Former Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg has claimed he received a phone call in 2015 from Peter Dutton’s chief of staff asking for help for “the boss’ mate” whose au pair had been detained at Brisbane airport.
The “boss” was Mr Dutton, then immigration minister. The “mate” was Queensland police officer Russell Keag, who had worked with Mr Dutton two decades earlier. And the au pair was Italian woman Michela Marchisio, who was eventually granted a tourist visa by Mr Dutton after being detained at Brisbane airport.
Mr Quaedvlieg gave the evidence in a written submission to a Senate inquiry investigating Mr Dutton’s granting of visas to the Italian au pair, as well as a French au pair.
According to reports by the ABC and Fairfax Media, Mr Quaedvlieg wrote that Mr Dutton’s chief of staff, Craig Maclachlan, rang him in July 2015 to ask about the detention of the Italian woman, Ms Marchisio, and to get advice on how the minster could intervene to release her.
Labor’s Louise Pratt, chair of the Senate inquiry, said the submission contradicted Mr Dutton’s account of events.
“At face value that makes it clear than when the minister says that he was asked by the department to take action, that in fact the onus was the other way around,” Senator Pratt told reporters.
“This is very much a case of ministerial intervention taking place upon the request of someone outside who has sought to influence him directly.”
“This stinks,” was the reaction of Labor’s Murray Watt, who led questioning at Wednesday’s hearing.
In the submission Mr Quaedvlieg wrote that, after making inquiries, he discovered Border Force agents had clear evidence Ms Marchisio intended to work, in contravention of her tourist visa.
In response, Mr Maclachlan asked “what needed to happen for the minister to over-rule” the decision, according to Mr Quaedvlieg’s letter.
Mr Quaedvlieg said he told the chief of staff that, if Mr Dutton wanted to intervene, he should approach the Department of Immigration’s “ministerial intervention team”.
Mr Quaedvlieg was sacked from his position as Border Force commissioner in March 2018 following a personal relationship he had with a junior female worker at Border Force.
In comments widely thought to relate to Mr Quaedvlieg, Mr Dutton has accused a “disaffected” person of leaking information relating to the au pair cases.
“There’s a disaffected former senior Australian Border Force officer who leaks this information out,” he told 2GB radio on Thursday morning.
“Good luck to him if that’s what he wants to do. He’s obviously very close to the Labor Party … all of that will come out at some point.”