Peter Dutton's attacks on his former Border Force boss over the au pair saga are getting increasingly nasty

Peter Dutton/ FacebookPeter Dutton
  • Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton accused his former Border Force commissioner of “grooming” using Parliamentary Privilege during Question Time yesterday.
  • The politician and former top cop are involved in a bitter battle of the Minister’s intervention in granting visas to European au pairs against the advice of his department.
  • ABF boss Roman Quaedvlieg was dismissed from his job earlier this year for assisting his girlfriend get a Border Force job at Sydney Airport.
  • New claims against the Minister include a request to Quaedvlieg to advise two former police colleagues on how to get jobs with Border Force.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has used parliament, where he is protected from defamation laws, to attack the credibility of his former Australian Border Force (ABF) commissioner, Roman Quaedvlieg, calling him “Labor’s Godwin Grech”.

Godwin was a former Treasury official who made false claims back against then Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in 2009 about preferential treatment with a Queensland car dealer. The subsequent scandal, known as Utegate, contributed to Malcolm Turnbull’s demise as opposition leader.

In a swingeing attack on Quaedvlieg, 53, who was dismissed as commissioner in March 2018 for misbehaviour following a 10-month investigation into his role in getting his partner a Border Force job, Dutton used Question Time on Tuesday to say the former top cop “was a man who had groomed a girl 30 years younger than himself”.

Quaedvlieg said he has written to the Speaker of the House because he “heard a minister accuse me of being sexual predator”, then “heard the prime minister on the ABC endorsing that sledging”.

“This is not what privilege is for,” he said.

Quaedvlieg’s partner was in her 20s and obtained a Border Force job at Sydney airport. The commissioner was investigated for potential corruption and dismissed for not revealing their relationship.

Yesterday, the Labor Opposition asked if Dutton, a former Queensland police officer, had asked Quaedvlieg to assist two former colleagues with advice on getting Border Force jobs.

Quaedvlieg was the head of customs, taking on the ABF commissioner role in July 2015, when the new agency was set up under Minister Dutton, and was asked to assist them with roles in the new organisation.

One of the officers in question went on to become a liaison officer between ABF and the minister Dutton’s office.

The Minister’s office says any suggestion he acted inappropriately was “ridiculous” and any appointments were merit-based. He accused Quaedvlieg of being disenchanted and bitter about his dismissal and has previously raised concerns about his mental health.

While using parliamentary privilege to protect himself from legal action, Dutton taunted Labor to repeat the claims made against him outside parliament, implying he would take legal action.

“This smear is coming from the former Australian Border Force commissioner,” Dutton told Parliament. “He is discredited and disgraced”.

He accused Quaedvlieg of briefing Labor.

“He has been proved already to be discredited. He is somebody the Labor Party should not rely on,” he said.

“It is clear to me that Roman Quaedvlieg is your Godwin Grech.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison subsequently defended Dutton’s Question Time response yesterday.

“Mr Dutton has been the subject of spurious and false allegation after spurious and false allegation,” Morrison said.

“What he has expressed, I think, is a great frustration at the repeatedly false claims put forward.”

Quaedvlieg responded to his former minister’s tirade on social media.

The increasingly bitter feud between the two men began as Dutton faces ongoing pressure over ministerial intervention to approve visas for two au pairs. The Home Affairs minister has been accused of misleading parliament over his connections to key protagonists in the cases.

One case involved a former police colleague and friend in Brisbane in June 2015. The other a relative of AFL boss Gillon McLachlan, a major Liberal party donor in Adelaide in November 2015. In both cases departmental advice that the two young women would breach their visas by working and be denied entry was overruled with Dutton using his discretionary powers.

A Senate inquiry has been investigating the matter and hostilities between Dutton and Quaedvlieg broke out after the former ABF boss gave written evidence to the inquiry that he had taken a phone call on the matter from the minister’s office in June 2015.

When Dutton’s office said that was incorrect, Quaedvlieg conceded the mistakes with dates in a second submission to the inquiry, but claimed the only “logical conclusion” was there must have been a third, unreported case between October 2015 and 2016.

The Minister isn’t backing away, saying Quaedvlieg “puts out these fictitious bits of information and salacious detail that he can’t back up”.

“I note that Mr Quaedvlieg doesn’t turn up in person to the Senate inquiry, I suspect because he doesn’t want to be cross-examined,” he told Parliament.

The Minister has also been under pressure with Parliament returning this week and the Greens and Labor seeking to move a no-confidence motion against Dutton on the basis that he misled the House over claims he had no personal connection to the employers of the au pairs.

A June 2015 email from one of the employers involved, Russell Keag, a former Queensland police colleague, began “long time between calls”.

Greens MP Adam Bandt viewed it as proof of the “personal connection”, contradicting his statement to Parliament in March, and want him to resign.

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