A new character test that could trigger the deportation of thousands of convicted criminals should not apply to long-term residents, Greens senator Nick McKim says.
People who came to Australia as children should also be excluded from the test, Senator McKim said.
The Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee recommended passing the draft laws, which would give the minister or his delegate a new discretionary power to cancel a visa if a person is convicted of certain offences, punishable by a maximum of two years in jail.
The crimes that would trigger an automatic character failure and potential visa review include assault, using or possessing weapons, sex crimes or breaching an apprehended violence order.
The test will apply retrospectively, meaning the crime could have occurred decades ago.
Immigration Minister David Coleman said in July the bill sent a strong message "that the Australian community has no tolerance for foreign nationals who have been convicted of such crimes".
But in a dissenting report, Senator McKim said the legislation should be changed, so anyone who has lived in Australia for more than 10 years, or who arrived in Australia before the age of 10, could not have their visa cancelled.
"The Australian Greens have long argued that retrospective laws are inconsistent with the rule of law," Senator McKim said.
The Law Council of Australia warned the committee the bill could be used to remove long-term residents for historic crimes.
The Kaldor Centre also told the committee the laws would capture people who "have lived in Australia for many decades, with no recent criminal history".
Labor senators Kim Carr and Anthony Chisholm also published dissenting comments, saying Australia should look at bringing in a sliding scale, like in New Zealand.
New Zealand High Commissioner Dame Annette King expressed fears New Zealanders would be disproportionately affected by the legislation, many of whom had come to Australia as children.
By cancelling their visas, Dame Annette said Australia was "not taking responsibility for these people's failure to succeed in Australian society, despite them, in many cases, being a product of Australian society".
Senators Carr and Chisholm said while New Zealand also cancelled the visas of criminals judged to be a risk to the community, people who had lived in the country for more than a decade could not be deported.
"Labor believes a similar sliding scale is worth considering for Australia. It would remove the problem created by deporting New Zealand citizens who have lived here either all their lives or for very long periods and who identify as Australians," they said.
Labor also warned the legislation could further damage Australia's relationship with New Zealand.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called the existing character test provisions - which led to a 1400 per cent increase in visa cancellations - "corrosive".
Senators Carr and Chisholm also said the case had not been made to extend the minister's broad discretionary powers even further.