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Dutton is pushing a bill that can revoke citizenships using “secret” evidence

Peter Dutton is pushing for a bill to keep the information used to cancel visas and Australian citizenship secret; a move that human rights agencies argue could risk more people being held in indefinite detention.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and Law Council have all condemned the “strengthening information provisions bill,” introduced by Dutton – the Home Affairs Minister – in December.

The bill allows the government to prevent disclosure of confidential information provided by some intelligence and law enforcement agencies to make visa decisions, such as cancellation on the grounds of “bad character.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton (Photo: ABC)

The high court ruled in 2017, “that the current regime purporting to prevent the immigration minister from divulging confidential information to courts reviewing tribunal decisions on visa cancellation was unconstitutional.”

Dutton’s response to this was the amended “strengthening information provisions bill.” The Minister’s proposal would give the courts power to release relevant material with only the requirement of a preliminary hearing; at which only Dutton’s legal representatives have to be present and all factors against disclosure of information are considered by the court.

This would be applicable to both visa and citizenship decisions. So basically, no-one – including the person whose citizenship is in question – except the court and the home affairs legal representatives are privy to the disclosure of information.

The AHRC submitted to a Senate inquiry that if applicants were not given adverse information] it would run contrary to a “strong tradition at both common law and in commonwealth legislation, that the state should not be permitted to rely on secret evidence in cases where a person’s liberty is at stake. This has very serious implications, particularly in visa cancellation proceedings, which may result in the detention of the applicant for a number of years.”

The UNHCR said it was concerned the bill “will operate to prevent asylum-seekers, refugees and stateless persons from effectively challenging a negative migration or citizenship decision based on such information.”