Immigration

Wilkie slams 'wacky' proposal to gather intelligence on would-be migrants overseas

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie speaks to reporters at Parliament House in Canberra on February 28, 2018 Source: AAP

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie says it was "completely improper" for top Home Affairs bureaucrat Michael Pezzullo to float the idea.

A proposal allegedly under consideration by the Turnbull Government to gather intelligence on visa applicants before they migrate to Australia has been described as “wacky” by independent MP and former Australian intelligence officer Andrew Wilkie.

Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo, the top public servant in Peter Dutton’s new department, told 'The Daily Telegraph' the government was actively considering the idea earlier in the week.

“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 Daily Telegraph'.

Mr Pezzullo refused to answer questions from SBS News on Tuesday.

The relevant Turnbull government ministers also declined to comment on the proposal, which has not been tabled in parliament or announced by any elected official.

Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie, who resigned as a high-level intelligence officer from the Office of National Assessments in 2003 in protest over Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War, has criticised the idea.

“On the face of it, I don’t like it,” Mr Wilkie told SBS News on Wednesday.

“The proposition is that we will conduct intelligence gathering operations in other countries against people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing, simply because they might want to come to Australia.”

“That sounds a bit wacky to me.”

Mr Wilkie also criticised Mr Pezzullo for canvassing what he alleged were draft government policies.

“Of course it’s completely improper for a public servant to be floating such an idea,” he said.

“Maybe that’s his job, to be floating the idea on behalf of the government.”

Mr Pezzullo told the Telegraph 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".

Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton tried to change Australia's citizenship test last year to include a test on "Australian values" last year, but the changes were voted down in the Senate. 

The government plans to re-introduce the bill this year. 

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