Sunday 21st of July 2024

dead man walking ...

dead man walking ...

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing his first acid test: is it okay for his ministers to lie in parliament? That’s the inescapable question arising from today’s revelations from the Senate inquiry examining former immigration minister Peter Dutton’s ministerial interventions on behalf of two European au pairs.

Former Australian Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg has made a submission to the inquiry, a letter that may be released as soon as this afternoon, claiming that Dutton’s chief of staff contacted him to ask about the possibility of an intervention on behalf of a “mate” of Dutton, former police colleague Russell Keag.

In March, when the story of Dutton’s intervention broke, Dutton told parliament that he could categorically rule out any personal connection or other relationship with the intended employers of the au pairs.

Today shadow immigration minister Shayne Neumann reminded the prime minister that misleading parliament is a “sackable offence” and this case is as clear-cut as they come. There is no way around it for Morrison: if he wants to abide by the Westminster convention on ministerial responsibility, he must sack the man who only two weeks ago was his leadership rival.

It is common to observe nowadays that the standards of ministerial accountability are not what they used to be. But the relevant wording of the statement on ministerial standards has not changed at all – what has changed is the willingness of prime ministers to enforce it. Section 4.4 states that “Ministers are required to provide an honest and comprehensive account of their exercise of public office … in response to any reasonable and bona fide enquiry by a member of the Parliament or a Parliamentary Committee”. Section 5.1 states that “Ministers are expected to be honest in the conduct of public office and take all reasonable steps to ensure that they do not mislead the public or the Parliament.

It is a Minister’s personal responsibility to ensure that any error or misconception in relation to such a matter is corrected or clarified, as soon as practicable”. Under 7.2, ministers are required to stand aside if the prime minister regards their conduct as constituting a prima facie breach of the standards.

Perhaps Dutton, who faces a motion of no confidence next week, can escape with a correction or clarification. Perhaps the government will simply ignore the uproar: former workplace minister Michaelia Cash kept her job despite misleading parliament five times, as I have moaned previously.

Today, before the Quaedvlieg revelations emerged, Dutton tried to shoot the messenger, telling his friendliest radio station, 2GB, that there was an unnamed “disaffected former senior Australian Border Force official who leaks this information out … good luck to him, if that’s what he wants to do, he is obviously very close to the Labor Party.”

Whether that will suffice for the parliament will be tested on the floor of the House of Representatives next week, when every single vote will count, bearing in mind the government no longer has a majority to speak of.

But Dutton’s problems don’t end there. Fairfax Media revealed last night that Dutton’s “mate” Keag has been questioned over his role in the au pair scandal by the Ethical Standards Command – which found no evidence of misconduct – and the matter referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission, which has yet to report.

Perhaps most pressing of all, shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus has renewed calls for Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament to be referred to the High Court. Dreyfus’ calls follow the AFR’s revelation [$] last night of a letter showing that a child-care centre – in which Dutton’s family trust has an interest – had a funding agreement with the Commonwealth to enable the hiring of a special needs teacher. At a press conference this morning, Dreyfus was adamant: “This further document that has come to light makes it clear that there is an agreement between Mr Dutton’s child-care centres and the Commonwealth, and that’s why there is, we think it’s clear, a breach of section 44 of the Constitution.”

How many hits can the Coalition take over this one unpopular minister? Australia sure dodged a bullet when Dutton’s leadership attempt failed.

poor defence by dutton...

Peter Dutton has rejected Roman Quaedvlieg’s intervention in the au pair saga, saying that claims his office sought help for a “mate” are false and fabricated while questioning the former Border Force commissioner’s mental health.

Quaedvlieg stood by his account, accusing Dutton of “casting aspersions over my actions, motivation, integrity, reputation and mental health” while promising to reconcile the different accounts in a Senate inquiry rather than debate the facts publicly.

The dispute relates to a letter Quaedvlieg wrote to the inquiry into the home affairs minister’s handling of two cases involving European au pairs facing deportation. It claimed that Dutton’s chief of staff, Craig Maclachlan, contacted him in mid-June 2015 to ask for help for “the boss’s mate in Brisbane” whose au pair had been detained.


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not the blind man of the blind trust...

When Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet discussed changes to the way child-care subsidies were to be paid, Peter Dutton declared an interest: the family trust run by his wife, which has investments in child-care centres.

However, despite acknowledging his family’s interest, The Saturday Paper has confirmed that Dutton did not absent himself from the room during deliberations on several occasions. Some of his ministerial colleagues believe he should have.

Dutton does not deny being present for such cabinet discussions. In response to questions from The Saturday Paper, a spokesman said: “The minister has always declared any conflict of interest in accordance with cabinet rules and absented himself whenever necessary.”

