/ 30 May 2024

Team Albanese’s got Direction 99 problems…


The Squiz 

After a bruising few days, the Albanese Government yesterday said it would update a ‘ministerial direction’ that has resulted in convicted criminals who are not Aussie citizens being allowed to stay here. Immigration Minister Andrew Giles says the changes will “ensure that migration decisions are made that are “in line with the expectations of the government and the community”. It’s the latest front to open up on the government’s handling of our immigration system, and yesterday, PM Anthony Albanese was asked by Coalition Leader Peter Dutton if he has confidence in Giles. “I do,” he responded. 

Umm what’s a ‘ministerial direction’? 

So… The way our immigration laws work means the minister of the day can ‘give written directions to a person or body having functions or powers under this Act’. Enter the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), which reviews officials’ visa decisions – eg cases where someone’s had their visa cancelled or denied… In January last year, Minister Giles signed off Direction 99 on visas being knocked back on character grounds. The background to that is Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern had been lobbying Australia for ages over Kiwis who were convicted of criminal offences here being deported – even if they’d lived here for years. And after he was elected in 2022, PM Albanese told Ardern he’d sort it. That saw the AAT given Direction 99, where they were told to “afford a higher level of tolerance” to letting people stay in Oz – including convicted crims – if they had put down roots/spent a lot of time here. 

So how has that played out? 

Yesterday, Minister Giles said it’s resulted in the AAT making decisions inconsistent with “common sense”. That includes cases of visas being restored to people who were convicted of crimes like dealing drugs, robbery and assault, rapists, and convicted and accused murderers. Apparently there are dozens of cases involving criminals getting their visa reinstated because of Direction 99… And in a twist to the tale this week, the Home Affairs Department boss Stephanie Foster told a Senate Committee hearing that officials were meant to tell Giles when cases like those came before the AAT, but that never happened. The omnishambles has seen the Coalition go hard on Giles and Albanese, despite not having a great track record themselves, and reports say internal pressure is building on the PM to move Giles on. Watch this space…

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