Seeking “Trump-like” powers by Immigration Minister
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is seeking what the Labor opposition calls “Trump-like” powers to target foreign nationals and require them to revalidate their visas. The proposed Migration Act amendments would allow Mr Dutton to compel entire groups of visa-holders to pass a revalidation check, based on their nationality, place of residence or travel history.
Although it has been told by Mr Dutton that the bill is necessary to facilitate the introduction of longer-term visas, such as a 10-year multiple-entry visitor visa for Chinese nationals, But legal experts have questioned why the minister’s powers to compel revalidation have been extended to all visa types.
The cancellation team of Department of Immigration and Border Protection is already busy cancelling visas, especially Permanent Protection visas during past two years. It can be imagined that if this amendment would be passed, we might be able to see that many visa including permanent visa holders would not be allowed to enter the country or have their visa suspended, until they can pass revalidation of their visas.
Labor fears proposed new laws could exclude entire groups of people from living in or travelling to Australia based on their religion or nationality in a Trump-like ban. But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says they’re designed to be used in extreme cases – such as an ebola or bird flu crisis – to protect Australia’s national interest.
A section of the bill would give Immigration Minister Peter Dutton the power to require a ‘specified class of persons’ to undergo visa revalidation checks if it’s in the public interest. That group could be identified based on whether they hold a particular passport, live in a particular state, province or country, may have travelled through a particular area or applied for a visa during certain dates. Mr Dutton can then refuse to revalidate the visa if there is ‘adverse information’ relating to the person – a broad and undefined term.
The bill’s explanatory memorandum stipulates the minister may consider public health and safety, national security, Australia’s economic wellbeing or the circumstances in a person’s home country when making their decision.
Labor MP and counter-terrorism expert Anne Aly told parliament’s lower house on Wednesday night it was not smart, prudent, nor effective to grant the minister ‘disproportionate’ powers to execute what is effectively ‘travel bans’ to a group of visa holders without necessary parliamentary oversight. She said in times of growing discontent around the world, populist politics and immigration bans, Australia needed to be vigilant of the country’s bipartisan commitment to a non-discriminatory immigration program. She also said (The bill) could potentially … exclude entire groups of people and visa holders on the basis of ethnicity or on the basis of country of origin or on the basis of some other tenuous characteristic without scrutiny and without accountability.