,000 non-citizens have had their visas cancelled or refused on character grounds. The Coalition believes an Australian visa is a privilege that must be denied to non-citizens who commit serious crimes. That’s why the Government introduced the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill to remove even more dangerous criminal non-citizens,” he said.

“But by joining with the Greens to block these laws today, Labor has voted to make Australians less safe and Labor has backed foreign criminals over Australian citizens. This action poses an ongoing threat to women and children, in particular.”

“The Government attempted to negotiate in good faith with the Opposition, however each of Labor’s amendments diluted the Bill to the point of ineffectiveness.”

“Anthony Albanese must explain to Australians why the Labor Party has blocked laws to make Australians safer.”

The government is trying to make it harder for the convicted criminals to be eligible to apply for permanent residency in Australia. As the law stands, if a person is convicted of an offence and is sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment, would automatically fail the character test and must be deported.

Also read: Scott Morrison, Alex Hawke meet multicultural communities

As BT understands, the government is trying to change the law to make it possible for it to cancel visa if the offence with which one is convicted is punishable with imprisonment of 2 years of more whether or not the person is sentenced to 12 months of jail or not.

Labor also says the legislation, if passed, was going to be retrospective and would have given the government powers to remove thousands of people already charged with offences punishable with more than 2 years of jail.

Not sure if such a law could not be challenged on the grounds of principles of natural justices at least, but that is a topic for another time.

Not unsurprisingly, Labor blames the Coalition for playing politics with the issue and pointed to problems within the Liberal party for the failure to resolve the issue.

Kristina Keneally, the shadow home affairs minister, accused the government of playing politics than to get a good outcome for victims of family violence.

Senator Keneally claimed that on a day before the bill was put to vote, Immigration minister Alex Hawke had agreed to delay the bill until the November sittings to work on amendments.

The Coalition denies those claims and continues to blame Labor for the failure.

Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston said that the Government was committed to keeping women in Australia safe from those who perpetrate family, domestic and sexual violence.

“It’s incredibly disappointing Labor and members of the crossbench decided it is more important to protect foreign nationals convicted of serious assault and abuse than it is to protect women in Australia from these violent offenders,” Minister Ruston said.


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