Judge threatens Dutton with contempt
A Federal Court judge has raised the prospect of Peter Dutton being jailed or fined if the Home Affairs Minister is found to be in contempt of court for failing to comply with the law in an immigration case.
Justice Geoffrey Flick on Wednesday ordered Mr Dutton to make a decision by June 26 on an Iranian man's longstanding application for a protection visa.
The man had sued the Home Affairs Minister and the Immigration Minister - Alan Tudge is currently acting in the position, while David Coleman is on personal leave.
In a decision on June 10, Justice Flick said he expected "a decision will shortly be made" on the application, but said there was no immediate need to make an order compelling Mr Dutton to make it.
Instead, lawyers for both ministers emailed the man's lawyers saying no decision would be made pending the outcome of an appeal based on a contention by "the minister" that Justice Flick "was in error".
In Wednesday's judgment, Justice Flick said his previous reasons expressly stated that such a course was "not open" to the ministers.
"Regrettably, by that email 'the Minister' has intentionally opted not to comply with the law," he said.
"An order is thus necessary to ensure that 'the Minister' responsible for administering the Migration Act does so in accordance with law.
"The stance of 'the Minister', expressed as it is, makes a mockery of any concept of the Minister acting as a model litigant."
Parties who failed to comply with orders made were possibly guilty of a contempt of court, thereby exposing to sanctions ranging from the imposition of a fine through to imprisonment, the judge said.
"In the absence of argument, there is no self-evident reason why even a Minister of the Crown should not comply with orders made by this Court and, if found guilty of contempt, liable to the same penalties as any other litigant.
"It is, to say the least, regrettable that those responsible for administering the Migration Act in accordance with law have deliberately decided to administer that legislation in a manner contrary to law."
Originally published as Judge threatens Dutton with contempt