30 May 2024

Immigration Minister and Home Affairs Department under pressure over visa failures

| Chris Johnson
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Stephanie Foster

Home Affairs Secretary Stephanie Foster admits her department didn’t inform the minister about certain visa review decisions. Photo: Supplied.

The Federal Government will issue fresh directions to the new Administrative Reviews Tribunal to deal differently with visa cancellations following weeks of Opposition and community criticism over convicted criminals being allowed to stay in Australia.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told parliament on Wednesday (29 May) that the situation could not continue where reviews had to consider ‘ministerial direction 99’ – issued by Immigration Minister Andrew Giles in January last year – that takes into account visa holders’ ties to the community when considering whether to reinstate their visas.

“The only effective way of ensuring the tribunal members are making better decisions is to issue a new revised direction, which the minister will be doing,” the Prime Minister said.

“The new directive will ensure that the protection of the community outweighs any other consideration.”

Mr Giles has been under repeated attack in parliament since one person whose visa was reinstated has since been accused of murdering someone in Brisbane.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has called for Mr Giles to be sacked.

Last year’s ministerial direction was implemented to appease the New Zealand government.

The Administrative Reviews Tribunal replaces the Administrative Affairs Tribunal, which has reinstated the visas of convicted criminals.

READ ALSO Home Affairs must grasp a new strategic direction to improve image and capability, review finds

Mr Giles said some of the Administrative Affairs Tribunal’s decisions were not grounded in common sense.

The Administrative Reviews Tribunal will get new orders.

“The new direction will ensure that all members of the ART will adopt a commonsense approach to visa decisions, consistent with the intent of ministerial direction 99,” Mr Giles said.

“First and foremost, this means ensuring that the protection of the community outweighs other considerations. This has always been the Albanese government’s highest priority.

“The revised direction will also strengthen the principles of community safety in the making of decisions, including the impact of the decisions on the victims of crime and their family members, and also strengthen the family violence provisions to reflect the government’s and Australians more broadly commitment to end violence against women and children.”

In a Budget Estimates hearing, Home Affairs Secretary Stephanie Foster threw the embattled minister a lifeline by saying that her department had failed to advise him about tribunal decisions allowing criminals to renew their visas.

“The department did fail him. We did not meet our very clear protocol,” she told the Senate committee.

“We’re not saying that none of these cases would have gone to the minister. We’re saying they have not yet gone to him.”

But the secretary added she had not yet been able to get to the bottom of the communications failure.

READ ALSO Secretive department gets its laundry aired at Budget Estimates

Budget Estimates also heard that Home Affairs has refused 4614 visitor visas between October last year and March this year for Palestinians wanting to flee the war in Gaza and come to Australia.

There were 2686 such visas granted to Palestinians in that period (compared to 3309 granted to Israelis), but department officials admitted to the estimates hearing that the refusal rate for Palestinians was higher than normal.

It was even higher than the figures they first gave to the Senate committee, which they said sat at 1831 refusals from more than 9600 lodged applications.

Officials had to update the figures on Wednesday, drawing a reaction from Greens senator David Shoebridge that the number of refusals amounted to a “massive increase” since the last figures reported to the Senate in March.

He asked why so many people trying to flee “genocide” were not being given visas.

First Assistant Secretary Damien Kilner noted that processing had continued since March.

“We did prioritise early on at the start of the conflict, those with the closest family links and we’re now working through those who primarily have limited or no links to Australia,” he said.

“The decision-makers have come to the decision that [those rejected] don’t meet the visitor requirements.

“They’ve been unable to demonstrate that they’re able to meet the requirements for the grant of that visa.”

Less than than 600 Palestinians have been able to so far arrive safely in Australia after fleeing the conflict.

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L Austin Speiss11:47 am 31 May 24

“” why so many people trying to flee “genocide” were not being given visas.””

Of course, bring your genocide over here, we don’t have enough.

HiddenDragon7:50 pm 30 May 24

With news today that drones have been deployed to monitor some individuals (apparently due to a concern that even the use of electronic ankle bracelets could be ruled illegal by a court) it might be time to have a very careful look at the scope to clarify and strengthen the relevant heads of power available to the federal Parliament under the Constitution.

For a number of reasons, not least the chastening experience of the Voice fiasco, the current government would be unlikely to pursue that option, but an Opposition which has obviously decided that this is a winning issue could go to the next election with a commitment to put the matter to a referendum.

“Opposition … could go to the next election with a commitment to put the matter to a referendum”

Given that S51(xxvii) of the Constitution already gives the Parliament the power to make laws for the “peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth” relating to “immigration and emigration” what Constitutional change to envisage the new Parliament, led by a Coalition government, would deliver via a referendum?

A picture tells a thousand words.

Byline ..
Your “Why on earth would a review tribunal for Federal administrative decisions have anything to do with chooks or fences’ .

I guess my reference to chooks and fences refers to a date well before self government, and we were under Federal control.

A very well known Federal Minister for the ACT wrote on how at the end of one day he met up with some other Ministers , who were Cabinet Ministers, in the Parliament bar.

These other Ministers were discussing world and local region type problems, and how the Commonwealth could tackle such pressing problems.

He was duly asked how his day had been.
He replied I’ve just signed off on how many chooks you could run in the ACT back yard.

I suspect , but not sure, the height of fences would have been in his documents.

If the stamp is a King George 6 type, I will certainly take off your hands.

So, under the scenario you report, the AAT would have been able to “adjudicate on small matters like … or how many chooks could you legally run (in the ACT back yard).”

Nevertheless, as per my previous post, the matter being discussed would still have been in the AAT’s remit.

Yet again, Home Affairs Secretary Stephanie Foster shows herself to be incapable of operating at any responsible level. After Robodebt, it is astonishing that she was appointed to this position, she must be relieved of that now.

Tis a strange thing the AAT.

When it first kicked off decades ago, I would have been thinkin it’s main job was to adjudicate on small matters like on how high can your boundary fence be, or how many chooks could you legally run. You know nothing to heavy, or detrimental to the to the taxpayer.

But how wrong I was.

They can overturn decisions our elected Parliament members have had passed, and so semi quasi generally run the country as they see fit, yet we canna have a say in who is elected to this august body.?

Tis a strange thing.

From the AAT website (https://www.aat.gov.au/about-the-aat)
“The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) conducts independent merits review of administrative decisions made under Commonwealth laws. We review decisions made by Australian Government ministers, departments and agencies and, in limited circumstances, decisions made by state government and non-government bodies.” and “We can only review a decision if a law states that the decision can be reviewed by the AAT.”

So, while it’s moot given the AAT has been replaced by ART, it does seem that the AAT was acting within its remit.

Why on earth would a review tribunal for Federal administrative decisions have anything to do with chooks or fences MERC600? Are you failing to distinguish it from ACAT? Do you also want to elect judges and members of the High Court? I have an old postage stamp here, so tell me what you know about governance and I’ll write it down for you to keep.

Why would we care what New Zealand wants? Send their criminals back to them as well.

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