The man Peter Dutton hand-picked as the first Australian Border Force (ABF) commissioner has divulged new details of the lengths the Minister’s office went to in securing a tourist visa for an Italian nanny.
- Roman Quaedvlieg was Customs boss at the time Peter Dutton intervened in an Italian au pair’s visa situation
- Mr Quaedvlieg has told a Senate inquiry that Mr Dutton’s chief of staff Craig Maclachlan called him about the case in 2015
- This claim that Mr Maclachlan called Mr Quaedvlieg “on behalf of the Minister” implies a challenge to Mr Dutton’s denial of any personal association with the case
Roman Quaedvlieg, who was ousted from the Border Force job in March, has lodged a submission to a Senate inquiry into Mr Dutton’s use of ministerial power in 2015 to grant visas to two European au pairs.
His submission was lodged with the Senate after Mr Quaedvlieg had watched former colleagues give hours of evidence to the committee’s hearing in Canberra on Wednesday.
Their testimony did not include any reference to conversations the former commissioner and chief executive of the Customs and Border Protection Service had held on the Italian nanny case.
Addressing the omission, Mr Quaedvlieg’s submission to the inquiry sets out his recollection of a phone call he received from Mr Dutton’s chief of staff, Craig Maclachlan, in June 2015.
The Minister’s office was in the early stages of preparing for what would soon become a visa intervention for Italian woman Michela Marchisio on behalf of Queensland police officer Russell Keag and his wife, Nicole.
The ABC understands Michela Marchisio was planning to work for Russell and Nicole Keag (pictured). (Supplied: Facebook)
Mr Keag was a former colleague of Mr Dutton’s when the Minister was himself worked for the Queensland Police Service, although he insists he has not spoken to Mr Keag for around “two decades”.
Despite his former position as Customs and Border Protection chief executive and incoming ABF commissioner at the time, Mr Quaedvlieg has until now not engaged in public debate over Mr Dutton’s use of visa approval powers.
He told the Senate Mr Dutton’s chief of staff phoned him in June 2015, telling Mr Quaedvlieg he was “calling on behalf of the Minister” with an inquiry over whether a female au pair had been detained at Brisbane airport.
After making inquiries, the commissioner established that Border Protection officers had detained the Italian woman with evidence she had intended to work on a tourist visa.
Border Force officials detained Michela Marchisio because they believed she planned to work as a babysitter, in breach of her tourist visa. (Supplied: Facebook)
According to Mr Quaedvlieg’s account, when the information was conveyed back to the Minister’s chief of staff Mr Maclachlan, he asked “what needed to happen for the Minister to over-rule” the decision.
It was explained to Mr Maclachlan that visa advice was not something the incoming ABF commissioner could deal with and that further inquiries should be directed through immigration department staff based in Mr Dutton’s office.
Mr Quaedvlieg’s submission as a private citizen and the claim that Mr Maclachlan had called “on behalf of the Minister” implies a challenge to Mr Dutton’s strenuous denial of any personal association or communication with Mr Keag on this case.
It also raises questions over why the incoming Border Force commissioner needed to be contacted at all by the Minister’s office when Home Affairs officials have stated publicly that matters concerning the use of ministerial intervention powers are handled by the department’s specialist Ministerial Intervention Section.
Then-immigration minister Peter Dutton (right) chose Roman Quaedvlieg to be the first Australian Border Force commissioner. (AAP: Dan Peled)
Mr Dutton has repeatedly stated that in exercising his powers of ministerial intervention he has always considered “cases on their merits” and that “there is an administrative process to be followed and it has been followed in every instance”.
In reply, the Minister has publicly suggested that former Border Force officers are the source of leaks against him on visa intervention cases.
“There’s a disaffected former senior Australian Border Force official who leaks this information out,” Mr Dutton has told Sydney radio 2GB.
“Good luck to him, if that’s what he wants to do he is obviously very close to the Labor Party.”
The Keag family has not commented on any aspect of the au pair case.