Politics

A Judge Called Our Immigration Minister A ‘Criminal’, And The Government Doesn’t Seem To Care

"I wonder what a bloke would actually have to do to be sacked from Morrison’s cabinet?"

The Australian government has a long track history of detaining asylum seekers for as long as inhumanly possible.

Too often the Federal Court has had to intervene to make sure the government isn’t breaching the human rights of vulnerable people under the guise of keeping Australia “safe”, but this week one judge absolutely went in on the government — saying the Acting Immigration Minister’s behaviour was “criminal” when he decided to keep a man locked in immigration detention even though a court ordered he be granted a visa.

Alan Tudge kept the Afghan asylum seeker locked up for five days after he was granted a temporary protection visa, and Justice Geoffrey Flick accused Tudge of placing himself above the law simply because he didn’t like the court’s decision.

“The Minister has acted unlawfully. His actions have unlawfully deprived a person of his liberty,” the judgement said.

“In the absence of explanation, the Minister has engaged in conduct which can only be described as criminal. He has intentionally and without lawful authority been responsible for depriving a person of his liberty.

“The duty Judge in the present proceeding was quite correct to describe the Minister’s conduct as “disgraceful”.”

He also said by failing to comply with them, the minister could be open to civil and criminal sanctions, including contempt of court.

You’d think a judge calling a senior cabinet member a criminal would raise some eyebrows within the government, but so far he’s been publicly supported by his colleagues even as the Opposition calls for him to be sacked.

Now people are wondering what exactly a minister would need to do to be disciplined around here, if being called a criminal by the highest court in the land doesn’t do it.

Yesterday afternoon Attorney-General Christian Porter said it wasn’t the first time the government had been faced criticism over visa approvals — which doesn’t sound like the defence he probably thought it did.

“It’s not the first time that in the robust environment of the law surrounding visa approvals, that there’s been strong words said about what is in effect government undertaking its duties through the minister as a matter of policy,” he said.

“We take a very strong view as a government on these matters.

“Obviously, some robust statements were made with respect to the court, but the Minister clearly rejects those conclusions.”

The 34-year-old asylum seeker (referred to as PDWL) applied for a safe haven enterprise visa in 2016 because he feared his work in the Afghan army put him in danger from the Taliban. Three years later, a home affairs official refused to grant the visa because PDWL had gotten into a drunken fight with a friend over a mobile phone.

In March this year a tribunal reversed that decision because PDWL posed no risk to the Australian community — but despite his visa being granted, he was not released.

The minister failed to explain why he did not comply with the court’s decision, and it wasn’t until a court order five days later that PDWL was released.