Politics

Au Pair Update: Turns Out Dutton Also Saved An Au Pair Planning To Work For A Former Colleague

“I apply the law equally."

Peter Dutton has injured his bicep.

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Well, this au pair drama just keeps escalating. Here’s the latest: it turns out that one of the au pairs Peter Dutton saved from deportation in 2015 was actually planning to work for one of Dutton’s old police force colleagues.

We already knew that in June 2015, Dutton stepped in and used his ministerial discretion to grant a visa to a young Italian woman who had just arrived at Brisbane airport to find her tourist visa cancelled. The visa was cancelled in the first place because the woman told Border Force officials she intended to do some au pair work, which isn’t allowed on that visa. Normally, a person who arrives to find their visa cancelled would be deported ASAP, but in this case the woman made a phone call, and shortly afterwards Dutton stepped in.

Last night, The Guardian revealed Dutton’s link to the case: one member of the family the woman was intending to do au pair work for was a former colleague of Peter Dutton. They worked together in the Queensland police force in 1997.

The news comes a day after revelations that also in 2015, Dutton actually went against the advice of his own department to intervene in a different au pair’s case, and that he did this after AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan got in touch.

Dutton has insisted that his interventions in both cases were “a common sense approach”. On 2GB radio this morning, he said that in the case of his former police colleague, “I wouldn’t have spoken to that individual for 20 years, and  I didn’t speak to him in relation to this matter. He raised it with my office.”

“I apply the law equally,” he said.

It’s not actually all that clear that he does, though. The fact that Dutton appears to have intervened selectively in cases where people he knew got in touch is a bit worrying, and a Senate inquiry is investigating allegations that the decisions constituted the inappropriate exercise of ministerial powers. That inquiry is due to report pretty soon, on September 11.

Meanwhile, people on both sides of the debate are continuing to weigh in. On Today this morning, Christopher Pyne described the whole thing as a “storm in a teacup”, saying Dutton followed ministerial processes. Labor’s Anthony Albanese, meanwhile, pointed out that irrespective of whether Dutton was technically in the right, “people will just contrast his actions here with his lack of compassion he’s shown at various times about kids, for example, in detention.”