Community Safety

Andrew Giles accused of 'doing what Labor always does' on immigration after Minister caught boasting to refugee activists

June 5, 2024

Wednesday 05 June 2024
Max Melzer

Shadow home affairs minister James Paterson has accused Andrew Giles of "doing what the Labor Party always does" on immigration after the Minister was caught boasting Direction 99 would help Australia meet its "obligations" to foreign born criminals.

Footage unearthed by The Australian on Tuesday showed Mr Giles proudly telling attendees at a Refugee Council of Australia event in November 2022 the government, along with "our friends in New Zealand", had been looking at altering Ministerial Directions to make it easier for foreign nationals to hold onto their visas.

"I think one of the big issues that we have dealt with as a government is to have regard to the Ministerial Direction that operates in respect of the cancellation regime," he said.

"And have had close regard, particularly on the basis of discussions with our friends in New Zealand about how this can operate in a way that better reflects our obligation to people who’ve spent the majority of their lives in Australia, as opposed to another country."

Those comments were seized on by the opposition in Question Time, who have spent the past several weeks hammering the Albanese government over its handling of immigration and repeatedly called for Mr Giles to resign.

Speaking to Sky News Australia later on Tuesday, Senator Paterson said the government's response to the issue showed both the Immigration Minister and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese were incapable of making the "tough decisions" necessary to ensure community safety.

"What I've come down to after watching this Refugee Council video today is that Anthony Albanese can't sack Andrew Giles because Andrew Giles is only doing what the Labour Party always does when it comes to border protection and community safety," he claimed.

"They soften the successful policies of the previous coalition government because they don't have the strength in the stomach for the tough decisions required."

The shadow home affairs minister has been at the forefront of calls for the Immigration Minister to resign in the past, arguing Mr Albanese was showing "tolerance for incompetence" by allowing him to remain in the role.

While Mr Giles has always insisted keeping Australians from harm has been central in the government's approach, he has been forced to concede Direction 99 was not working as intended and promised to rework and reissue the directive before the end of the week.

The Immigration Minister has also cancelled the visas of 35 foreign nationals who had been allowed to remain in the country by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in an effort to demonstrate his commitment to addressing community concerns.

However, Senator Paterson was quick to highlight Mr Giles had apparently disregarded a warning from the Home Affairs Department when he pushed through the directive, suggesting the Immigration Ministers actions had come too late.

He claimed a "desktop exercise" run by the Department found the changes would see "a 25 per cent drop in the number of visas that are cancelled on character grounds after serious criminal offending", before adding yet more offenders could be allowed to remain while Mr Giles delayed rescinding the directive.

"Late last week, they finally admitted, in fact, maybe there is something wrong with Direction 99 and it has to be changed, but it hasn't been changed yet," the shadow home affairs minister said.

"The Minister of Immigration is saying at best case scenario it will be changed by the end of this week. So in the meantime, more foreign criminals are being allowed to stay on a daily basis.

"They really need to get their skates on here and fix it, but I'm quite worried that they will stuff it up again. They got it wrong the first time. There's no guarantee they'll get it right this time."

Adding weight to Senator Paterson's argument was the revelation on Tuesday afternoon that another foreign national, and reported associate of notorious drug kingpin , had seen his visa cancelation set aside by the AAT.

Confronted about the news in Question Time, Mr Giles said he was "aware" of the case and that it was "under consideration in accordance with the national interest", but declined to provide further details.

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