Push for Andrew Giles to be sacked over detainee bungle

Controversial Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has rejected coalition calls for his resignation and said he has no plans to leave office.

In an interview on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing on Wednesday, Giles said he was instead focused on “cleaning up the mess” left behind by former Home Affairs Minister and current Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.

Mr Giles had come under criticism after it was revealed that he had issued a controversial ministerial direction in January 2023 – known as Direction 99 – which led to the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal overturning the visa cancellations of dozens of criminal non-citizens and allowing them to remain in Australia.

Under this instruction, the court was tasked with taking into account a number of factors, including a person’s social ties, when deciding whether to revoke a visa.

Among those whose visas were cancelled were several rapists and a man who allegedly murdered another man when his visa was being renewed.

After it was revealed in the Senate Estimates on Tuesday evening that Home Office bureaucrats had breached protocol by failing to inform the immigration minister of the AAT’s findings, Mr Giles described the finding as “unacceptable”.

“I am deeply concerned that these cases where the AAT has returned visas to serious offenders have not been brought to my attention, even though some of these cases had already been decided some time ago,” he said.

“I have instructed my department to inform me and my office of any decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal within 24 hours.”

Asked whether he accepted that there was a resource problem in his department, as described by departmental secretary Stephanie Foster, Mr Giles said he would investigate these concerns further.

“I will look at everything that has to do with resource procurement here … I will deal with [Ms Foster] shortly … and will discuss the issue.”

Mr Giles refused to apologise, saying: “I owe it to the Australian community to work day and night to keep the community safe and to do everything I can within strict laws and resources.”

“I owe it to my colleagues to keep my full focus on continuing to do my job.”

Amid mounting pressure to sack Mr Giles, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced during Question Time that the Government would review Directive 99.

“We have not seen the sensible approach that Australians should expect, nor do we see the focus on community safety,” Mr Giles also told ABC.

“We are focused on a new, revised direction that places a high priority on community safety, but also specifically addresses additional concerns we see around hearing from victims and their families, and of course an increased focus on domestic violence prevention.”

Despite government assurances that the policy would be rewritten, the coalition demanded an apology during question time and cited examples of criminal non-citizens whose visas were cancelled.

Coalition MPs also asked whether Albanese still had confidence in his minister, to which he replied “yes”.

Earlier, opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson argued that Mr Giles and the government could not blame the AAT.
“If it had been just one rogue tribunal member or one decision, perhaps the AAT could be blamed. But now we have dozens – in fact more than 30 cases that the media have uncovered – of serious violent criminals who have been allowed to remain in our country,” Senator Paterson said.
“What all of these decisions have in common is that they all point to this ministerial direction and the new key consideration that Andrew Giles brought into that direction – that significant weight should be given to a person’s ties to Australia, regardless of the seriousness of their crimes, if they have been here for a long time.
“So the only person who can ultimately take responsibility for this is Andrew Giles. If he refuses to do so, the Prime Minister should do so.”

Home Secretary Clare O’Neil defended her junior minister, arguing that Mr Giles was not to blame and that she was deeply concerned about the tribunal’s decisions.
“It appears that the decisions of this independent tribunal do not reflect public expectations and do not give due weight to the importance we attach to public safety,” she told Sunrise.
“So Minister Giles has actually intervened here. He is acting as a good minister would.”

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