There are risks in not providing ample time for consultation and scrutiny of bills, council says
The Law Council of Australia (LCA) has criticized the Parliament’s recently passed Migration Amendment (Bridging Visa Conditions) Act 2023 (Cth) as the inadequate time for further consultation and scrutiny for the bill posed many risks.
The new bill has raised various concerns in terms of mandatory sentences, according to Luke Murphy, the president of LCA.
Murphy explained that the bill provided additional offences to be made in the event of a breach in visa conditions. However, these offences included mandatory sentences, which limited the court’s ability to ensure that the punishment would fit the circumstances surrounding the committed crime.
“They do not reflect an orthodox approach to Australia’s system of criminal law,” said Murphy.
The bill also included new powers for an authorised officer when a person is subject for monitoring. They are granted the power to collect, use, or disclose ‘to any other person’ information for various purposes, including for the protection of the community in relation to those who were subjected 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,” said Murphy. “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.”
Murphy noted that affected individuals may have a hard time in understanding such offences given that the people who will be involved may not have the capability to speak, read, or write in English and may be unfamiliar with Australia’s legal system.
“Affected persons must be given support to comply with the requirements” said Murphy. “They must have access to advice and support to comply with conditions, as well as broader social supports.”
The LCA president pointed out that the $255 million in funds announced by the Australian government to implement the reforms did not include funding for legal assistance services.
“The Law Council calls for this new regime to remain in place no longer than is required to devise and implement a proportionate reform,” said Murphy.
“We seek urgent Senate Committee review of the Bill together with the new laws passed last week,” he added.