Playing God: The Immigration Minister's Unrestrained Power

The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law and Liberty Victoria's Rights Advocacy Project present:

Playing God: The Immigration Minister’s Unrestrained Power

Date: 4 May 2017
Time: 6.00pm to 7.30pm
Venue: Monash University Law Chambers, 555 Lonsdale Street
RSVP: This event is now at full capacity - To join the waiting list please email

Discretionary ministerial powers in Australian migration law were originally established to prevent injustice. They were a tool to fix anomalies, a safety net for extraordinary cases, and a power to override the missteps of a blind bureaucracy.

Today, the Immigration Minister holds numerous discretionary powers that allow him to make substantial and lifelong decisions about the lives of vulnerable people. These powers lack transparency, accountability and are not amenable to review by the courts. Originally the exception, they have become the norm.

Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project (RAP) has found these powers allow a Minister to make a significant decision about a person’s life based on the Minister’s own satisfaction. The decisions are virtually unreviewable, which leaves no avenue to correct mistakes. Moreover, discretionary powers to make decisions ‘in the public interest’ have dramatically increased over the last 30 years. The courts have consistently acknowledged that what is in the public interest is a matter of political responsibility and entirely discretionary. So, the Minister can decide whether to exercise his decision-making power and he defines what is in the public interest.

This event will examine the expansion of the Immigration Minister’s already broad, discretionary powers and the erosion of the robust checks and balances that keep our government accountable.

Should we really allow the Minister to play God with people’s lives?

Guest Speakers

The panel of speakers is:

Roj Amedi – editor, writer and strategist.

Chris Berg – commentator, IPA fellow, currently postdoctoral fellow at RMIT university.

Ian MacPhee – former immigration minister under Malcolm Fraser.

Charlie Powles – senior supervising solicitor at Refugee Legal, formal Tribunal member of the Migration Review Tribunal / Refugee Review Tribunal.

Jane Lee –  Event host. Jane's work focuses on law reform, politics, access to justice and the criminal justice system.

Castan Centre logoRights Advocacy Project Logo