Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2019 (Cth)
29 October 2021
The Law Council is pleased the Senate voted earlier this month not to pass the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2019 (Cth).
The proposed Bill’s provisions would have amended the character test in section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) to in effect lower the threshold for those that may be subject to visa cancellation or refusal on character grounds.
Of particular concern was the Bill’s proposed lowering of the threshold for those that may be subject to visa cancellation or refusal on character grounds. This was primarily due to its inclusion of designated offences with a statutory maximum sentence of not less than two years, regardless of the actual judicial sentence given. This could permit cancellation or refusal of visas for persons convicted of a designated offence, but who have received only a short sentence, no sentence at all, a fine or a community corrections order.
The Law Council has twice made submissions (the latest of which is here) and has twice appeared before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee regarding this Bill, and an earlier iteration of it. Its ongoing position has been that the proposed amendments are disproportionate and unnecessary. Section 501 already provides the Minister with very broad powers to cancel and refuse visas on character grounds, which are sufficient to respond appropriately to individuals who commit serious offences and provide clear risks to the community. The Law Council has engaged with Senators on an ongoing basis to ensure its views were clearly understood and to advocate that the Bill not be passed, including in the lead-up to the Senate vote.
The Law Council is grateful for the input of the Law Institute of Victoria, the Law Society of New South Wales, the Queensland Law Society, the Law Council’s Migration Law Committee within its Federal Litigation and Dispute Resolution Section, the Law Council’s National Criminal Law Committee and its National Human Rights Committee, for their assistance in informing the Law Council’s stance on the Bill.