A furious Peter Dutton has used parliamentary privilege to launch a personal attack on former Border Force boss Roman Quaedvlieg –sparking an angry response.
During Tuesday’s question time, Labor probed a visa Mr Dutton granted to an Italian au pair employed by a former police force colleague, and a new claim he allegedly helped secure a Border Force job for another former police colleague.
The Home Affairs Minister hit back at Mr Quaedvlieg, the alleged source of the allegations.
“This smear is coming from the former Australian Border Force commissioner, a man who was sacked from his position, a man who had groomed a girl 30 years younger than himself,” he said.
“He is discredited and disgraced.”
Mr Quaedvlieg responded within minutes on Twitter, slamming the comments as “curious, stuttering, rambling”.
“Grooming? Are you serious? That has a legislative meaning. Is that what he meant? Parliamentary privilege huh?”
He added: “While we’re on the subject of credibility … so I’m credible enough to throw in front of a pack of cameras to defuse the Operation Fortitude explosion, and to ask me to talk to [Andrew] Bolt to back in comments on PNG riots, but now that it doesn’t suit I’m supposedly not credible? Right.”
Politicians cannot be sued for defamation for what they say within Parliament.
Mr Dutton also alleged that a former executive officer to Mr Quaedvlieg was now a senior adviser to Labor leader Bill Shorten.
“It is clear to me that Roman Quaedvlieg is your Godwin Grech,” he said.
It was a reference to a public servant whose mostly false ‘utegate’ allegations against Kevin Rudd embarrassed then-opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull in 2009.
Throughout question time, Mr Dutton carried two large binder folders, one marked ‘Tony Burke’, the other marked ‘Chris Bowen’ – with the labels always pointed towards Labor. He refused a demand by Labor to table their contents.
And Mr Dutton made good on the implied threat by alleging Mr Bowen had written to his office 192 times seeking ministerial intervention in visa matters.
He added the hint of an allegation: “I don’t know whether, as is being alleged against [Mr Bowen], whether the [person in visa trouble] was a financial donor to the Labor Party.”
One of Labor’s questions was how Mr Dutton could “categorically rule out any personal connection” to the Queensland police officer, Russell Keag, who employed the Italian au pair.
Labor’s Shayne Neumann read out an email sent to Mr Dutton by Mr Keag which began: “Peter, long time between calls.”
Mr Dutton was indignant, deriding the questions as a “fake debate”, but confirmed the email was accurate.
“That is the best you could come up with?” he said.
— Henry Belot (@Henry_Belot) September 10, 2018
He also claimed that Labor’s Tony Burke, leader of opposition business, had apologised for alleging on Monday that Mr Dutton had misled Parliament over the au pair saga.
There was a brief respite from the enmity in the chamber when Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer broke into tears as she spoke about the deaths of five women and children in Perth this week, for which a male family member has been charged with murder.
“Any attempt to describe the horror of this tragedy that ended the lives of three small children, the children’s mother and their grandmother is futile. It is incomprehensible,” Ms O’Dwyer said, through tears.
“Sadly, it marks the third terrible killing, a family killing, in Western Australia this year. It is clear that family and domestic violence remains far too prevalent.”
At the start of question time, Bill Shorten again tried to get Mr Morrison to answer ‘why’ he was now the prime minister.
“Given the Prime Minister failed to answer the same question yesterday, can the Prime Minister now tell the Australian people and his colleagues why the government got rid of Malcolm Turnbull?” the Labor leader asked.
Despite running in the leadership ballot, Mr Morrison replied: “I didn’t come to the leadership seeking to change it”.
It was an apparent denial of reports he had been plotted to seize the leadership for some time, and had used Mr Dutton as a stalking horse for his own rise.
Mr Shorten persisted. “If Malcolm Turnbull was so great, as the Prime Minister claimed in question time yesterday, why is he no longer the prime minister?”
“I have stepped up,” Mr Morrison replied. “I am stepping up for all Australians.”
The Prime Minister unveiled a new slogan. Mr Shorten had been ‘bred, fed and led by the unions’. It joined Mr Morrison’s other new catchprases: ‘Fair go for those who have a go’ and ‘joined at the hip, head and heart with the unions’.
Labor’s Tanya Plibersek pushed the Prime Minister on whether “the curtain had come down on the muppet show” or whether another leadership strike was in the works.
Mr Morrison admitted he had a “big job” ahead to convince voters.
“I understand I have a big job to do as I demonstrate to Australians my authenticity, my priorities and when it comes to these issues, I’m not troubled because every day I have lived my values in this place,” he replied.
“I know one thing. They are yet to decide about me. They have made up their minds about [Bill Shorten].”
He then launched into a fiery attack on the union backgrounds of Labor’s frontbencher.
“Let’s have a show of hands. How many of them have worked as union officials?
“They are ashamed. Show me your hands! Show me! Why don’t you tell me!”