Labor and the Greens have blocked a move to more easily deport violent thugs and sex offenders.
The Federal Government has proposed laws which mean non-citizens guilty of certain crimes that carry a two-year sentence can be deported, regardless of how long they are jailed for.
But a vote on the bill in the senate was tied 25 all after Labor, the Greens and independents voted against it over fears ‘low-level’ offenders who have lives and children in Australia would be kicked out, even if they committed the crime decades ago.
Labor and the Greens have blocked a move to more easily deport violent thugs and sex offenders. Pictured: Labor’s Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally
Greens Senator Nick McKim said the bill would have ‘given the Minister sweeping new powers to deport people who built lives in Australia, undermined the rule of law and stepped us further down the road to early onset fascism’.
Labor’s Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally earlier told the senate she had struck a deal with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to amend the bill so ‘low-level offending’ is not captured but he scrapped the deal at the last minute.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said Labor should support the bill.
‘Labor want to vote down protections that would keep stalkers, domestic violence abusers and sexual assault offenders from having their visa canceled or refused. Time’s up for Labor,’ the spokesman said.
Independent Jacqui Lambie had earlier proposed amendments to the bill to require a minimum six-month sentence and prevent parents who have been in Australia for more than 10 years from being kicked out – but they were not supported by the government.
Currently non citizens have their visas automatically cancelled if they are sentenced to at least a year in jail – but attempts to deport criminals with shorter sentences can lead to lengthy and costly legal battles.
The vote was on the second reading of the bill, meaning it does not proceed to the next stage.
Labor and the Greens as well as independents Rex Patrick and Sterling Griff opposed the bill.
Sex offenders and violent thugs would be deported more easily in a bid to thwart lenient judges under new laws before Parliament. Pictured: Police arrest a suspect
The Government hopes the change will stop left-wing judges deliberately sentencing migrants to less than a year in jail so they don’t get deported.
The law outlines ‘designated offences’ that can lead to deportation including violent and sexual crimes, breaching personal protection orders like AVOs and using or possessing a weapon.
The Government says the changes, which will apply retrospectively, will allow it to boot out a raft of criminals who previously escaped deportation.
These would include Mauritian stalker Jean Marie Amoorthum who in 2014 was jailed for eight months for trying to force a 22-year-old woman into his car at knifepoint after following her to her boyfriend’s house at 2.40am in Melbourne.
According to a tribunal hearing, he held the knife near her throat and said words to the effect of ‘be quiet or I will cut you’, or ‘I will slice you’ before her boyfriend emerged from inside and shouted at him and he drove off.
The Government refused his visa but in March 2019 the Administrative Appeals Tribunal said he did not fail the character test and allowed him to stay in Australia.
The new law would also apply to a British man and an Indian man who assaulted women and two illegal immigrants who were allowed to settle in Australia despite various crimes.
Who could be deported if the new laws passes?
Jean Marie Amoorthum, Victoria
From Mauritius. Jailed for eight months for trying to force a 22-year-old woman into his car at knifepoint. A tribunal ruled he did not fail the character test
Naysar Lunavat, NSW
From India. Handed a 12-month good behaviour bond for repeatedly punching a woman in the back and head as well as slapping her in the face. A tribunal ruled he did not fail the character test
An illegal immigrant held offshore was convicted in the District Court of Nauru to two counts of indecent assault and jailed for nine months. A tribunal ruled he did not fail the character test and let him in to Australia
From the UK. Convicted in the UK of battery (known as assault in Australia) but sentence was suspended for 12 months. Refused a visa to enter Australia but a tribunal ruled he did not fail the character test and let him in
Iranian citizen, NSW
An illegal immigrant, convicted of assaulting a police officer, stalking and affray but was only given good behaviour bonds and three months in jail. A tribunal ruled he did not fail the character test and let him remain in Australia
The law change will be made with an amendment to the Migration Act which passed the lower house in 2019 but has since been stuck in the senate.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke called on Labor to finally back the new laws.
‘The Morrison Government takes very seriously the protection of Australians from dangerous, non-citizens involved in criminal conduct,’ he said.
‘Australians expect us to act swiftly to remove such people, and the Government is working to strengthen its removal powers for this reason.
‘However, these laws have been blocked by Labor since 2019, creating an ongoing threat to our community, and to women and children in particular.
‘Holding an Australian visa is a privilege that dangerous and violent non-citizens do not deserve. Anthony Albanese needs to back these new laws this week for the safety of the community – or explain to all Australians why he will not.’
Anti-racism and migrant advocacy groups have raised concerns that news laws could mean relatively low-level offending ends in deportation.
Public Interest Advocacy Centre said the bill would ‘introduce arbitrary and unreasonably low thresholds’ for deportation.
‘This change would catch a much wider group of people who may have received only very light sentences or committed only minor offences,’ the group said in a statement.
‘This Bill could see refugees and people seeking asylum who have been in Australia for years forcibly sent back to their country of origin to face persecution or serious harm when they fail this further widened, discretionary ‘character’ test.’
But the Government says the new law will be used to target to serious crimes perpetrated by criminals who pose a risk to the Australian community.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is calling on the Labor Party to pass the new laws