Community Safety

Protection board failed: Albanese

May 4, 2024

Saturday 04 May 2024
Angus Thompson
The Sydney Morning Herald

 Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has delivered a veiled swipe at a  government-appointed panel of experts hours after Prime Minister Anthony  Albanese said the board made the wrong call when a former detainee wasn't  made to wear an ankle monitor before allegedly committing a home invasion.
 In a statement released by his office yesterday, a spokesperson for Giles  distanced the minister from decisions made over the visa conditions of former  immigration detainees, as the government faces mounting questions over its  accountability for 150 people released into the community after the High  Court's November ruling that indefinite detention was illegal.
 "The Community Protection Board is there to provide experienced and  expert advice but the expectation is that they will always be mindful of  community views and the objectives of government policy," the  spokesperson said.
 While the board makes recommendations on conditions, they must be signed off  by the minister, Giles, or a delegate.
 The statement followed accusations by the Coalition the minister was in  hiding. Monthly "community protection" reports promised months ago  are yet to be published, while justice experts paid hundreds of thousands of  dollars by taxpayers to advise on visa conditions have either declined or not  replied to requests for comment.
 The scrutiny comes as another former immigration detainee faced a Perth  magistrate on Thursday, charged with an aggravated burglary that he allegedly  committed in March, while under the watch of the federal police and wearing  an ankle monitoring bracelet.
 Giles, who this week apologised to the Perth couple who fell victim to the  April 16 attack, is looking into the community protection board's advice. The  opposition intensified calls for his resignation yesterday after his office  initially refused to respond to Albanese saying the board had failed.
 "I think that's a wrong decision by that board, but they make the  decisions," Albanese told Seven's Sunrise program yesterday, repeating a  previous assertion the board was independent.
 Half of the eight members of the board are Australian Border Force and  Department of Home Affairs employees, including its chair, ABF assistant  commissioner Sandra Jeffrey.
 Three of the non-departmental members of the board have refused to speak to  this masthead: former Victoria Police commissioner Graham Ashton; former  Queensland Police deputy commissioner Peter Martin; and youth advocate Carmel  Guerra. Comment has also been sought from clinical psychologist Dr Monique  Phipps.
 Guerra and Martin deferred all questions to Border Force, who also refused to  comment.
 Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said the board made  recommendations the minister was under "no obligation" to accept,  adding Giles should stop "hiding behind public servants".
 "It's time for him to front the media and answer for the Albanese  government's litany of failures on community safety," Paterson said.
 "Unless minister Giles can explain why he let this detainee back into  the community without an ankle bracelet, he should resign."
 However, Giles' spokesperson said that as decisions about visas issued to  this cohort "are extremely likely to be the subject of legal challenge,  and as such it is critical that they be informed by independent, expert  advice these decisions are delegated to officials within the department, at  arm's length from politicians."
 Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil gave an interview to Seven's Sunrise on  Wednesday in which she refused to discuss the details of the alleged assault  but did express her sympathies for the victims, Ninette and Philip Simons.
 "Every Australian is entitled to feel safe in their own home, and the  fact that this occurred within someone's home I think just makes it all the  more violent and horrendous,," she said.
 Both O'Neil and Giles were contacted for comment after the prime minister's  criticisms of the community protection board.
 It was revealed on Thursday that at a February federal court hearing over  curfew breaches allegedly committed by former detainee Majid Jamshidi  Doukoshkan, the prosecutor raised concerns he could commit further offences,  but did not oppose bail.
 Albanese told Sunrise that if it were up to him, "I assure you that  there wouldn't have been bail granted in that case."
 "I am just as upset about that decision as you are. I think that lacks  common sense," Albanese said.
 The curfew charges against Doukoshkan were withdrawn on March 22 because of a  Commonwealth bungle over invalid bridging visas, however, the former detainee  previously jailed over drug offences allegedly went on to stage the home  invasion with two other men.
 Doukoshkan also faced court on February 21 and April 10 for state offences of  driving without a licence and trespassing, for which he was fined a total of  $400 just days before the alleged home invasion.

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