Junk Explained: The Au Pair Scandal Is Heating Up And It Could Be Peter Dutton’s Downfall

What's the go with the au pairs, that polo player, and Roman Quaedvlieg?

Peter Dutton is still insulting Malcolm Turnbull, four months after losing his own leadership spill.

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Well, the au pair scandal is no longer just about Peter Dutton — and it’s no longer just about au pairs. An ongoing Senate inquiry into Dutton’s use of ministerial power to speed up visa approvals has revealed quite a few new facts about the whole drama, and it’s time for an update on what just may be Peter Dutton’s downfall.

Quick recap, in case you’re not up to date: Dutton has been facing a few tough questions lately after it came to light that while he was Minister for Immigration, he intervened in several cases to speed up visa decisions for au pairs facing deportation. Basically, in just a few of the many, many cases where a person turns up in Australia to discover their visa has been cancelled, Dutton’s department stepped in at the last minute to essentially say yeah, nah, you’re fine.

Now, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this — the Minister for Immigration has the power to intervene in visa decisions if they deem it appropriate. It’s just that in Dutton’s case, information keeps trickling out that raises questions about whether Dutton misused his ministerial powers when he intervened. That information includes things like the fact that one of the au pairs Dutton saved from deportation worked for one of Dutton’s former colleagues. In another case, it was revealed that Dutton went against the advice of his own department to save an au pair from deportation, and that he did this after AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan got in touch.

In short, it looked an awful lot like Dutton might just have been intervening in cases he had some kind of personal connection to, which would be an abuse of ministerial power. The Senate inquiry taking place this week is investigating to see whether that’s the case, and it’s turned up some interesting updates.

Roman Quaedvlieg Finally Spills The Tea

One of the most dramatic updates in the Senate inquiry came from former Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg. Quaedvlieg, you may remember, was sacked as the head of Border Force earlier this year over his own abuse of power scandal.

Today, he told the inquiry that he received a call from Peter Dutton’s chief of staff in June 2015, who asked for help for a “mate” of Dutton whose au pair had run into visa trouble.

This is genuinely explosive stuff, because Dutton has been telling Parliament he doesn’t have any personal connection to the cases where he’s intervened. Labor has maintained for a while that Dutton misled Parliament when he said that, and has been threatening to move a motion of no-confidence in Dutton when Parliament returns next week. The Greens and crossbencher Andrew Wilkie are already on board, and several other crossbenchers are reportedly considering supporting the motion, which means it’s pretty close to the numbers it needs to pass.

Quaedvlieg’s evidence may prove to be the final straw here. He’s just told a Senate inquiry, in writing, that Dutton’s chief of staff sought intervention on behalf of a friend of Peter Dutton. If that’s true, Peter Dutton may well have misled the Parliament — lied, basically — when he said he had no personal connection to the au pair cases.

Peter Dutton took to the radio this morning to strongly imply that Quaedvlieg’s testimony is somehow politically motivated. “There’s a disaffected former senior Australian Border Force officer who leaks this information out. Good luck to him if that’s what he wants to do,” he said. “He’s obviously very close to the Labor Party…all of that will come out at some point”.

Who knows whether that’s true, but one thing’s for sure — things are going to get very interesting when Parliament returns next week.

Not Just Au Pairs. Now There’s A Polo Player Too?

Another one of the big things to come out of the Senate inquiry yesterday is that this isn’t just about au pairs anymore — now there’s a polo player involved. It turns out that AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan didn’t just ask the government to intervene in an au pair’s visa case, but also got in touch in 2014 about the visa of a “friend of a friend”, an Argentinian polo player.

Specifically, McLachlan asked the AFL’s head of government relations to ask whether the polo player had received a visa to come to Australia. McLachlan’s staffer reached out to someone in the office of Tony Abbott (who was Prime Minister at the time), and soon heard back that a visa was being processed. Dutton wasn’t involved at all in this one — this all happened back when Scott Morrison (our current Prime Minister, lol) was Immigration Minister.

As for why any of this matters, the question it raises is whether members of the government have been giving special treatment to certain cases after big names like the AFL CEO intervene. In the case of the polo player, McLachlan told the inquiry he was pretty sure that the visa decision was already made before he got in touch, so there’s no suggestion that he was able to influence the process there. Still, most normal people can’t just call up a cabinet minister for an update on a visa case.

But in 2015, when McLachlan’s office wrote to Dutton’s department to see if anything could be done to prevent au pair Alexandra Deuwel’s imminent deportation, Dutton did then decide to grant Deuwel a visa, despite his department recommending against it. Meanwhile, three actual migration experts told the Senate inquiry yesterday that they’ve never received such a speedy ministerial intervention. Actually, they said they often spend weeks compiling evidence and cases for why the minister should intervene, only to receive a one-line rejection weeks or even months later.