Proposed new retrospective character test
Labor says proposed legislation to tighten the character test could lead to someone who has lived in Australia for decades being kicked out for "grasping someone by the sleeve".*
Labor will oppose the government's latest move to crack down on foreign criminals, after a raft of migration and law experts criticised the legislation as unnecessary and poorly targeted.*
Under the proposed laws, set to be debated in Parliament this week, anyone who commits a crime that carries a sentence of at least two years would fail the character test and face deportation -**even if they're not sentenced to any jail time.
Non-citizens who are sentenced to at least 12 months jail face*mandatory*deportation, under existing legislation.
While the government says its targeting non-citizens who commit violent or sex offenders, Labor's home affairs spokesperson Kristina Keneally said low-level offences would also be captured, "such as assault for grasping a person by the sleeve".*
She argued*changes made to strengthen the character test in 2014 gave the government broad powers to cancel the visas of dangerous individuals.
"In fact, these extremely broad discretionary powers mean foreigners do not even need to spend a day in jail or even be convicted of a crime to have their visa cancelled," Ms Keneally said.*
Since 2014, about 4,700 foreign criminals have been kicked out of the country - seven times as many as the previous six years.*
But Immigration Minister David Coleman said lowering the threshold would give the government "clear, objective powers", allowing the government to deport even more foreign criminals.*
"The legislation is about protecting Australians from non-citizens who commit serious crimes," he told reporters on Tuesday.**
Labor seeks special consideration for Kiwis
Labor has written to Mr Coleman seeking three changes in return for its support of the bill, including limiting the impact to those who commit crimes in the future.*
The government plans to apply the laws retrospectively, meaning that someone who has lived in Australia for decades and committed a crime covered by the legislation could be deported no matter how long ago the crime happened.*
Nick van Voorst
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