Immigration brouhaha rumbles on as Dutton hits out

Andrew Brown |

Minister Andrew Giles says the immigration directive will be replaced by the end of the week.
Minister Andrew Giles says the immigration directive will be replaced by the end of the week.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has accused the government of creating a “smokescreen” on visa cancellations, as New Zealand again hit out at Australia ahead of changes to a controversial ministerial direction.

As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese accused Mr Dutton of having a hand in the release of 1300 foreigners found guilty of crimes during his stint as immigration minister, the opposition leader said the attacks were a distraction.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Luxon
It makes no sense for people with no connection to be sent back to NZ, Chris Luxon says. (Ben McKay/AAP PHOTOS)

It comes as the government prepares to issue changes by Friday to direction 99, a ministerial direction that prioritised a foreigner’s ties to Australia in visa decisions.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles had been under fire after multiple tribunal decisions cited the direction as a reason to reinstate the visa of foreign nationals who had been found guilty of serious offences.

Mr Dutton repeated calls for Mr Giles to be sacked as minister.

“The government’s under mounting pressure and I think Andrew Giles is a dead man walking,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

“The government spent the last decade telling Australians how tough I was and how I was ruthless in cancelling 6300 visas, now they’re trying to tell the Australian public I have a soft touch. It just doesn’t make sense.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton
Peter Dutton has stepped up attacks on Andrew Giles, labelling him “a dead man walking”. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“All it is is a giant smokescreen from one of the most incompetent immigration ministers.”

Labor issued direction 99 in response to New Zealand government concerns that too many Kiwi citizens were being deported from Australia despite having no links to NZ.

While the direction prioritised ties to Australia, amongst other factors, the updated direction will focus more on community safety.

Following a phone call with Mr Albanese on Thursday, conservative NZ Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said his government would be watching the changes.

“I appreciate Australia’s a sovereign state, and they can make their own laws, but you know, we definitely regret that decision,” he said in a NZ radio interview.

“We’ve actually got to monitor it and see what actually does happen from here.

“It was important to register (with Mr Albanese) our frustration.”

Mr Giles said he had spoken with NZ Foreign Minister Winston Peters about the direction change on Tuesday.

“I spoke to him about the changes our government will soon be making to strengthen community safety in Australia,” he told parliament.

“I said to him that direction 99 has not been working as intended and that we will be revoking ministerial direction 99 and issuing a new revised direction to make sure that the protection of the Australian community outweighs all other considerations.”

Mr Giles had also been under fire after walking back claims drones were being used to monitor detainees freed from immigration detention after a High Court ruling.

The minister said he had been relying on information provided by the federal department that had since been clarified.

But opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said the scenario was further proof the minister was not across the issue.

“We have a serious, serious breakdown between the minister and his department,” he said.

“He now needs to front up and answer questions properly.”