An Australian veteran of the Afghan war has criticised Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton for intervening in a visa case to stop a French au pair from deportation after being lobbied by AFL boss Gil McLachlan.
Captain Jason Scanes has accused Mr Dutton of ignoring several requests for a sit down to discuss the possibility of granting a visa to an Afghan interpreter who worked alongside him during Australia's involvement in Afghanistan, and whose life is in danger from the Taliban.
“I am disgusted to think that the minister has seen it fit to personally become involved in (the au pair visa) issues,” Captain Scanes told
Captain Jason Scanes and his Afghan interpreter. Source: Supplied
“I have requested meetings with (Mr Dutton) through my federal MP, I have travelled to Canberra on three occasions and presented at Parliament House and requested a meeting, I even sat outside his local electorate office in Brisbane for three days.
“Still he would not speak with me. I think that truly reflects the value and regard he has for our Defence Force and the many veterans across Australia.”
Mr Dutton says he stepped in to save the nanny because he thought it was a
However, in doing so, he overruled advice from a senior Australian Border Force officer, who warned that details provided by the young woman did not support the minister stepping in.
Captain Scanes has questioned why Afghan interpreters who assisted Australian troops during the Afghan conflict weren't given priority.
“I feel the majority of Australians would agree with me when I ask why the granting of visas to au pairs was seen as a high priority, requiring the minister’s intervention,” he said.
“The Afghan interpreters that wore the Australian Army uniform in Afghanistan, assisting troops and facilitating our government’s mission in the war on terror, are actively being hunted by the Taliban.
“Why are they not seen as a priority to process? Many have waited years to have their applications processed, only to be refused on the grounds of a character test. Many still have no answer.”
Mr Dutton was also told there would be a "financial liability" in allowing the woman to stay, as her return airfares were already booked.
Peter Dutton personally intervened to save a 27-year-old French au pair from deportation. Source: AAP
Alexandra Deuwel arrived at Adelaide airport on October 31, 2015.The 27-year-old was arrested by ABF officers after admitting she intended to work, in breach of her tourist visa, for Adelaide-based farmer Callum MacLachlan, who is Gil McLachlan's second cousin.
Officers cancelled her visa on the spot and Ms Deuwel was placed in immigration detention, pending her deportation.
However, the AFL boss then lobbied the minister's office on behalf of his relatives, urging Mr Dutton to let her stay.
Mr Dutton's chief of staff was forwarded an email - since leaked to several media outlets - written by Callum MacLachlan and his wife Skye.
"There has clearly been a misunderstanding that she was intending to work for us when she is here to spend time with our family, as we consider her to be family," the couple wrote.
"What can we do to have this injustice resolved and have her tourist visa reinstated before she flies out tonight?"
The minister used his discretionary powers to grant her a three-month tourist visa, on the condition she did not work.
Mr Dutton did so despite being told the young woman had previously been counselled in May 2015 after breaching her visa conditions.
Ms Deuwel had last been in Australia on May 3 as a holder of a tourist visa, having worked for the MacLachlan family as an au pair in 2013 and 2014.
Mr Dutton, who is now Home Affairs Minister, said he weighed up the case based on its merits rather than the person who had referred it.
He argued that references to the young woman being an au pair were "flowery language" and "complete nonsense".
"I looked at it and thought it's a bit rough, there's no criminal history, she's agreed that she wouldn't work while she was here," Mr Dutton told 2GB radio on Thursday.
"As I understand it, she never overstayed the visa, hasn't committed any offences, and I thought it was an application of common sense."
Mr Dutton said he dealt with hundreds of visa issues each year.
He claimed "enemies in the media" were dredging the case up to "get square" for his role in bringing down Malcolm Turnbull in a leadership coup last week.
The minister also hit out at a "dodgy" Senate inquiry set up to examine his interventions in the cases of two other au pairs in 2015, which is due to hear evidence next week.
"I am a person of integrity, I've never been compromised, I never will," he said.