Revelations Peter Dutton used his powers to grant visas to two au pairs have raised eyebrows.The reality television show Border Security has been a ratings bonanza for more than a decade.
ns are addicted to watching passengers being nabbed at the airport for smuggling drugs in sex toys or trying to slip into the country to work illegally.
If only the Seven Network cameras had been at Brisbane’s International Airport on June 17, 2015 to capture the arrival of a foreign au pair and an unusual course of events that followed.
What we know so far is airport officials stopped the young lady at passport control and later uncovered evidence on her phone that she intended to work as an au pair while in .
Her eVisitor visa was cancelled which rendered her in detention and an “unlawful non-citizen” under migration laws.
She made a phone call to a contact – whose identity is unknown – and within a couple of hours Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton came to her rescue.
Dutton used his ministerial discretion powers under migration laws to grant her a new tourist visa (subclass 600), claiming it was in the “public interest” to do so.
A former immigration department official told AAP it was rare passengers are detained and turned around for no good reason and suspects the au pair may have been previously working illegally in and was flagged in the system.
“Border staff don’t make flippant decisions and don’t make mistakes generally,” the source said.
“The fact she could make a call and fix things up is remarkable.”
The source was aware of hundreds of cases where detained passengers had made a call and “dug a hole deeper”.
“Whoever the (au pair) called clearly had influence,” the source said.
It was extraordinary to have a decision made within a day because ministerial interventions can take weeks.
“It sounds to me like the phone call, the ministerial intervention, the reissuing of the visa happened quicker than you get a meal if you fly out of Sydney to London,” the source said.
For the past two years, has been trying to find out more about why the minister intervened in this case, by seeking access to departmental documents under freedom of information.
Dutton’s department has reluctantly released some documents but most of the information is blacked out because of privacy exemptions.
The FOI battle reached the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in early March and AAP is still awaiting an outcome.
The June au pair visa case wasn’t a one off.
Despite warnings from his department, Dutton intervened on November 1, 2015 to grant a three-month visitor visa (subclass 600) to another au pair.
“There are clear indications that [name blacked out] is intending to work in and thus, the grant of a visitor visa is of high risk,” said a heavily redacted submission to the minister obtained by AAP under FOI.
The submission also had references to Brisbane and Queensland airports.
n Border Force noted the woman had been “counselled previously with respect to work restrictions,” when suspicions about her intentions were aroused on a previous arrival on October 31, 2015.
The mystery of the au pairs visas cases was canvassed during question time in parliament on Monday, after AAP published the first story in its special investigation.
A fuming Home Affairs Minister insisted he didn’t know the individuals involved but said it would have been inappropriate for the two young women to be deported.
“I thought if they gave an undertaking they wouldn’t work I would grant the tourist visa, they would stay, which they did, they didn’t overstay, they returned back home,” Dutton told parliament.
In a Sky News TV interview later that night Dutton reiterated there was no personal link.
“They’re not employed by me, they never have been, they’re not employed by my wife, never have been. They’re not employed by my extended family, anyone that I know.”
During Tuesday’s question time, the Greens asked him to categorically rule out any personal connection or relationship with the intended employer of either of the au pairs.
“The answer is yes, Mr Speaker. I haven’t received any personal benefit. I don’t know these people. They don’t work for me,” Dutton said.
The minister’s office still refuses to answer specific questions about the identity of the au pairs’ employers and how the visa cases were brought to his attention.
How the au pair saga plays out might be as gripping as next week’s episode of Aussie Border.