Controversial deportation Direction 99 not a mistake, Labor frontbencher Murray Watt

It was no mistake that Immigration Minister Andrew Giles issued a controversial ministerial directive which led to the reversal of the deportation of some non-citizen criminals, Labor leader Murray Watt has said.

The controversial order – known as Direction 99 – was issued by Mr Giles in early 2023 and required the Administrative Appeal Tribunal (AAT) to consider an individual’s community links when considering deportation appeals.

The directive has been linked to several cases where non-citizen criminals have had their visas canceled, allowing them to remain in Australia.

Speaking on Sunday, Queensland Senator Watt said the Government did not intend to relegate community safety below community bonds in the application of Direction 99, despite the AAT’s interpretation of the matter.

“Even the advice that Andrew Giles received from his department when he gave that direction was that there would be no impact on people if they were talking about serious crimes being committed,” Senator Watt told the ABC.

“Of course, that’s not how the AAT interpreted it. They interpreted it in a way that was never intended by the government and that is exactly why we are now taking action to solve the problem.”

When asked whether issuing the ministerial order was a mistake, Senator Watt rejected the claim.

“The way it was interpreted is very different to how the Government intended…Minister Giles was not even informed by his department when the AAT was making decisions that went against the spirit and intent of that directorate. “

“It would have been a mistake if the Government had said we want to put length of stay above community safety – we haven’t.

“I think unfortunately the mistake was that the AAT interpreted that direction in a way that the government never intended.”

Under constant pressure, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced on Thursday that the government would replace Directorate 99 and instead require that community protection outweigh any other considerations when deciding whether to reverse visa cancellations.

“The Australian community expects community safety to be the number one priority and that is exactly what is clear from this change in direction,” Senator Watt said.

Those whose visas have been canceled by the AAT include a New Zealand man convicted of raping his stepdaughter, a British man who assaulted women on 26 occasions and a Sudanese man who allegedly committed murder.

Senator Watt also supported Giles’ claim that authorities were using drones to monitor overseas-born criminals, even after the Australian Federal Police revealed in Senate estimates on Friday that they were unaware of such a program .

“As I understand it, drones are being used as part of this operation, but more in the sense of monitoring the housing where people live, for example, making sure they are not too close to schools or other areas that they shouldn’t live near to,” he said.

“So drones are part of the operation involved in monitoring these offenders, but more is being done in an operational sense.”

As Albanese faced calls from the Coalition to sack his Home Affairs and Immigration ministers over their handling of the portfolio, Senator Watt was asked if he would be interested in moving portfolios.

Playing down expectations of a reshuffle, Senator Watt said he was focused on his current responsibilities.

“I’m actually enjoying my current role… I’m obviously very privileged to serve in the cabinet,” he said.

“But most importantly, I really support my colleagues and what they’ve done… I think Andrew Giles and Clare O’Neil have both done incredibly well in a really difficult portfolio area.”

Read related topics:Immigration

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