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Christopher Pyne: Kicking Non-Citizen Criminals Out Of Australia Should Be A No-Brainer

I don’t understand the furore over the Australian Government’s plan to make it easier to cancel a temporary or permanent resident’s visa and send them out of the country on failed character grounds.

Australia is the best country in the world. As I said in my valedictory speech to the House of Representatives a few months ago, you win the lottery of life when you are born in Australia. Similarly, when the Australian Government grants someone a visa to come and live here, in most cases, it’s the culmination of months and sometimes years of applications, health and character checks and patient waiting.

I’ve attended countless citizenship ceremonies. For most people there, it is one of the most significant events of their lives. You can see it in their faces and their reactions. We congratulate them because it’s a win, we thank them because they pay us the complement of choosing Australia over every other country in the world to migrate to and we exhort them to ‘put back in’ because everyone working together has made Australia what it is today.

Living in Australia is like winning the life lottery. (Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony in Canberra, January 26, 2019. Image: AAP)

Of course, it goes unsaid that they will refrain from violent and sexual crimes punishable with a maximum two or more years imprisonment!

The Minister for Immigration, David Coleman, is right now trying to get through both chambers of the national parliament a bill that will strengthen the character test of the Migration Act to give the Australian Government more power to remove the visas of temporary or permanent residents.

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Labor and the Greens don’t support the amendment to the Migration Act and have referred the Bill to a committee where it could languish for some time. The problem with this area of public policy for Labor is that it says one thing but does another. Its Shadow Minister, Kristina Keneally, oft likes to say that Labor and the Coalition are not poles apart on border protection and a tough approach to the tolerance shown towards visa holders.

David Coleman is aiming to strengthen the character test of the Migration Act.  Labor and the Greens are not on board. (Image: AAP)

Unfortunately, the evidence points to the contrary. In the six years that Labor was last in office it cancelled just 650 visas. Keneally signed up to a minority report of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration that reviewed the proposal in early in 2019 that stated:

“The legislation may unduly trespass on personal rights and liberties by setting the bar too low.”

This is a hot-button issue in the electorate. Instinctively the voters know that Labor wants them to think it is no different to the Coalition on border protection, but the voters aren’t buying it.

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This bill would allow a visa to be removed where the visa holder had for example, been convicted of a crime like assault, aggravated burglary, the threat of violence, sexual assault, a non-consensual act of indecency or sharing of an intimate image, and that crime carries a maximum term of imprisonment of two or more years. It lowers the bar of what is going to be accepted by the government as the sort of crime that would have you on your way back to your country of origin.

It goes unsaid that visa holders are expected to refrain from violent and sexual crimes punishable with a maximum two or more years imprisonment. (Image: Getty)

It’s pretty tough, but in my opinion it's fair. Importantly, it plays to a Coalition strength and highlights a Labor weakness -- border protection policy.

Most Australians would agree with the proposition that if a person comes to Australia to live with us, we want them to abide by our laws, avoid assaulting anyone or committing sexual offences and if they do so, they have broken the social contract set by our society of respect for each other.

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The current Australian Government has cancelled 4700 visas and refused 2000 more on character grounds under the law available to it now. Those cancellations have included serious child sex offenders, rapists, armed robbers, murderers, drug pushers and people convicted of the sexual exploitation of children.

Good riddance!

They aren’t Australian citizens, they are here on a promise that they will be upstanding temporary or permanent residents. If they transgress, they cannot expect the government not to use every lever at their disposal to protect the Australian community from their offending.

The bill as proposed by Coleman would allow the government to cancel the visa of Mr A, a permanent visa holder from Tasmania convicted of indecent assault; Mr B, a permanent visa holder who has been found guilty of theft-related offences as well as violent offences in Victoria; Mr Z, a temporary visa holder in New South Wales convicted of violent assault-related offences; Mr Y, a South Australian permanent resident convicted of violent assault-related offences against a child or spouse, and finally a temporary visa holder convicted of stalking and threatening to inflict injury who received a six month sentence of imprisonment and won his appeal against the Department of Immigration’s decision to refuse his application for a permanent visa.

If I were advising Labor and Kenneally, I would tell them to ‘get on board’ before it becomes a full blown problem for them -- again.