Labor fears proposed new laws could exclude entire groups of people from living in or travelling to Australia based on their religion or nationality.
The opposition has likened amendments to the Migration Act, being debated in parliament, to US President Donald Trump’s temporary immigration ban.
A section of the bill would give Immigration Minister Peter Dutton the power to require a “specified class of persons” to undergo visa revalidation checks if it’s in the public interest.
That group could be identified based on whether they hold a particular passport, live in a particular state, province or country, may have travelled through a particular area or applied for a visa during certain dates.
Mr Dutton can then refuse to revalidate the visa if there is “adverse information” relating to the person.
Labor MP and counter-terrorism expert Anne Aly told parliament’s lower house on Wednesday night it was not smart, prudent, nor effective to grant the minister “disproportionate” powers to execute what is effectively “travel bans” to a group of visa holders without necessary parliamentary oversight.
She said in times of growing discontent around the world, populist politics and immigration bans, Australia needed to be vigilant of the country’s bipartisan commitment to a non-discriminatory immigration program.
“(The bill) could potentially … exclude entire groups of people and visa holders on the basis of ethnicity or on the basis of country of origin or on the basis of some other tenuous characteristic without scrutiny and without accountability,” she said.
Mr Dutton, when introducing the bill last October, said the measure was being introduced to help manage the risks of a proposed new 10-year visitor visa.
Two other changes to the Act are also being debated, including one that will enable the use of contactless technology to clear travellers through Australia’s SmartGate immigration clearance system.
Labor supports the other two amendments, but – unless they are split up – will vote against the bill as a whole.