The Australian government is considering a bill which could allow Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton the power to require certain groups of foreign nationals to revalidate their visa if he deems it is in the public’s interest to do so.
The proposed bill
Proposed Amendments to the Migration Act:
96E – Minister may determine that certain visa holders must complete a revalidation check in the public interest
- If the Minister thinks it is in the public interest to do so, the Minister may, be legislative instrument, determine that a specified class of persons holding a visa of a prescribed kind (however described) must complete a revalidation check for the visa.
- The power under subsection (1) may only be exercised by the Minister personally.
The proposed bill would allow the minister to refuse to revalidate a person’s visa where there is ‘adverse information’ about the person. As the term ‘adverse information’ is not defined in the present version of the bill, the Minister would be able to interpret the term very broadly.
The Labor government initially supported the idea of revalidation last year to enable health, character and employment checks on visa-holders for long-term visas such as the introduction of the 10-year re-entry visa for Chinese nationals. However, Labor now accuses Mr Dutton for seeking ‘Trump-like’ powers amid concerns that the proposed new laws could be used to exclude entire groups of people from migrating to Australia based on their religion or nationality.
Mr Dutton defended the bill, saying that the increased ministerial powers would only be used in ‘rare circumstances’, for example in situations “where there has been an assessment of increased risk to the Australian community resulting from a health, security or other incident in a particular location, and the Minister considers it is in the public interest to act quickly.”
“If there was an ebola crisis, a bird flu crisis, if there was another Tiananmen Square, for example, and we saw people that started to come in mass numbers, then there is the ability… for us to put in place a suspension until we can conduct an orderly migration process,“ Mr Dutton said.
Will the bill be passed?
The bill has been passed by the Lower House of parliament and now goes before the Senate. The Senate Crossbench consists of both Labor and Liberal parliament members, and there will be opportunities to dispute the bill in the Upper House.
See the full proposed bill here or read our post on the Trump effect on interest in migrating to Australia.