Failed Liberal leadership challenger Peter Dutton has hit back at claims he used his ministerial power improperly to overturn visa rejections for au pairs.
The home affairs minister says he’s intervened in hundreds of cases, including acting on approaches from Labor MPs, after revelations he granted European nannies visas when immigration minister.
“People are playing games and the timing of this attack off the back off the leadership issue a weeks ago is suspicious at best,” Mr Dutton told News Corp on Sunday.
Labor and the Greens have raised questions over Mr Dutton overruling the advice of immigration authorities to grant a French woman a visa after being lobbied by AFL boss Gil McLachlan.
Mr Dutton was also asked by a former Queensland police colleague to help Italian woman Michela Marchisio to despite concerns she would breach her visa.
The minister said senior Labor figures including Anthony Albanese, Chris Bowen and Tony Burke had successfully lobbied him to intervene in visa decisions.
“I deal with over 900 cases per year where MPs and members of the public ask me to intervene and overturn the decision of the Department to deny a visa,” Mr Dutton said.
He said sick children, people with disabilities and aged parents were among the cases he had intervened to overturn departmental advice.
“I have applied common sense and have acted lawfully and on the merits of each case,” Mr Dutton said.
“My opponents hate me because of my stance on border protection and this latest attack won’t deter me one inch from continuing to do my job.”
Labor frontbencher Clare O’Neil said the comparison between Mr Dutton’s attitude to people on Manus Island and Nauru and well-connected au pairs was stark.
“What it looks like is if you have Peter Dutton on speed dial or you’re a Liberal Party donor, you’ll get a different immigration outcome than the ordinary person,” Ms O’Neil told the ABC on Sunday.
She said Mr Dutton had lied to parliament by saying he had no personal connection to the case concerning the Italian woman.
The au pair visa issue will be examined by a Senate inquiry due to hear evidence from department officials next week.