WTF 20 May 2008: Brady needs to inquire into Immigration Bill

Minister of Immigration Clayton Cosgrove – Auditor-General Kevin Brady will soon be snuffling through his department
No indication yet as to how any of the various inquiries into the Immigration Service will relate to the Immigration Bill, a cornerstone items on the Government’s legislative agenda this year. In its current form, this Bill plans to confer sweeping new powers of search, detention and use of classified information to the same tier of Immigration Service bureaucrats now under investigation.

Surely, Parliament can hardly be thinking of bestowing fresh powers on the department before it knows the outcome of these various inquiries into how the department may have mishandled the powers that it already has.

The inquiry by Auditor-General Kevin Brady announced yesterday is the fourth simultaneous inquiry launched into the Service, or parts thereof. Brady’s wide ranging effort will run parallel to the Police inquiry into recently resigned CEO Mary-Anne Thompson and her possibly fraudulent educational qualifications, and to the State Services inquiry into how the Department of Labour originally dealt with a case involving residence permits that were granted to Thompson’s relatives. Lastly, there is the review of the Service’s Pacific branch that has been ordered by the Department of Labour. Since its creation in 2004, the Pacific branch has seen 19 of its staff accused of misconduct. Nine staff have been sacked or resigned, and three cases have been referred to the Police.

Hardly a golden moment then, to be seriously thinking of extending the powers wielded by Immigration Service bureaucrats. Yesterday, Clark confessed to feeling she and her Cabinet had been “constantly blindsided by events and developments” within the Immigration Service, and said that Cabinet’s confidence in the department had been “somewhat shattered. “

If the Government won’t pull the Immigration Bill entirely, it should at least ensure the Brady inquiry is not merely a retrospective exercise. Brady now needs to reconsider whether the Immigration Service really needs the wider powers envisaged under the Bill, and look at the potential these new provisions will contain for the arbitrary exercise of power, lack of transparency and further nasty surprises in future.

WTF – John McCain and the US Supreme Court

Great piece here by Jeremy Toobin in the New Yorker, setting out the risk that a McCain presidency would pose to a Supreme Court in which at least three of the current ‘liberal’ wing – Ruth Bader Ginzburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens – are likely to resign ( or die ) during the next administration. Stevens for instance, has just celebrated his 88th birthday.

Given the Court already contains a solid and vastly influential bloc of conservative justices – John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – the prospects for the Court look pretty dire if McCain wins in November. Especially given the occasion for Toobin’s article is a May 5 speech by McCain that dog-whistles to the extreme end of the conservative spectrum.

As Democratic Strategist points out, these looming changes on the Supreme Court bench threaten to overturn such landmarks such as the 1972 Roe vs Wade decision, the lynchpin of abortion rights in the US. This prospect should give pause to the legions of disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters now threatening to stay home in November, and not vote for Barack Obama.