Tony Abbott has come out swinging in support of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton after he questioned the independence of an immigration review board.
“Thank God for Peter Dutton,” the former prime minister said as he commented on the stoush from Israel on Wednesday.
Mr Dutton has assailed by the legal community after expressing frustration about some of the judgments by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal relating to his decisions on visas.
It followed reports the tribunal blocked his bid to deport six refugees who returned to Iran for a holiday despite originally gaining residency in Australia by claiming their lives would be at risk there.
Almost two-fifths of Mr Dutton’s decisions or those made by a delegate have been overturned this past year, including relating to visa cancellations.
The immigration minister suggested politics played a major role in those decisions.
The minister noted tribunal president Duncan Kerr – whose term expired on Monday – was a former federal Labor MP, adding that he expected the rejection rate would change over time as the Turnbull government made new appointments.
Mr Abbott echoed those comments, telling 2GB it was hard to see the justification for some of the tribunal’s decisions.
“Peter Dutton is doing a wonderful job – he is doing his best to keep our country safe and it seems the AAT is, more often than not, not supporting him,” he said.
“Let’s hope that over time we have people on these tribunals that reflect the decent instincts of the wider Australian community.”
Justice Kerr said it would be wrong to respond to Mr Dutton’s comments about his personal conduct but felt it important to stand up for the tribunal.
“It would be hard for anyone else to speak on their behalf and to defend what they’re doing,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“They don’t just make the law up, they apply the law (as) determined by the parliament and supervised by the court.”
The Law Council of Australia also joined the fray, rejecting the notion lawyers – even lawyers with political affiliations – would ever be less than than impartial in the exercise of their duties.
Dutton’s criticisms were “dangerous and erosive to our justice system”, said council president Fiona McLeod.