Subjects: Administrative Appeals Tribunal; English language testing.
Minister, good morning.
Good morning Ray.
I can't believe this one. It was only given to me this morning and I don't know if you're across it or not…another ludicrous decision by the AAT – the Admin Appeals Tribunal. Let me share it with our listeners – and it was written last night by Keith Moor in The Herald Sun, News Limited Melbourne – an armed robber has been saved from deportation because a senior Admin Appeals Tribunal member said he believes that fair-minded Australians would want him to do what he did.
The Deputy President James Constance recently overturned a decision made by a delegate of the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to kick Brazilian Pedro Fernandes out of the country. He did so despite having…or saying in his written ruling that Fernandes's conduct to date involving violent offending, dishonesty, domestic violence, drug use and alcohol-related driving offences is very serious. His conduct has been made even more serious by his repeated disregard for the law and the commission of a further offence while he was on parole for robbery.
The 27 year old was jailed for four years in 2013 for that armed robbery. He and an accomplice forced a manager at the Randwick Golf Club to unlock the safe so they could steal contents. Delegates for Mr Dutton had twice decided that cancelling Fernandes 's visa was the correct thing to do – the first time in June last year, again in December – after Fernandes made representation to Mr Dutton seeking a revocation of the earlier decision.
But last week, Constance overturned the deportation decision and restored Fernandes 's visa. One of the reasons he gave was the adverse effect of deporting Fernandes would have on his former wife and their daughter, age seven. He also used his written decision to criticise the media – I think that'd be me – it is important that the views of a small, but vocal section of media commentators not influence this assessment, he wrote. I'm not satisfied that their views reflect those of the Australian community.
Well let me give this bloke, James Constance, a little tip: I would think every one of my listeners, every one of my listeners, would think that a bloke that's been in jail for violent offending, dishonesty, domestic violence, drug use, alcohol-related driving offences – let alone the robbery of the Randwick Golf Club where he and an accomplice forced a manager to open a safe and steal the contents – every fair minded Australian would want this bloke gone. What's the next step here Minister?
Ray – I'll come to that in a second if I can – I just want to say quickly about Keith Moor, the journalist that's written this up for News Limited; he's a pretty gutsy bloke. You may know Keith – he's been around a long time on the police rounds – he was the guy who went up and made an application to have the suppression order lifted around that priest that I'd made a decision about – we spoke a couple of weeks ago, where he'd been involved in some pretty heinous crimes – he went up there, Keith, to make representations and part of that suppression order ended up being lifted and I think that was a sensible decision. So I'll just give a shout out to him because I think he's doing a lot of great work in highlighting some of the absurd cases that we're seeing at the moment.
Now, in relation to this particular case, Ray, obviously the delegate made a decision based on all of the facts and that review now may come to me in the next stage. So I will have a look very closely at it.
But as you know, we have a very clear policy that if people are committing crimes, they're here as a non-citizen, they can expect to be deported and we can look at all of the facts in relation to each of the matters, but I believe very strongly that that reflects community standard. That the community actually wants us, as you say, to cancel the visas of people who are involved in crimes against Australians and I think, whether you're in…whatever stage of the process, the legal process, you need to explain your position. If we want the public to have confidence in our institutions in the 21st century, there needs to be transparency and people need to explain their actions.
Now, this particular individual on the AAT has said that he believes that this meets community standards. I'll let your listeners be the judge of that.
Okay. The one reassuring factor – and tell me if I'm wrong – no matter what the AAT do or may do in the future, does the end decision rest with the Department and the Minister?
In some cases that can be true, but it can also then go to the Federal Court and in some cases all the way to the High Court – so depending on the circumstances and the jurisdiction…
Well I would say this to Mr Constance; he's so far out of step with reality – and I don't know whether he goes to the places I go and I suspect not, to football clubs, calling football at football matches, to golf clubs, to pubs – I would think that I'm more in tune and in step with the thoughts of everyday Australians than someone on the elevated position of being a Vice President of the AAT.
That would be my sense too Ray.
Okay. Just another one which I found quite bizarre. A Federal Court judge has blasted a Commonwealth Tribunal – and this time it's the AAT she's blasting – after it concluded homosexuality is fixed at birth and cannot change over time. Branded the decision illogical, she did, and based on assumptions, preconceptions and prejudgements.
Now, the simple version – I told our listeners about it last week – a bloke came here from Lebanon. He sought respite from going back to Lebanon because he was homosexual and said he would have been vilified had he gone back. A decision was made to allow him to stay here. At some time later, a woman came from Lebanon. She came here on a student visa. She remained in the country illegally between December 2013, October 2014, and then she married the fellow who had sought respite from going back to Lebanon because he was homosexual. She wanted a temporary partner visa. According to the AAT, the woman's husband had been granted the protection visa on the base of his homosexuality because he feared persecution.
