Letter: The Strengthening the Character Test Bill

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties wrote to the Crossbench Senators urging them to vote against the reintroduced Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill

If passed, this bill will further expand the grounds on which a person’s visa may be cancelled under section 501, especially on character grounds. This would include where a non-citizen has been convicted of a crime punishable by over two years’ imprisonment, regardless of when the person was actually sentenced to a term of imprisonment. This bill is a disproportionate response to visa holders who have committed minor crimes.

  1. This bill will subject people who are of no danger to society to the rigours of indefinite detention, or to being deported. Families will be split. There is no evidence that “the community” would want such outcomes.
  2. The bill would allow the Minister the discretion to cancel or refuse to issue a visa to a person who has been convicted of a designated offence but who may have received a very short sentence, or no sentence at all.
  3. The bill presupposes that careful decisions of the courts, made after proper process, input by experts and the experienced judgement of judges, are inferior to decisions made by the Minister with the aid of his Department. Sentences, after all, take account both of the seriousness of the crime and of the desirability of deterrence—both of the individual and of others. That is, they take into account the dangers to the community.
  4. The bill contains no exceptions for children.
  5. The bill ignores the processes of rehabilitation.
  6. A determination that a person fails the character test, depending on how it is made, means either that their visa must be, or may be, cancelled or refused. There right to merits review is available only in some cases. (The courts can only deal with errors of law.)

More information: read our letter to the Crossbench senators