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Australia’s new ‘Home Office’ is a worry for immigration policy

Adele Garnier writes in The Conversation (20.7.17) about the new 'Home Affairs' mega-portfolio headed by Minister Peter Dutton, suggesting that the 'creeping invisibility' of the immigration portfolio comes as the government is overseeing major changes to immigration policy.

'When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the establishment of a Home Affairs portfolio this week, he described it as “similar to the Home Office of the United Kingdom”. Drawing inspiration from this British model is worrisome for the immigration portfolio.

'Planning immigration has never been a core task of Britain’s Home Office. As political scientist Randall Hansen has described, the UK in the 20th century has long managed immigration using its nationality legislation.

Migration management was set to become a priority under the Blair government. Decades after Australia did so, it introduced a points-based system for skilled migrants. In practice, the Home Office did not anticipate the large inflow of citizens from new members of the European Union in the 2000s. This fuelled public concerns that eventually played a crucial role in Brexit.

'… Prospective immigrants to Australia may justifiably fear the changes will cause confusion about division of responsibilities, or a further delay in processing times. Turnbull has promised the reform will involve strong oversight mechanisms. He noted that such mechanisms were essential to respect the rights and liberties of “all Australians”.

'As [already] noted, Turnbull did not make any specific reference to the rights and liberties of non-citizens living in Australia. One can thus worry to what extent Australia’s “Home Office” will better protect them.'

Here's what Peter Dutton's Home Affairs super-department looks like

The ABC's Laura Tingle reports (29.5.18) on the enlarged structure and political significance of the Home Affairs department under Minister Peter Dutton.

'When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the creation of the massive new Home Affairs portfolio in July last year, he called it "the most significant reform of Australia's national intelligence and domestic security arrangements — and their oversight — in more than forty years".

'The announcement of the new portfolio — destined to have Coalition hard man Peter Dutton as its first minister — was greeted with lots of debate about whether the new agency would more closely replicate the United States' Homeland Security Department or the British Home Office.

'And there was lots of focus on what the changes meant for Mr Dutton's influence within the Government. But there was not so much on what the department would do.'

 

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