"Golden ticket" visas, with which wealthy investors can gain privileged access to Australian residency, could damage the character of the nation, according to Melbourne Anglican Bishop Philip Huggins.
Bishop Huggins contrasted efforts by the Federal Government to contain refugee numbers with the open-door policy for those who had $5 million to spend in Australia under the "Significant Investor" visa program.
"What tests are made on how applicants have made their money?" he asked. "Have 'Fair Trade' principles or the conventions of the International Labour Organisation been honoured? What character references are required in their application?"
Bishop Huggins, chairman of the Melbourne Anglican Social Responsibilities Committee, said refugees who resettled in Australia invariably spoke with gratitude for the opportunity to find a new home after fleeing violence and trauma.
"Such people, grateful for a 'fair go', and hard-working, now strengthen the character of our nation, without question." He asked whether "golden visa" applicants would come with the same gratitude as refugees, or instead feel a sense of entitlement.
Fairfax Media reported on Friday that wealthy Asians were lining up for the new visa, which waived the usual criteria for skilled migrants, such as the ability to speak English, in exchange for a $5 million investment in Australia.
The Government expects 700 wealthy new residents a year under the program, which opened on Saturday. For permanent residency, migrants must have $5 million and live in Australia 40 days a year for four years.
Biship Huggins said the new program promoted a picture that "only money speaks". "A key question, as we juxtapose scenes from Nauru with 'golden ticket', $5 million-plus new citizens, is what this will do to the character of our nation?"
Critics say the idea amounts to buying a visa.