SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Anthony Albanese’s refusal to sack his Immigration Minister is a failure of leadership

Simon Birmingham
The Nightly
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Aussies have literally been beaten, bloodied and bruised by criminal non-citizens being allowed to stay in Australia as a direct result of the decisions of this Minister.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Aussies have literally been beaten, bloodied and bruised by criminal non-citizens being allowed to stay in Australia as a direct result of the decisions of this Minister. Credit: Supplied, AAP

The debacle confronting the Albanese Government over non-citizen criminals roaming free is one of its own making and the Prime Minister is at the heart of the controversy.

That’s not to excuse the hapless performance of Immigration Minister Andrew Giles, who should have been sacked weeks ago. He could have gone months ago when he was found flat-footed in response to the High Court decision that led to the release from detention of non-citizens, including criminals, without effective monitoring and which allowed some to violently reoffend.

The case to remove Minister Giles has only been strengthened as Australia’s borders have once more become vulnerable to the insidious people smuggler trade under the Albanese Government’s changes to Operation Sovereign Borders.

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This latest crisis of a determination by Mr Giles resulting in criminal non-citizens being allowed to stay in Australia to continue their criminal ways makes for the case closed. No longer could Mr Giles have been sacked as immigration minister, but he clearly should have been.

Mr Giles has had his three strikes.

Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles
Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has had his three strikes. Credit: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Tragically, the instances of reoffending by released criminals who are not Australian citizens and should have been detained and deported have only mounted. While much is being kept secret by Labor, we know that at least 28 of the released detainees have been charged under State laws, including for serious and violent offences.

How much longer can the Prime Minister stand behind such an incompetent minister?

He must go now.

It begs the question: why is the Prime Minister protecting him? Why is the Prime Minister allowing the negative headlines and question times dominated by border protection failings rather than tackling the issue that should be his key focus — the cost of living?

Is it factional loyalty? Can’t the Prime Minister make a tough decision? Is it because the Prime Minister knows he’s also in the frame for this debacle?

While Senate Estimates hearings are tedious enough to test the resolve of even the most ardent political junkie, they do occasionally provide some moments of clarity.

Two such moments have occurred this week.

First, that this whole situation was borne of the Prime Minister’s desire soon after he won government and was preparing for his first meeting with the then New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. He wanted to offer his NZ counterpart something that had long been sought — a slow-down in the number of Kiwis being sent back to NZ after serving prison sentences for serious crimes in Australia.

As Prime Minister Albanese capitulated to Prime Minister Ardern, it was up to his Immigration Minister to implement the change and give non-citizens convicted of serious criminal offences a better chance of staying in Australia.

In a second moment of clarity from estimates, we now know that the Minister was warned by his Home Affairs department that the changes to what’s known as Direction 99 — the legal instrument behind this mess — could lead to 25 per cent more visa cancellations of non-citizen criminals being overturned. Prescient!

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrives for Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Direction 99, issued in January 2023, just months after the Prime Minister’s gift to the New Zealand PM, has now seen dozens of serious offenders including child rapists, repeat domestic violence perpetrators and drug traffickers having their visa cancellations overturned and being allowed to stay in Australia where, sadly, many have seriously reoffended. Such is the mess Mr Giles created is that these offenders aren’t even New Zealanders, but others who were captured by his personal rewriting of the law.

In his latest attempt to survive, Minister Giles wants to blame the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for overturning visa cancellations. But it’s the minister’s own direction that requires the AAT to give greater weight than was previously the case to a criminal non-citizen’s ties to Australia that has led to many being allowed to stay in Australia.

He was warned by his own department.

The fact that Minister Giles can’t grasp the reality of a situation of his own making reflects at best incompetence or, at worst, dishonesty and a willingness to deliberately mislead the Australian community.

Either way, he should have gone already. The Prime Minister needs to step up and sack him.

The Prime Minister could consider that he might earn more respect for making such a difficult decision and showing some leadership.

If that isn’t motivation enough for the PM, then the protection of the Australian community from serious non-citizen criminals should be.

Australians have literally been beaten, bloodied and bruised by non-citizens being allowed to stay in Australia to continue their criminal ways as a direct result of the decisions of this Minister.

If that doesn’t demand sacking, what does?

What will the Prime Minister do?

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