Taxpayers likely slugged for au pair’s flight
TAXPAYERS were likely forced to fork out for a cancelled flight for a French au pair after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton used his ministerial powers to stop her being deported.
New evidence has emerged in the so-called au pairs scandal that Mr Dutton has been embroiled in for the past month today after the Department of Home Affairs released 169 pages of documents relating to the Minister's decision to intervene in the visa case of two au pairs.
But Mr Dutton has denied the reports, telling journalists in Canberra today there was "no cost to the Commonwealth" from Ms Duewel being removed from the flight.
Emails included in the massive document dump today show the Minister's chief-of-staff was told there would be "financial implications" for cancelling French au pair Alexandra Duewel's deportation before Mr Dutton used his ministerial intervention power in November 2015 to stop her being deported.
A Department of Immigration and Border Protection liaison told Mr Dutton's chief-of-staff Craig Maclachlan at 6.54pm on Sunday November 1 that the Department warned the Minister "to be aware" of the financial hit that would result from "his decision making process".
"The Dept will be financially liable for costs as formal notice has been served on Emirates of the need to remove," the email says.
Other emails tabled today reveal Mr Dutton, who was boarding a flight to the Middle East at the time, "missed" signing the document to approve his ministerial intervention in Ms Duewel's case on the night she was due to be deported.
The decision had to be backdated, according to an email from Wednesday November 4 which states: "I'll get the Minister to sign to reflect his decision on Sunday night".
Another email shows the Australian Border Force made it clear it did not "think it appropriate that the Minister intervene" in Ms Duewel's case.
Mr Dutton's office was told, other emails reveal, that Ms Duewel had informed Immigration officers that she intended to work as an au pair and that she had agreed to do work at a polo event in Adelaide.
It was revealed last month that AFL chief Gillon McLachlan had lobbied Mr Dutton's office on behalf of his second cousin Callum MacLachlan for the Minister to intervene in Ms Duewel's case.
The au pair had worked for Mr MacLachlan's family as a nanny previously and told Immigration officers that she intended to do so again.
Documents released today said text messages on her phone between Ms Duewel and her employer showed she was invited to stay with the family to do "au pair type work".
"During the formal interview, you have stated that in return for helping with the children, cooking, and riding their horses, you will receive free accomodation for three months," the official documents for Ms Duewel's case said.
Another document shows that Mr Dutton asked that "if he intervenes to grant a visa" for Ms Duewel to be "very strongly counselled" that she "cannot work, even do volunteer or in-kind work" or her tourist visa would be cancelled.
He had been told she had received "formal" counselling from border officers previously that she could not work on a tourist visa.
ITALIAN AU PAIR INTENDED TO WORK
Text messages transcribed in other departmental documents released today show Italian au pair Michela Marchisio was intending to work in Australia.
Ms Marchisio, the other au pair Mr Dutton prevented from being deported, was offered babysitting work for a "bit of cash to fund fun" by someone in Australia who's name is redacted in the documents.
She accepted, saying "extra money for fun is always welcome".
Another message found on her phone confirmed she told another contact she was going to work as an au pair in Australia.
It was revealed last month Ms Marchisio was intending to work for an old Queensland Police colleague of Mr Dutton's, Russell Keag, who emailed the Minister's official Facebook page when she was detained at Brisbane airport on June 17, 2015 to say it had been a "long time between calls" but he needed help.
Other emails released in today's document dump also show Mr Dutton's office demanded the Department give "urgent" consideration to granting Ms Marchisio a visa - preferably within an hour - when she was detained at the airport.
The minister's office asked at 6.30pm for the department to prepare a ministerial intervention briefing for the woman, who was due to be deported that night after officers found out that she planned to work while on a tourist visa.
"This is urgent. The minister requires this submission tonight (preferably in the next hour as he has an appointment at 7.30pm)," the email from Mr Dutton's departmental liaison officer said.
The intervention briefing was prepared and Ms Marchisio was given a visa and released from detention that night.
Other documents released today show the Department recommended Mr Dutton's office contact her host family to advise them of the outcome so they could pick her up from the airport.
NO-CONFIDENCE MOTION EXPECTEDD SOON
The document dump comes today hours before a Senate inquiry into Mr Dutton's use of his ministerial intervention powers in the au pairs cases is due to report.
Mr Dutton is also likely to face a no-confidence motion tonight or tomorrow over whether he misled the Parliament about whether he knew the employers of the two au pairs.
The Senate inquiry has heard evidence from AFL chief Gillon McLachlan, Home Affairs boss Michael Pezzullo and from former Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg since being launched last month in the week of the leadership spill to oust Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr Dutton denies that he misled Parliament over having a personal connection to the two au pairs' employers, despite the employer of one au pair being a former colleague at the Queensland Police Service, Russell Keag.
The Minister told Parliament last week Mr Keag was only an old colleague and their relationship could not be described as close.
A message to Mr Dutton's official Facebook page from Mr Keag requesting his help to stop Italian student Michela Marchisio from being deported began "Peter, long time between calls," documents tabled in Parliament last week revealed.
Mr Dutton's intervention in the case on June 17, 2015 was the first time he used his ministerial intervention powers.
Mr Quaedvlieg told the inquiry he was told the request about Ms Marchisio's case, granted by the minister within hours, came from "the boss's mate in Brisbane".
Mr Dutton has rejected Mr Quaedvlieg's evidence, questioning the dates he gave.
In November 2015, the minister also intervened to allow the entry into Australia of French au pair Alexandra Duewel after an appeal was made on her behalf by AFL boss Gillon McLachlan to the minister's office.
Mr McLachlan told the inquiry in an explosive hearing earlier this month that he had passed on the request to Mr Dutton's office for his second cousin, Callum MacLachlan, who Ms Duewel was due to stay with.
The visa was granted just nine hours after the request was made.
Mr Dutton said he made the "common sense" decision based on the merits of the case not his knowledge of the person who requested it.
The Australian Greens could use the report as the basis for a no-confidence motion in the minister tomorrow.
Labor is expected to back the motion but it's unlikely to succeed unless a Coalition MP crosses the floor.
The motion will also not result in any direct repercussions for Mr Dutton.
"Peter Dutton has misled Parliament over the au pair scandal and I am looking forward to the release of the inquiry's report," Greens MP Adam Bandt said today.
"His refusal to appear before the inquiry to answer these charges just strengthens the case against him. If he won't resign, the Parliament should take matters into its own hands."
Mr Dutton dubbed the inquiry a "witch hunt" by Labor and the Greens today.
"I suspect, and again, without preempting or spoiling your surprise, I suspect they're going to say I'm a bad person. The evidence won't back that up but that will be the claim made by Labor and the Greens," he said.
He added that the inquiry's "star witness" Mr Quaedvlieg had been "discredited" over his claims there was a third au pair case.
Mr Dutton also said it did not deviate from normal practice for his office to contact Mr Keag, rather than the Department in Ms Marchisio's case.