Dutton defends increased immigration power amid 'Trump-like' comparison

Dutton defends increased immigration power amid 'Trump-like' comparison

SBS World News Radio: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has defended laws Labor has compared to Donald Trump's temporary immigration ban. 

The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is seeking changes to the Migration Act that would require foreign nationals to revalidate their visas.

Labor has compared the proposed changes, being debated in parliament, to President Trumps' temporary ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Opposition Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann says his party flatly rejects those changes.

"Labor won't support a bill that could see whole groups of people targeted on their place of birth, passport or religion. Ultimately Labor cannot give Trump-like powers to a minister who has such a high desire of trying to see a divided Australia."

The section of the bill in question would allow temporary visa-holders to be subjected to visa revalidation checks, based on their nationality, place of residence or travel history.

Mr Dutton says it would only be used in extreme cases, such as an ebola or bird flu crisis, as a way of protecting Australia's national interest.

Speaking to the A-B-C, he said the bill initially had Labor's support, and accused the party of back flipping.

"In fact, a Labor Senate inquiry investigated this bill and made no recommendation other than to pass the bill and this is an outrageous...I mean I've seen some mendacious acts in my 15 years in parliament, this would be one of the most mendacious acts by a shadow minister."

Marianne Dickie from the Australian National University's College of Law has worked with the Migration Law program, which made a submission to the inquiry.

She says it's unlikely the bill was designed to mirror President Trumps' travel ban, noting it doesn't target specific countries, as in the U-S.

But, like President Trumps' executive order, it could affect valid visa holders who travel offshore.

"Like the migrants in America who went home for holidays and found they couldn't come back. This is what could happen to people on this visa so they might have travelled offshore, they'll fall under the provision and their visa will no longer be effect which means they'll be excluded from coming back and they're in a legal limbo until they can validate their visa again."

Under the changes, Peter Dutton would have the power to require a "specified class of persons" to undergo the checks if it's in the public interest.

He could then refuse to revalidate the visa if there was "adverse information" relating to the person.

When introducing the bill last October, Mr Dutton said the measure would help manage the risks of a proposed new 10-year visa that would be offered to Chinese visitors.

But Labor M-P and counter-terrorism expert Anne Aly says the definition of 'adverse information' is insufficient and too broad.

"While the bill is designed to apply only to the 10-year visa for Chinese visitors, the powers within the bill could well extend beyond the visa class to any visa class or, indeed, to any group of persons."

She argues the Immigration Minister would hold too much power when determining what is in the 'public interest.'

"The ministerial powers to determine public interest in order to require revalidation checks on entire groups of visa holders is not subject to the kind of scrutiny and accountability that Australians deserve and are indeed used to."

Ms Dickie says the real danger with the bill is that it doesn't have anything to do with your visa criteria.

"If you're coming on a tourist visa for tourist reasons, or a temporary visa to do temporary or whatever the visa criteria is, these revalidation criteria have nothing to do with your original grant so you're asking people to constantly find a new reason as to why they should be back allowed in the country."

Labor is considering having the proposed measure removed from the Bill in the Senate to allow other non-controversial changes to the Act to pass.

One of those is the expansion of a contactless SmartGate immigration clearance system at airports.


Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch