Former Border Force chief to face Senate grilling over Dutton au pair claims
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Former Border Force chief to face Senate grilling over Dutton au pair claims

Sacked border security chief Roman Quaedvlieg will be asked to appear before a Senate inquiry to expand on his hotly disputed claim that he was asked to help resolve an au pair visa problem on behalf of a "mate" of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

Mr Quaedvlieg on Friday doubled down on his evidence against Mr Dutton by providing a further written statement to the inquiry to address doubts cast on his original testimony.

Former home affairs minister Peter Dutton and former and Australian Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg in 2015.

Former home affairs minister Peter Dutton and former and Australian Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg in 2015.

Photo: AAP

The Australian Border Force commissioner - who was sacked in March for helping to get his girlfriend a job on the force - refused to say what additional information he had provided "other than to state unequivocally that the effective substance of my original submission stands".

Mr Quaedvlieg said in written evidence this week that Mr Dutton’s chief of staff Craig Maclachlan phoned him in mid-June 2015 asking for help in freeing from immigration detention a young woman who was going to work as an au pair for "the boss's mate in Brisbane".

But Mr Dutton excoriated this claim as "a fabrication" and "impossible" because Mr Maclachlan did not start working for him until October 7 of that year and therefore could not have made the phone call.

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Mr Quaedvlieg has since acknowledged "an anomaly … with the date of the events".

Illustration: Matt Golding

Illustration: Matt Golding

Fairfax Media understands that the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee - which is due to report by Tuesday - will ask the Senate for an extension and will hold an additional public hearing to which Mr Quaedvlieg will be invited.

The controversy centres on Mr Dutton’s use of ministerial discretion powers that allow him to overturn decisions by his department if he believes it is in the national interest.

He has acknowledged using those powers to let two women into the country after they were detained at airports on suspicion of planning to work as au pairs in breach of their visa conditions but maintained he was not motivated by any personal connection to the women or the families with whom they would be staying.

In the June 2015 case, the young Italian woman detained at the airport, Michela Marchisio, was going to stay with the family of Queensland policeman Russell Keag, with whom Mr Dutton worked in the 1990s but says he has not spoken to for about 20 years.

Mr Quaedvlieg’s claim that Mr Maclachlan described the intervention as being on behalf of "the boss's mate" appeared to contradict this.

But Mr Quaedvlieg’s position is now complicated by the fact that his original evidence stated that the case he was asked to help with was definitely Ms Marchisio’s. She arrived and was detained on June 17, 2015, making it difficult to explain how the anomaly can be resolved by a simple correction of dates.

Mr Dutton has said Mr Quaedvlieg has motivated by "bitterness" over his sacking and even suggested the former border chief may need mental health treatment.

Mr Quaedvlieg remains under investigation by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

Labor senator Murray Watt, who sits on the committee, acknowledged on ABC radio that Mr Quaedvlieg may have given false evidence but that could only be resolved by further investigation.

"I guess that’s possible but that’s the point of this Senate inquiry and we would really appreciate greater participation by both Mr Quaedvlieg and Mr Dutton in that inquiry," he said. "We have found it impossible to get answers from Mr Dutton’s department to very basic questions about the chain of events that led to these au pairs being released and many other matters."

The other au pair case involved a young French woman who was going to stay with the family of a relative of AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan’s. Mr McLachlan, who is unrelated to Craig Maclachlan, passed on a request for help to Mr Dutton, who intervened and allowed the woman to enter Australia.

David Wroe is the defence and national security correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House