Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and MP Jason Wood together in front of Parliament House. Picture: Gary Ramage
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and MP Jason Wood together in front of Parliament House. Picture: Gary Ramage

Thug purge: thousands face deportation under new laws

EXCLUSIVE: THOUSANDS more foreign-born criminals will be deported under tough new measures that will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

The far reaching changes to the Migration Act will see the visas of every non-citizen who commits a sex or violence related crime being able to be cancelled so they can be kicked out of the country.

At present one of the most used triggers for mandatory visa cancellation is that the offender has to have been sentenced to jail for 12 months or more.

The new visa-scrapping legislation will apply to any person - including children - convicted of an offence for which they can be jailed for two years or more, even if they escape a jail term, as many do, or are sentenced to less than 12 months.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton (right) and MP and former Victoria Police officer Jason Wood have worked together on tough new visa laws that will see more criminals deported. Picture Gary Ramage
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton (right) and MP and former Victoria Police officer Jason Wood have worked together on tough new visa laws that will see more criminals deported. Picture Gary Ramage

Offences captured by the new legislation cover a wide range of sex and violence offences, including domestic violence, breaching an apprehended violence order, car-jackings, home invasions and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Almost 4000 convicted crooks have already been deported in the past four years under the current and much narrower character test system - with the visas of 907 foreign-born criminals being scrapped in the past financial year.

Australian Institute of Criminology researchers recently forensically examined the circumstances of 184 of those criminals and found cancelling just those few visas saved taxpayers more than $100 million.

The new wider legislation is expected to be introduced into federal Parliament by the Morrison Government as early as this week and it will apply to thousands more perverts, wife beaters and violent thugs than the old laws.

Former Victoria Police officer and now chairman of the Federal Joint Standing Committee on Migration, Jason Wood, the driving force behind the legislation, worked closely with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton in the months before Mr Dutton ceased being Immigration Minister in August.

Mr Wood on Monday told the Herald Sun the new visa-cancelling legislation wouldn't just apply to adults, but could also be used against those aged under 18 who have been convicted of a serious offence involving violence.

He said there would be no age criteria, with use of the new legislation being based on the level of violence and seriousness of the crime - not the age of the offender.

Mr Wood said this no age restriction clause was necessary because a lot of Sudanese and other gang-related violence was being committed by youths aged under 18, particularly in Victoria.

He on Monday said far too many offenders convicted of sex offences, assaults and gang-related crimes got sentences of less than a year and, in the case of family violence, often no jail time at all.

"That results in those offenders currently avoiding mandatory visa cancellation because their sentence doesn't reach the threshold that triggers it," Mr Wood told the Herald Sun.

"Under the new legislation, which followed recommendations made by the migration committee, getting any conviction for these types of crime will result in the offender's visa being able to be cancelled by the immigration minister, or a delegate for the minister from the Immigration Department - whether or not they get sentenced to jail.

"If a person comes to this country on a visa and invades a home, is involved in car jackings, physically or sexually assaults somebody, commits a child pornography offence or breaches a family violence order and is convicted then I believe most Australians would want that person sent back to where they came from.

"Cancelling their visa and deporting them shouldn't be dependent on whether they get jailed for 12 months or more and under the new legislation it won't be.

"They can have their visa cancelled even if a magistrate or judge doesn't jail them.

"It's about protecting Australians from violent and sexual offenders who aren't Australians."

Mr Wood said he believed the legislation had broad support in the Morrison Government and in the community.

He said that just last week, in his electorate of La Trobe, a group of six to eight men - described by the victim as being in their mid to late teens and of African appearance - invaded the Narre Warren South home of David McGregor, 59.

David McGregor at his home in Narre Warren South, where a group of men he described as being of African appearance invaded his house. Picture: David Geraghty.
David McGregor at his home in Narre Warren South, where a group of men he described as being of African appearance invaded his house. Picture: David Geraghty.

When Mr McGregor opened the door the men attacked him, kicking and punching him before running through his house and stealing cash and the keys to his Holden Commodore.

The men returned to the house while Mr McGregor was being treated in hospital for his injuries and stole his car.

"If any of those who invaded the man's home are on visas then they are precisely the sort of violent thugs I want deported," Mr Wood said.

"Labor has denied there is a gang issue and claimed it is fear mongering, but in doing so are failing victims.

"This new legislation will not discriminate against nationalities; it will target all violent thug criminals."

The Labor members of the migration committee, including Opposition Immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann, submitted a dissenting report in which they opposed the committee recommendations to change the Migration Act to make it easier to deport convicted criminals.