This judge, this Federal Court judge, a female Jayne Jago, decided that it's a fluid thing, homosexuality, that you're not born homosexual, that you can become homosexual, you can then become bisexual and heterosexual all in the one go. So she ordered that the matter be remitted to the AAT to be decided by another tribunal member to avoid the appearance of bias.
I mean look, call me old fashioned and I've got plenty of gay mates who have for decades that I've known them, fought to have their rights preserved as homosexual men and many of them in candid conversations with me have said Ray; I can't help my sexuality. One of them said to me one day, he said; the thought of you being with another man, do you find it abhorrent? I said I do mate. And he said well I find the thought of being with a woman abhorrent. And I said okay, fair enough, I understand that. He said that's how I've always felt.
All of a sudden a judge in a Federal Court's deciding no, you're not born a homosexual, you become homosexual and you can also become bisexual and heterosexual having reversed from homosexuality. It's a really, really, really strange decision and flies in the face of what we've been fighting for on behalf of homosexual men and women for decades.
Well Ray again, I might be decision maker in relation to that case, so I won't comment on it specifically, but I'll also, as a general comment; we've got lots of issues within the partner visa program where, to be fair, we've got lots of people, obviously, the majority who are in legitimate relationships, and there are others that have concocted stories, fabricated stories and again, we're not going to be a soft touch on this. I mean we provide support, we're a generous nation, but we aren't going to be taken for a ride and you can't have a bob each way. You need to provide the facts and we need to make sure that there's a lot of scrutiny around these matters and if people are making fraudulent claims or claims of convenience, then we do have investigators and people that look at these matters and there are a lot of visas that we cancel as a result of that investigation.
So again, we are not going to tolerate an abuse of the system, an abuse of taxpayers' funds that are involved in assessing all of these cases. People need to hear very clearly that the position of the Government from Labor's time in power has changed. We've cancelled more visas in the last 12 months than Labor did in their entire six years and we are going to continue to clamp down.
So people need to hear that message loud and clear and as I say; it's for good reason, I think it's in step with the community attitude and we'll look at lots of these cases very, very closely.
Okay. I heard a very good interview with your colleague the Minister for Citizenship Alan Tudge and my colleague Chris Smith earlier this week about tougher English language tests for migrants. Having listened to the common sense of Alan Tudge, I find it impossible to think why the Labor Party would be opposed. It was documented by many people on Chris' program about people participating – and there was one caller that really captured my attention, Muhammad, originally from Tasmania, born in Tasmania, from Syria they came, and they worked in a shop somewhere in Tasmania, and his mum would watch the AFL – she had no interest in AFL – but she watched TV, she listened to talkback and she'd work in the shop and finally mastered English.
This well spoken young man said: all of a sudden, even though she hated football so to speak, it was able to introduce her to the language, she was able to fit in while still being of Syrian birth, but play a role in society. And he said as a first generation Australian from Syria, he couldn't understand the opposition anyone had to people coming to this country – which is an English speaking country – and learning English so that it's part of the test before you get citizenship.
I'm buggered if I know Minister why the Labor Party would be opposed to it. I just can't see any reason. It's for the people coming here, it's not for us, it's for them, it opens all these doors for them.
Well of course it does Ray and I just think Bill Shorten, again, I mean he's argued for and against the English language requirement. I don't know what his position is at the moment, but it seems that they're opposing it.
Alan Tudge has done a great job in this area. It's a no-brainer. I mean it's providing support for women who in some cultures aren't treated equally – and we want those women to have an education, to see their daughters get a drivers' licence, whatever it might be – and if you're in Australia, we don't ask you to abandon your culture or your heritage, but if you're in Australia you abide by our laws. There is one law that applies equally to every Australian, regardless of your background or place of birth, and people need to understand that. They need to adhere by the law as the majority of people do. But if people want to become Australian citizens – as we discussed last year – we need to have demonstrated that people have integrated into our community, that they are working.
There are lots of reasons that this is a good law and we're going to continue to push through. We're having to negotiate with the Independent Senators at the moment, which Alan Tudge has underway, but it would be much better to have a bipartisan position from Labor on this and really it's beyond me as to why their position chops and changes.
I can't understand it. Tudge presented a really good argument and it's to benefit the people coming here, no other reason. I appreciate your time. We'll talk next week. Thanks very much.
Thank Ray. Take care mate.