Minister throws office under the bus following handling of visa cancellation debacle

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has directed the Administrative Appeals Tribunal – which hears appeals from people whose visas have been canceled – to review a foreign national’s links to Australia .

Ministerial Instruction 99 was created in January 2023 following concerns from the New Zealand government that too many people were being deported despite closer ties with Australia than New Zealand.

A New Zealand man, known as CHCY, has been allowed to keep his visa by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal despite being convicted of raping his stepdaughter.

“We are really deeply concerned about some of these decisions,” Ms O’Neil told Seven’s Sunrise program on Wednesday.

“It appears that the decisions made by this independent tribunal do not meet the community’s expectations and do not sufficiently highlight the importance we place on community safety.

These comments were echoed by Labor MP Murray Watt during a parliamentary hearing.

The government was informed that this directive was unlikely to result in “people committing serious offenses being able to have their visas cancelled”.

“That’s what happened,” he said.

“I don’t think these decisions by the AAT are in line with the government’s intent…and frankly, I don’t think these decisions by the AAT are in line with community expectations either.”

But his comments drew a rebuke from Liberal senator Paul Scarr, who accused the minister of denigrating law officers.

“The minister is a lawyer, he understands the problem of launching a blanket insult against the independent members, some of whom are judicial members, of the AAT,” he said.

“It is your leadership that is the problem, Minister, not the members of the AAT.”

Mr Watt accused the Liberals of holding themselves to a different standard, pointing to similar comments Opposition Leader Peter Dutton made about court decisions when he was minister.

It comes after Home Affairs Secretary Stephanie Foster admitted her department failed to advise Immigration Minister Andrew Giles on the tribunal’s decisions.

“The department failed him (Mr Giles),” she said.

The cases were prioritized to be brought to the minister’s attention to deal with a backlog he did not have the resources to deal with, Ms Foster said.

“If we had had enough resources to deal with this quickly, we would have achieved the objective of the proposed method of working,” she said, referring to the fact that the minister was informed of all relevant cases.

Under this guidance, factors to be considered in visa cases include protection of the community, whether the conduct constitutes domestic violence, the person’s links to Australia and best interests children.