Direction 110 doesn’t add up for immigration experts

Andrew Brown and Rachael Ward |

Andrew Giles wants community protection to be given greater weight in visa decisions.
Andrew Giles wants community protection to be given greater weight in visa decisions.

Legal advocates have slammed the overhaul of a controversial immigration direction following community safety concerns.

Direction 99, which prioritised a foreign national’s ties with Australia when making visa decisions, has been revoked with a new measure – direction 110 – to come into effect from June 21.

Direction 110 will give greater weight to community safety when appeals tribunals make decisions on visa cancellations.

Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles
Andrew Giles says he will monitor visa cases still to be decided under the old measure. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has been under intense pressure since the Administrative Appeals Tribunal overturned several visa decisions due to direction 99, despite foreign nationals in the cases being found guilty of serious crimes.

“The new revised direction will make crystal clear that the Australian government expects community protection to be given greater weight when it comes to visa decisions,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.

“It also elevates the impact on victims of family violence and their families into one of the existing primary considerations.”

But the changes have been criticised by the Australian Lawyers Alliance, with spokesman Greg Barns saying they stemmed from political pressure.

“This change was completely unnecessary and has been driven purely by opportunistic politics and some media campaigning,” he said.

“In many cases, the person being deported will be a parent and it will now be difficult, if not impossible, for them to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children due to the tyranny of distance. Direction 99 took a more humane approach.”

Opposition leader Peter Dutton criticised the waiting time for the direction to come into effect, saying the measure would not solve concerns over direction 99.

“This new direction 110 doesn’t give much change to 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.

“There are people who have fallen victim to these criminals, who have stayed in our country (and) who should have been deported.”,

Mr Giles said there were still 10 cases before the tribunal to considered under direction 99.

The minister said he would monitor the cases closely should the tribunal decide to reinstate cancelled visas.

“Where appropriate, I’ll consider cancellation of any visas granted back in the national interest,” he said.

But Mr Dutton said the updated direction should be able to apply to past decisions.

“It should have immediate effect. It should be retrospective, if at all possible,” he said.

“I can’t believe that it’s taken this long to make such a minor adjustment, which in the end, is still going to allow criminals to stay here.”

Signage at Villawood Detention Centre (file image)
Several appeals of visa cancellations will still be considered under direction 99. (Jeremy Piper/AAP PHOTOS)

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan also decried the changes, despite previously criticising direction 99.

“Giles has announced a new ministerial direction 110 that he claims would correct the flaws in his original direction, yet it still keeps ties to Australia as a primary consideration,” he said.

“Given ministerial direction 110 is still flawed, can Australians trust Giles to demonstrate a level of vigilance and competence when it comes to monitoring his new direction that he has never demonstrated previously as minister?”

Direction 99 was created after concern from the New Zealand government too many Kiwis were being deported, despite having no ties with the nation.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has expressed concern over the federal government’s decision to overhaul direction 99.