AFL boss Gillon McLachlan does not believe he got special treatment after lobbying Dutton to overturn the deportation of a French au pair.
And Dutton is standing by his “common sense” decision to let the woman stay, despite high-ranking border force officers warning him against it.
McLachlan insists his only role in the 2015 incident was forwarding onto the then-immigration minister’s office an email from his cousin.
“All I was doing was actually trying to help facilitate the contact, not make a representation,” he told 3AW radio today.
“I feel it was reasonable to have done so, others can make their assessments.”
Alexandra Deuwel was detained at Adelaide airport in October 2015 after admitting she intended to work in breach of her tourist visa for grazier Callum MacLachlan, who is related to the AFL boss.
Leaked emails show MacLachlan contacted Gillon McLachlan, who directed an AFL staffer to forward an email from his cousin onto Dutton’s chief-of-staff.
Dutton overruled the advice of senior immigration authorities and allowed the woman to stay.
“I make a decision that I believe is in the best interest of our country. I do it every day with visas,” the minister told 2GB radio.
“That’s the whole reason for ministerial intervention, because you believe the department has made a decision that is not right.”
McLachlan denies he got special treatment because of his public profile.
“That’s a question for someone else but I don’t think so,” he told 3AW.
“I think this has just been treated on its merits, as the minister said.”
However, McLachlan acknowledges there is a waft of “mates helping mates” surrounding the incident.
“I can see that in the way its playing out because of the political context,” he said.
McLachlan said he had never met the French au pair at the centre of the controversy, and didn’t know Dutton that well.
The AFL boss says he is not embarrassed by the incident but regrets it has become such a public issue.
Dutton also saved from deportation an Italian au pair who was apparently planning to work for a former Queensland police colleague.
Radio host Alan Jones asked Dutton if somebody was leaking details of the au pairs to harm him.
“It’s a good question. I suspect all will be revealed at some stage,” he said.
Pressure is mounting on the Queensland Liberal MP to explain his decisions in the two au pair cases, as well as a third which occurred around the same time.
All three will be examined by a Senate inquiry which will hear evidence next week.
Opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said the public would be stunned by the “troubling pattern” of interventions.
“It’s not about the powers, it’s about the process,” he told Sky News.
“I think the Australia would have expected in relation to both of these au pairs that they be put back on a plane and deported.”
Dutton cannot be compelled to front next Wednesday’s Senate inquiry, but senior public servants are expected to appear.
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