Dutton asked Quaedvlieg to help his mate get a Border Force job
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Dutton asked Quaedvlieg to help his mate get a Border Force job

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton pressed then Customs chief Roman Quaedvlieg to help two Queensland policemen get jobs in the new Border Force agency Mr Dutton was setting up – a revelation set to escalate the political furore surrounding Mr Dutton's decisions as immigration minister.

One of the two policemen, Matt Stock, is a good friend of Mr Dutton's, according to sources with knowledge of the events. The second man, John Lewis, is the son of corrupt former police commissioner Terry Lewis.

Mr Dutton raised Mr Lewis' case with Mr Quaedvlieg in 2014 after the minister said he was lobbied by a member of a prominent Queensland family, the Vastas, who have deep ties to Coalition politics. Federal Liberal National Party MP Ross Vasta is part of the dynasty, and the Lewis and Vasta families have been close for decades.

Former Australian Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg (left) and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. (Digitally altered image)

Former Australian Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg (left) and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. (Digitally altered image)

Photo: Fairfax Media

Mr Quaedvlieg confirmed on Monday that Australian Border Force records would "show I have met with both John Lewis and Matt Stock respectively, and separately, during my tenure as ABF commissioner".

"The circumstances surrounding how I came to meet them, and the contents of those discussions, are not something I intend to comment on in the media at this time, particularly as you have referenced the involvement of a government minister," he told Fairfax Media.

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However, he offered to speak to a "properly constituted mechanism of inquiry".

Mr Dutton did not deny the intervention, saying only, "any suggestion that the minister has acted inappropriately is ridiculous ... Mr Quaedvlieg is a disenchanted individual who is bitter about his termination from the role of ABF commissioner."

Mr Dutton has denied acting inappropriately.

Mr Dutton has denied acting inappropriately.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

A Senate committee is investigating Mr Dutton's ministerial interventions to save two au pairs from deportation. On Monday, Mr Dutton strongly rejected accusations he had misled Parliament, describing those claims as "completely false" and insisting he had no personal connection to the cases.

The au pair controversy has sparked a bitter dispute between Mr Quaedvlieg and Mr Dutton, with the minister last week questioning the mental health of his now former Border Force chief.

Illustration: Matt Golding

Illustration: Matt Golding

According to a source, Mr Dutton pressed Mr Quaedvlieg in late 2014 to help Mr Lewis and Mr Stock find jobs with the Australian Border Force, whose formation had been announced earlier that year. The force began operations in July 2015 with Mr Quaedvlieg as its head.

Mr Quaedvlieg, who was based in Canberra, had meetings in Brisbane with Mr Stock and Mr Lewis, where he advised the pair about how to get jobs with the agency.

According to a source, after Mr Dutton asked Mr Quaedvlieg to help Mr Lewis and Mr Stock, Mr Quaedvlieg discussed with Mr Dutton the fact that he had met both men. Mr Dutton sought updates in relation to the progress of at least one of the pair’s candidacies.

It is understood Mr Quaedvlieg advised Mr Lewis and Mr Stock on how to improve their chances of getting a job at the agency, but was not involved in the interview, short-listing or selection process.

Mr Stock and Mr Dutton moved together in Queensland policing circles.

Mr Stock applied for a job as superintendent, an executive-level position. It is understood that while his application was progressing through Border Force, and after he met Mr Quaedvlieg in Brisbane to discuss his potential application, he invited Mr Quaedvlieg to dine with him and Mr Dutton at Portia's restaurant in Canberra.

Mr Stock got the superintendent job, the equivalent of executive level 2 in the public service, and later moved into Mr Dutton’s office as the liaison officer between Border Force and the minister’s office.

He did not respond to phone calls.

In relation to Mr Lewis, the source said Mr Dutton had told Mr Quaedvlieg that the “Vasta family has been hassling me to help John get a job".

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Mr Lewis confirmed to Fairfax Media on Sunday that he had met Mr Quaedvlieg to get some advice about getting a job at Border Force.

“I don’t know how I ended up meeting him,” Mr Lewis said.

Asked if he was aware if any member of the Vasta family had lobbied Mr Dutton on his behalf, Mr Lewis said: “You would have to ask the Vastas if they spoke to anyone … everyone knows I’ve been friends with the Vastas for years.”

When pressed, Mr Lewis said he could not comment on his meeting with Mr Quaedvlieg without approval from the Queensland Police and because Mr Quaedvlieg was under ongoing investigation for helping his girlfriend get a border force job.

Mr Lewis was offered a job at Border Force but turned it down as it was outside of Brisbane.

When asked if he or a member of his family asked Mr Dutton to help John Lewis get a job, MP Ross Vasta said via a spokeswoman that he was "reserving his right not to comment".

Fairfax Media has spoken to two former agency heads about the nature of Mr Dutton’s and Mr Quaedvlieg’s handling of the matter. Both said it was highly unusual for a minister to discuss with the head of a statutory agency the identity of job aspirants, especially for middle-management roles.

The Australian Public Service code of conduct, while not applying to ministers, requires government officials to not improperly use inside information, status, power or authority to seek to gain a benefit or advantage for themselves or any other person.

A second Canberra source said Mr Quaedvlieg had expressed reservations to two of his staff about the requests from Mr Dutton.

“Roman said he had to ... meet a cop because Dutton had asked him to help,” a source said.

Fairfax Media heard of the job allegations earlier this year, but efforts to access Mr Quaedvlieg’s diary under freedom-of-information laws were declined by Border Force because it would lead to an unreasonable diversion of resources.

Fairfax Media has spoken to two other police, a federal officer and a Victorian officer, who also sought jobs at Border Force and who said advice from Mr Quaedvlieg could be perceived as offering a competitive advantage.

“If you can call on the head of the agency for job tips, that has to help,” said one of the men.

The Vastas are a prominent establishment family in Brisbane.

Ross Vasta's father, Angelo Vasta, was a Supreme Court judge who was sacked for tax misconduct in the 1980s as part of the sweep through the police force and government conducted by the Fitzgerald royal commission into corruption and nepotism. That inquiry revealed a close friendship between Vasta Sr and Terry Lewis, who was jailed for corruption.

It is understood that Terry Lewis also sought to directly lobby figures inside the Border Force to help his son, John Lewis, get a job. Mr Dutton is understood not to have known John Lewis when he pressed Mr Quaedvlieg to assist Mr Lewis.

Mr Dutton's supporters believe Mr Quaedvlieg is aiding Labor's attacks on the minister as a form of revenge for Mr Dutton supporting a decision to remove Mr Quaedvlieg as Border Force commissioner amid revelations Mr Quaedvlieg had helped his girlfriend find work at the agency.

  • An earlier version of this story said Angelo Vasta was jailed in the 1980s over tax offences. This was incorrect. Fairfax Media wishes to apologise to Mr Vasta.

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