Immigration minister walks back drones monitoring claim

Andrew Brown |

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles remains under fire over a contentious ministerial direction.
Immigration Minister Andrew Giles remains under fire over a contentious ministerial direction.

Embattled Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has changed claims drones were used to monitor detainees released from detention after a High Court ruling.

After saying in a media interview drones were used to keep watch over released detainees, Mr Giles admitted the technology was not adopted for the purpose.

“I relied on information provided by my department at the time, which has since been clarified,” he said in a statement on Monday.

“As part of the work monitoring and supporting community safety, Operation AEGIS draws on information from a range of sources using different technologies including aerial open-source and other imagery through their work with state and territory law enforcement bodies.”

Liberal MP Dan Tehan
Opposition Immigration spokesman Dan Tehan criticised Andrew Giles’ handling of the matter. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

More than 150 immigration detainees were released following a High Court ruling in November that found indefinite detention was unlawful.

Those released from detention had been subjected to electronic monitoring and strict curfews.

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said the minister was not being forthcoming with information following the drone revelation.

“I do not think Andrew Giles is fully fronting up and answering the questions he needs to answer,”  he told ABC TV on Monday.

“We need to know that because … over the weekend, he was telling the Australian people that what he had said (on the use of drones) was true, that it was accurate.”

The revelation comes as the under-pressure minister said a revised ministerial direction for a controversial directive, which allowed for foreign nationals convicted of serious crimes to keep their visas, would come into effect within days.

An update to the contentious direction 99 will be in place by the end of the week, after an outcry over the appeals tribunal using it to reinstate visas of foreign nationals found guilty of serious crimes.

The direction, which prioritised a person’s ties to Australia, was put in place following concerns from New Zealand that people were being deported across the Tasman who had no connection with the country.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles
Andrew Giles says keeping the community safe is the government’s priority. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

Mr Giles said the new direction would place a greater emphasis on community safety.

“It is clear that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal’s decision to reinstate these visas did not meet community expectations, and ministerial direction 99 has not been working as the government intended,” he said.

“The government is on track to overhaul this regime and put in place a new direction before the end of the week.”

The minister said 30 visas had been cancelled in the past week for foreign nationals with serious criminal histories due to the national interest.

“Community safety is our number one priority and we will always act in the interest of Australians,” Mr Giles said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told parliament the government would continue to prioritise safety.

“We continue to refuse and cancel visas on character grounds. We continue to deport people who have no right to be here,” he said.