3 October 2003

Ruddock's law: his tyranny is our democracy

'Three years later, the Minister's powers have grown exponentially as those of the ordinary migration officer have diminished in inverse proportion,' said Professor Crock, senior lecturer in law at Sydney University.

'Although the Minister speaks of government 'policy' his ultimate contention is that democracy requires that as the elected representative, his should be the final word in any administrative process.'

The whole process now needed to be reversed, Professor Crock said.

'There is a pressing need to diversity the nature and range of persons capable of responding with humanity to migration applicants in situations of need,' she said.

This could be done 'without opening the floodgates and losing precious control of the migration process'.

Over the years since 1989 'a legislative vortex' had been created around our immigration system, 'funneling all meaningful power back to the Minister'.

'The process has been a gradual one that has been no less radical because of the subtlety and incremental nature of the changes made,' she said.

It had happened because 'the courts were seen to be usurping the power vested in the administration every time they ordered a decision to be re-made on grounds of denial of natural justice or other form of illegality'.

Mr Ruddock's 'ultimate contention is that democracy requires that as the elected representative, his should be the final word in any administrative process'.

His thinking was based on 'very simplistic notion of both democracy and the rule of law,' Professor Crock said.

This whole trust-the-leader thing is getting out of hand. Democracy is not about trusting the leader. Democracy is about parliamentary and judicial checks to ensure that leaders act within the law and for the public interest.

The traditional function of an attorney-general is advocacy in cabinet for the rule of law. Darryl Williams' consistent failure to do this marked him as our worst attorney ever. I expect him to lose that distinction next Tuesday.

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