The Morrison Government is reviving a rejected law that would introduce a two-tier legal system

Media Release
1 December 2021

The Morrison Government is trying to revive a Bill, already rejected multiple times by Parliament and legal experts, which would give the Minister for Home Affairs sweeping powers, introduce a two-tier legal system and separate families. 

The Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill, if passed, would see refugees and non-citizens not only punished through the legal system, the same as everyone else, but then additionally subjected to indefinite detention, or for other non-citizens, removal from Australia and separation from their family.

First introduced in July 2019 the Bill has been in front of Parliament for over 1,100 days and has gone through two Parliamentary inquiries, both of which argued against the need for this legislation. 

Despite the Bill routinely lacking support the Government has reintroduced the same legislation into the House of Representatives this sitting period, with only minor amendments, and it will go back to committee for the third time. 

Only last month, October 30, the Bill was blocked by crossbenchers, Labor and the Greens, with fears it would establish a two-tier legal system as well as hurt families and children.

This Bill would introduce arbitrary and unreasonably low thresholds to revoke or refuse visas for people based on the maximum possible sentence they could receive, rather than the sentence they actually received. This means a non-citizen who commits a crime and serves a light sentence such as community service,  would lose their visa and be forcibly removed from Australia, separated from their family and livelihoods, if the maximum sentence for the offence is two years imprisonment. 

Carolyn Graydon, Principal Solicitor and Manager of the Human Rights Law Program at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said: “The Government has repeatedly failed to establish any legitimate purpose for this further expansion of already excessive powers to cancel or refuse visas on character grounds. This racist witch hunt must end. This Bill reflects an unwarranted mistrust in our justice system  and will result in five times more people unjustifiably facing cancellation of permanent and temporary visas, including refugees, who will face catastrophic consequences including indefinite detention and permanent separation of families.

David Burke, Legal Director, Human Rights Law Centre said: “With this bill, the Morrison Government is vying for even more power to lock people up and deport them unnecessarily. Thousand’s of people’s lives could be ruined and families torn apart over minor incidents. This power grab has already been rejected by Parliament once. It must be voted down again.”

Sanmati Verma, Deputy Chair, Visa Cancellation Working Group, said: “This is the government’s second attempt at expanding its already broken and dysfunctional visa cancellation regime. There is no justification for the Bill, and no reason for Parliament to hand this government further powers over people’s lives.”

Prof. George Newhouse, National Justice Project Principal Solicitor and CEO said: “The proposed changes to the law are a disgrace! Visa holders and permanent residents can have their visas stripped from them at the whim of the Minister. This will give the Minister the power to detain people indefinitely and deport them. The result is cruel and catastrophic as the Minister’s decision will force families to separate. Once again, the Morrison government is playing politics with people’s lives as an election draws near. The proposed amendments are disproportionate, unjust and unnecessary. Section 501 already provides the Minister with very broad powers to cancel and refuse visas on character grounds which are sufficient to respond appropriately. ”


Media contact: Sam Brennan 0428 973 324 or

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