Inquiry finds Peter Dutton ‘misled parliament’
PETER Dutton misled parliament over the au pairs visa intervention saga, a Senate Inquiry has concluded.
The embattled Home Affairs Minister insisted on multiple occasions, including in the House of Representatives, that he had no personal connection to anyone involved in two cases where he used special powers to overrule visa decisions.
But the Inquiry, dominated by Labor, found Mr Dutton did have a relationship with the employer of an Italian nanny who was detained by immigration authorities in 2015.
It examined two decision to intervene in visa issues of two European nannies when he held the immigration portfolio, including one employed by a former Queensland police colleague. "Minister Dutton had a clear personal connection and an existing relationship with the intended employer of the au pair in the Brisbane case," Labor senator and committee chair Louise Pratt told parliament today.
"It is the view of the committee that the minister misled the parliament in this matter."
Mr Dutton's interventions have been the subject of intense media and political scrutiny for weeks, and a distraction for Scott Morrison's new government.
The report called for statements on ministerial interventions in immigration cases to be made public to determine if they were made in accordance with the ministerial guidelines.
The committee also said the Senate should consider censuring Mr Dutton for failing to observe fairness in making official decisions as required by ministerial standards.
Emails obtained by the inquiry found the request from Mr Dutton's former colleague was considered an "urgent" one and he wanted it resolved within the hour.
His office asked the department to quickly prepare a ministerial intervention briefing for the woman, who was to be deported that night after officers found she planned to work while on a tourist visa.
The email was sent from Mr Dutton's departmental liaison officer to the immigration department at 6:30pm on June 17, 2015.
"This is urgent. The minister requires this submission tonight (preferably in the next hour as he has an appointment at 7.30pm)," the email said.
The briefing was prepared and the woman was given a visa and released from detention that night.
The emails also show a conversation between Italian au pair Michela Marchisio and someone in Australia offering to help her find babysitting work for a "bit of cash to fund fun".
Ms Marchisio was to be employed by Mr Dutton's former Queensland Police colleague Russell Keag, who emailed his office to say it had been a "long time between calls" and that he needed help.
Mr Dutton said he had not spoken to Mr Keag in 20 years before he was approached for help with the visa.
The emails also show the department expressly disagreed with Mr Dutton's push to give a visa to another au pair detained in Adelaide in November 2015.
Mr Dutton pushed ahead with it anyway and his ministerial decision had to be backdated after he missed signing it in time.
Labor's Immigration and Border Protection Spokesman Shayne Neumann said the report was damning and called on Mr Morrison to "stand his minister down".
"Peter Dutton has perpetually failed to answer simple questions about why he overturned the decisions of his Border Force officers to grant tourist visas to au pairs at airports," Mr Neumann said.
"If Scott Morrison believed in upholding the integrity of Australia's immigration system - and had any integrity himself - he would show some leadership and stand his Minister down."
Liberal senator and committee member Jim Molan said the evidence had disclosed no instances of the minister acting improperly.
"Not only were they unable to locate a smoking gun, they learned that there was absolutely no gun at all," he said.
Earlier, Mr Dutton said the Labor-Greens dominated inquiry was politically motivated and predicted it would find him to be a "bad person." "It will be a political report with political recommendations," he told reporters.