P: Level 27
Rialto South Tower
525 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Independent Review of the Australian Public Service
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
PO Box 6500
Canberra ACT 2600
Independent Review of the Australian Public Service
Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers welcomes this opportunity to provide the Review Panel
with submissions regarding the Department of Home Affairs (“the Department”). 1
Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers
By way of background, Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers is a firm of immigration lawyers
and registered migration agents / immigration agents in Melbourne. We are committed to
giving our clients a voice in their dealings with institutions and have, accordingly, set out
below a non-exhaustive list of concerns about the Department’s conduct, exercise of powers
and administration of the law.
We wish to emphasise that, in the interests of brevity, this submission does not focus on the
many fine things the Department and its staff have achieved.
Unlawful searches by Border Force Officers
We are disturbed by reports of unlawful searches conducted by Border Force officers. 2 A
2017 report by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) makes reference to houses
being searched without warrants, people being detained without proper authorisation, 3 and
suggested that 29% of airport searches were unlawful. 4
We commend the Department for their timely response to the issues highlighted in the
report, particularly that it would conduct a review and ‘take necessary remedial actions.’ 5 We
urge the Department to continue to work on improving their training and processes to ensure
that officers of the Department apply their powers lawfully.
1 For ease of reference GloMo will refer to the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Immigration and
Border Protection and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Department of Immigration and
Multicultural Affairs as “the Department”
2 Ben Doherty, ‘Australian Border Force conducting unlawful searches due to poor training, says auditor’, The
Guardian, 28 February 2017 available at https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/feb/28/australian-
5 Australian Border Force, ‘Response to ANAO report on the Australian Border Forces use of statutory powers,
Newsroom, 27 February 2017, available at http://newsroom.border.gov.au/releases/response-to-anao-report-on-
ACN 618 114 266
Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers Pty Ltd
Located in : Melbourne CBD | Mt Waverley | Brighton | St Kilda Road
Administration of s501 Migration Act
In 2017 the Ombudsman raised concerns with the administration of the s501 visa
cancellation power, including ‘a backlog in identifying persons subject to visa cancellation…
and a delay in deciding the outcome of revocation requests.’ 6 The Ombudsman found that
these issues had led to prolonged detention of former prisoners while they awaited an
outcome from the Department. 7
Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers notes that the Department committed to improve its
administration of the s501 visa cancellation power. We urge the Department to continue to
refine its policies and procedures to ensure that people do not spend unnecessarily
prolonged periods of time in detention.
Removal and Detention of Australian Citizens
Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers finds the detention and deportation of Australians by
the Department particularly alarming. We draw the Panel’s attention to two cases that were
the impetus for the Palmer and Comrie reports: the deportation of Australian citizen Vivian
Alvarez Solon 8 and the detention of permanent resident Cornelia Rau.
We note the comments of former AFP Commissioner Mick Palmer regarding the “serious
culture problem” within the Department and his references to untrained and incompetent
staff given “exceptional, even extraordinary powers” as well as a disturbing focus on
detention and deportation without concern for due process and proper checks. 9
We believe the Department’s inquiry into the circumstances of the detention of Cornelia Rau
and Vivian Alvarez, and its subsequent progress reports, 10 to be steps in the right direction.
However, Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers believes this is an area that continues to be
of concern. 11 In particular, we note the findings of an independent review of the detention of
Australian citizens in 2017, 12 pointing to deficiencies in decision making, 13 record keeping,
data management, 14 and ‘the base level of knowledge’ of staff. 15 We highlight the
observation that there were ‘a number of common themes and overlaps between the
findings and recommendations’ of previous reviews. 16
6 Commonwealth Ombudsman, ‘An update from the Commonwealth Ombudsman Immigration Team’
Immigration Matters 23 November 2017 accessed at
10 Department of Home Affairs, Inquiry into the circumstances of the immigration detention of Cornelia Rau and
Vivian Alvarez, accessed at https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about/reports-publications/reviews-inquiries/inquiry-
11 Ben Doherty, ‘Australian citizens wrongfully detained because of immigration failures, report finds’, The
Guardian, 2 February 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/feb/02/australian-citizens-
12 Dr Vivienne Thom AM, Executive Reviewer, ‘Independent review for the Department of Immigration and Border
Protection into the circumstances of the detention of two Australian citizens’, Final Report CPM Reviewsˆ, 9 June
