The head of AFL approached the government about the Argentine polo player visa

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan is giving evidence before a Senate inquiry into Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton's intervention into au pair visa cases.

The head of the AFL, Gillon McLachlan, revealed that his request for assistance in a visa case for his second cousin's au pair is not the first time he approaches a minister to talk about a visa problem.

In 2014, McLachlan addressed the then Minister of Immigration, Scott Morrison, about a business visa application made by an Argentine polo player, whom he described as a "friend of a friend."

"I asked (Jude) Donnelly if the visa had been approved or not," he told the Senate investigation.

Jude Donnelly, who is a colleague of Mr. McLachlan's, told the investigation when he heard again after contacting the Prime Minister's Office, informing him that the visa had already been processed.

Mr. McLachlan said he does not have a personal relationship with the Minister of the Interior, but he has seen it a half-dozen times.

"It's a normal relationship I would have with a minister on either side of politics," he said.

The head of the AFL recalled receiving a call from his second cousin, Callum McLachlan, who told him he had been trying to "get a relevant office" for someone who "had previously worked for them and befriended the family" . .

Mr. McLachlan said his cousin asked him if he could help, and then contacted his government relations officer, who was a former political staff member, Jude Donnelly.

He said he had not spoken directly to Mr. Dutton on the subject.

AFP asked to investigate leaks

The Australian Federal Police have been asked to investigate the leak of documents related to allegations that the Minister of the Interior abused his powers of ministerial intervention to help the au pairs.

Secretary of the Interior Ministry, Michael Pezzullo, said in a Senate investigation that the matter had been referred to AFP with his authorization.

"Unauthorized and possibly criminal disclosure of official information is the same, always refers to the police," he told the investigation.

Peter Dutton personally intervened in tourist visa decisions only 14 times since he took over the immigration portfolio four years ago, the Senate inquiry was heard earlier on Wednesday.

The Senate's legal affairs committee is examining whether Mr. Dutton misused his ministerial discretion to grant two European au pair visas in 2015, despite reservations from border authorities.

The first question asked of top bureaucrats at the public hearing in Canberra on Wednesday was by Labor Senator Murray Watt: "Actually, there is only one question here today: what about the au pairs?"

Internal Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo said Mr. Dutton had used his discretionary ministerial powers to grant more than 4129 visas since he took office in December 2014.

Secretary of Internal Affairs Michael Pezzullo

SBS News

The minister granted more than 2000 visas only in 2015.

"These powers increase flexibility in an otherwise highly prescriptive visa process," Pezzullo said at the hearing.

However, the two young people in question arrived in Australia with tourist visas, and Mr. Dutton has only intervened in such cases about 25 times since he took over the portfolio.

In a new interrogation of Senator Watt, Pezzullo acknowledged that the number of tourist visa interventions could be as low as 14.

Interior Minister Peter Dutton in parliament.

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Peter Dutton, criticized his handling of visas for au pairs. (AAP)


Pezzullo also said that it was possible that the first time Mr. Dutton had intervened in a tourist visa decision was in the case of the first au pair.

"That could be the case, it's just a matter of checking the record," he said.

The department did not do any compliance work to see if the au pairs respected the conditions of the visa, but the two girls left the country on time.

Pezzullo declined to comment on the leaked documents related to one of the au pair cases, saying that the security breach had been remitted to the federal police.

"I am not prepared to talk about documents that have been put in the media through illegal disclosures and, in fact, criminals who otherwise would not have gone through the protections provided by this parliament," he said.

Hours after the public hearing, Senator Watt was frustrated with the officials who could not say whether the response times in the two au pair cases were faster than usual.

Labor Senator Murray Watt

Labor Senator Murray Watt

SBS News

"I hope we have someone here today who can answer some of these questions," said the Labor senator.

The head of the AFL, Gillon McLachlan, will testify by teleconference to explain his participation in lobbying Mr. Dutton to revoke the deportation of a French au pair.

Alexandra Deuwel was arrested at the Adelaide airport in October 2015 after admitting that she intended to work in violation of her tourist visa for rancher Callum MacLachlan, second cousin to the head of the AFL.

MacLachlan contacted the head of the AFL, who ordered his guru for relations with the government, former liberal staff member Jude Donnelly, to send an email from his cousin to the minister's chief of staff.

AFL CEO, Gillon McLachlan

Gillon McLachlan


Mr. Dutton also faces questions about a second au pair saved from deportation, an Italian woman who planned to work for his former Queensland police colleague.

Mr. Dutton has consistently denied any wrongdoing in both cases, saying he had no personal connection to anyone involved.