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Why was Quaedvlieg really sacked?

On 15 March 2018, the head of the Australian Border Force, Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg was sacked. It was a curious case. Quaedvlieg had allegedly changed internal recruitment policy to help his girlfriend get a casual, low level administrative job at Sydney Airport and failed to disclose the relationship. Yet for such a high profile case, there was very little media attention during the nine month investigation. It was prolonged and shrouded in silence. The Opposition were strangely quiet over the whole affair. Quaedvlieg fiercely denied wrongdoing and still maintains his innocence.

Until his unprecedented sacking, Quaedvlieg was at the prime of his career. With a lengthy background in law enforcement and management, he was touted as one of two possible options to head up the new mega-Department of Home Affairs expected to be established in 2017. The timing of Quaedvlieg’s mysterious suspension couldn’t have been worse. In Quaedvlieg’s absence, Mike Pezzullo became one of the most powerful Department heads in the Commonwealth Government.

There was no indication Quaedvlieg wasn’t fully respected by his peers and the Minister when he suddenly disappeared from his official role in mid-2017. There was no indication that anything was awry. However his recent, very public spat with his former boss, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, has brought to the forefront a very serious question. Just why was Quaedvlieg sacked?

There seems a fairly reasonable case that Quaedvlieg was already a marked man from at least early 2017. Instigations for investigations of the nature for which Quaedvlieg was eventually sacked do not occur in a vacuum. And it seems distinctly unbelievable that a man in Quaedvlieg’s position, with his lengthy experience in law enforcement and national security, would have such a continued error of judgement, as alleged by Dutton and his companions, in committing the alleged misdemeanors which ultimately led to his sacking.

It is also unprecedented for a senior government official to be sacked over something as obscure as allegedly doctoring recruitment processes to benefit a person applying for a low-level administrative position. It’s equally absurd to suggest that Quaedvlieg would not have a sound understanding of the requirements to disclose a personal relationship at the appropriate time.

So what really happened? Was it the mismanagement of what should have been a minor internal investigation which made Quaedvlieg’s position untenable? The process was extraordinarily long and Quaedvlieg has publicly stated he was denied natural justice. Was it a personal vendetta instigated somewhere within the secretive depths of the bureaucracy which took an ugly turn and from which there was no coming back? Was the matter with the girlfriend a concocted and convenient excuse to take Quaedvlieg out? Just why did the Government go for Quaedvlieg?

As Border Force Commissioner, Quaedvlieg was a trusted, powerful and influential public servant. He had knowledge of the innermost workings of his Department, a direct line to the Minister, and a wealth of information on the most sensitive details of secretive and closely guarded operations. He was the public face of Border Force, with no smear on his record, other than the public wrathe personally directed at him over the abhorrent indefinite detention of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island; an accountability which actually sits directly and undisputedly with Mike Pezzullo, Secretary for the Department of Home Affairs.

Something clearly went wrong for Quaedvlieg. The investigation was initially instigated by Pezzullo, Quaedvlieg’s then-contemporary as Secretary of the former ­Department of Immigration and Border Protection. He referred allegations to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity in what Quaedvlieg expected would be a swift exoneration. Instead the matter dragged on. The internal inquiry was completed by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s secretary, Martin Parkinson.

And while at the time, Home Affairs Minister Dutton went to great lengths to distance himself from Quaedvlieg’s sacking, recently he has made extraordinary attempts to discredit and defame him, while hiding behind parliamentary privilege. The current Prime Minister and former Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, has also supported Dutton, giving credence to Dutton’s scurrilous claims that Quaedvlieg’s consenting adult relationship with a younger woman was illegal.

The sacking, and unprecedented personal vilification of a man formerly trusted to lead the Australian Border Force is astonishing. It coincides with Quaedvlieg’s recent openness to engage publicly on matters of interest to the Australian public.

Shortly after his sacking, Quaedvlieg questioned the Government’s proposal to give police greater powers to demand identity documents in airports. In August 2018 he intervened to assist advocates obtain medical treatment for a refugee. In September he made public his own musings from a 2015 visit to Nauru. His regular tweets give subtle clues as to what he may know. He has used the protection of a parliamentary inquiry to reveal details of Dutton’s potential abuse of power in the au pair affair and jobs for mates scandal, which Quaedvlieg reveals he has detailed knowledge of the recruitment events for in his letter to the Chair, Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee.

As a private citizen, it is difficult for Quaedvlieg to defend himself. Unlike Dutton, he does not have the protection of parliamentary privilege other than through formal government inquiry channels. It is evident that at least one man, Quaedvlieg’s former boss, will stop at nothing in his attempts to discredit him. And in what can only be described as a vindictive and malicious prosecution, Quaedvlieg’s girlfriend has been criminally charged for essentially not telling investigators what they wanted to hear.

