It has been a busy couple of weeks for Peter Dutton after the home affairs minister launched an unsuccessful bid to usurp Malcolm Turnbull as leader of the Liberal Party and prime minister of Australia. Now the member for Dickson is battling allegations that he broke the rules when he intervened to stop the deportation of a French tourist in 2015.
Dutton has been accused of abusing his ministerial discretion to grant au pair Alexandra Deuwel a visitor visa, after she had hers cancelled on arrival at Adelaide Airport by officials who deemed her in breach of her visa as she intended to work during her stay in the country.
However Dutton has now hit back, telling 2GB radio host Ray Hadley that he didn’t do anything wrong when he granted the visa to Deuwel, who was allegedly going to volunteer for pastoralist Craig MacLachlan, the second cousin of AFL boss Gillon McLachlan.
“I deal with hundreds of them a year, literally. There are delegates within my department that deal with matters,” he said on 2GB. “The most urgent or controversial matters, visa cancellations or denial of visas, they’re the sorts of matters that come to me.”
He also denied having spoken to McLachlan about the case, despite the ABC publishing a leaked email from Craig to his well-connected relative, which is believed to have then been forwarded on by McLachlan’s office to the Minister’s chief of staff, in which he allegedly asked: “What can we do to have this injustice resolved?”
Deuwel, a French national, had her visa cancelled on the spot by immigration officials in October 2015 and was then detained, having told officials that she was on her way to work ‘voluntarily’ at a farm belonging to MacLachlan and his wife Skye – having previously worked for them in 2013 and 2014, according to the ABC.
She claimed she had been told she would receive free accomodation in exchange for helping out with the family’s children, cooking meals and tending to their horses.
Dutton added: “I didn’t speak to Gill McLachlan about this. As I said, I get hundreds of these matters brought to my attention.
“I had a look at the case and I made a judgement on the merit of the case, not my knowledge of the person who had referred it. I looked at it and thought ‘it’s a bit rough, there’s no criminal history, she’s agreed that she wouldn’t work while she was here’. I thought it was an application of common sense.”
He then hit out at those who are using the claims to build a case against him, following a tumultuous two weeks in Canberra.
“I’ve got lots of enemies in the media running around at the moment trying to get square for recent events and the rest of it,” he added. “They can run all of this nonsense.
“Let them play their games. For me, there are lots of important issues to concentrate on. I am a person of integrity. I’ve never been compromised. I never will.
“People can say lots of things about me but they won’t say that I act inappropriately. I make decisions on the merits of these cases… and I stand by the decision.”
Dutton previously came under fire in a similar case in March this year, after he granted a foreign au pair a visa, after she was detained at Brisbane Airport, claiming it was in the “public interest”.