PM issues ‘please explain’ for Peter Dutton over offshore detention contract

Peter Dutton “needs to explain” why Home Affairs entered into contracts with a man under investigation for bribery.

Peter Dutton “needs to explain” why Home Affairs entered into contracts with a man under investigation for bribery. Photo: AAP

The Opposition Leader Peter Dutton “needs to explain” why the department he once administered entered into contracts with a man under investigation by federal police for bribery, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says.

The home affairs department signed contracts with a company directed by a businessman one month after Mr Dutton, who was then home affairs minister, was briefed about the investigation.

Two years later, businessman Mozamil “Mozu” Bhojani pleaded guilty in court to a charge of bribing foreign public officials, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald revealed. 

“These are serious allegations,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday.

“He needs to explain what has occurred here.”

“The Australian people deserve an explanation about these events. This is taxpayers’ money.”

There is no suggestion that Mr Dutton, who is on leave this week, played any role in the decision to award the contract for providing temporary housing of asylum seekers under a revived Pacific solution to Bhojani’s company, Radiance International.

But in documents tabled in Parliament this week, the Australian Federal Police said Mr Dutton was briefed in July 2018 that Bhojani was under investigation.

Mozamil “Mozu” Bhojani. Photo: LinkedIn

Despite the warning to Mr Dutton, the company was, Nine revealed, awarded a fresh contract by the Department of Home Affairs one month later. 

The AFP said it did not have a record of what was conveyed to Mr Dutton in that verbal briefing.

The department told the Senate committee it learned of allegations against Bhojani when he was charged a month later.

“It is a matter for (the) Home Affairs (department),” Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash said on Tuesday.

“There is no suggestion that Peter Dutton himself played a part in signing the contracts. These contracts are signed by the Department of Home Affairs.”

And Radiance International continued to be paid by the Department of Home Affairs until this year to run the offshore accommodation facilities with two of the contracts only ending last month, Senator Cash, the shadow attorney-general, said.

The New Daily sent questions to Mr Dutton’s office; he is on leave until the end of the month.

Call for royal commission

A spokesperson for the department defended the integrity of its contracting with offshore providers.

“The department’s regional processing contract management has been subject to significant external scrutiny and internal review over the lifespan of regional processing arrangements,” the spokesperson said.

The current Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the matters raised by Nine’s report on Bhojani and other companies were “deeply concerning” and were being reviewed.

“Our government has a zero-tolerance approach to corruption, which is why one of our first policy decisions was to create a National Anti-Corruption Commission,” she said in a statement.

Greens Senator Nick McKim said he did not have confidence in any review and called for a royal commission into the Department of Home Affairs.

“It must be done independently of government because the government and in particular, the Department of Home Affairs are the problem,” Senator McKim said on Wednesday.

“They’ve been repeatedly excoriated by the (audit office)”.

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