Visa operations unlikely in NSW: Scipione

The NSW police chief says he would need a “heck of a lot of convincing” before he would sign off on any Operation Fortitude-style co-operation with the Australian Border Force.


NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Justice Minister Troy Grant appeared before a budget estimates hearing on Thursday, and were asked to rule out any joint state-federal operation to screen members of the public for their visa status.

“If I were to receive such a request I would need a heck of a lot of convincing before I’d even consider it,” Mr Scipione said.

Mr Scipione said he had not been approached by Border Force.

“It would be highly unlikely that I would agree to any such request. But you never say never,” he said.

Border Force was forced to cancel Operation Fortitude, a planned operation involving Victorian police in Melbourne, after a clumsily-worded press release sparked mass rallies on Friday.

Protesters were alarmed at the agency’s suggestion that officers would speak “with any individual we cross paths with” as part of a crackdown.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott was later forced to confirm that his government would never conduct random visa spot-checks.

Mr Grant on Thursday said as a general principle, the NSW government works “with all law enforcement agencies not only in Australia but abroad, collectively to make sure that we have the highest level of community safety possible”.

Greens MP David Shoebridge asked: “Are you seriously leaving the option open in the future for engaging in joint operations with Border Force to screen the public for their immigration status?”.

“I don’t speculate,” Mr Grant replied.

“I only ever make a decision on the evidence and information brought before me, and then I consult with the experts.”