Immigration Minister Andrew Giles issues new visa direction to prevent criminals avoiding deportation

Dan Jervis-Bardy
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles has issued a new visa direction designed to prevent convicted criminals escaping deportation.
Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles has issued a new visa direction designed to prevent convicted criminals escaping deportation. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles’ beefed-up visa direction still leaves wiggle room for convicted criminals to avoid deportation because of their strong ties to Australia.

The Federal Opposition is already promising to abolish the new guidance if it wins the next election, pledging to scrap a person’s ties to Australia as a “primary consideration” for decision-makers weighing up whether to cancel a visa.

Mr Giles has signed off on a replacement for the ill-fated direction 99, which helped dozens of foreigners convicted of horrific crimes in Australia, including child rape and domestic violence, win back cancelled visas in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

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The under-siege minister on Friday refused to admit the direction was a mistake as he continues to fight for his political survival.

The new ministerial direction 110 emphasises that community safety is the Government’s highest priority and instructs decision-makers to weigh the impact on victims of family violence as a top consideration.

“Ministerial direction 110 is an important step in ensuring that our immigration system is working always in our national interest and that these decisions are made in line with common sense and the safety of the Australian community,” Mr Giles said.

The new guidance will come into effect on June 21, meaning the existing direction 99 will remain in force for another fortnight.

About 10 cases will be decided under the existing regime before the new one starts, Mr Giles said.

The minister has re-cancelled 40 visas since the scandal erupted last week.

The controversial direction 99 was issued in January last year amid lobbying from New Zealand, which was fed up with Australia deporting Kiwis back across the ditch despite them spending nearly their entire lives here.

The direction said Australia would “generally afford a higher level of tolerance” to criminal conduct by foreigners who had spent most of their lives in the country.

The new direction changes the wording from “generally afford a higher level of tolerance” to “may afford”, a shift that hardens the guidance but also still leaves the door ajar for officials and tribunals to side with the foreigner.

The use of the term “may afford” reverts to language in direction 90, which was issued under Coalition immigration minister Alex Hawke in 2021.

A key difference between direction 90 and direction 99 was the inclusion of a person’s “strength, nature and duration of ties to Australia” on the list of “primary considerations” for decision-makers.

The strength of a person’s ties to Australia have been retained on the list in direction 110.

Shadow immigration minister Dan Tehan said a future Coalition government would rescind the “flawed” direction and remove a person’s ties to Australia as a “primary consideration”.

Mr Tehan questioned if Mr Giles could be trusted, particularly after he was forced to backtrack earlier this week on claims that drones were being used to track immigration detainees.

“The Coalition will be watching Giles and the operation of ministerial direction 110 like a hawk to ensure the Australian people are kept safe,” he said.

Mr Giles refused to concede direction 99 was a mistake, insisting that previous ones issued under the former Coalition government had created similar problems.

He again accused the appeals tribunal of misinterpreting the intent of direction 99.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon was disappointed at Labor’s backflip but acknowledged Australia was a sovereign country with the right to make its own rules.

“As I said the other day, we regret the decision that Australia has made,” he said.

“It’s just not right … that people who have no connection to New Zealand are deported to New Zealand.”

Asked if Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had broken a promise to New Zealand, Mr Luxon said “a lot will depend on how it is implemented going forward”.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton pinned blame for direction 99 on Mr Albanese, accusing him to buckling to pressure from then New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

“This weak prime minister unfortunately has made decisions, along with Andrew Giles, that has made us less safe,” Mr Dutton said.

The Liberal leader doubted the new direction would lead to different outcomes.

“This new direction 110 doesn’t give much change in circumstance at all, and it will still give rise to the sort of outcomes that we’ve seen in allowing these people to stay in our community,” he said.

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