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Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton (photo by Avani Dias via abc.net.au)

The Border Force boss has been suspended — but is it because of children being held behind barbed wire, deaths, beatings, rapes or PTSD among asylum seekers in his care? Sarah Smith reports. 

ON MONDAY, 3 July 2017, late in the afternoon, a scandal broke out at the Australian Border Force (ABF).

The first indication was a series of tweets from former Immigration media chief Sandi Logan, regarding an investigation into the ABF boss' "activities":

Twitter exploded into a hive of speculation and anticipation.

Drugs? Gambling? Investments that constitute a conflict of interest?

A few hours later, all was revealed. Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg, a married 52-year-old with three children, had allegedly engaged in an affair with a much younger colleague, who was subsequently promoted. 

This seems a fairly pedestrian reason for suspension of a high-ranking government official, given his history of errors (such as mistakenly sending two Australian citizens to Christmas Island), his poor judgement and the fact that his department has come under fire from the United Nations Human Rights Commission for human rights abuses.

His official Twitter account hasn't been updated since 25 May 2017. This begs the question: for how long has the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force been suspended?

Quaedvlieg was a front-runner to replace NSW Police Force Commissioner Andrew Scipione earlier this year,, after his retirement was announced. However, the job unexpectedly eventually went to Mick Fuller. Is it possible the scandal dates back to as early as March this year?

If the ABF is indeed responsible for protecting our borders, why wasn't the public informed? And if the ABF Commissioner can be suspended for a lengthy period of time without this affecting operational matters, why is it that we need to spend in excess of $700,000 per annum on the ABF Commissioner's salary in the first place?

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton is currently on annual leave and it seems unusual timing that the news of Quaevlieg's suspension should break during this period. Surely Minister Dutton, with his frequent assertions as to the national significance of the ABF, should be available to answer any questions or concerns the public may have about the impact this may have on our nation's security?

Yesterday, spokesperson for Justice Minister Michael Keenan's office told the Sydney Morning Herald:

"The ABF Commissioner is on leave. A matter is under consideration by appropriate authorities."

Who are the appropriate authorities to investigate the head of Australia's Department of Border Security?

Why was the public not informed of this until Sandi Logan tweeted about it? And can we expect transparency from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection given that this, we assume, is not related to the ever-elusive jurisdiction of "on-water matters"? 

It appears Roman Quaedvlieg's career in the Australian Border Force will be finished.

Not because of deaths on Manus and Nauru.

Not because of rapes in immigration detention.

Not because of beatings from guards, the alleged drugging and rape of a Papua New Guinean Woman by Wilson Security staff (who were flown back to Australia by DIBP to avoid their arrest), or sexual harassment from Australian Government contracted employees.

Not because of children being kept behind barbed wire and self-harming at alarming rates.

Not because depressive or anxiety disorders, and PTSD among asylum seekers and refugees in his care are 'amongst the highest recorded rates of any surveyed population'.



No, the Australian Border Force Commissioner is suspended and under investigation for an alleged, presumably consensual, sexual relationship with someone who subsequently received a promotion.

 While this is indeed highly unethical and worthy of investigation, it does beg the question as to why his other transgressions have not received a similar level of scrutiny.

A selective moral compass is not a moral compass at all. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection would do well to realise this.

This tweet from @swearyanthony summed the situation up nicely:

Sarah Smith is a refugee advocate for asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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