analysis

Andrew Giles and Clare O’Neil: Albo’s ‘hiding’ ministers leave PM in a PR nightmare of his own making

Headshot of Sarah Blake
Sarah Blake
The Nightly
6 Min Read
Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles and Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil
Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles and Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil Credit: Mick Tsikas AAP

Some political pile-ons are clearly overblown and deeply partisan while others are a natural, almost organic response to major stuff-ups. Although it’s only Tuesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is this week already firmly two-down in the latter category.

First, for the fumbled handling of the fallout from his hectoring, unwelcome speech at a domestic violence rally that brought a survivor to tears. And second, for his absolute failure to explain to Australia how it was that a freed immigration detainee was allegedly able to terrorise an elderly Perth couple in a home invasion to the point that grandmother Ninette Simons was convinced she would die.

The savage alleged bashing of Ms Simons, 73, and her husband Philip, 76, by freed immigration detainee Majid Jamshidi Doukoshkan on April 16 has heaped pressure on the Albanese government’s border policy and prompted renewed calls for two of his senior ministers to be sacked.

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One of the trio accused of bashing a pensioner in WA is an immigration detainee released after a landmark High Court ruling. Pictured is victim Ninette Simons.
One of the trio accused of bashing a pensioner in WA is an immigration detainee released after a landmark High Court ruling. Pictured is victim Ninette Simons. Credit: WA Police/TheWest

Despite being in and out of the courts for allegedly breaching his bail conditions, Kuwaiti-born Doukoshkan, 43, was not wearing an ankle monitoring device, a measure that the Government had trumpeted in an effort to appease public safety concerns after it was blindsided last November by a High Court decision that freed 153 detainees into the community.

After setting him free, the Commonwealth also did not oppose bail for Doukoshkan at a February court appearance where he was accused of repeated breaches of his curfew, an act which led the magistrate to comment that she would not have granted bail had the Commonwealth not been so “generous”.

Amid these revelations, the continuing silence from under-fire Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles drew condemnation and accusations they were “hiding” and came as a court in a different city granted bail to another freed detainee who allegedly tampered with his ankle bracelet monitoring device.

Abdelmoez Mohamed Elawad fronted Melbourne Magistrate’s Court on Monday charged with three counts of breaching his visa-mandated curfew and one count of failing to maintain his monitoring device.

Majid Jamshidi Doukoshkan - who has been charged over the Girrawheen home invasion
Majid Jamshidi Doukoshkan - who has been charged over the Girrawheen home invasion. Credit: Facebook/Supplied

The 45-year-old was granted bail later that day and will next front court on May 22. An Australian Federal Police spokesperson said the offences carried a maximum imprisonment term of five years and a $93,000 fine.

“It is an utter, utter shambles,” said Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson of the continuing fallout from last year’s NZYQ ruling.

Both men were in the group of detainees that included convicted murderers, rapists and child abusers who were freed into the community after the High Court ruling that caught the Albanese government flat-footed last November.

They are not the first to appear before the courts charged with crimes since being released and there is genuine community outrage building at the risk that there will be others.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said of the missing-in-action ministers: “It’s clear to every Australian — except for Anthony Albanese — that these ministers can’t continue in their jobs”.

“They’ve created a situation, they’ve made a decision which has led to a situation where Australians are at risk and I don’t think Australia will tolerate that,” Mr Dutton said.

“Minister Giles promised the Australian people in the Australian parliament, he promised them these people had ankle bracelets, that there was surveillance in place, they would be kept safe. But look at what’s happened in WA and look at what’s likely to happen if we continue.”

Jacqui Lambie Network Senator Jacqui Lambie.
Jacqui Lambie. Credit: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Firebrand Senator Jacqui Lambie tore into the failure to keep Australians safe and asked how the Federal Government had lost the ability to deport dangerous criminals.

“I actually think they’ve completely lost control,” she said on Tuesday.

“I have to be honest, I don’t have much confidence when it comes to our border security under the current government and I’ve made that very clear from day one.

“Quite frankly, I cannot believe that people who are visiting on visas or who are dual citizens – when this sort of thing happens – why they’re not on a plane within 12 hours and deported the hell out of here?

“Why’s the country in the situation it is in now where we can’t even control that process?

“Because that would say: if you’re going to do that in this country, then we will get rid of you, if that’s possible.”

Doukoshkan has been bailed at least three time since his release, according to reporting by Seven Network Political Editor Mark Riley.

Two of those court appearances were related to State criminal charges in WA while a third was for alleged Federal breaches of the strict visa conditions built into his release.

The court heard on February 20 that Doukoshkan had repeatedly breached his 10pm to 6am curfew by leaving his East Perth residence but counsel for the Commonwealth did not oppose bail, and merely warned that “further breaches may not have the same response”.

The magistrate told Doukoshkan that he was “on very thin ice”, adding that she would not have granted bail had the Commonwealth not been so “generous”, according to The West Australian.

He was bailed for $5000 to appear on April 5, however, he did not face court again as the charges were discontinued on March 22.

Separately, he was not required to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet, according to The West Australian’s political reporter Dan Jervis-Brady, after a recommendation from the Commonwealth law enforcement board which advises what conditions should be imposed on the freed detainees.

Mr Albanese on Tuesday said the “thoughts of all Australians” were with the Simons’ but would not answer questions about how someone who was purportedly supposed to be wearing an ankle monitor and had already breached his bail was able to allegedly take part in the horrific $200,000 jewellery robbery.

“Our thoughts and I’m sure the thoughts of all Australians will be with those who’ve been affected by this,” he said of the attack.

“It’s inappropriate to comment further, given it’s in the middle of the investigation by WA Police, of course, state bail schemes are run by the states, by definition, as well.”

A WA court heard on Monday that Doukoshkan and two other men allegedly pretended to be police to break into the home where Mr and Mrs Simons were watching TV, then beat them up and stole their life savings in a case that has drawn concern and condemnation across the country.

Ninette Simons and Philip Simons speak out after a shocking home invasion at their Girrawheen home.
Ninette Simons and Philip Simons speak out after a shocking home invasion at their Girrawheen home. Credit: 7NEWS/7NEWS

Ms Simons, a cancer survivor who was left badly bruised and shaken, said the attack was terrifying.

“I am not the same person I used to be, I can hardly stand or walk,” Ms Simons said last week.

“I used to be able to go dancing and it is highly unlikely I will do it again. The dizziness is driving me crazy.”

The couple had agreed to speak to the media last week to appeal for information about her attackers. She spoke in detail about the night of the robbery.

Senator Paterson said the Government had failed to answer a series of questions about the attack and said the two ministers owed Australians an explanation.

“Andrew Giles and Clare O’Neil need to come out of hiding, front up and explain why their efforts to protect the community have failed so miserably,” Senator Paterson told The Nightly.

“Why haven’t they used the preventative detention scheme? Why wasn’t the alleged offender wearing an ankle bracelet? How was he being continuously monitored and able to allegedly commit offences as serious as this.

“The Australian people deserve answers and unless they get them the Ministers should both fall on their swords.”

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