“May God bless you, may God bless your work, may God bless the country you are helping to protect and prosper.”
So said Tony Abbott in July 2015 at the swearing in of Roman Quaedvlieg, the former Queensland cop who rose to become the commissioner of Australia’s newly created Border Force, merging the frontline functions of Customs and Immigration, and who was/is expected to head Dutton’s new superagency.
Mr Quaedvlieg regularly used Twitter to update us on the doings of his new force, posting every day or two until May 24, 2017 when he all of a sudden went silent.
It was not until former Immigration Department spin doctor, Sandi Logan, asked some questions on Twitter on July 3rd that the public found out there was anything amiss.
.@DIBPAustralia co-boss @ABFComm’s long absence from duty arises from external investigation into his “activities”. Care to speculate?
.@DIBPAustralia @ABFComm has other interests these days which may be compromising his “integrity” I hear. How much longer suspended?
The next day, Michael Keenan’s office told the Sydney Morning Herald: “The ABF Commissioner is on leave. A matter is under consideration by appropriate authorities.”
A few hours later, we found out that the 52-year-old, who separated from the mother of his three children last January, had allegedly engaged in an “inappropriate relationship” with a colleague who was more than 20 years his junior and who was subsequently promoted.
Roman has been on holidays ever since on his full pay of $731,000 pa.
On October 27, Sharri Markson reported in the Telegraph that the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, the independent anti-corruption agency charged with overseeing the inquiry into Mr Quaedvlieg, had “not interviewed Mr Quaedvlieg or sent him submissions. Neither has the agency seized his phone to access text messages, phone records or any other files.”
Considering the source, take this next part as you will.
Ms Markson suggests there are bigger things afoot.
Apparently, the ACLEI is “now pursuing top-secret secondary line of inquiry.”
This “second line of inquiry, not related to Mr Quaedvlieg’s girlfriend’s promotion at work, is understood to now be the focus of a separate investigation by ACLEI.”
What’s more, instead of Department Secretary Mike Pezullo being consulted, “the report has been referred to secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson, as the head of the public service.”
The government’s national auditor has recently produced two scathing reports which revealed how badly the offshore detention centres have been managed.
When consolidating contracts for Nauru and Manus Island in 2013 and 2014, the bid for Manus Island exceeded historical costs by between $200 million and $300 million. The report went on to state that contracts did not take into account per capita costs so, due to falling numbers of asylum seekers being detained, the cost of said detention had risen from $201,000 under Labor to $573,111 per person by December 2015.
The day the first report was released, 13 September 2016, Peter Dutton released a statement saying “Total responsibility for the problems and processes outlined in the report falls upon Labor.”
It takes some gall to say that when you are two months into your second term in government and it was your government who renegotiated the contracts.
A second report from the ANAO in January last year stated that “$1.1 billion was approved by DIBP officers who did not have the required authorisation and for the remaining $1.1 billion there was no departmental record of who authorised the payments.”
The report further stated that contract variations totalling more than $1 billion were made without a documented assessment of value for money.
The audit report also criticised the Department’s response to the issue of mould in tents on Nauru. They were warned in February 2015 that the growth on the tents did not meet the Australian Mould Guideline.
Five months later, the department entered an arrangement with Transfield to clean the mould but as of August 2016, no progress had been made in the compound housing single men.
The ANAO has conducted six audits since 2004 — a period when both Labor and Coalition governments were in power — and each identified shortcomings.
It stated that when viewed together, “the audit findings point to serious and persistent deficiencies in the department’s administration”.
Mike Pezullo was with Australian Customs and Border Protection Service in a leadership role from 2009 until October 2014 when Tony Abbott appointed him Secretary of the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection. He is now Home Affairs secretary-designate about to run a much larger and more complex department.
With a team like Dutton, Pezullo and Quaedvlieg in charge, what could possibly go wrong?