21 September 2011

Changes to Australian immigration laws put before Parliament

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The Australian Federal Government has tabled a number of amendments to the Migration Act in the House of Representatives in Canberra today.

Australian visa

The Australian Government has put amendments to the Migration Act before Parliament.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen introduced the Australian immigration amendments in an effort to save the Government's proposed policy to process asylum seekers in Malaysia. The tabling of the amendments follows a reportedly heated debate in the Labor Party caucus meeting over the legal and ethical ramifications of changes to the Migration Act.

The proposed changes would allow for asylum seekers and people who wish to move to Australia via the humanitarian entry route to be processed offshore in neighbouring countries. It would also give the Government more power in determining border protection and immigration policy, in turn limiting the influence of the Australian High Court in this policy area.

"These amendments are designed to provide the government of the day with flexibility to find innovative solutions with regional partners," Mr Bowen told Parliament.

However, the federal Liberal-National Opposition has indicated it will join the Greens in opposing the amendments. While the Opposition generally supports offshore processing, it says it will oppose any efforts to send asylum seekers to countries that are not signatory to the UN Refugee Convention like Malaysia.

Should the Opposition and the Greens oppose the amendments it is unlikely they will pass. The Prime Minister Julia Gillard has admitted its chances of passing the amendments are slim, stating that they wish to record the vote anyway so that opposition members are forced to "stand up in the Parliament and say they are people who believe their cheap politics is more important than protecting our borders".

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their Australia immigration application with the Australian High Commission.

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