Australian Home Affairs minister in leadership tilt

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Duton (R) announce Home Affairs Portfolio
Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton (R) announce Home Affairs Portfolio in 2017. Image: Australian Government.

Australian Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton has resigned his cabinet ministerial post effective 21 August following a failed attempt to wrest leadership of his political party, the Liberal Party, from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Down but not out

A member of the party’s conservative faction, Mr Dutton was unable to gain the support of a sufficient number of his colleagues to topple Mr Turnbull. He now joins former Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the Party’s parliamentary back bench.

Mr Dutton’s hard line towards asylum seekers and immigration detainees has been credited by many for maintaining the low numbers of boat arrivals reported since the commencement of the Australian Government’s Operation Sovereign Borders.

Previously Immigration Minister, Dutton became Minister for Home Affairs with the establishment of the Home Affairs ministry in December 2017. The new expanded portfolio added the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) to his remit, along with the Australian Border Force (ABF) and a rebranded Department of Home Affairs.

Although having lost the leadership spill 25 votes to 38, Mr Dutton has vowed to have another shot at the top job now that Mr Turnbull’s position is looking increasingly shaky. The spill result has been destabilising for the party, and is seen as evidence of the prime minister’s failure to reign in his party’s conservative clique.

Dutton’s ultimate triumph is viewed by many as only a matter of time.

Dirt to be dug

Meanwhile, it has surfaced that former Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg – sacked for misbehaviour earlier in 2018 for intervening to help his partner get a job with the ABF and failing to disclose his relationship with her – has personal knowledge of the involvement of Mr Dutton’s office in two unusual ministerial intervention visa cases.

According to The Guardian, both cases involved foreign au pairs who had faced deportation from Australia after having their tourist visas cancelled upon arrival. They were granted visas through the intervention of the then Home Affairs Minister’s office on public interest grounds.

Mr Dutton has previously claimed that he does not know the au pairs, but these claims may be tested if Quaedvlieg emerges with information contradicting them.

Federal Treasurer and former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is currently acting Home Affairs Minister pending a substantive replacement.

With his parliamentary supporters calling for another leadership spill to take place before the week is out, Mr Dutton’s prime ministerial aspirations have by no means been thwarted. But in a Liberal Party sorely divided, whether he ends up on top or not his foes will nevertheless be looking to dig what dirt they can out of the au pair controversy.

Another spill is expected later today.

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