The Power of Discretion

Following his failed leadership challenge Peter Dutton faces allegations that he misused his ministerial powers to grant visas to people in immigration detention. Similar allegations occur almost everywhere that an individual is given authority to overturn decisions made by underlings or processes. Presidents issue pardons, Governors grant reprieves to those on Death Row, tax inspectors negotiate settlements and magistrates give reduced sentences. In our age of equality should we allow this use of discretion by individuals who may be prone to bias or easily corrupted?

Imagine that you appeal against a fine. Do you want that considered by a person who looks at all the facts or marked against a checklist of known acceptable excuses? Someone wrote the list and once it gets in the public domain everyone will stop paying fines. Is the risk of people abusing a known process greater than the chances of them paying an official?

Since 2014 Peter Dutton granted 25 tourist visas to people in detention.  If you took this power away that’s 25 cases that might have eventually found their way to an Adminstrative Appeals Tribunal. There a decision would be made by an officer, based on the facts. Exactly what Dutton claimed to do. Difference is that the officer has qualifications and experience. So who do we really want making decisions? Ministers or Public Servants? Your answer may depend on who you know.

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