Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee; Report
Even in the short time I have been here in this place, there are times that I can recognise when this place operates as it should, when it operates in a way that the people expect. This is not one of those times. Use of the term 'explosive' in relation to evidence that has been put before this committee is totally unacceptable. There was no explosion; there was a damp squib.
The dissenting report finds this inquiry has been a shambolic witch-hunt. The inquiry's findings mirror the Labor Party's initial talking points and that's all, which actually fall outside the terms of reference of this inquiry. Labor senators were forced to constantly change the terms of debate in order to try and locate a smoking gun. After the extensive and expensive hearings not only were they unable to locate a smoking gun; they learned that there was absolutely no gun at all. Let me quickly point out the main points of the dissenting report:
The undisputed evidence provided to the Committee was very clear:
Continuing with the dissenting report:
- Migration Act1958
What does this tell us? I quote again from the dissenting report:
The evidence has disclosed no instances—
I repeat: no instances—
of inappropriate conduct by the Minister for Home Affairs as has been so recklessly alleged by Labor and Green Senators. The findings listed in the Committee Report are unsustainable.
It is long-standing practice in the Westminster System, including by convention in Australia, that the two Houses of Parliament do not seek to sit in review of each other.
It was highly irregular for Labor senators to seek to call Minister Dutton as a member of the other House. Members of all persuasions have long followed this convention.
If we needed more evidence of the shambolic nature of this inquiry—no explosion—I note the chair's draft of the committee report was provided to the committee an hour and a half after the Senate adjourned on 18 September 2018, the day before the report was scheduled to be tabled. It is of grave concern that material provided to the committee constantly found its way to the media before being provided to committee members. This included correspondence from Mr Roman Quaedvlieg, which was published in Fairfax Media ahead of even the secretariat receiving a copy. Much material was also sent directly to the chair of the committee instead of the committee secretariat, and this tainted the whole inquiry. I also note the committee did not seek to call and cross-examine Mr Roman Quaedvlieg after he made his allegations.
This inquiry was established by Labor and Greens senators in an effort to examine the provision of visas to au pairs by the Minister for Home Affairs. This came after several months of Labor senators and supporters, including Mr Quaedvlieg, seeking to generate suspicion and hype around allegations now shown to be completely false. This included the leaking of internal emails from the Department of Home Affairs, a matter which has been referred to the Australian Federal Police. Despite Labor senators trawling for evidence in the public hearing and correspondence back and forth with the department, there was no evidence to suggest that the minister acted inappropriately. It is now clear, in contrast to media reporting, that only two visas relating to au pairs were considered by the minister, and in both cases the Department of Home Affairs recommended to the minister that he should intervene to provide a short-term tourist visa.
I should address the evidence of Mr Quaedvlieg in some detail. After all, this is the Labor Party's Godwin Grech moment. It is clear that the evidence of the disgraced former Australian Border Force Commissioner was completely lacking credibility, given it was so easily disproved. By disgraced, I mean that Mr Quaedvlieg has been the subject of an investigation by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, resulting in his termination as commissioner for misconduct. I also note Mr Quaedvlieg remains under criminal investigation by that organisation, the ACLEI. As I said, this is Labor's Godwin Grech moment.
Let me highlight the lack of credibility in Mr Quaedvlieg's evidence. In his 5 September correspondence to the committee, he claimed:
In mid-June 2015 I received a call from the Chief of Staff for the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Craig MacLachlan. He told me that he was ringing me on behalf of Minister Dutton, whom he referred to as 'the boss'. He told me that the Minister's friend, whom he referred to as 'the boss's mate in Brisbane', had encountered a problem with his prospective au pair who had been detained at Brisbane Airport by immigration officials due to an anomaly with her visa.
Contrary to this, in a public statement the minister noted:
Mr Maclachlan was not employed by me at that time and didn't join my staff until 7 October 2015.
Equally, it is impossible for Mr Maclachlan to have had any knowledge of the matter, at that time, because he was not even employed by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
This is not in dispute. There are other false assertions in Mr Quaedvlieg's 5 September letter, including the assertion he was the Australian Border Force Commissioner. This is false, given he was not appointed as ABF Commissioner until July 2015, as was Also, on the assertion he returned Mr Maclachlan's phone call to advise him of the outcome, there were no emails or other evidence to support Mr Quaedvlieg's version of events.
Following the complete dismantling of Mr Quaedvlieg's claims, he wrote to the committee and desperately sought to create a new straw man:
I concede that I may have been honestly mistaken in anchoring that conversation to a date in June 2015 however in light of the remarkably coincidental information I will provide to you below I contend that not only is it an understandable error, but moreover renders the only logical conclusion that a second Brisbane ministerial intervention case may merit the Committee's further inquiry.
Following these assertions, the Department of Home Affairs was then asked to provide all intervention briefs signed by the minister. The department was clear in its response. The only two cases considered by the minister relating to au pairs were the Brisbane and Adelaide cases, and there were no additional cases involving a person being stopped at Brisbane Airport.
Given the shambolic nature of this witch-hunt, coalition senators recommend:
1.The Minister for Home Affairs be commended for his prudent and diligent work as a Minister;
2.Mr Quaedvlieg's correspondence be referred to the Privileges Committee and be considered as to whether Privilege should apply to these documents; and
3.The Minister for Home Affairs ignore the Majority Report's findings.
As I said, there are times when this place operates as it should and in a way the Australian people understand and appreciate. This politically and personally motivated witch-hunt is not one of them. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave not granted.