’Fixing it is my job’: Minister digs in

Mr Giles’ political turmoil has intensified. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles says he will establish a “24 hour protocol” to monitor the overturning of visa decisions as Labor scrambles to revise a new ministerial directive on visa cancellations.

Engulfed in a political firestorm over detainees, Mr Giles has vowed to remain in his portfolio despite increased political pressure from the federal opposition to resign.

He said he would review up to 30 cases of non-citizens who have failed character tests after an independent tribunal reinstated the visas of convicted sex offenders, kidnappers and drug smugglers under his ministerial direction.

“I’m relentlessly focused on that job. There is so much to be done. It was a shocking mess of an immigration system that we inherited, fixing it is my job,” Mr Giles said on Thursday.

Mr Giles said he has cancelled eight cases of non-citizens who have committed serious crimes. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The rule, known as Direction 99, was signed by Mr Giles in January 2023 and replaced an earlier direction signed by former Liberal minister Alex Hawke in 2021.

The directive says Australia “will generally afford a higher level of tolerance” for non-citizens who have lived in the country for a long period of time.

Pressure on Mr Giles began after it was revealed that criminals, including a man charged with stabbing a 22-year-old and another man convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl, had their visa cancellations overturned by the AAT.

Mr Giles said he was working “day and night” to reissue a new directive that would make it easier to deport people who pose a threat to public safety.

“We going to issue a new revised ministerial direction to ensure that community protection is absolutely at the centre of this and that we strengthen some of the other aspects, [including] family violence,” Mr Giles said.

Direction 99 was issued on January 23, 2023, reportedly in response to the New Zealand government’s concerns its citizens were being deported in large numbers even when they had stronger ties to Australia than to New Zealand.

Anthony Albanese has batted down calls to fire Mr Giles. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says Anthony Albanese is to blame for Direction 99.

“I don’t want to come to Andrew Giles’ defence, but this was conjured up by the Prime Minister,” Mr Dutton told Ray Hadley on 2GB on Thursday.

“He was absolutely determined to make sure that he pleased Jacinda Ardern.

“She pressured him, as she did Scott Morrison and prime ministers before that, but they never fell for it.

“But Anthony Albanese wanted to please Jacinda and he introduced Direction 99.”

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters on Thursday urged the Albanese government not to revert to sending back Kiwis with little connection to the country.

“We accept that Australia has the right to determine what level of offending by non-citizens is unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

“But we do not want to see deportation of people with little or no connection to New Zealand, whose formative experiences were nearly all in Australia,”

Leaders are pointing fingers are it was revealed 102 convicted sex offenders were released while Peter Dutton served as immigration minister. Picture: NewsWire/Martin Ollman

Shadow attorney-general Michaelia Cash took up the fight in the Senate during budget estimates on Thursday.

The secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department Katherine Jones said the department had not been involved in Direction 99.

Senator Cash asked when Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus first became aware of the contentious rule.

The minister representing the Attorney-General, Anthony Chisholm, pushed back on Senator Cash’s question.

Shadow attorney-general Michaelia Cash at senate estimates on Thursday. Picture : Supplied
Shadow attorney-general Michaelia Cash at senate estimates on Thursday. Picture : Supplied

“I’ve already taken it on notice Senator Cash. But I’d also point out – are you going to accept responsibility for every decision the AAT made while you were attorney-general?” he responded.

Earlier this week, Home Affairs officials revealed the department had breached protocol by not informing Mr Giles of the potential consequences of his directive.

But opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said it was “ultimately” up to the minister to deal with the fallout.

“I cannot understand how they [Home Affairs] were not able to keep ministers up to date in a timely way about these cases. It’s not actually still clear whether or not they did so – there’s contradictory explanations here,” he said.

Dan Tehan, the opposition spokesman for immigration, accused Mr Giles of being “asleep at the wheel” following reports from The Australian he was briefed in 2022 that up to 2800 visa cases would be impacted by directive 99.

“The revelations today are completely and utterly damning,” Mr Tehan said.

Mr Giles claimed the brief related to a backlog of visas cases, rather than a forewarning about the potential release of serious criminals.