Minister vows to appeal tribunal’s visa decisions

Andrew Brown and Dominic Giannini |

Andrew Giles was questioned over a directive allowing foreigners who committed crimes to keep visas.
Andrew Giles was questioned over a directive allowing foreigners who committed crimes to keep visas.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has pledged to appeal several tribunal decisions that allowed for foreign nationals to keep their visas despite being found guilty of serious crimes.

Mr Giles has come under pressure over a ministerial direction that saw a foreign national’s ties to Australia taken into account during tribunal decisions on whether that person’s visa should be cancelled.

It comes after a New Zealand man, known as CHCY, was allowed to keep his visa by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal despite being found guilty of raping his stepdaughter.

Facing repeated questioning from the opposition in parliament, Mr Giles said he would look to appeal the decision of the tribunal in multiple cases where the direction had been used.

He said the government had cancelled the visas of CHCY and other foreign nationals convicted of offences, but was overruled by the tribunal.

“This was a visa that was cancelled and remained cancelled by my department in line with the ministerial direction,” he told parliament on Tuesday.

“I believe it is a decision that should still be cancelled and … I have prioritised a number of cases for urgent cancellation consideration.”

Mr Giles said the decision surrounding the visas was made independently by the tribunal.

He said the government took community safety seriously.

“The direction places a serious emphasis on family violence, these need to be considered in all matters by the tribunal,” he said.

“(The direction) did not decrease the importance placed on considerations such as the expectations of the Australian community and the protection of the community from crime.”

The ministerial direction was created in January 2023 following concerns from the New Zealand government that too many people were being deported despite having closer ties to Australia than they did to New Zealand.

Under the direction, factors needed to be taken into consideration for visa cases include the protection of the community, whether conduct constituted family violence, the ties of the person to Australia and the best interests of children.

The coalition had pledged to repeal the direction on day one of a future government, should it win the next election.

Shadow Minister for Immigration Dan Tehan.
Dan Tehan says Andrew Giles won’t front up and give answers to serious questions. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said there was no knowledge of how many tribunal cases were decided using the ministerial direction.

“We know there is about 40 instances and the list continues to grow. It could get as high as 100,” he told ABC TV.

“We don’t know how many of these cases (the minister) is looking at and he just won’t front up and give the answers to what are very serious questions.”

Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson accused the government of overseeing “a detainee crime spree”.

More than 150 people were released from immigration detention were released following a High Court ruling that their indefinite detention was illegal.

Of those, 28 have allegedly reoffended under state and territory criminal laws.

Senator Paterson criticised the government for not using emergency powers rushed through the parliament in December that allowed the minister to apply to a court to lock up those deemed to be an unacceptable risk to the community.

“How much time do they need? They’ve had more than six months now to use the emergency powers,” he told AAP.

The department has previously defended the timeframe, saying it needed to make sure applications were legally robust so they would succeed in court.

AAP