Scott Morrison Defends Dutton Against Au Pair Visa Allegations
"I couldn't tell you all the people I worked with 20 years ago."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his Home Affairs minister over the au pair mess on Wednesday's The Project.
In a heated exchange with Hamish McDonald, Morrison refuted claims Dutton had a personal relationship with any of the people employing the au pairs' tourist visas he had intervened with.
In particular, revelations by The Guardian last week Dutton intervened in the case of an Italian au pair who was being hosted by a former colleague in the Queensland Police Force in 2015.
Dutton had previously denied in parliament having any personal connection to the case.
"He had no connection, he worked with the 20 years ago," Morrison said.
"20 years ago. I couldn't tell you all the people I worked with 20 years ago."
Morrison defended the "connection", claiming just because the Dutton and his former colleague did not have relationship 20 years after working together, and just because they had been colleagues at one point did not mean Dutton felt an obligation to intervene.
"The actual application was made under his wife's name and it wasn't the same name," he said.
"You're dealing with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these things all the time. You're going to pick one name out and you're going to remember it and it's not the same name. Give me a break."
It was has been a day of high drama in the world of au pair visas, with the revelation that yet another case of Dutton intervening could have occurred.
The day's drama with the former head of the Australian Border Force, Roman Quaedvlieg, revealed he had answered a phone call from the Home Affairs office to release the Italian au pair held in detention at Brisbane Airport.
Quaedvlieg has given evidence to a Senate committee alleging Dutton's chief of staff Craig Maclachlan called him asking for help in June 2015.
"He told me that the minister's friend, who he referred to as 'the boss' mate in Brisbane', had encountered a problem with his prospective au pair who had been detained," Quaedvlieg wrote in a letter to a Senate committee on Wednesday night.
In a lengthy statement, Dutton denied he the allegations, and claimed Maclachlan did not even work at his office until October 2015.
"The assertions and allegations in Quaedvlieg's letter are entirely false and indeed fabricated," Dutton said in the statement.
"I did not instruct any member of my staff to call Quaedvlieg in relation to this matter. Nor did any member of my staff speak to Quaedvlieg about it."
Dutton made extraordinary claims regarding Quaedvlieg's mental health, and said he was "bitter" about the loss of his job and the subsquent ongoing investigations Quaedvlieg is under.
"I can only assume that the pressure and personal toll of these investigations have resulted in Mr Quaedvlieg making an enormous error in judgement by submitting false evidence," Dutton said.
In a tit-for-tat day of replies, Quaedvlieg stood by his statement to the Senate, and inferred there was another 'Brisbane case' that occurred.
"I stand very firmly by the description of the events as I have recollected and outlined in my submission," he told ten daily in a statement.
"I will attempt to correlate them to the date of the ‘Brisbane Case’ or alternatively to another Brisbane case which occurred at a later date and which may not yet be in the public domain."
The parliamentary inquiry continues.