Prime Minister Scott Morrison does not believe Peter Dutton should apologise after accusing somebody of “grooming” a woman 30 years younger than him.
Mr Dutton on Tuesday used parliamentary privilege to accuse former Australian Border Force boss Roman Quaedvlieg of having “groomed” a younger woman who became his girlfriend.
Mr Quaedvlieg has demanded he withdraw the “disgusting and offensive” comment, which he said was an accusation of a criminal sexual offence.
However, the prime minister does not believe the ex-ABF boss was made out to be a pedophile.
“He has not done that. No, he has not done that. He has not done that at all,” Mr Morrison said on Wednesday.
The home affairs minister verbally attacked the 53-year-old ex-ABF boss in parliament after Labor quizzed Mr Dutton over claims he pushed for two Queensland police officers to secure jobs at the agency.
“(Mr Quaedvlieg) was, as commissioner, sacked from his position. He was a man who had groomed a girl 30 years younger than himself,” Mr Dutton told parliament.
“He is discredited and disgraced.”
Mr Quaedvlieg, who was fired from his role after helping his girlfriend get a job, responded on Twitter.
“Grooming? Are you serious? That has a legislative meaning. Is that what he meant? Parliamentary privilege, huh?” Mr Quaedvlieg tweeted.
In a statement he labelled it “extraordinary behaviour” from a cabinet minister.
The prime minister said Mr Dutton had been subjected to “spurious and false” allegations.
“What he has expressed, I think, is a great frustration at the false and repeatedly false claims that have been put forward, and I’m surprised that they continue to be reported,” Mr Morrison said.
“They’ve been proven to be completely spurious and inaccurate, and if people want to do that, that’s up to them, but he also has the right to a right of reply, which he has provided.”
The stoush between the two former Queensland police officers originally erupted over Mr Dutton’s decision to grant visas to two au pairs held in immigration detention.
Mr Dutton was also accused of lobbying Mr Quaedvlieg to secure jobs at the ABF for two other former police officers, including one who is now an adviser in his ministerial office.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus says the issue confirms the need for a national integrity commission.
“If Peter Dutton is able to get away with an act like this, what other dodgy behaviour are they hiding?” Mr Dreyfus said.
A Senate committee is investigating Mr Dutton’s decision to personally intervene to stop the deportation of an Italian nanny in 2015, after his office was contacted by a former Queensland police colleague.
He also intervened in a similar case after AFL boss Gillon McLachlan’s staff contacted his office about a French au pair.