'Nanny state': Bill Shorten pokes fun at Peter Dutton over au pair controversy

'Nanny state': Bill Shorten pokes fun at Peter Dutton over au pair controversy
'Nanny state': Bill Shorten pokes fun at Peter Dutton over au pair controversy

Bill Shorten turned to mockery on Saturday as he attacked Peter Dutton over the au pair scandal, accusing the home affairs minister of “secretly working towards a nanny state”.

In a speech to the Queensland Labor conference, Shorten ridiculed the MP for the Brisbane seat of Dickson, who unsuccessfully sought the Liberal leadership in a coup against Malcolm Turnbull last week.

“I mean seriously, what is the go with the au pairs?” Shorten said, referencing a popular internet meme that emerged amid intrigue about the controversy.

“Who would have thought such an arch-conservative, inspiration to the Institute of Public Affairs, was secretly working towards a nanny state?”

Dutton has been under intense pressure after Guardian Australia revealed he had intervened to save two au pairs from deportation in 2015. In one case, he granted a French woman a visa after an appeal from the AFL chief executive, Gillon McLachlan, while in the other, the then immigration minister spared an Italian woman, who was meant to work for the family of a former police force colleague of his, from deportation.

He is now facing claims from Labor and the Greens that he misled the parliament, after replying “yes” when asked if he could rule out “any personal connection or any other relationship between you and the intended employer of either of the au pairs”.

Dutton has denied any wrongdoing, and told 2GB radio on Friday that he had taken a “commonsense approach” to exercising his visa intervention powers.

Scott Morrison, who defeated Dutton for the Liberal leadership after opposing the move to oust Turnbull, has launched a defence of his former rival while in Indonesia for trade talks.

He said he had spoken with Dutton about the issue and had no concerns.

“Canberra loves it when dust gets kicked up and people sling some mud around — there’s nothing new about that — but I don’t see those type of activities and machinations as grounds for anything,” Morrison said.

“I think it’s the usual Canberra circus. And any issues of substance I would consider, but there are none before me.”

A Senate inquiry that will examine Dutton’s use of ministerial powers in those cases is scheduled to report on 11 September.

A submission to the inquiry from Helen Duncan, a registered migration agent of nearly two decades, compared the minister’s decision in the cases of the two au pairs with his failure to heed the pleas of a Vietnamese family who had lived, worked and studied in Australia for a decade.

“They would have made ideal Australians. However they were people without any higher level connections,” Duncan wrote.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the decision to dump Turnbull continues.

On Saturday, Malcolm Turnbull’s son, Alex, called for voters to donate to the campaign of Tim Murray, Labor’s candidate for his father’s former seat of Wentworth. Malcolm Turnbull officially resigned from parliament on Friday, triggering a byelection in the seat.

In a tweet, Alex Turnbull said donating to Murray’s campaign would provide “bang for your buck”.

Alex Turnbull (@alexbhturnbull)

Best bang for the buck you'll get in political donations in your life. Tight race, tight margin for government, big incremental effect whatever happens. If you want a federal election now this is the means by which to achieve it. https://t.co/YgTQGhQwBa

In another tweet, he said: “Times like this you have to decide what your first loyalty is: party or county? I’m going with country. We need donations reform, federal ICAC and sane energy policy NOW.”

Alex Turnbull, who works in Singapore as a fund manager, knows the Labor candidate personally.

“He’s a great guy and I know him well,” he told Fairfax Media this week. “[It’s] hard to back a Labor guy, but not Tim.”

Potential Liberal candidates for the seat include the former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, and Andrew Bragg, who served as the party’s acting federal director.

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