‘Fixing the mess’: Giles stares down Coalition’s calls for his resignation

Eleanor Campbell and Ellen RansleyNCA NewsWire
Labor is under intense political pressure from the Coalition over a series of visa scandals. Supplied.
Camera IconLabor is under intense political pressure from the Coalition over a series of visa scandals. Supplied. Credit: NCA NewsWire

Embattled Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has stared down the Coalition’s calls for his resignation, saying he has no plans to quit the portfolio.

In an interview on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing program on Wednesday, Mr Giles argued he was instead focused on “fixing the mess” left by former home affairs minister and now Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.

Mr Giles has been under fire after it was revealed a controversial ministerial direction — known as Direction 99 — he issued in January 2023 had resulted in the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal to overturn the visa cancellations of dozens of criminal non-citizens, allowing them to remain in Australia.

Under the direction, the tribunal was tasked with considering a host of factors, including an individual’s community ties, when deciding to revoke a visa cancellations.

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Among those whose visa cancellations had been overturned were several rapists and one man who allegedly murdered another man when his visa was reinstated.

After it was revealed in senate estimates on Tuesday evening that bureaucrats at the Home Affairs Department had breached protocol in failing to inform the immigration minister of the AAT’s determinations, Mr Giles branded the finding as “unacceptable”.

“I’m deeply concerned that these cases of very serious offenders having their visas granted back to them by the AAT were not brought to my attention and the fact is that some of these cases had been decided some time ago,” he said.

“I have instructed my Department to advise me and my office within 24 hours now of any such decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.”

Camera IconImmigration Minister Andrew Giles announced Direction 99 would be revised. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia
Camera IconHe has been under pressure over a series of scandals involving detainees and visas for months. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Asked if he accepted there was a resourcing problem at his department, as characterised by departmental secretary Stephanie Foster, Mr Giles said he would further investigate those concerns.

“I will look at anything that goes to resourcing here … I will meet with [Ms Foster] shortly … and will discuss the issue.”

Refusing to apologise, Mr Giles said: “I owe the Australian community to work day and night to keep the community safe, to do everything I can do with strong laws and resources.”

“I owe my colleagues my absolute focus on continuing doing my job.”

Camera IconPrime Minister Anthony Albanese backed Mr Giles’ position during Question Time on Wednesday. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Facing mounting pressure to sack Mr Giles, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced during question time that the government would revise Direction 99.

“We have not seen the commonsense approach Australians should expect nor are we seeing the focus on community safety,” Mr Giles also told the ABC.

“We are focused on a new, revised direction that will put a high weight on community safety, but also deal specifically with additional concerns we see around victims and their families being heard, and of course around redoubling our focus on family violence prevention.”

Despite the government’s assurances the direction would be rewritten, the Coalition demanded an apology during question time, offer examples of criminal non-citizens who had their visas overturned

Coalition MPs also questioned whether Mr Albanese still had confidence in his minister, to which he responded “I do”.

Senator James Paterson
Camera IconSenator James Paterson has demanded Mr Giles be sacked. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Earlier, opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson argued that Mr Giles and the government couldn’t blame the AAT. “If it was just one rogue tribunal member, or one decision, maybe you could blame the AAT. But now we have dozens – in fact more than 30 cases that the media has uncovered – of serious violent criminals who have been allowed to stay in our country,” Senator Paterson said.“What those decisions have in common is they all point to this ministerial direction and the new primary consideration that Andrew Giles inserted into that direction – that considerable weight should be given to a person’s ties to Australia regardless of their level of offending if they have been here for a long time.“So, really, the only person who can take responsibility for this is ultimately Andrew Giles, and if he refuses to do so, then the prime minister should do so.

Coming to the defence of her junior minister, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil argued Mr Giles was not at fault, and she was deeply concerned by the decisions made by the tribunal.“It does appear that the decisions made by this independent tribunal are not meeting community expectations and not putting proper stead on the importance that we place on community safety,” she told Sunrise.“So actually Minister Giles has stepped in here. He’s taking action as a good minister would do.”

Originally published as ‘Fixing the mess’: Giles stares down Coalition’s calls for his resignation

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