The government is going to be “tough” in terms of screening refugees, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says.
A leaked draft government document marked “sensitive” and intended for the national security committee of cabinet makes several proposals to keep extremists out of the country.
“In the first half of 2016 the minister for immigration and border protection will bring forward proposals to reform the visa framework and remove direct access to permanent residents to better align visa and citizenship decision making with national security and community protection outcomes,” the document reads.
It flags greater use of intelligence to weigh up the risks of each individual, not only in the pre-visa stage but “post-citizenship conferral”.
The document says it is expected some of the 12,000 additional Syrian refugees being brought into Australia “will bring issues, beliefs or associations that lead them to advocate or engage in politically motivated or communal violence”.
It singles out the Lebanese community as the “most prominent ethnic group amongst Australian Sunni extremists”.
Mr Dutton said the document had not been to his office but he was aware it had been circulated to several government departments.
However, he had a stern warning to those seeking to enter the country on false terms.
“We are going to be tough in terms of the screening processes because we want to afford refuge to those people who are genuine refugees,” Mr Dutton told reporters on Friday.
He said it was only because order had been restored to Australia’s borders that the government could take in more refugees in genuine need.
His responsibility as immigration minister was to make sure “we are not bringing people into our country that are going to pose a risk to men, women and children across the country”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he could not vouch for the status of the document.
“As far as future policies are concerned, I can assure you that in terms of people’s rights, that there is only one class of citizenship in Australia,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.
All citizens had the same rights but they were also obliged to obey the law, he said.
Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said it was of great concern if the document was deliberately leaked as a “kite-flying” exercise.
“I think this is a dangerous document,” he told ABC radio.
“If we take the leap that every Sunni Muslim is a potential terrorist that is an appalling step to take.”
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the document showed Mr Turnbull had not left behind the “cruel and harsh” policies of his predecessor.
The Lebanese Muslim Association denounced the document and condemned assumptions that Lebanese Sunnis were more prone to extremism.
“Such sentiments only exacerbate community tensions,” president Samier Dandan said.
The immigration department said the document was an internal working paper and its proposed measures were hypothetical.
“I can’t possibly presume what may end up going to government,” official David Wilden told a Senate inquiry.
“It may not go anywhere.”