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Morrison fails character test

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The Hon Martin Ferguson AM MP

Morrison Fails Character Test

31 May 2011

Martin Ferguson AM MP Minister For Resources and Energy Minister For Tourism

Chris Bowen MP Minister For Immigration and Citizenship

A proposed Coalition amendment to the Federal Government’s character test changes under the Migration Act would damage Australia’s tourism industry and significantly slow down skilled visa applications.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, and the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, Martin Ferguson AM MP, said the Opposition’s Scott Morrison had proposed an amendment that was typically hasty and ill-considered.

“Mr Morrison’s lack of forethought is astounding - he has failed to consider the most basic impacts of such a proposal,” Mr Bowen said.

“There were almost 4.5 million permanent and temporary visas granted for people to come to Australia in 2009-10, and under his proposed amendment every person with even the most minor conviction would fail the character test, which could result in visa rejection.

“The Coalition’s amendment would make it significantly more difficult for the Immigration Department to identify and take action against people who are a genuine threat to Australia.

“In addition, the major impacts of investigating over four million visas annually would cause severe delays to visa processing, including temporary skilled, student and tourist visas, at significant financial cost to government and industry,” Mr Bowen said.

Mr Ferguson said the Government could not support an amendment which would be felt across the country, especially by the tourism and resource industries.

“As a former head of Tourism Australia, Scott Morrison should be aware of the significance of Australia's tourism industry - an industry worth $34 billion to the Australian economy,” Mr Ferguson said.

“This proposed amendment is absurd. Extending the character test in this way would slow processing of visas and act as a deterrent to travel to Australia.

“I would have thought the Opposition would want to support the $23 billion in tourism exports through effective and expeditious visa processing, particularly when the Australian dollar is high and the industry is facing intense competition and skill shortages.”

Mr Bowen said the Government’s changes to toughen the character test were about punishing serious crimes while in immigration detention, not hurting industry and crippling visa processing.

“A visa applicant with any custodial conviction at any time in their life would fail the character test, meaning many workers, students and tourists, could be prevented from entering Australia,” he said.