A couple of columns

A nice morning with the Age yielded two good op eds which I link to here in case you’re interested.  I’m thrilled the cruel and unusual way we had of welcoming boat people has been ended by the new Minister for Immigration who, though I’ve not been watching closely, seems to say Good Things – like that he doesn’t want to have too much discretion. I know I’m a bit late to this – so you may not want to follow the link but Tracee Hutchinson writes a good op ed on it here.  And this op ed about the origins of AFL was all fascinating news to me.

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[…] changes signaled ‘the termination of an enduring nightmare’, while the other article (also recommended by Nicholas Gruen on Club Troppo) by Tracee Hutchison was titled: Overdue return of faith in our […]

John Ryan
John Ryan
15 years ago

Its always been know the the AFL could not lie straight in bed,what else is new

Ken Parish
15 years ago

“the new Minister for Immigration who, though Ive not been watching closely, seems to say Good Things – like that he doesnt want to have too much discretion.”

I agree that Rudd/Chris Evans’ announcement is heartening and probably overdue. At the time the Howard government further tightened the previous Labor government’s mandatory detention regime by implementing the Pacific Solution, I took the view that some such measures were needed, because numbers of illegal arrivals had risen from around 200 per year to several thousand in a very short pace of time and were continuing to grow. Public confidence in the integrity of the migration program was clearly under severe pressure, and the Howard government’s measures were introduced at the urging of DIMIA not just as a cynical political stunt (as were the Hawke and Keating government’s earlier draconian measures).

However, the Pacific Solution and associated measures proved not only to be morally obnoxious and cruel, but unnecessary. The immediate flood of illegal arrivals had been orchestrated by calculated co-operation between the Indonesian government and people smugglers, to punish Australia for siding with the East Timorese. Once the Indonesian relationship was repaired, the refugee flood abated.

However, it’s still worth keeping in mind that the broad shape of the current Migration Act as well as mandatory detention of all illegal arrivals were both implemented by the Hawke government. Moreover, the central feature of the 1989-90 “reforms” to the Migration Act was the reduction and in most areas complete removal of Ministerial discretion. The purpose was to reduce the scope for activist Federal Court judges to intervene and overturn Ministerial diecisions on judicial review, by defining visa categories by reference to tightly prescriptive, mechanistic criteria which an applicant either satisfied or didn’t which therefore left little scope for judges to rule that ministerial discretion had been exercised improperly because discretion mostly didn’t exist. The strategy was largely successful, and was later bolstered by the Howard government’s introduction of the concept of “non-reviewable, non-compellable” discretions in key areas not easily reducible to mechanical formulae. That concept has also been quite successful in insulating government decisions from judicial review. Thus, professing not to want “too much discretion” may or may not be a Good Thing. It depends what Evans means, and the devil will be in the detail. Nevertheless, abolishing mandatory and universal detention of illegal arrivals is in itself a promising beginning.