Character test changes passed by parliament
Tuesday, 05 July 2011
Changes to the Migration Act that toughen the penalties for criminal behaviour in immigration detention have been passed by the Parliament, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, said today.
Mr Bowen welcomed the government's amendments being passed by the Senate overnight, and said the changes would create a significant disincentive for destructive and criminal behaviour in Australia's immigration detention facilities.
'The government's changes, including strengthening the character test, send a clear message that the kind of behaviour we saw earlier this year at the Christmas Island and Villawood detention centres will not be tolerated,' Mr Bowen said.
'Anyone considering engaging in destructive and criminal behaviour in detention must now face the reality that such action will significantly increase their chances of not being granted a permanent visa.'
Under the government's changes to the Migration Act a person would fail the character test should they be convicted of any offence committed while in immigration detention, while the maximum penalty for the manufacture, possession, use or distribution of weapons by immigration detainees has also increased from three to five years' imprisonment.
Mr Bowen said the changes to the Migration Act had passed through Parliament without the Coalition's ill-considered amendments.
'In typical form, the Coalition argued simultaneously that the changes to the character test were unnecessary and also that they did not go far enough,' he said.
'Despite their bluster and hot air, they ended up supporting the legislation.'
The government's amendments apply to all people in immigration detention, whether they are onshore or offshore arrivals, asylum seekers, or otherwise.
'These changes to toughen the character test and the penalties relating to the destructive behaviour we have seen recently is about punishing serious crimes committed in immigration detention,' Mr Bowen said.
'The vast majority of people in detention who do not partake in these actions and are not convicted for any crimes have nothing to fear and will not be affected by these changes.'
Last update: Tuesday, 05 July 2011 at 09:46 AEST