The revelation comes as Dutton battles a series of leaks about his ministerial discretion in issuing visas at the request of former associates.


Police are investigating the leaks, which have also formed the basis of a Senate inquiry this week into whether the minister exercised his ministerial powers inappropriately.

Dutton strenuously denies any ministerial wrongdoing, including any misuse of discretionary intervention powers in immigration, and says he is the subject of a smear campaign led by disgruntled former Border Protection staff.

But at the same time, he faces more questions over his family’s investments, both in relation to a potential conflict of interest and whether such an investment might rule him ineligible to serve in parliament.

According to the federal Cabinet Handbook, once a minister has declared an interest during a cabinet meeting it is up to whoever is chairing to either excuse the minister or “expressly agree to his or her taking part”.

It is not clear whether then prime minister Turnbull expressly agreed, but other ministers have told The Saturday Paper Dutton did not offer to step out when child-care policy was being discussed.

Separate cabinet sources say this happened on “several” occasions when cabinet discussed changes to the way child-care funding was to be distributed to eligible centres.

One minister says that after Dutton declared his interest he proceeded to offer comment on the child-care industry “from the point of view of operators”. Another minister endorses that recollection.

The statement of ministerial standards lays out in more detail what ministers with potential conflicts of interest are required to do.

The statement says cabinet ministers must declare any potential conflict between their governmental roles and any investments they or their families hold.

The standards say ministers should “make appropriate arrangements to ensure that any conflict of interest is avoided”, which may include divesting themselves of the interests, transferring the relevant decision-making responsibility to another minister, or placing the investments in a blind trust.


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Yes, according to Peta in the ST (9/9/19), Dutton should get a medal for doing what he does best: nepotism and favours, while the dark-artists of the Labor party would gladly give a visa to a "hate-preacher". I must say I got a bit confused with the headline "Au pair versus hate-preacher" take your pick... I though at a glace that this was a summary of the battle between Dutton (au pair) and Morrison (preacher) to promote her talking dummy Tony Abbott (dummy)... But I was mistaken. It's about bashing Labor, where Potato Dutton is unfortunately caught in a world of leeks (leaks)...

police dogs...

As Benito Dutton looks as if he is going to explode with fury into tiny pieces all over the ceiling of the Brisbane Police Boys Club, rumours are swirling of his time as a Queensland copper.

Most are unprintable, but I thought this offering rather charming:

When he retired from the force there was a jolly farewell gathering with the wallopers making fine speeches and presenting their departing colleague with tins of dog food.

It’s a puzzle. Did Benito have dogs that needed feeding, or was this a tribute to his character or to a particular style of policing, or was he regarded as a mongrel?

The mystery may never be solved.


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the pair was not au pair...

A French couple who have lived in Australia for more than 15 years say they are "gutted" after being told they had two weeks to leave the country.

Key points: 
  • Mr Pigot and Ms Mendy say they are good citizens
  • However, they claim to have exhausted all avenues to remain in Australia
  • The couple have been told to leave the country by October 1


Chef Damien Pigot and his partner Sandrine Mendy have run a cafe at Tweed Heads for the past five years, and, according to their friends, have become part of the area's "culinary fabric".

Mr Pigot had hoped the business would bolster his application for permanent residency.

He sought advice from migration lawyer Kathy Bateman about three years ago, and she was initially optimistic.

"Where there is a legally, viably operating Australian business located in a regional area that has a genuine need for an occupation … essentially there is no reason why an application shouldn't be successful," she said.

"[But] there has to be a benefit to Australia, and that usually means employment for Australians.


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dutton should be done the favour of being thrown out...

A series of emails has revealed the scramble made by Peter Dutton's office and senior bureaucrats to have two au pairs due to be deported released from Immigration detention.

The Department of Home Affairs has released 169 pages of documents relating to Mr Dutton's au pair interventions over the granting of tourist visas to the nannies.

The redacted documents paint a picture of a bureaucracy and staffers trying to get approvals for the au pairs to stay in the country as a flurry of emails is exchanged between key players right up until the last minute.

They reveal that in the case of the Italian au pair employed by Minister Dutton's former Queensland police colleague, senior officials were called upon late into the evening to make sure the young woman did not spend the night in immigration detention.


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The Greens and Labor will attempt to move a motion of no confidence in the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, after the tabling of a Senate report finding he misled the parliament in relation to the au pair controversy.

The motion will be brought on in the House of Representatives on Thursday after the Labor-dominated Senate committee concluded Dutton “had a clear personal connection and existing relationship with the intended employer of the au pair in the Brisbane case”.

Dutton was asked in parliament in March, when reports of the use of his ministerial discretion to grant tourist visas first surfaced, whether he could rule out “any personal connection or any other relationship between you and the intended employer of either of the au pairs”.


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