Tuesday, June 17, 2003

The old “substantial Australian link” test

With Philip Ruddock now effectively cornered in the top paddock, it’s time to get out the ute and spotlight, and start the roo shootin’.

Ruddock’s explanation for his intervention in the Bedweny Hbeiche case just manages to pass muster in today’s SMH. In an interesting contrast, today’s Age leaves Ruddock hanging under much more of a cloud.

Either way, it seems that if Philip Ruddock goes, if will be via some kind of analogue of Al Capone being done for tax evasion. Labor is playing the “you said who/what/when” game, with considerable success so far.

Which I think could be – if it works – an unfortunate triumph of procedure over substance. There really is something rotten in the whole system if “substantial Australian links” are the last stop on the migration train before Deportation Central.
I’m no expert on immigration law, but I’m pretty sure that things like having close relatives living in Australia come under the ordinary old points test; an objective test presumably designed to limit subjective discretion, and the attendant dangers that go with the exercise of wide discretion, in this high-stakes area of government, law, and people’s lives.

By the time an immigration matter gets down (“up”?) to the personal discretion of Minister Ruddock, then you’d expect a bit of zing to it, then. The inflexible application of rules can sometimes result in blatant injustices; hence the very reason for setting-up a high-level individual discretionary role. But, as for “Oh, I now see that you have three Australian sisters” (which is apparently what tipped things in Bedweny Hbeiche’s favour), pull-eaze. To put it extremely charitably, it is clutching at straws.

An even grubbier case of finding a convenient “Australian” nexus is that of Dante Tan:

[NSW Liberal MP Ross] Cameron admitted this week that he intervened on Tan's behalf with the department and argued for him to be given dispensation under a regulation that says periods overseas can be counted as part of the qualifying period if they were spent conducting business that was in Australia's national interest.

Cameron said Tan had convinced him that his business trips satisfied that criterion, although it is now known that Tan spent at least some of that time in the Philippines unsuccessfully trying to bribe his way out of the corporate fraud charges.

Here the rules, and the inbuilt exception to them, are both explicit and reasonable – Feel free to go overseas while you are a probationary business migrant to Oz, but the department is going to have to be satisfied that such time relates to your Oz business credentials; i.e. was in "Australia's national interest”.

Not only did Tan get himself close to being duly deported by not having a valid Australian address for the finalisation of his Oz visa (the department won’t accept “the high-roller room, Crown Casino” as a mailing address, for some reason), Tan somehow convinced Ross Cameron to do his “Australia's national interest” arguing for him. No doubt Tan didn’t tell Cameron that, during the period in question, his chief overseas activity was actually being a bribe-meister in the Philippines. But what exactly DID Tan tell Cameron? If it was the one about establishing a business importing tyres from China to a distribution centre in Brisbane, what proof of his bona fides did Cameron require before going into bat on Tan’s behalf?

Finally, and a bit less clear-cut – assuming that Tan did tell Cameron a story along these lines, how is simply importing goods from the world’s most notorious sweatshop in “Australia's national interest”, anyway? Or am I simply being naïve and/or old fashioned?

See also: http://paulwatson.blogspot.com/#95145008

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