Peter Dutton narrowly avoids no confidence motion over au pair saga
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Peter Dutton narrowly avoids no confidence motion over au pair saga

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has narrowly avoided a no confidence motion that accused him of misleading Parliament over his interventions to save two au pairs from deportation.

A Greens and Labor push to declare that the House of Representatives had no confidence in Mr Dutton was rejected 68 votes to 67, reflecting the government's razor-thin control of the lower house.

The vote follows the conclusion of a Labor and Greens-dominated Senate inquiry into Mr Dutton's visa interventions, with senators finding the Home Affairs Minister misled Parliament by denying any personal connections to the cases.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton during the Labor and Greens push to introduce a no confidence motion.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton during the Labor and Greens push to introduce a no confidence motion.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

But Coalition senators on the committee rejected accusations of inappropriate conduct, pointing to the minister's discretionary powers to intervene in immigration matters and overturn his department's decisions.

Greens MP Adam Bandt, who sought to suspend standing orders in the House and introduce the no confidence motion, said it had become "crystal clear" that Mr Dutton did not tell the truth.

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"I asked him a simple question: did he know someone? Did he have a personal connection with some? He stood up in this chamber with full knowledge of who I was referring to and he said 'no'."

In March, Mr Bandt asked Mr Dutton if he could "categorically rule out any personal connection or any other relationship between you and the intended employer of either of the au pairs". Mr Dutton said the answer was "yes" and added that he didn't know the people involved.

It later emerged that a former colleague of Mr Dutton's in the Queensland Police Service, Russell Keag, was behind one of the appeals, seeking assistance with an Italian woman who had come to Brisbane to stay with the family.

Mr Bandt's motion to suspend standing orders was supported by all crossbenchers except Bob Katter.

Even if that motion had passed, Mr Bandt would have required an absolute majority – 76 MPs – to pass the subsequent no confidence motion.

But the vote appears to have exposed ongoing tensions within the Coalition, with claims Liberal MP Julia Banks was overheard complaining about having to protect Mr Dutton.

Ms Banks – who is leaving Parliament at the next election after accusing colleagues of bullying during the Liberal leadership crisis – did not respond when asked to confirm she told fellow MPs that supporting Mr Dutton was not something she wanted to be doing.

Mr Dutton has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, saying he had not spoken to Mr Keag since before he left the large Queensland Police Service in 1999. He questioned how that amounted to a personal connection and said he could not remember who the person was when the matter was first brought to his attention.

"I thought the big news today would be if the Labor and Greens-dominated Senate inquiry found that I was a good guy instead. Predictably, they say that I'm bad and misled Parliament and all this garbage," he told radio station 2GB on Thursday.

He also said the committee's "star witness", former Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg, "went down in flames" and dismissed the inquiry as a political stunt.

Mr Quaedvlieg emerged as a key figure in the saga when he said he had been asked by Mr Dutton's chief of staff to help a "mate" of the minister. He was subsequently forced to amend his evidence because the details were incompatible.

The former official then suggested there must be a third au pair cause, a claim called into question by the Department of Home Affairs, which found no evidence of another matter.