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Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2019

The submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee in relation to the proposed measures contained in the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2019 (the Bill) was prepared by the Law Council. 

The Law Council considers that the existing provisions under section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (Migration Act) already provide the Minister with very broad powers to cancel and refuse visas on character grounds. Indeed, the Law Council has previously expressed concern over these powers’ expansion given their breadth, as well as the low cancellation thresholds and insufficient safeguards involved.

While the Law Council recognises that the Executive should possess the power where necessary to prevent or remove a dangerous individual from obtaining or retaining the right to enter and remain in Australia, a decision to cancel or refuse a visa based on character grounds will almost always have a profound impact on the lives of individuals and their families, and any power to refuse or cancel a visa should be administered cautiously and with proper regard to all circumstances of the individual case. It should also be exercised with appropriate safeguards in place.

The Law Council therefore notes that restraint must be exercised with any attempt to expand this power beyond existing parameters and must be accompanied by robust justification. In this regard, the Law Council retains the view that the justification for the expanded measures as proposed in the Bill has not been made out. In particular, it considers that the Bill is neither necessary nor proportionate, and that existing provisions of the Migration Act are sufficient to respond appropriately to individuals who commit serious offences and provide clear risks to the community.

You can read the full submission below.

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