Question time fires up over Immigration Minister

Eleanor Campbell and Ellen RansleyNCA NewsWire
Not Supplied
Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Anthony Albanese says he still has confidence in his Immigration Minister, despite growing furore over a string of visa bungles.

The Coalition has ramped up their calls for the Prime MInister to sack Andrew Giles, after it was revealed dozens of non-citizens with extensive criminal histories had been allowed to stay in the country.

In those cases, the government had cancelled their visas, but the independent Administrative Appeals Tribunal revoked the decision on the basis of Mr Giles’ “direction 99”, which calls on decision makers to consider an individual’s ties with the community when deciding whether or not to cancel a visa.

During question time, Mr Giles confirmed he would be updating direction 99.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.

Camera IconImmigration Minister Andrew Giles has confirmed Direction 99 will be revised. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

“The new direction will ensure that all members of the ART will adopt a commonsense approach to visa decisions, consistent with the intent of ministerial direction 99,” Mr Giles said.

“First and foremost, this means ensuring that the protection of the community outweighs other considerations.”

Under the direction, decision-makers must also take into consideration the impact of the decisions on the victims of crimes and their families, family violence.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton put the first question in Question Time on Wednesday to Mr Albanese, demanding whether or not he still had confidence in Mr Giles.

“I do,” Mr Albanese said.

“As the minister has said, he will be reviewing the recent AAT decisions.”

Camera IconPrime Minister Anthony Albanese backed his Immigration Minister during Question Time. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

It’s been revealed Mr Giles was not consulted by his department, and he has began a review into the cases.

The Coalition then turned their questions to Mr Giles, who agreed with them on the notion that “a number of recent AAT decisions have not shown common sense”.

After spruiking the fact the parliament had passed legislation to abolish the AAT and replace it with a new Administrative Review Tribunal,

China not the only source of spies in Australia, estimates told

Australia faces “a serious and sustained threat” from foreign spies, including but not exclusively from China’s intelligence services, a senate estimates hearing has been told.

The head of the Office of National Intelligence, Andrew Shearer, was asked about a claim made by a speaker at a News Corp defence conference newspaper on Tuesday about the number of spies from China potentially operating in Australia.

Mr Shearer said the question was better directed to the domestic spy agency ASIO and he couldn’t get into “classified details”.

The former Chinese spy, who goes by the name Eric, said more than 1200 Chinese spies – including 200 professionals – are in Australia collecting information, surveilling and harassing targets for the communist regime.

But Shearer told the Senate committWhere’s Charles?Australia has yet to receive an official royal portrait of King Charles III due to “copyright issues”, the secretary to the governor-general has revealed.

Paul Singer has told an estimates hearing that the country will soon receive a formal painting of the king 388 days after his coronation.

“There have been discussions with the palace in very recent times about having a photo taken for that purpose. And I expect that that will be provided imminently,” he told senators.

Mr Singer did not confirm whether the King would be visiting Australia in the coming months, citing his recent cancer diagnosis.

“Given the current climate and the realities around the king’s health, I think it would be unwise for anyone to have expectations until such time as the program is finalised,” he said.

Australia’s new Governor-General Samantha Mostyn will meet King Charles on Wednesday.
Camera IconAustralia’s new Governor-General Samantha Mostyn will meet King Charles on Wednesday. Credit: Supplied

Meanwhile, Australia’s incoming Governor-General Samanth Mostyn will meet the King in London on Wednesday.

“It is a significant opportunity for Ms Mostyn to have an audience with his majesty,” Mr Singer said.

“We know that the King is very interested and very invested in Australian issues and will be very interested to hear directly from Ms Mostyn about her own observations and her own intentions for her time in office as governor-general.”

She is due to take on the role in Canberra on July 1 and arrangements for the transition are under way.

Mr Singer said outgoing Governor-General David Hurley would have an audience with the King in July.

Greens fail on Gaza motion

Adam Bandt, the leader of the Greens, has taken to the floor to move to suspend standing orders to debate his motion that the federal government recognise the state of Palestine.

It comes amid rising political tensions over Australia’s response to the war in Gaza, which have intensified after an Israeli air strike on a makeshift refugee camp killed at least 45 civilians on Sunday night.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Bandt urged lower house MPs to support what he described as a “critical step” towards achieving peace in the conflict-ridden region.

“Palestine now because of the scale … and the genocide that we are witnessing is now topping 36,000 people, or 36,000 civilians, who have been slaughtered,” Mr Bandt said.

“A health system has been destroyed. There are mass graves in hospitals. Aid has been blocked. Children are now dying because they did not have enough to eat or drink.

“We are seeing right now a human-engineered famine that is taking a toll on a civilian population that amounts to collective punishment of these people.

“It is time for countries including Australia to step in and do something and just as other countries have made it a priority to recognise the state of Palestine.”

Camera IconMr Bandt received interjections from the crossbench during his motion. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Seconding the motion, Greens housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather accused Labor politicians of being “complicit” in genocide and accused Australia of supplying arms to Israel.

Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Tim Watts said the minor party had deliberately set up a vote to “fail”.

“The Greens party had an opportunity to select this motion for debate at an allocated time on Monday but they chose not to,” Mr Watts said.

“The Foreign Minister Penny Wong has made clear statements over the last month about the government's approach to Palestinian recognition.

“This is the same approach that the Greens are trying to exploit for votes – simplistic, wedge motions in the house that would advance nothing for the cause of peace.”

The vote received 80 noes to five ayes, with independent MP Andrew Wilkie voting with the Greens.

Thousands of Palestinians denied visas

Home Affairs department officials have confirmed less than 40 per cent of Palestinians fleeing violence in the Middle East have been granted entry to Australia per the visa class the government allocated for them.

Camera IconGreens senator David Shoebridge questioned Home Affairs officials. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

The Albanese government last year began issuing visitor visas to people escaping Gaza, allowing them to stay in Australia for up to 12 months and apply for protection once they arrive.

Officials revealed 2686 visas had been granted, and 4614 had been refused.

Only 1010 people from the occupied Palestinian Territories have arrived in Australia since October 7,

The revelation came amid questioning from Greens senator David Shoebridge, who noted it was a significant increase since statistics in March.

Officials said it was they had prioritised those with family in Australia.

Senator Shoebridge suggested visas were being denied to people seeking temporary refuge from an alleged genocide.

Labor senator Murray Watt, representing the government in estimates, said the government was obliged to do the necessary checks.

More to come

Originally published as Question time fires up over Immigration Minister

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails