Community Safety

Liberal Senator James Paterson claims Anthony Albanese showing 'tolerance for incompetence' over handling of detainees

May 2, 2024

Thursday 02 May 2024
Max Melzer

Shadow home affairs minister James Paterson has again called for the resignation of Immigration Minister Andrew Giles, accusing Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of having a "tolerance for incompetence" by allowing the Minister to remain in his role.

Mr Giles has been the subject of intense criticism for his handling of immigration detainees released by the High Court last year, with the opposition repeatedly accusing the Minister of failing to keep the community safe.

Those calls grew louder on Monday after one former detainee was charged with allegedly assaulting 73-year-old Ninette Simons and her husband in a violent home invasion on April 16.

Despite having previously being charged with breaching his visa conditions, the government did not oppose bail for the alleged offender and reports have subsequently revealed that the ankle monitor he was previously mandated to wear had been removed prior to the home invasion.

Speaking to Sky News Australia on Thursday, Senator Paterson weighed in on a meeting between Ms Simons and Mr Giles, saying he hoped the Minister had explained "the litany of failures" which preceded the alleged attack.

"Ninette Simons is absolutely right to raise the questions that she did with the Immigration Minister and I hope he gave her better answers than he's given the public," he said.

"So far, neither he not the Home Affairs Minister (Clare O'Neil) has been able to explain why this person was free in the community, why they didn't oppose bail, why his ankle bracelet was removed, why before that his ankle bracelet wasn't working and it took days before police went and saw him.

"This has been a litany of failures from start to finish."

On Wednesday, Ms Simons told the Immigration Minister she feared another attack, saying she no longer felt safe in her own home knowing that other released detainees remained free and potentially unmonitored in the community.

When asked about the case, however, Mr Giles demurred, expressing deep sympathy for the couple, but explaining he felt it would be inappropriate to comment on a matter which was the subject of police investigation.

Pressed about what measures the government was taking to ensure there was not repeat of the alleged attack, the Immigration Minister added Labor was working on making applications for preventative detention for detainees who held prior convictions for serious offences, as well as examining other measures to address the issue.

The government passed legislation in December last year which gave it the power to re-detain those with past criminal convictions, but in the six months since has yet to make a single application for any detainee to be put back behind bars.

According to Senator Paterson, the failure to make any applications was another example of incompetence on the behalf of both Mr Giles and Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil, adding neither was deserving of remaining in their role.

"The Prime Minister is showing remarkable tolerance for incompetence, in any normal government these ministers would have been sacked by now," he claimed.

"Not only are they bad at their jobs they can't even explain their failures to the public and front up and be honest.

"I just can't understand why they haven't been sacked."

The shadow home affairs minister added that while it was impossible to "turn back time," there were still a number of options available to address the issue and ensure the public was kept safe.

He urged the government to immediately apply for a preventative detention order for any high-risk detainees currently free in the community, as well as to ensure that every single person released by the High Court was fitted with a working ankle monitor.

While the government has claimed it will not make an application unless it is sure to pass the high legal threshold required under the laws, Senator Paterson said the opposition was open to helping pass amendments to the legislation in order to ensure orders could be obtained quickly.

"When we suggested that they passed these laws, when we facilitated the passage of these laws before Christmas, we did so on the basis that they would be used expeditiously, they'd be used urgently," he said.

"Now if there's a problem with the laws, then the parliament has sat for many weeks already this year, we would have facilitated amendments to make it easier, I'm still willing to facilitate amendments to make it easier the government just has to come to us and explain that."

While that outcome appears unlikely, the Prime Minister on Wednesday did suggest the government would seek to make an application "as soon as possible," while he also laughed off criticism of Mr Giles and Ms O'Neil over their handling of the issue.

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