Secret Dutton AFL au pair emails revealed
HOME Affairs Minister Peter Dutton defied his own department's advice in intervening to grant a visa to a French au pair staying with AFL boss Gillon McLachlan's relative.
Secret emails between the relative, senior AFL executives and Mr Dutton's office reveal Mr Dutton was warned of the "financial liability" to the Commonwealth in stopping the woman from being deported and letting her stay in Australia.
It can also be revealed the 27-year-old French national, Alexandra Deuwel, had previously been counselled by Australian authorities on not working in the country while on a tourist visa.
The emails show Mr Dutton's intervention came after Mr McLachlan received an email from his relative in South Australia, Callum MacLachlan, which he then forwarded on to the AFL's head of government relations, Jude Donnelly.
In an email to his relative Gil, Callum MacLachlan pleads the case for Ms Deuwel.
Gil then appears to forward the email to Ms Donnelly.
"There has clearly been a misunderstanding that she was intending to work for us when she is here to spend time with our family, as we consider her to be family," one email says.
"A girl of outstanding character and integrity. She also made many friends in Adelaide and will spend time with them.
"What can we do to have this injustice resolved and have her tourist visa reinstated before she flies out tonight?"
Ms Deuwel was stopped and arrested by Australian Border Force officials at Adelaide Airport on October 31, 2015, after admitting she intended to work "voluntarily" in breach of her visitor visa.
"She stated that her main goal in coming to Australia is to (do) volunteer work. Client claimed she had made an appointment with the South Australian volunteer officer to seek volunteer work," a departmental official wrote.
"Client was given an opportunity to comment on why her visa should not be cancelled. In response she stated that she was doing volunteer work only for this family and was not being paid so her visa should not be cancelled."
Ms Donnelly emailed Mr Dutton's chief of staff the next morning requesting assistance.
This sparked a series of hurried emails between the minister's office and the ABF, resulting in Mr Dutton approving a new visa as the "aircraft doors were closed" just before he jetted off for a trip to the Middle East.
Mr Dutton stopped the deportation despite the Head of Strategic Border Command, Clive Murray, advising against granting the visa.
"SBC (Strategic Border Command) will be providing detail which does not support the Minister intervening," one email from Mr Murray said.
In another email sent from one of Mr Dutton's staffers to the department, it is made clear that Ms Deuwell needed to be again warned not to work.
"The Minister has also asked that, if he intervenes to grant a visa, that the client be very strongly counselled that they cannot work, even do volunteer or in-kind work, and that their visa would be liable for cancellation should they do so."
The emails also reveal Mr Dutton had to quickly sign the documents to grant her a new visa on November 1, 2015, as he was taking off for a trip to the Middle East.
"The aircraft doors were closed behind the Minister the Duty Manager is walking back to his office and will scan all signed documents," one bureaucrat said at 9.26pm.
Mr Dutton said earlier this week he received "hundreds of representations on individual migration matters from members of the public, organisations, journalists and other members of Parliament" every year.
"There are long standing intervention powers provided to Ministers to consider and deal with these representations. These powers were the same under the former Labor Government," he said.
"I consider cases on their merits. Any suggestions cases are determined on any other basis, including whether I knew the individual who referred the matter, is completely ridiculous."
The correspondence also reveals the au pair admitted to authorities that she would be doing work for the family in return for free accommodation.
In an email to Mr Dutton's chief of staff, a ministerial staffer said Ms Deuwel had confirmed she would receive free accommodation from Mr MacLachlan's relatives for three months in return for helping with the family's children, cooking and riding their horses.
"On her last entry to Australia, the client was spoken to by ABF (Australian Border Force) and counselled regarded her work rights on a tourist visa," one email says.
"The client was counselled not to undertake any form of work on a Tourist visa, including child minding."
Labor senator Kimberley Kitching said the documents showed Mr Dutton's intervention to stop the au pair from being deported "was anything but routine or all above board".
"This whole affair is as dodgy as it gets," Senator Kitching said.
"The Australian Border Force advised against the Minister intervening, and warned his intervention could have unknown financial consequences.
"Why did Dutton act against Border Force advice? Why did he expose the Australian taxpayer to this financial risk?
"Why did he put the integrity of his department and our borders at risk at the behest of a Liberal party donor?
"Dutton must front the Australian people today and fully explain his actions. It's also time for Scott Morrison to step in and ensure his Minister comes clean."
Callum is the second cousin of Mr McLachlan, although they spell their surnames differently.