Newspapers are never at their best in campaign mode. Today’s Age leads with a story headed ‘Judge savages Andrews’. The article begins:
A FEDERAL Court judge has launched an extraordinary attack on Kevin Andrews over the involuntary removal of a man to New Zealand, claiming the Immigration Minister’s behaviour had been “truly disgraceful”.
The Immigration Department yesterday removed Timothy John Borstrok from Australia, even though he had lodged an application to appeal to the Federal Court over a decision to cancel his visa on character grounds
Only a dozen paragraphs in, long after most people have stopped reading, are we informed:
But a spokeswoman for Mr Andrews said: “While the …removal was done by the authority of the Immigration Department, the minister had no knowledge of, or involvement with the court hearing or the removal.”
What seems to have happened here is the Mr Borstrok, who had previously left Australia after his visa had been cancelled, had returned in November 2005 on a fraudulent passport. He had been found in November 2006 and detained since. This case, though, was apparently over the original visa cancellation. A federal magistrate had this week dismissed Borstrok’s application to have the visa cancellation reviewed.
Mr Borstrok – perhaps because he is a cleaner from New Zealand rather than a politically fashionable refugee – was representing himself in court, and though he had lodged an appeal to the Federal Court, he had not sought an injunction from the Magistrates Court to prevent his deportation while he appealed. So the Immigration Department sent him back to New Zealand.
Given the thousands of immigration cases Ministers can hardly be expected to monitor this level of detail in every instance. If indeed Justice Margaret Stone called the Minister’s behaviour ‘truly disgraceful’, as The Age claims, she was indulging in the kind of hyperbole best left to the likes of Julian Burnside.
While an outburst from the bench may be slightly newsworthy – though Google News suggests that no other Australia media outlet even thought this story was worth reporting, let alone as the page one lead – the prominence of this article strongly suggests that this was an attempted payback on Andrews for breaching the soft left code of silence on ethnic groups with troubles, and had nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of Borstrok’s deportation.
The Age is certainly not the only paper to do this kind of thing. But they all damage their credibility when they so obviously politicise their reporting.