New ministerial direction on character decisions
Sunday, 05 August 2012
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, today announced he has signed a new ministerial direction on character decision-making, which is designed to help protect the community from unacceptable risks.
The new direction introduces principles for decision-makers including that non-citizens who commit serious crimes, including of a violent or sexual nature, and particularly against vulnerable members of the community, should generally expect to be denied the privilege of coming to or remaining in Australia.
'The direction is binding on all my department's decision-makers and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal,' Mr Bowen said.
'It identifies the considerations I believe to be important in deciding whether to exercise the discretion to refuse or cancel a person's visa on character grounds.
'The Government is committed to protecting the Australian community from risk of serious harm.'
The new ministerial direction outlines the following principles that provide a framework for decision-makers to consider whether to cancel or refuse a non-citizen's visa.
They make clear that:
- coming to and remaining in Australia is a privilege that Australia confers on non-citizens in the expectation that they are law abiding, will respect important institutions and will not cause or threaten harm to individuals or the Australian community
- non-citizens who commit serious crimes, including of a violent or sexual nature, and particularly against vulnerable members of the community, should generally expect to be denied the privilege of coming to or remaining in Australia
- Australia has a low tolerance of any criminal conduct by visa applicants, those who hold a limited stay visa, or by people who have only been participating in and contributing to the Australian community for a short period of time
- Some criminal offending or other conduct, and the harm that would be caused if it were to be repeated, is so serious that any risk of similar conduct in the future is unacceptable.
Mr Bowen said one significant change was that the new direction differentiated between visa applicants and visa holders in recognition that visa applicants should have no expectation that a visa application would be approved.
The new direction takes into account the inclusion in the character test of crimes committed in immigration detention following legislative changes the Gillard Government made last year.
The new direction also continues to recognise that there are cases where the person has spent lengthy periods of time in Australia, including since childhood, and that there will often be family members and children whose interests should be considered.
Mr Bowen said the new direction would come into effect on 1 September 2012 and would apply to all character decisions made by the department and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on or after that date.
People who are already under active consideration by the department and affected by the change will be provided with the new direction and given an opportunity to respond before a decision is made on their case.
Last update: Monday, 06 August 2012 at 09:45 AEST