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Nov 22, 2017

Ministerial Influence Not Necessary; Will Immigration Minister Do Something?

And finally from the Senate Special Select Committee tonight, Solicitor General Nigel Hawke addressed the issue of ministerial responsibility and alleged interference in the Department through direct instructions and recommendations to Immigration officers. The nation’s top legal eagle agreed with many previous witnesses that legally, such instructions and recommendations for services hold no sway, though he acknowledged the presence of intimidation. Ultimately, he said, it is up to the Cabinet to rein in those who are overzealous in interfacing with the department.

 

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“Related to that is the practice that we have seen in the reports and in the files, documents, papers we have seen. Instructions – before we get to instructions, recommendations, written by Ministers; references to the Director, ‘please facilitate.’ What is the legal status of such recommendations or references by Ministers?”

 

Nigel Hawke, Solicitor General

“Really, probably that is a culture that has developed; but really and truly, the recommendation of the Minister really should have no sway. In principle, it should not; because what the Director should be looking for is whether all the documents have complied with the requirements of the law. And once that is the case, even if the Minister makes a recommendation, it should not sway the process either way. Be that as it may, you may have instances where in the Public Service; some persons may be intimidated by the fact that a Minister might have written a recommendation. But in my respectful view, it ought not to loom large.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And when you have a situation when there are numerous recommendations, references, requests from ministers, what should the head of the Department do when you find Ministers sending these letters?”

 

Nigel Hawke

“I think if it comes to a situation where those recommendations, on the face of it, go beyond the pale of a recommendation, on the face of the document, I think some indication should be given to the head of department to the subject Minister who can deal with his colleague Minister at that level.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“In that regard, since you have been at the Attorney General’s chambers, are you aware of any request for advice as tot eh status of recommendations or requests from Ministers to process documents?”

 

Nigel Hawke

“As far as I am aware, no; since I’ve been there, no; but we’ve gotten requests for opinions from the current Director of Immigration and previous directors in relation to the legality of certain documents. And we have rendered our opinion in respect of those.”

 

We’ll have more from the Senate in Thursday’s newscast.

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