‘Give victims a voice’: call for more say over attackers
VICTIMS of foreign-born criminals might get a much greater say over whether their attackers are kicked out of Australia.
A new regulation to ensure victims, or their families, can give evidence when offenders appeal against visa cancellations, was today recommended by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration.
It also recommended that the government direct the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to give more weight to the impact a non-citizen's violent offending has had on victims than it does to the offender's nature and duration of ties to Australia.
"Non-citizens who commit crimes such as murder, aggravated assault, rape, sexual offences involving children and weapons offences must not be allowed to remain in Australia simply because they have children in Australia, or have lived here for many years," it said.The recommendations are among several made by the committee in a report tabled in federal parliament today.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton asked the committee to inquire into and report on the review processes associated with visa cancellations made on criminal grounds.
The probe followed a series of Herald Sun reports which revealed murderers, rapists, paedophiles, armed robbers and drug dealers were among the scores of criminals the AAT had saved from deportation.
In each case the AAT had overruled decisions by ministerial delegates to cancel the visas of the convicted criminals.
Convicted criminals saved by the AAT include Irish Catholic paedophile priest Finian Egan, New Zealander killer rapist Gerald Adamson, Brazilian armed robber Pedro Fernandes and Zambian sex offender Likumbo Makasa.
In a submission to the committee, the Police Federation of Australia claimed the AAT had overturned 200 decisions relating to the deportation of violent criminals convicted of "the most heinous of crimes".
Its chief executive, Mark Burgess, gave evidence to the committee that there were many instances where the AAT had overturned a visa cancelling decision where it "would be in the national interest to have those people deported from the country".
Committee chairman Jason Wood used today's report to highlight instances of the AAT overturning visa cancelling decisions made by ministerial delegates.
"Some criminals whose visas have been cancelled, however, have not been removed from Australia," he said in the report.
"Some have been saved from deportation through appealing the Government's decision at the AAT.
"In around 20 per cent of cases, the AAT has sided with non-citizens and overturned the Department's decision.
"The AAT's role in overturning a number of criminal deportations in recent years has not gone unnoticed.
"Australians rightly look for an explanation when drug dealers, violent criminals and repeat offenders are offered a reprieve by the AAT.
"I believe the Australian community expects these non-citizens - who are guests in Australia - will be removed from Australia if they commit serious crimes.
"The AAT must take this primary consideration seriously.
"The committee heard differing opinions about the role of victims in the appeals process.
"I was not persuaded by arguments that the views of victims have already been considered by the courts, and that victims should play no role at the AAT.
"The best way to ensure decision-makers take into account the impact on victims is to give victims a voice."
The report recommends that the government introduces a new regulation to guarantee that victims of crime, or their families, are provided with an opportunity to make a written or oral statement as part of the appeals process in the AAT and that the statement should be a primary consideration in the AAT decision-making process.
It also recommended that the historic special immigration status of New Zealand citizens, and its impact on take up of citizenship in Australia, be a secondary consideration in reviewing visa cancelling decisions made by delegates for the Immigration Minister.
"We note that many New Zealand citizens affected by visa cancellations have been resident in Australia for many years and have not taken up citizenship because, under previous laws, it did not seem necessary or beneficial for a range of reasons," the report said.
"The committee believes these special circumstances applying to New Zealanders who have lived in Australia for many years should be taken into account by all decision-makers in section 501 cancellations.
"However, it should be a secondary consideration and not considered in cases where the person has ever been convicted of a serious violent crime, such as rape, murder, sexual offences involving children, aggravated assault or armed robbery.
"Long-term residents of Australia, from all countries, including New Zealand, must understand that, unless they become citizens, they are not protected from possible deportation for criminal activity, regardless of the length of time they have lived in Australia."