The minister, the au pairs and McLachlan, MacLachlan and Maclachlan
The future of Australia’s home affairs minister is in doubt as it emerges that he intervened in the cases of three women held in detention
Peter Dutton: the minister intervened in the cases of three European women and their visas were reinstated. Photograph: EPA/Mick Tsikas
In his maiden speech to the Australian parliament in 2007, Scott Morrison said “my greatest concern is to be on God’s side”.
In the 11 years since, Morrison has lowered his allegiances to a more earthly level. One of his first acts since becoming prime minister three weeks ago was to give an Australian flag lapel pin to all his cabinet colleagues. “I wear it because it reminds me every single day whose side I’m on,” he said.
Professing to being on the side of the public is probably not going to be enough to save the career of his home affairs minister, Peter Dutton. Morrison may have to go back to his original plan of looking to a higher power for guidance.
Dutton is best known for challenging then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull for leadership of the Liberal Party last month. He succeeded in knocking off Turnbull, but his inability to count how many votes he had in the bag led to Morrison becoming leader and prime minister instead.
Dutton is now testing the patience of the public in the cases of three young European women who had been denied entry to Australia on tourist visas because of suspicions they were about to work as au pairs. They were held in detention in airports and about to be deported until Dutton intervened and their visas were reinstated.
One of the cases involves men named McLachlan, MacLachlan and Maclachlan. Gillon McLachlan, chief executive of the Australian Football League, raised the case of French woman Alexandra Deuwel, who was held at Adelaide airport in October 2015. Deuwel had previously worked for businessman Callum MacLachlan who, despite the different name spelling, is related to McLachlan.
One of McLachlan’s staff contacted Dutton’s chief of staff, Craig Maclachlan, on behalf of Deuwel and MacLachlan. Maclachlan is not related to either McLachlan or MacLachlan. Deuwel’s visa was renewed.
If the multiple descendants of Lachlan have made the situation confusing, Dutton has sought to further muddy the waters by using parliamentary privilege to accuse Roman Quaedvlieg, the former head of Australia’s Border Force agency, of “grooming” a young woman. This came after a claim that Dutton (a former policeman) had asked Quaedvlieg to advise two Queensland police officers about getting jobs with Border Force.
“This smear is coming from the former Australian Border Force commissioner,” Dutton said. “A man who, as commissioner, was sacked from his position – a man who had groomed a girl 30 years younger than himself.” The “girl” is an adult woman in her 20s. Quaedvlieg lost his job at Border Force after helping her to get a job.
Cara Mullan, a 26-year-old Melbourne-based Irish woman, must wish she had someone who could intervene on her behalf with government ministers. Her employer was about to lodge a sponsorship visa application when Mullan was seriously injured last December 21st when 19 people were hit by a car in Melbourne city centre, allegedly by a former Afghan refugee.
Mullan had head injuries, was in a wheelchair for months and is still recovering. While dealing with her ordeal, the government changed its regulations, leaving her ineligible for sponsorship. “The paperwork was ready, all we needed was the final piece from Cara but she was in hospital and that’s why we missed the cut-off,” Mullan’s boss Natalie Firth told the Age newspaper.
Though she has been granted a visa extension, Mullan may have to leave Australia in November. If she was an au pair with friends in high places, things might have been different.