Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has been granted broad new powers to cancel or refuse visas to non-citizens who commit crimes in Australia.
The Senate on Wednesday passed legislation that broadens the existing grounds for not passing a character test and lowers the threshold for the cancellation of temporary visas for non-citizens.
Labor supported the bill, but urged the immigration minister to use his new powers as outlined by the legislation.
Assistant immigration minister Michaelia Cash said the federal government had low tolerance of criminal behaviour by non-citizens.
“Entry and stay in Australia by non-citizens is a privilege, not a right,” she told the chamber on Wednesday.
“The Australian community expects that the Australian government can and should refuse entry to non-citizens or cancel their visas if they do not abide by Australian laws.”
A person can now fail the character test if there’s a “reasonable suspicion” – not a conviction – for involvement in crime gangs, people smuggling, genocide, war crimes, torture or slavery.
Anyone who has one or multiple jail sentences adding up to 12 months – down from two years – or has an adverse ASIO assessment of child sex charges can also fail automatically.
The minister can cancel or refuse a visa to anyone who fails the character test.
The Australian Greens opposed the legislation, warning it gave unprecedented powers to the minister and risked breaching fundamental human rights.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young described it is as another “power grab” by Mr Morrison.
“Why on earth he thinks he needs more powers is beyond me,” she said.
“Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile.”