Immigration Minister Andrew Giles says new detainee directive will be released “as soon as it’s ready”

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Immigration Minister Andrew Giles says he will introduce a “24-hour protocol” to monitor visa cancellation decisions, as the Labour Party rushes to revise a new ministerial policy on cancelling visa applications.

Mr Giles is embroiled in a political storm of outrage over the detainees and has vowed to remain in office despite increasing political pressure from the federal opposition to resign.

He said he would review up to 30 cases of non-citizens who failed character tests after an independent tribunal under his ministerial leadership restored the visas of convicted sex offenders, kidnappers and drug smugglers.

“I am relentlessly focused on this job. There is so much to do. We inherited a shocking mess in the immigration system and fixing it is my job,” Giles said Thursday.

The rule, known as Directive 99, was signed by Mr Giles in January 2023, replacing an earlier directive signed by former Liberal minister Alex Hawke in 2021.

The policy states that Australia will “generally demonstrate a greater degree of tolerance” towards non-citizens who have been living in the country for a longer period of time.

The pressure on Mr Giles began after it was revealed that the AAT had cancelled the visas of criminals, including a man accused of stabbing a 22-year-old and another man convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl.

Mr Giles said he was working “day and night” to issue a new policy that would make it easier to deport people who pose a threat to public safety.

“We will issue a new, revised ministerial directive to ensure that community protection is absolutely at the centre and that we strengthen some of the other aspects, [including] family violence,” said Mr Giles.

Directive 99 was issued on 23 January 2023, ostensibly in response to the New Zealand government’s fears that its citizens would be deported in large numbers, even if they had stronger ties to Australia than to New Zealand.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says Anthony Albanese is responsible for Direction 99.

“I don’t want to defend Andrew Giles, but this whole thing was conjured up by the Prime Minister,” Mr Dutton told Ray Hadley on 2GB on Thursday.

“He was absolutely determined to please Jacinda Ardern.

“She put pressure on him, as she had done on Scott Morrison and the prime ministers before him, but they never fell for it.

“But Anthony Albanese wanted to please Jacinda and introduced Direction 99.”

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters urged the Albanian government on Thursday not to return to sending back Kiwis who have little connection to the country.

“We accept that Australia has the right to determine what level of crime by non-citizens is unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

“But we do not want to deport people who have little or no connection to New Zealand and whose formative experiences took place almost exclusively in Australia,”

Shadow Attorney General Michaelia Cash took up the fight on Thursday during the Senate budget estimates.

Justice Department Secretary Katherine Jones said the department had no involvement in Order 99.

Senator Cash asked when Attorney General Mark Dreyfus first learned of the controversial rule.

Minister Anthony Chisholm, representing the Attorney General, dismissed Senator Cash’s question.

“I have already noted it, Senator Cash. But I would also like to point out – will you take responsibility for every decision made by the AAT during your tenure as Attorney General?” he replied.

Earlier this week, Home Office officials announced that the department had breached protocol by failing to inform Mr Giles of the potential consequences of his instruction.

But James Paterson, the opposition’s home affairs spokesman, said it was “ultimately” up to the minister to deal with the consequences.

“I can’t understand how they [Home Affairs] were not able to keep ministers informed about these cases in a timely manner. Whether they did so is not yet clear – there are conflicting statements here,” he said.

Dan Tehan, the opposition spokesman on immigration, accused Mr Giles of “falling asleep at the wheel” after The Australian reported he had been informed in 2022 that up to 2800 visa cases would be affected by Policy 99.

“Today’s revelations are completely and utterly devastating,” Mr Tehan said.

Mr Giles claimed that the letter was about a backlog in processing visa applications and not a warning about the possible release of serious criminals.

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