Back in 2004, a Senate Select Committee on Ministerial Discretion in Migration Matters made the following finding:
In assessing the appropriateness of the ministerial discretion powers, the Committee is concerned that vesting a non-delegable, non-reviewable and non-compellable discretion with the immigration minister without an adequate accountability mechanism creates both the possibility and perception of corruption.
The inquiry was sparked by concerns that the previous Immigration Minister, Phillip Ruddock, appeared to be using his discretionary powers to grant visas in return for donations to the Liberal party.
The new Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, refused to release the files and department notes that may have given Ruddock’s reasons for intervening in a record number of cases causing the Committee to state that the “lack of transparency and accountability of the minister’s decision making process is a serious deficiency in need of urgent attention.”
Since that time, the Minister’s discretionary powers have increased enormously, legal rights of appeal have been curtailed, and, under this government, oversight has completely disappeared.
We now have a Minister who blatantly lies for political purposes and uses his power to stop anyone from speaking out about his lies and from bearing witness to the tragedy we are inflicting on the victims of our offshore detention program. Staff are forced to adopt a political bias in favour of government policies under threat of prosecution for any dissent.
Dutton absolves Australia from any responsibility for the safety of the people we have unjustly incarcerated, supposedly placing the duty of care with the PNG and Nauruan governments yet interceding to prevent other politicians or journalists from investigating the conditions in these hell holes. He deliberately rejected the offer from New Zealand to resettle refugees because he wants these people who sought our help to be sentenced to a lifetime exile.
There are two new pieces of legislation before the Parliament which will extend Dutton’s powers even further.
The first is the “visa ban bill”, formally the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016 – a proposed law that would prevent any adult taken to Nauru or Manus Island after 19 July 2013 from ever making a valid Australian visa application.
The second bill, currently before the Senate, is the Migration Amendment (Visa Revalidation and Other Measures) Bill 2016. This bill allows the minister to personally issue a revalidation requirement for entire specified cohorts of visa holders, immediately preventing them from being able to enter Australia until their visa is revalidated.
As the Guardian noted, “This expansion would increase his power, decrease government accountability and all but write out the courts’ review powers. They would allow the immigration minister to play God; to make significant decisions that would affect the lives of vulnerable people, and to do so unchecked.”
Numerous reports over the years have expressed concern about this rapidly growing power of one individual to make such crucial decisions which determine the course of others’ lives. When that power is placed in the hands of scheming political hacks like Dutton, abuse of power is irresistible and inevitable.
If you are going to give “non-delegable, non-reviewable and non-compellable discretion” to someone, Spud Duddy would be the last person you would choose. He has shown himself to be totally devoid of compassion, humanity, ethics and credibility. His department has been lambasted for their incompetence and his narrative of conditions and events on both Manus and Nauru totally discredited.
Dutton plays politics but he doesn’t have what it takes to play God.
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