What happened behind closed doors that led to the squirreling out of Quaedvlieg’s girlfriend’s alleged unmerited job placement? Who was responsible for his drawn out, secretive and extraordinary downfall? Why is Quaedvlieg still being publicly attacked by the government?

In the current political climate, Dutton and Morrison are evidently concerned about the truth being exposed. They must be thankful they recently passed laws making it illegal to “harm Australia’s reputation”. They must be glad a precedent has been set with the vexatious prosecution of Bernard Collaery and Witness K, who are now defending charges after exposing the Australian Government’s illegal spying in East Timor. Senior government officials and Ministers must be grateful that there is bipartisan support for the laws which threaten 2 years in jail for anyone speaking out on matters relevant to the Border Force. They must fear what Quaedvlieg knows.

Perhaps in time, a government committed to transparency and accountability will establish a full inquiry into the international embarrassment which is Australia’s offshore detention regime, the establishment of the Border Force and super-Department of Home Affairs, and the mysterious rise and fall of Quaedvlieg.


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  1. New England Cocky

    Look at Pezzullo and ask what are his links to the CIA? Control of vassal states by CIA operatives is easiest when the puppet government officers have few brains, less intelligence, huge egoes and extremely limited charisma.

    A preference for racism and fascism are highly regarded.

    Recognise anybody???

    Nice article Eva Cripps

  2. Rhonda

    Very interesting indeed

  3. helvityni

    May I be a teeny bit flippant here and suggest: maybe he is too good-looking….a danger to our young, innocent, god-fearing daughters…

  4. Roscoe

    Interestingly enough Romans 2ic was dismissed for the same type of thing at the same time, coincedence or what?

  5. Jagger

    There is only two things that all politicians agree on, looking after themselves money wise and covering their arses, if you don’t expect any more, you won’t be disappointed.

  6. Max Gross

    A nine month internal investigation??? NINE MONTHS! Did Mr Q murder somebody???

  7. Terence Mills

    When Dutton used parliamentary privilege to characterise the relationship between Quaedvlieg and a consenting adult female as grooming you can see that Dutton was bent on vicious character assassination and he clearly understands that outside of parliament those terms would be actionable.

    Dutton is a very dangerous species and you may well ask how a man of so little talent and no ability has been able to rise so far in this government.

  8. Jae H

    Great article Eva. When you look at the situation holistically it is indeed disturbing and leaves many unanswered questions.

  9. Matters Not

    Fanciful! Speculative! The investigation was lengthy because Dutton et al were trying to find a loop hole. Quaedvlieg thought they should’ve tried harder. That’s my take.

  10. Kronomex

    He wasn’t a “Yes man” to Duttonuci’s thug overlordship and The Spud didn’t like it?

  11. Kyran

    An excellent question. Perhaps if the ‘time-line’ is considered, a different possible answer emerges.
    The one at the centre of everything but answerable for nothing is Pezzullo. At his most recent attendance before a senate committee, to specifically address the Dutton-Au pair allegations, he stated upfront and without apology that he hadn’t bothered to bring any of the files relevant to au pair ministerial interventions. In his customary arrogance, he preferred to ‘take questions on notice’, which appears to be the method by which you promise to think about answering a question sometime well into the future in the hope that everyone will eventually forget the question, let alone that you promised to answer it. Don’t forget also that Dutton’s department spent over $10k to ‘defend’ against FOI requests.
    Pezzullo is the architect of the ‘one stop mega shop’, having advocated the structure since the Tampa and 9/11 ‘incidents’.

    This has been commented on frequently.

    He must have thought it Christmas when he found a spineless PM who would do anything to save his job (the last one, not the current one) and a fool as ignorant (as in stupid, devoid of intellect) as Dutton.
    Even a cursory search on ‘australian border force corruption allegations’ will bring up a myriad of problems in the pre-existing Immigration and Customs areas. They didn’t deal with the structural problems and lack of oversight before the merger, they simply removed most of the oversight.

    “This was the same allegation facing other Customs staff a decade earlier and which had prompted Customs in 2012 to commit to sweeping anti-corruption reforms, including supporting a Customs Reform Board introduced by the Gillard government.
    But the board had been scrapped by the federal Coalition before its work had been finished. Last year, the board’s chief, former NSW chief commissioner Ken Moroney, told Fairfax Media that this decision risked “an escalation or increase in corrupt activity”.
    Compounding the risk that corruption threats were not being tackled effectively were concerns raised privately by federal and state police forces that ACLEI had been starved of resources and expertise. At the same time, ACLEI was being swamped with Border Force corruption allegations referred to it by senior ABF officers as part of the agency clean up. Border Force itself lacked the power and ability to tackle serious corruption without outside help.”

