9 Feb 2017

Aus minister accused of seeking 'Trump-like powers'

12:52 pm on 9 February 2017

Australia's immigration minister Peter Dutton has been accused of seeking "Trump-like powers" to review foreign visas.

The Australian government wants to introduce a process to revalidate the health, character, employment and contact information for some long-term visa

holders, as part of its plan to trial a 10-year visa for Chinese nationals.

If "adverse information" is found about a recipient during that check they could lose the visa.

The opposition Labor Party supported the idea of revalidation for the long-term visa but was now worried the proposed powers could go much further, with one MP warning it could represent a slide into fascism.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the measure had nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

"Ultimately Labor cannot give Trump-like powers to a minister who has such a high desire to see a divided Australia," shadow immigration minister Shayne Neumann told Parliament.

"Labor won't support a bill that could see whole groups of people targeted on the basis of their place of birth, passport or religion."

Mr Neumann said Labor was in favour of the pilot programme to grant Chinese nationals the 10-year visitor visa, which is designed to help boost tourism and develop Northern Australia.

But he said as the bill was currently written, Mr Dutton could order a similar revalidation check on visa holders from any "class of persons" if he thought it was in the public interest.

Mr Dutton rejected the Opposition's claims, saying Labor previously supported the measure.

He said he spoke with Mr Neumann over the weekend and Labor was broadly supportive of the proposal.

"There was an issue in relation to one minor change, one aspect that they wanted, and we said no. I said we're not going to allow that amendment, and there has been no talk whatsoever or religious concerns or the sorts of hype that we've heard in the last 24 hours."

Mr Dutton said the bill had nothing to do with Donald Trump's controversial immigration ban.

It was introduced before Mr Trump was elected US President, he said.

The Opposition did not issue a dissenting report when the bill was approved by a Senate committee late last year, but in the context of the United States government's proposed travel bans on migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries it has clearly hardened its view.

That means the government will need the support of the Senate crossbench to pass the bill once it reaches the upper house.


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