Law Council of Australia

Media

Consultation and consideration overlooked again

27 November 2023

The introduction today of legislation to address gaps in the recently passed Migration Amendment (Bridging Visa Conditions) Act 2023 (Cth) demonstrates the risks created by rushing Bills through Parliament rather than providing adequate time for consultation and scrutiny.

“The Migration Amendment (Bridging Visa Conditions and Other Measures) Bill 2023 (Cth) creates a whole new raft of concerns,” Law Council of Australia President, Mr Luke Murphy said.

“The Bill provides for additional offences in this new regime, to be imposed in relation to the breach of visa conditions. These offences again include mandatory sentences. Mandatory sentences limit the court’s discretion to ensure the punishment fits the crime in the circumstances. They do not reflect an orthodox approach to Australia’s system of criminal law.

“There may be very real difficulties for affected individuals in understanding these offences, noting that uncertainties exist in their drafting. We need to remember that the cohort of people upon whom these requirements will be imposed may not speak, read and/or write English and may be unfamiliar with Australia’s system of law.

“Both for the wellbeing of those people and in the interests of the legislation’s community safety objective, affected persons must be given support to comply with the requirements. They must have access to advice and support to comply with conditions, as well as broader social supports.

It is essential that there be adequate legal assistance to affected persons. We note with concern that the $255 million funding announced by the Australian Government today to implement the reforms does not appear to include funding for legal assistance services. Such funding is essential to enable affected persons to obtain advice in relation to complying with the offences and their rights to challenge decisions made under this new regime.

“The Bill also introduces new powers for an authorised officer in relation to a person subject to monitoring. These include the power to collect, use, or disclose to ‘any other person’, information, including personal information, for various purposes including ‘protecting the community in relation to persons who are subject to monitoring’.

“It is not clear who this information could be shared with, and the Law Council would want it limited to listed agencies with a demonstrable need, such as law enforcement. As these provisions are currently framed, it appears that personal information may be released to the community in circumstances which pose a risk to the safety of affected individuals.

“Once again, the Law Council calls for this new regime to remain in place no longer than is required to devise and implement a proportionate reform. We seek urgent Senate Committee review of the Bill together with the new laws passed last week.”

Contact: Kristen Connell, P. 0400 054 227, E. kristen@talkforcemedia.com.au

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