In other news, an official inquiry’s confirmation that companies suspected of criminal activity were paid millions to deliver Australia’s offshore detention system has sparked a sharp political attack from the government on opposition leader and former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton.
Former director general and Defence chief Dennis Richardson’s report, revealed exclusively in this masthead and 60 Minutes on Sunday night, detailed a systematic failure of due diligence that could have prevented taxpayers from paying multiple companies linked to alleged serious crimes through often rushed contracts over a decade up to late 2022.
“Over time, I don’t think proper scrutiny was put on the contracts and I think it was a case of a lack of communication between different parts of the Department of Home Affairs, and between other parts of government and Home Affairs,” he said.
The Richardson report was triggered by reporting in this masthead and followed two separate and damning inquiries into problems in the immigration system by former Victoria Police chief commissioner Christine Nixon and former Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson.
Richardson directed his criticism at senior public servants rather than politicians in his findings about the shortcomings of contract management in the multi-billion dollar Pacific Solution program.
But responding to the review’s release, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil used its findings to criticise her predecessor.
“This is an extraordinary report that should have been commissioned by the former government during their decade in power,” she said in a statement.
“This report exposes Peter Dutton as a hypocrite who was overseeing a system that was funnelling millions to alleged drug smugglers and arms dealers, all while he marketed himself as a tough guy on our borders.”
“This is the third report by an unimpeachable expert that shows the extent of Peter Dutton’s failures.”
O’Neil said Dutton needed to explain why he allowed the flawed contracting arrangements to continue for years.