Help for a 'mate': Roman Quaedvlieg reveals explosive evidence in Peter Dutton au pair scandal
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Help for a 'mate': Roman Quaedvlieg reveals explosive evidence in Peter Dutton au pair scandal

The former head of the Australian Border Force has come forward with explosive new evidence in the inquiry into Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, telling the Senate of a phone call from the minister’s office to seek the release of an Italian au pair from detention.

Former Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg wrote to the Senate inquiry to reveal the phone call he received from Mr Dutton’s chief of staff in June 2015, seeking help for a "mate" of the minister who had an au pair in detention at Brisbane Airport.

While Mr Dutton told Parliament in March that he could rule out any personal connection to the family who hired the au pair, the new evidence draws attention to the friendship as a reason for the minister’s intervention.

Former Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg has intervened in the Senate inquiry into Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

Former Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg has intervened in the Senate inquiry into Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Fairfax Media revealed last week that Mr Dutton made the intervention after a request from one of his former colleagues in the Queensland Police, Russell Keag, but that the two men had not spoken for about 20 years.

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The key assertion in the new letter is that Mr Dutton’s chief of staff, Craig Maclachlan, phoned Mr Quaedvlieg to seek advice on how to arrange the intervention because a friend of the minister had an au pair who had been detained.

The Senate inquiry received the letter from Mr Quaedvlieg in the wake of a public hearing on Wednesday into the release of the Italian au pair and the separate release of a French au pair after a plea to the minister from AFL boss Gil McLachlan.

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The letter was sent to the chairwoman of the Senate inquiry, Western Australian Labor senator Louise Pratt, in an apparent attempt to counter some of the claims being made about the intervention.

The letter tells Senator Pratt that Mr Quaedvlieg had monitored the case for months and wanted to add more information after hearing the evidence put forward by government officials in Wednesday's hearing.

Mr Quaedvlieg states that Mr Maclachlan asked him to inquire into the detention of the Italian au pair at Brisbane Airport and advise on the steps needed to arrange a ministerial intervention to release the woman.

The letter outlines the steps Mr Quaedvlieg took to check on the detention, including the fact that the woman had her visa cancelled when Immigration officials had clear evidence she intended to work in breach of her tourist visa.

Mr Quaedvlieg told Mr Maclachlan that, if Mr Dutton wanted to intervene, the appropriate step was to go to the Department of Immigration’s "ministerial intervention team" to overturn the decision made by the officials at the airport.

Craig Maclachlan and Gil McLachlan are not related.

The former ABF commissioner was removed from his job in March this year after months of inquiry into whether he helped his girlfriend get a job in the organisation, a dispute that put him at odds with Mr Dutton.

Fairfax Media revealed last week that Mr Keag was known to Mr Dutton from their time together in the Queensland Police, where the minister worked during the 1990s before going into business and entering Federal Parliament in 2001.

There is no suggestion Mr Dutton stepped beyond his powers as a minister, given he has the discretion to seek advice and intervene in visa decisions, and there is no suggestion of any adverse impact on Australia from allowing the woman to enter the country.

But Mr Dutton told Parliament on March 27 there was no connection with the people who sought help for the au pairs.

Greens MP Adam Bandt asked the minister: "Can you categorically rule out any personal connection or any other relationship between you and the intended employer of either of the au pairs?"

Mr Dutton replied: "The answer is yes. I haven’t received any personal benefit. I don’t know these people. They haven’t worked for me. They haven’t worked for my wife."

David Crowe is the chief political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.