VISA SCANDAL: Words come back to haunt Dutton
JUST days after his humiliating leadership defeat, Peter Dutton is in the thick of a growing scandal.
Federal Labor has launched a Senate inquiry into why the Home Affairs Minister personally intervened to allow two young European tourists to enter the country, despite being at high risk of working in breach of their tourist visas.
The decisions mark a contrast to comments Mr Dutton made just two months ago about people fleeing for their lives to Australia.
WORDS COMING BACK TO HAUNT DUTTON
In June this year, Mr Dutton warned Australia against showing compassion towards refugees, saying it could undo the government's hard-fought success in discouraging people smugglers.
"We are in a danger phase because only a month ago we stopped a steel-hulled vessel with 131 people coming out of Sri Lanka, there are 14,000 people still in Indonesia and there is excited chatter among people-smuggling syndicates about the prospect of Australia being available again," he told the Weekend Australian.
"It's essential that people realise that the hard-won success of the last few years could be undone overnight by a single act of compassion in bringing 20 people from Manus to Australia."
In stark contrast, when justifying his intervention in the case of 27-year-old au pair Alexandra Deuwel, he said he thought it was a "bit rough" for a woman with no criminal history to get kicked out of the country.
"I looked at it and thought it's a bit rough, there's no criminal history, she's agreed she wouldn't work while she was here," he told 2GB yesterday.
"As I understand it, she never overstayed the visa, hasn't committed any offences, and I thought it was an application of common sense."
Social media users were quick to link the two:
Mr Dutton's comments also contrast with the Minister's treatment of army veteran Captain Jason Scanes.
The veteran made repeated requests to meet with Mr Dutton to discuss a visa for the Afghan interpreter who worked with him in the war zone, and whose life is in danger.
His request went ignored.
EMAILS REVEAL DUTTON INTERVENED FOR FRENCH NATIONAL
Deuwel was arrested and had her visa cancelled by Border Force officers at Adelaide airport on October 31, 2015, after admitting she intended to work in breach of her tourist visa.
She admitted she'd perform babysitting duties for Adelaide-based farmer Callum MacLachlan, who is AFL boss Gill McLachlan's second cousin, in exchange for free accommodation and food.
The AFL boss then lobbied the minister's office on behalf of his relatives, urging Mr Dutton to let her stay and overturn the visa cancellation.
Callum's father Hugh is a generous donor to the Liberal Party, having made around $150,000 in donations since 1999.
Mr Dutton's office was forwarded an email - seen by news.com.au - written by Callum MacLachlan and his wife Skye.
"There has clearly been a misunderstanding that she was intending to work for us when she is here to spend time with our family, as we consider her to be family," the couple wrote.
"What can we do to have this injustice resolved and have her tourist visa reinstated before she flies out tonight?"
Mr Dutton was told there would be a "financial liability" if Deuwel was allowed to stay in the country, given her return airfares were already booked.
The minister used his discretionary powers to grant her a three-month tourist visa, on the condition she did not work, saying he used a commonsense approach.
Despite the leaked emails, Mr Dutton denied being personally lobbied by the AFL boss, telling 2GB he "didn't speak to Gill McLachlan about this".
He also blamed the media and his political opponents for the story, adding: "The Greens have set up some dodgy Senate inquiry, let them play their games."
NEW AU PAIR CASE REVEALED
It has emerged Mr Dutton used his ministerial powers to allow an Italian au pair to remain in the country.
Italian woman Michela Marchisio was detained at Brisbane International Airport in June 2015 because authorities believed she was intending to work in Australia, despite only being on a tourist visa, the ABC reported.
She was intending to work for one of Mr Dutton's old Queensland Police colleague.
But despite Border Force warnings that "the grant of a visitor visa is of high risk", Mr Dutton overruled the officials and granted a three-month tourist visa to the woman, saying it was "in the interests of Australia as a humane and generous society".
The public broadcaster understands Marchisio was planning to work for Nicole and Russell Keag, although it's not known whether they directly lobbied him, or if he was already aware of their connection to the young woman.
The inquiry was originally established to investigate Mr Dutton's interventions for two other au pairs in 2015.
This isn't the minister's first brush with perceived double standards. In March this year, he sparked controversy after considering fast-track visas for "persecuted" white South African farmers.
"I think these people deserve special attention and we're certainly applying that special attention now," he said, describing them as people who would easily "integrate into our society".
His comments were widely criticised - both in Australia and South Africa - with accusations of racism and double-standards.