Peter Dutton defends au pair intervention after political donations as Labor calls for inquiry

| 29.08,18. 03:53 PM |

Peter Dutton defends au pair intervention after political donations as Labor calls for inquiry

Photo: Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has denied any wrongdoing in relation to his granting of the visa. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Federal Labor says Peter Dutton must explain whether generous political donations had any influence on his decision to help a French au pair into the country.

But the Home Affairs Minister's office has flatly denied any wrongdoing by the Minister, saying he was not aware of the donations when making the decision.

In November 2015, Mr Dutton intervened to free a 27-year-old from immigration detention, after his office was lobbied by AFL boss Gillon McLachlan.

The Minister used his powers to grant her a tourist visa.

The ABC understands the au pair, Alexandra Deuwel, was planning to work with Adelaide-based pastoralist Callum MacLachlan, who is Gillon McLachlan's second cousin.

Callum's father Hugh MacLachlan has donated about $150,000 to the state and federal branches of the party since 1999, including a $20,000 donation in 2008 and a $25,000 donation in 2013.

Six months after Mr Dutton's intervention, Hugh MacLachlan donated $50,000 to the South Australian branch of the Liberal Party.

Shadow Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann demanded Mr Dutton appear before a Senate inquiry into the matter.

"The issues of whether a Liberal party donor or family members have called on the Minister to assist them should be ventilated before a Senate inquiry," he told the ABC.

"The degree of seniority in terms of intervention really needs to be explained.

"It becomes more and more murky and more and more unusual, shall I say, about what's been happening in relation to this issue as events unfold."

Callum MacLachan is a joint managing director of the Jumbuck Pastoral Group, while Hugh MacLachlan's wealth was listed at $320 million in the 2014 BRW Rich List.

Dutton defends conduct

Mr Dutton again defended his intervention and said the generous donations had no influence on the matter.

"The Minister has intervened in many cases presented by Labor Members of Parliament and you would have to ask them if they are presenting those cases based on donations to the Labor Party," a spokeswoman said.

In a statement released earlier on Tuesday, Mr Dutton said immigration ministers received hundreds of requests to intervene in visa cases each year, and he assessed each one on its merits.

"There are long standing intervention powers provided to ministers to consider and deal with these representations," Mr Dutton said.

"Any suggestions cases are determined on any other basis, including whether I knew the individual who referred the matter, is completely ridiculous."

The ABC understands Ms Deuwel arrived at Adelaide Airport on October 31, 2015 on an eVisitor visa, which tourists can apply for online.

In a document marked "Sensitive: Personal" dated November 1, 2015, Mr Dutton wrote, "It would be in the public interest" to grant the woman a three-month tourist visa.

He added his intervention was a "discretionary and humanitarian act" for someone with "ongoing needs" and that the decision was in the "interests of Australia as a humane and generous society".

It is also understood she was also "counselled" by ABF officers in May 2015 about breaching the conditions of her visa, as she left Australia.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan did not respond to questions on Tuesday night.

The AFL declined to comment earlier on Tuesday.

The ABC also sent a series of questions to Callum MacLachlan last night, but did not receive a response before deadline.


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