Mr Wood said he was motivated to push for the new legislation by the disproportionate level of offending by Sudanese-born criminals involved in violent and serious gang-related crime.

He said this was supported by evidence given to the migration committee by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, which revealed that of the 60 hard-core Apex gang members identified in Victoria there were 40 who were Australian citizens and only six of them were born in Australia.

Sudanese-born Isaac Gatkuoth is one of a number of youth gang members whose visa has been cancelled. Picture: Facebook.
Sudanese-born Isaac Gatkuoth is one of a number of youth gang members whose visa has been cancelled. Picture: Facebook.

"The new legislation will capture offenders from every country and will help get them sent back to that country," Mr Wood said.

"It will not discriminate between violent thugs. It will apply equally to them all, male, female, young, old, Sudanese, New Zealander or English.

"We need to send a powerful message to the people that we allow into Australia that being here is a privilege and that privilege can and will be removed if they commit serious offences here.

"This legislation sends that message loud and clear."

Mr Wood said offenders who had their visas cancelled under the new system wouldn't automatically be deported.

"They would still have the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Immigration Minister," he said.

A number of offenders with links to the Victorian Apex gang have had their visas cancelled under the old legislation, including Sudanese-born Isaac Gatkuoth, and more youth gang members will be targets of the tougher new legislation.

Gatkuoth, 19 at the time his visa was cancelled in 2016, was on ice when he pointed a shotgun at the head of a terrified motorist during a robbery and was sentenced to 14 months in a youth detention centre.

Scores of foreign-born bikies have also been stripped of their Australian visas for failing the character test under the old legislation - including former Rebels national president Alex Vella, Aaron "AJ" Graham, Danny Mousley and Hells Angel drug dealer Sonny Otene - and they will continue to be a target under the new legislation.

Rebels bikie Aaron “AJ” Graham is one of a number of bikies who have been deported
Rebels bikie Aaron “AJ” Graham is one of a number of bikies who have been deported

 

Rebels national president Alex Vella is another bikie to have been deported from Australia.
Rebels national president Alex Vella is another bikie to have been deported from Australia.

A Police Federation of Australia submission to the migration committee said it had anecdotal evidence that some judges and magistrates had sentenced offenders to less than 12 months in jail so to avoid mandatory visa cancelling provisions applying under the character test.

The Herald Sun has previously reported on one such case involving Iranian refugee Behzad Bashiri, who was free to unleash chaos in Victoria and Queensland after a magistrate gave him a light sentence so he wouldn't be deported.

A supplied image of Behzad Bashiri.
A supplied image of Behzad Bashiri.

Queensland magistrate Joan White talked openly in court about ensuing Bashiri didn't lose his visa before giving him a suspended sentence for terrorising staff at an employment provider by splashing petrol on himself and threatening to burn the building down.

Bashiri later moved to Victoria and faced more charges after threatening to commit terrorist offences by blowing up Australians and mowing down police with a truck.

Victoria Police was so concerned the threats were imminent and credible it appealed directly to the then Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, to kick Bashiri out of the country.

The force agreed in March this year to withdraw the charges against Bashiri so the deportation process could be expedited.

Another Iranian, Reza Yazdan Parast, 32, avoided likely deportation over the brutal bashing of two strip club patrons in Dandenong in 2016.

The bouncer avoided a conviction and was given community service, with the court hearing he would almost certainly have been kicked out if he been sentenced to jail.

CCTV footage of an assault outside the Sin City strip club in Dandenong. Iranian bouncer Reza Yazdan Parast avoided possible deportation after being sentenced to community service without a conviction.
CCTV footage of an assault outside the Sin City strip club in Dandenong. Iranian bouncer Reza Yazdan Parast avoided possible deportation after being sentenced to community service without a conviction.

Mr Wood said his committee had received evidence that strongly suggested some judges were of the opinion they should consider whether the sentence they handed down could lead to the offender being deported.

His committee's No one teaches you to become an Australian report, which was tabled in December last year, cites a National Judicial College of Australia guide on deportation for judicial officers and practitioners.

The guide states that while the judiciary must not reduce a sentence to avoid risk of deportation, "there is conflicting authority as to whether an offender's liability to be deported is a relevant factor in sentencing federal offenders".

It cites several precedents where some judges have commented that the risk of deportation may be a relevant consideration prior to sentencing.

Mr Wood said the new legislation would prevent judges and magistrates being able to sentence offenders in a way which avoids the cancelling of the offender's visa.