Former immigration minister Peter Dutton defied Australian Border Force recommendations when he personally intervened to save a French au pair from deportation.
He told 2GB Radio on Thursday he stepped in to save the nanny because he thought it was “a bit rough” that a woman with no criminal history was being kicked out of the country.
“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,” he said.
“As I understand it, she never overstayed the visa, hasn’t committed any offences, and I thought it was an application of common sense.”
However, in doing so, he overruled advice from a senior ABF officer, who warned that details provided by the young woman did not support the minister stepping in.
Mr Dutton was also told there would be a “financial liability” in allowing the woman to stay, as her return airfares were already booked.
As immigration minister in November 2015, now Home Affairs Minister Mr Dutton intervened to free Alexandra Deuwel, 27, from immigration detention after his office was lobbied by AFL boss Gil McLachlan.
Mr Dutton later released a statement on Thursday saying he made decisions “on the merit of individual cases, according to the law”.
Mr Dutton’s chief of staff was forwarded an email – since leaked to several media outlets – 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 used his discretionary powers to grant her a tourist visa, and did so despite being told the young woman had previously been counselled in May 2015 after breaching her visa conditions.
Ms Deuwel had last been in Australia on May 3 as a holder of a tourist visa, having worked for the MacLachlan family as an au pair in 2013 and 2014.
Meanwhile, Mr Dutton is facing ongoing scrutiny from the opposition over the home affairs minister’s decision to save Ms Deuwel.
The woman was planning to work for Adelaide-based farmer Callum MacLachlan, the AFL boss’ second cousin.
Callum MacLachlan’s father, Hugh MacLachlan, has donated roughly $150,000 to the Liberal Party since 1999.
Labor wants to know if the donations swayed Mr Dutton’s decision to help the au pair stay in Australia.
“I’m reading about the AFL guy, or ringing up and sorting out – sorry, but Peter Dutton and his own group are the people that know about this,” Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Perth on Wednesday.
Mr Dutton has denied any wrongdoing and says donations had no influence on his decision.
He is also facing questions about his financial interest in publicly funded childcare centres.
Section 44 of the constitution bans people from parliament who have “any direct or indirect pecuniary interest with the public service of the Commonwealth”.
Scott Morrison, who became prime minister last week after defeating Mr Dutton for the Liberal leadership, isn’t ruling out referring him to the High Court to test his eligibility.
Mr Dutton has released legal advice confirming his eligibility, while the solicitor-general found he was “not incapable” of sitting in parliament but noted “some risk” of a conflict of interest.
As of June 30, 1347 people were being held at immigration detention facilities, including 1108 in immigration detention on the mainland and 239 in immigration detention on Christmas Island, Department of Home Affairs figures state.
Of these 1347 people, 12.5 per cent were from New Zealand, 8.2 per cent were from Vietnam, 7.9 per cent were from Sri Lanka, 7.7 per cent were from Iran and 4.7 per cent were from United Kingdom.