Half of Direction 99 deportations revoked with more in the pipeline

The Administrative Appeals Court applied the controversial Ministerial Directive 99 to overturn half of the government’s original deportation orders against non-citizens on character grounds since July last year.

The statistics were revealed on Friday afternoon at a Senate budget hearing hosted by AAT Registrar Michael Hawkins, as the government faces backlash over the application of the policy issued by Immigration Minister Andrew Giles in January 2023.

This directive is linked to several cases in which the visas of criminal foreigners were not deported but revoked.

Of the 367 cases to which the AAT has applied Directive 99 this financial year, the panel has “overruled” 184 cases, thereby rejecting the government’s original decision. Around 100 more cases are expected to apply the Directive by 30 June.

In the previous financial year, 459 cases were heard under Directive 99, of which 212 were annulled.

Asked by Coalition Senator Paul Scarr about the morale of AAT members following the “attacks” from the Prime Minister and Immigration Minister, Hawkins said some of them were “suffering” from the decisions they had made regarding visa cancellations.

“I can say from personal experience that you are responsible for the decision because your primary thought was to deny the opportunity to enter Australia to someone who should be here but whose reasons were not sufficient,” Hawkins told the Senate.

“One would have to fear that this person could be shot when returning to his or her home country.

“We are concerned about that. And the members who were questioned in the press about decisions they made in accordance with their oath and in accordance with the practice and procedure of a member would carry that with them and it would hurt them.”

The Tribunal, an independent body, reviews a wide range of federal government administrative decisions based on Commonwealth law, including on migration issues.

Those whose visa cancellations were overturned by the AAT include a New Zealander convicted of raping his stepdaughter, a Briton who assaulted women 26 times and a Sudanese man accused of murder.

Responding to the AAT’s decision, Mr Giles accused the panel of failing to apply “common sense” in interpreting the direction and claimed it had not paid sufficient attention to public safety.

But Prime Minister Anthony Albanese went a step further and accused the coalition of filling the panel with party members and other political allies.

“If you are a former Liberal councillor who was defeated in a primary election somewhere, you probably have a chance of running and getting a seat on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal,” Albanese said.

Earlier this week, the Albanese government passed legislation to abolish the panel and create a new, independent arbitrator, the Administrative Review Tribunal, whose appointment process will no longer be based on the government’s nomination of members, but on the arbitrator’s performance.

Meanwhile, Mr Albanese has resisted calls to remove Mr Giles from office.

“Andrew Giles is the immigration minister, I am the prime minister and I have no intention of making any changes in the near future,” he said.

“I know Peter Dutton is campaigning. I will say this: if Peter Dutton had committed himself to the level he demands of other ministers, he would not have lasted a week in this office.”

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