The deportation of a British-born man who’s lived in Australia for 41 years violates human rights, lawyer Stephen Kenny says.

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“I invite the prime minister to say: ‘These are not Labor Party principles; we need to change this law’,” Mr Kenny, who at one time represented Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, told the ABC on Sunday.

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen has defended the decision to deport Clifford Tucker, 47, who is set to be deported after his visa was cancelled because of a substantial criminal record.

Mr Tucker failed the character test set out in the Migration Act, Mr Bowen told the ABC.

But Mr Kenny said the decision to deport Mr Tucker is wrong as he’s “not a threat to society” and has not been involved in any serious violence for at least 10 years.

Mr Tucker, of Adelaide, is now awaiting deportation at the Villawood detention centre in Sydney.

He came to Australia aged six and has lived here ever since, but has never taken out Australian citizenship.

He has notched up a substantial criminal record including a 12-year jail sentence for attempted murder in the 1980s and a conviction for assault in 2009.

An immigration department spokesman earlier said the government took very seriously its role in protecting the community from unacceptable risk or harm from criminal conduct by non-citizens.

The decision to cancel Mr Tucker’s visa was affirmed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal last July and in February the Federal Court dismissed his appeal, the spokesman said.

“All non-citizens must meet the character requirements of the act and if someone does not, they may have their visa cancelled and be removed form Australia,” he said.