The Federal Government will reintroduce the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2021) on Wednesday, 16 February 2022, with minor changes.
Department of Home Affairs says the Government will act decisively “to protect our community, as Australians expect. That is why we have introduced further legislation to strengthen the Government’s powers to quickly deport non-citizens who commit violent or sexual offences (the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2021).”
“The Bill introduces amendments to allow for discretionary visa refusal or cancellation where a non-citizen has a conviction for a designated offence punishable by at least two years’ imprisonment. Designated offences include violent and sexual crimes, breaching personal protection orders like AVOs, using or possessing a weapon, or assisting with any of these crimes,” the department said in a statement.
The Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2021 introduces amendments to the Migration Act 1958 “to amend the character test by providing grounds to consider visa cancellation or refusal where a non-citizen has been convicted of offences involving violence against a person, weapons, breaching of an apprehended violence order (or similar) or non-consensual sexual acts; provide that, for an offence involving violence against a person, a person’s conviction for an offence of common assault, or equivalent, will not be taken to be a conviction for a designated offence unless the act constituting the offence causes or substantially contributes to bodily harm to another person, or harm to another person’s mental health, or involves family violence; and make consequential amendments.”
The Bill has been introduced twice in the past. In September 2019 and October 2021, Labor and the Greens voted against an earlier version of this Bill in the Senate.
“An Australian visa is a privilege that should be denied to those who pose a threat to the safety of Australians. It should not be easier to deport an international sports star than a convicted criminal. That’s why this Bill broadens existing discretionary powers to cancel and refuse visas under the “character test”,” Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement.
The Bill addresses gaps in the character test to apply to non-citizens who:
- have been convicted of a serious criminal offence, punishable by at least two years’ imprisonment;
- have received less than 12 months’ imprisonment for their crimes; and
- pose a risk to the Australian community.
Mr Hawke said, “By moving the character test onto more objective grounds, the Bill will broaden the circumstances in which visas may be cancelled and refused, and reduce the likelihood of such decisions being overturned on appeal.”
“By focusing on the sentence available rather than the sentence imposed, the Bill also captures offenders given sentencing discounts by judges due to plea bargains and guilty pleas, as well as decisions to give sentences falling below the mandatory visa cancellation threshold. Since the power will be discretionary, the Government will have the flexibility to focus on serious crimes perpetrated by criminals who pose a risk to the Australian community.”
In October last year, an Indian national, Vishal Jood, was rushed out of Australia after being released from the jail on parole. Following Jood’s departure, Mr Hawke had said, “We take very seriously our responsibility to protect Australians from non-citizens who engage in criminal conduct.”
Recently, tennis star Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia after cancelling his visa.