    “In the last two years, state and federal agencies, in addition to a major anti-corruption sweep codenamed Pharos and led by the ABF commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg, have identified suspected corrupt ABF officials.
    Most of these corruption allegations have been referred to the nation’s corruption watchdog — the ACLEI.
    However due to its size it is unable to carry out large corruption probes without using resources of the policing agencies it oversees, and officials from many state and federal agencies describe its resourcing as a joke.”

    It is interesting that their own propaganda division infrequently address the frequent adverse reporting by issuing bland statements and crowing over any ‘success’.

    The funny thing is, Pezzullo was very, very familiar with corruption issues before the merger. He was the one overseeing Customs enquiries into corruption.

    “Documents obtained by Fairfax Media show there were 724 internal complaints, allegations and concerns reported to Customs that related to the service’s staff between 2007 and 2010.
    Customs has released a statement saying there was no proof of criminal conduct in 500 of those cases.”

    “Customs CEO Michael Pezzullo says the service has seen major improvements in its defences against corruption and misconduct since 2010.
    In 2011, Customs came under the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, which now handles all allegations of corruption and misconduct for the service and has the power to order investigations.”

    Given the secrecy that now surrounds the super department, your rhetorical question can only be answered by a question mark. Pezzullo’s baby has been mired in ongoing corruption allegations and major ‘alleged’ links between criminal gangs and personnel. Whether it be Immigration, Customs or simply the barbaric incarceration of people without charges, all of these weaknesses were evident long before the super department was created. Quaedvlieg was touted as one of the few people who could oversee the merger and institute anti-corruption oversights.
    Did he try too hard to fix the corruption Pezzullo couldn’t fix? Being no fan of Quaedvlieg, I have no interest in his defence. One has to wonder though, as it was an extraordinarily long ‘suspension’ with very convoluted processes being invented. Pezzullo, having been granted his wish after well over a decade of self-promotion, due to no other circumstance than a gutless PM and a moronic candidate for ‘el-supremo’, couldn’t make it work.

    “Here’s a timeline of the Quaedvlieg affair:
    • May 29, 2017: He begins paid leave “by mutual agreement” with Pezzullo after a complaint is made.
    • July 1-September 30, 2017: ACLEI provides report or draft to Pezzullo.
    • August, 2017: Pezzullo asks Parkinson to report on whether grounds exist to sack Quaedvlieg.
    • December 22, 2017: Parkinson gives Quaedvlieg a copy of his report.
    • January 17, 2018: Quaedvlieg responds.
    • February 5: Porter receives Parkinson’s report and Quaedvlieg’s response.
    • February 26: No decision yet.”

    Burgess: Quaedvlieg lost on the tortuous road of administrative law

    Back in 2015, Quaedvlieg was all about whistleblower protections, from the boss’s perspective.

    Now that he aspires to be a whistleblower and, presumably, he knows where some malodourous corpses are buried, does it strike anyone else as odd that his reputation has been trashed by innuendo and slow leaks for 18 months?
    Dutton is a fool seeking refuge in the cowards castle, domicile to so many fools at present. Pezzullo seems to be an arrogant fool, trying to protect his pet project from its own inherent flaws. His foolishness? Expecting that his foolish minister won’t turf him under the bus at the first expedient opportunity.
    Why was Quaedvlieg really sacked? Excellent question Ms Cripps. I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath for an answer. Will Shorten commit to disbanding this agency, given its inherent structural flaws?
    Thank you Ms Cripps and commenters. Take care.

  12. Helen Crowley

    I’m fascinated as to how a person with very little post high school education, and whose only job, before becoming a politician, was a police officer for nine years, can accumulate in assets, a couple of shopping centres in Townsville and a few child care centres. Takes a lot of money to aquire all that. Perhaps he’s a covert financial genius or maybe his wife brought a lot of money to the marriage or…………..

  13. paul walter

    After a couple of days sidetracked by other issues, I’ve got to this article and am amazed at some of the implications raised or discussed by the writer and commenters to the thread.

    Others seem to have the sense of something slimy slithering over them and that’s my feeling too as another mushroom kept in the dark and fed on bullshit like the rest of you.

    It is a graphic of the decline of Australia over the last decade and more, the sort of thing the Dr Haneef antics typified so well.

  14. Pingback: Coalition has incentive to neuter federal corruption watchdog - The Pen

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