18 June 2013

Coalition to loosen Australian visa policy for minor crimes

The Coalition has said they will exclude minor crimes from Australian visa policy should they win the federal election later this year.

Australia visa

The Coalition has said it will loosen Australia visa rules for foreign criminals convicted of minor crimes.

With the ruling Labor Party looking set to lose September's election and immigration high on the political agenda, the opposition has said it will not deport or cancel Australian visas for foreigners who have been convicted of minor crimes.

The move comes part of the Coalition's effort to toughen immigration policy against foreign criminals convicted of crimes punishable by at least one year in prison; a policy statement said those criminals could face deportation and a ban from Australia of up to 20 years - double the current ban.

However, the statement said the new rules would not apply to certain 'minor crimes':

"This [new] rule will not apply to a limited number of crimes as defined by [the Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification], including some minor public order offences or other miscellaneous offences," read the statement.

Despite being asked to elaborate, both the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refused to respond to questions for further details.

The Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification classifies offences in 16 divisions; public order offences typically include disorderly or offensive conduct while 'miscellaneous offences' typically include defamation as well as private or public health and safety offences.

The Coalition said that under their law, criminals who had either been deported or had their visas cancelled would have no recourse to appeal the decision except in 'special circumstances' such as having lived in Australia for more than 10 years or having a dependent child who was born in Australia.

Current Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor criticised the Opposition's proposal, saying the Migration Act was already equipped to deal with foreign criminals in Australia:

"Despite the current lifetime exclusion of criminals removed under section 501 of the Migration Act, the Opposition seem to be proposing to allow criminals to return to Australia," he said.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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