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Would proposed changes to the Migration Act further alienate New Zealand from Australia?

Labor and the Coalition are at an impasse over a bill to extend the grounds for cancellation of visas on character grounds, after the immigration minister, David Coleman, rejected conditions demanded by the opposition.

On Tuesday, Labor wrote to Coleman offering to support the bill provided it not apply retrospectively, exempted low-level offences and for special consideration to be given to New Zealanders – all conditions immediately rejected by the minister.

Coleman even made a virtue of the fact the bill would increase the number of visas cancelled, explaining this was “by design” and questioning why critics of the bill said it “as if it were a bad thing”.

The Coalition bill seeks to amend the Migration Act to provide grounds for visa cancellation or refusal where a non-citizen has been convicted of a serious crime punishable by two years’ imprisonment, even if a jail term is not imposed.

Experts have warned the bill could lead to a fivefold increase in the number of people facing deportation, with residents from New Zealand and humanitarian refugees disproportionately affected.

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