Peter Dutton has distanced himself from a former colleague in the Queensland Police Service at the center of an ongoing dispute over his use of ministerial powers to avoid the expulsion of two young au pairs in 2015.
The minister of Internal Affairs says that the policeman in question, Russell Keag, was only one among the 5,500 troops when he left in 1999.
"As far as I know, I have not socialized, nor have I had personal contact with the man involved," Dutton told parliament on Monday.
"You do not have my personal phone number or my personal email address."
But, in an e-mail that Mr. Dutton presented to Parliament on Monday late in the afternoon, an email from Keag for the month of June 2015 indicates a familiarity between the two.
"Peter, long-term between calls," says the email.
"I need advice on an issue that has happened today: an Italian student, Michela Marchisio, is detained after her visa was canceled."
Mr. Dutton's relationship with the man has been the subject of intense interest in recent weeks over a case in which a young Italian woman was arrested at the Brisbane International Airport in 2015.
Border Force officers suspected that she was planning to work for Mr. Keag as an au pair even though she only had a tourist visa and planned to deport her, but was later pardoned by a ministerial intervention by Mr. Dutton.
Labor and the Greens claim that the fact that Mr. Dutton knew the man when they worked together in the Queensland police meant that the minister deceived parliament when he said he had no personal connection with the families involved.
They accuse the powerful interior minister, who unsuccessfully challenged liberal leaders last month, of cheating parliament.
But Mr. Dutton says the relationship was more distant than his political opponents guess.
"The use of terms like 'personal connection' … means a much closer relationship between two people than working in the same organization two decades ago and not speaking from that moment," he said.
Green deputy Adam Bandt, who originally asked the question about a personal relationship, said he would make a motion of no confidence against Mr. Dutton this week.
"If Scott Morrison will not stop him, then parliament should," Bandt told reporters.
Labor Party Chairman Tony Burke said that Mr. Dutton had broken the rules and should withdraw.
"The only rule that a minister has to fulfill is that you do not deceive parliament, and about the facts that we have available at this moment, Peter Dutton clearly did."
The Australian published on Monday a story based on a council of a "governmental source" that highlighted a case in which the nanny of the Italian soccer star, Alessandro Del Piero, could enter the country with a tourist visa under the previous government Labor
But unlike the Dutton cases, the nanny did not receive a ministerial intervention from the Labor immigration ministers, Chris Bowen and Tony Burke.
The department approved tourist visas, although the anonymous source said that the immigration department was "heavy" to grant them through the minister's office.
Tony Burke said the fall was probably a leak from Mr. Dutton's office. The minister has previously warned that he had records of "extravagant cases" of visa interventions requested by Labor MPs.
"He's throwing mud into the wind of a storm and he's landing on it," Burke said.