The Coalition government is considering laws that would allow Peter Dutton's new Home Affairs department to gather intelligence on migrants when they first apply to come to Australia, the department’s secretary has revealed.
Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo, the department’s top public servant, told The Daily Telegraph the government was actively considering the idea.
"Prior to you even getting citizenship, before you even migrate, the government is looking at how do you make an assessment using intelligence, using all sources of information," Mr Pezzullo told the newspaper.
The laws have not been tabled in parliament and have not been publically canvassed before the drop to the Telegraph.
Mr Pezzullo said the assessments would use a range of “data sources” to check whether would-be migrants were likely to "conform with and live by Australian values" by analysing their "lived behaviour".
“There will be three assessment points; before they get here, while they are here and then when they apply for citizenship,” he said.
Minister for citizenship Alan Tudge told the Telegraph the government wanted to move to a model of "ongoing assessment" of migrants before they apply for citizenship.
SBS News has contacted the minister’s office for comment.
Mr Pezzullo was in Parliament House on Tuesday for Senate Estimates to answer questions from senators on his new Home Affairs department.
SBS News approached Mr Pezzullo on the morning tea break and asked if he could answer a few questions on the proposal.
"Of course not," he said, adding his interview with the Telegraph was "part of a different thing".
Mr Pezzullo said subsequent attempts to ask questions anyway were "incredibly disrespectful but expected".
Annual immigration reports show Australia has accepted roughly 190,000 permanent migrants every year since 2011, mostly on skilled and family visas. It remains unclear what proportion of these would be vetted under the proposal.
Labor senator Doug Cameron accused the government of using coded messaging and dog-whistle politics.
"It wouldn't surprise me that this government would use whatever dog whistle it can against potential refugees, potential migrants to this country," Labor senator Doug Cameron told reporters at Parliament House on Tuesday.
But another Labor senator, Jenny McAllister, said the opposition would wait to see the detail of the government's plan.
- with AAP