2017, page 18, accessed at
13 Ibid, page 23.
14 Ibid, page 22.
15 Ibid, page 19.
16 Ibid, page 18.
We urge the Department to continue to review its processes and procedures in order to
avoid instances of unlawful detention or deportation.
Data Breach 2014
In 2014 the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) found that the
Department failed to protect, and unlawfully disclosed, the personal information of a number
of asylum seekers who had been held in immigration detention. 17
In their investigation, the OAIC found that the breach may have been avoided if correct
processes had been followed to de-identify data. 18 The conclusion of the OAIC was that the
Department had breached the Privacy Act in failing to put ‘reasonable security safeguards’ in
place and, further, that the Department had ‘unlawfully disclosed personal information.’ 19
Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers commends the measures taken by the Department to
remedy the privacy breach. We believe the Department has reformed its data management,
and we hope this is an ongoing project.
Failure to release documents covered by Freedom of Information (FOI) laws
Delays in the fulfilment of FOI requests are a common complaint about the Department.
However, we note with particular concern reports by the Guardian newspaper of deliberate
breaches of FOI laws – namely that the Department had obstructed the release of
documents about asylum seekers detained in Nauru. 20
Citizenship application delays
Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers notes with concern reports by the Ombudsman in 2017
of delays in the processing of citizenship applications. 21 We further note the results of a
survey conducted by the Refugee Council of Australia, suggesting that 92% of citizenship
applicants with a refugee background had experienced a delay of more than six months, with
the average waiting time being 16 months. 22
We acknowledge that the Department’s capacity to deal with a high volume of applications is
limited, however we also note the Federal Court’s finding that “inactivity in the processing of
a citizenship application of more than a few months duration is unlikely to be reasonably
explained by reference to a lack of resources.” 23 We further note the same decision found
17 Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Department of Immigration and Border Protection
unlawfully disclosed personal information of asylum seekers, 12 November 2014, available at
20 Paul Farrell and Ben Doherty, ‘Immigration official says department is ‘freezing’ the release of documents
about Nauru’, The Guardian, 2 November 2016, available at https://www.theguardian.com/australia-
21 Commonwealth Ombudsman, ‘Delays in processing of applications for Australian Citizenship by conferral’,
December 2017, available at https://www.ombudsman.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0032/78980/Citizenship-
22 Refugee Council of Australia, Delays continue for refugees awaiting citizenship, available at
23 BMF16 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection  FCA 1530 (16 December 2016), available at
http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgibin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FCA/2016/1530.html also reported by SBS on 16
December 2016, available at https://www.sbs.com.au/news/rethink-citizenship-refusals-dutton-told
that the Department “took no steps to progress [the plaintiffs’] cases for some 14.5
In our view, the key role of the Department is to provide a public service, in particular
facilitating the orderly movement of people into and out of Australia. We note however a
trend in recent years towards an increasingly militaristic operational model, with a
disproportionate focus on enforcement, detention and other punitive measures.
We commend the Department for its work towards addressing operational failures. However,
the above (non-exhaustive) list of issues – if not demonstrative of a pattern of organizational
behavior – is likely indicative of a continued need for improvement.
Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers regretfully acknowledges that, in the interests of brevity,
this submission has not dwelt on the many fine things the Department and its staff have
achieved. However, we urge the Department to approach this review as an opportunity to
improve its practices and procedures, to forge a better Department and a better Australia.
We thank the Panel for its consideration, and remain at its service in relation to this review.
[sent electronically without signature]
Accredited Specialist Immigration Lawyer
& Registered Migration Agent
Global Mobility Immigration Lawyers