The Coalition government is considering introducing laws that would allow the Department of Home Affairs to gather information on potential new migrants before they first arrive in Australia.
Earlier this month, the Home Affairs secretary, Michael Pezzullo, informed the media that the government is currently actively considering the proposal.
He said that the assessments would make use of a range of “data sources” to confirm that potential migrants are willing to “conform with and live by Australian values” by analysing their behaviour.
Although Pezzullo expressed confidence in the proposed law’s viability, at this point there is no legislation pertaining to it that has been tabled in Parliament, nor has it received any level of public canvassing.
“Prior to you even getting citizenship, before you even migrate, the government is looking at how do you make an assessment using intelligence, using all sources of information,” Pezzullo said.
“There will be three assessment points; before they get here, while they are here and then when they apply for citizenship.”
These comments were echoed by the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge, who has said that going forward the government wants to employ an “ongoing assessment” model for migrants looking to apply for citizenship.
The proposed laws have outraged some members of the Opposition, with Labor senator, Doug Cameron, accusing the government of dog-whistle politics and coded messaging.
“It wouldn’t surprise me that this government would use whatever dog whistle it can against potential refugees, potential migrants to this country,” Cameron said.
However, another senator for the Labor party, Jenny McAllister, has said that the Opposition will wait to see the details of the government’s plan before choosing to support or oppose the laws.
The Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, has attempted to mitigate a public panic over the proposed legislation, saying that the policies will be announced “in due course”, while also suggesting that the monitoring would be technological in nature.
“There’s a lot with technology, as that rolls out and as we can exchange information more freely with partners, that we’ll be able to build on,” Mr Dutton said.
“We’ll explore whatever means possible to find ways to keep Australians safe,” Dutton said.
The CEO of Absolute Immigration, Jamie Lingham, was supportive of the government’s dedication to ensuring that Australia’s visa program is not compromised, however he also questioned the necessity of the proposed legislation.
“Absolute Immigration believes that there should be rigorous screening and testing of potential migrants, both temporary and permanent, as part of the visa application process,” Lingham said.
“We do not think that there needs to be a separate program for screening, as the issues faced could be avoided if the checks for visas that have traditionally had less scrutiny around them—including tourist and business visas—are completed prior to granting.”
“If there was active screening for applicants coming as visitors, there wouldn’t be the need for this to be repeated every time a visa was applied for. We believe that this exercise will save time and money on future visa applications,” he said.
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