Character and Compliance: Catchwords for the new Immigration Minister

Just in case anyone missed it, the powers that be played a little musical chairs days before Christmas and a new Immigration Minister was sworn in: the Hon Peter Dutton.

True to his roots as a former police officer, there are no illusions in the month or so after his appointment on what his focus will be for the foreseeable future: refusing and cancelling visas for those with bad character, and ensuring compliance of businesses who sponsor overseas workers on 457 visas.

This is in the spirit of the former Immigration Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison, who strengthened the character provisions in December 2014 with amendments to the ‘character test’ and Immigration’s general cancellation powers.

There have been a raft of announcements from the Minister and Assistant Minister on removal of non-citizens based on character grounds: an escaped outlaw bikie from Albania, another bikie and a person who appears to have a substantial criminal record, and 24 Irish nationals allegedly ripping off the elderly. There was also an announcement yesterday by the Assistant Minister about a Victorian Indian restaurant considered well in breach of their sponsor obligations and were on the receiving end of a number of sanctions for their indiscretion.

Perhaps the most interesting are the facts on Immigration’s monitoring efforts recently. The number of businesses monitored increased by almost 20%, however, the sponsor sanctions increased by the far greater amount of 68% from the previous year. This leads me to believe that either businesses have dropped the ball, that Immigration are receiving a lot of adverse information, or that they are risk-assessing business sponsors potentially based on a number of factors. I am no clairvoyant so your guess is as good as mine.

It seems to me that Immigration are concentrating a lot of their efforts to ensure that closer scrutiny is paid to sponsors complying with their sponsor obligations (you can refer to my previous post on the issues sponsors face), that the Australian labour market is not subject to general exploitation, and that those with character concerns are given a thorough examination.

Reports such as these will certainly not be the last we hear this year, and with three days left, perhaps not even this month!