Character Testing: Are You Good, Bad or Normal?

It’s now harder than ever to become an Australian citizen. We live in a great country so it’s not surprising that many people want to make Australia their permanent home.

While we don’t want to let just anyone into Australia, how stringent should we be on permanent residents wanting citizenship?

There has been a great deal in the media about Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and his character test. In effect since late 2014, the character test has the potential to block aspirations of being an Australian citizen.

What is Character Test?

The character test was introduced to ensure visa holders are upfront about any criminal conviction they have in Australia or elsewhere. To pass the character test, anyone wanting to enter or stay in Australia must satisfy character requirements as stated in the character test.

To pass the character test, a person entering Australia must not:

  • hold a substantial criminal record- have committed offences in detention
  • be a member of an organised crime group
  • be likely to commit offences which are unacceptable to the Australian community
  • commit sexual offences against children
  • be considered a risk by security organisations.

While the character test specifies criminal behaviour, it also pertains to general conduct. So how does a minor infringement impact someone’s effort to become an Australian citizen? The character test has put fear into many that are seeking citizenship but have had a slip up, perhaps a speeding ticket or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Many argue that Peter Dutton has too much power when it comes to refusing or cancelling visas. Cancelling or refusing a visa can change the course of a family’s or individual’s life.

What are the ramifications of having a visa revoked?

Once a visa is cancelled on character grounds, another visa won’t be granted at all. Permanent residents that have lived in Australia for decades face the possibility of having to leave Australia, never to return should they commit a minor offence.

Peter Dutton claims he wants to bring in the best possible migrant but what is that?
He says it’s a migrant that upholds behaviour consistent with Australian values. But, it could be argued that even some who were born and have grown up in Australia, have failed to uphold Australian values. So should minor offences be enough to send someone home?

How does the character
test affect migration and the Australian economy?

Australia’s migration is the lowest in 10 years. While the scrutiny of applicants is necessary, a significant drop in migration can have a negative effect on our economy. The migrant population not only contributes billions of dollars to our country through their taxes but they are also great contributors to productivity and keep our population on the rise.

While this is a complex issue, it’s important that it all remains in context and that good people are not denied citizenship because one man considers a minor infraction grounds for visa cancellation.