Community Safety

Game of Drones

June 3, 2024

Monday 03 June 2024
Sarah Blake
The Nightly

 Last week Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said the government was watching  criminal non-citizens from above. Today he admitted that's not true.
 It was another day, another shocker for under-fire Immigration Minister  Andrew Giles, who on Monday was forced to walk back his claims that drones  were being used to monitor some of the overseas-born criminals wandering the  country after being released from immigration detention.
 The humiliating new gaffe has heaped more pressure on Mr Giles, who again  insisted he was not stepping down from his job despite a cascading series of  bungles.
 Holes started appearing in the drones yarn pretty soon after Mr Giles rolled  it out in a Sky News interview last week.
 After weeks of resisting calls for him to address the scandals dogging his  portfolio, the usually media-shy minister was defending his department after  revelations that some of the 153 freed criminals including murderers, freed  after a High Court ruling, were not wearing ankle monitoring devices.  "Well they are being monitored," Mr Giles said on Thursday.
 "There is a quarter of a billion dollars that we've invested in  supporting our law enforcement agencies. That's enabled things like using  drones to keep track of these people.
 We know where they are." Even after the Australian Federal Police said  they weren't aware of this aerial activity, Agriculture Minister Murray Watt  on Sunday was talking up the drones.
 Although he did explain that they were more involved in checking on proposed  accommodation of the non-citizens.
 "My understanding is that drones are being used as part of this  operation, but more in the sense of monitoring the accommodation that people  are living in, for example, ensuring that it's not too close to schools or  other areas that they're not supposed to be living close to," Mr Watt  said.
 By Monday, Mr Giles' retreat was complete and he was asked in a fiery  question time what the "basis of the advice that led to this latest  example of gross incompetence" had been.
 In time-honoured political tradition, Mr Giles blamed bureaucrats for the  misleading and widely reported wrong statement.
 "Last week, in an interview on Sky News, I did state that Operation  Ageis was using drones. I relied on information provided by my department at  the time which has since . . .
 been clarified," Mr Giles said.
 "As part of the work monitoring and supporting community safety,  Operation Aegis draws on information from a range of sources using different  technology, including aerial open source and other imagery through their work  with State and Territory law enforcement bodies." Mr Giles has faced  repeated calls for his resignation in the wake of a series of bungles  including the Government's flat-footed response to the NZYQ ruling and an  order by him that has led to dozens of other criminals having their  deportations overturned.
 Mr Giles said he had now cancelled 30 visas of criminals and the contentious  Direction 99 was being overturned after it led to their release when the  Administrative Appeals Tribunal gave more weight to the felons' ties to  Australia than to community safety.
 Shadow home affairs James Paterson on Monday once again called again for Mr  Giles to be stood down.
 "The Minister for Immigration is inventing imaginary drone surveillance  programs instead of using the actual powers available to him to protect the  community," he said. "He could require every one of the 153  released detainees to wear an ankle bracelet, but he's let half of them out  without them, including at least two murderers and 26 sex offenders.
 "He and the Minister for Home Affairs could apply for a preventive  detention order to get them off the street - but they haven't applied for a  single one, more than six months since the scheme was legislated." For  his part, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese continued to stand behind his  factional ally and close friend, describing the drones pile-on as a  "rabbit hole" and levelling claims against former immigration  minister and now Opposition Leader Peter Dutton's role in releasing an overseas  born criminal into the community.
 "The AAT decided a Congo-born man who had convictions for a sex offence  regarding a girl aged under 14 and for repeatedly breaching the bail  conditions should be allowed to stay in Australia," he said in Question  Time. "It cited ministerial direction 65.
 "What did the current Leader of the Opposition do?
 Absolutely nothing.
 "It is alleged this individual then went on to re-offend.
 "The Leader of the Opposition did nothing. This Minister for Immigration  has cancelled his visa."

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