The federal Department of Home Affairs has confirmed it has joined a NSW corruption inquiry into former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire's cash-for-visas scam.
Home Affairs department secretary Michael Pezzullo told Senate Estimates in Canberra on Monday that the agency was assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption and would "take action" under federal law if need be.
"I am aware of the specific allegations, both in terms of the proceedings that are currently before ICAC but also in terms of the assistance that the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force is providing," Mr Pezzullo said.
"We are in discussions with ICAC to assist them."
Mr Maguire last week admitted that he took multiple cash payments of up to $20,000 in exchange for his role in setting up Chinese visa applicants with fake jobs in Riverina businesses, which provided a pathway to permanent residency.
Mr Pezzullo said he was "constrained" in some of his answers for operational reasons.
"As to the matter of so-called cash-for-visas, in any circumstances ... it undermines trust from the point of view of the public's trust in the management in the visa and the immigration program more generally," he said.
"[Public trust] does reside in a bargain that says people can come here for the purposes for which they are allowed to enter, that their activities will be in compliance with the conditions of their visa."
Labor senator Kristina Keneally asked if Home Affairs had launched an "internal investigation".
"Not as I am advised, in relation to Mr Maguire," Mr Pezzullo responded.
"Certain individuals associated with the matter, I will say, have come to attention previously."
Mr Pezzullo said Home Affairs was working out how many visas were involved.
"If it is pertinent to enforcement of federal laws, we will be taking action, I can assure you, independently and in any event," Mr Pezzullo said.
Counsel assisting ICAC Scott Robertson asked Mr Maguire last week if "an essential element" of his visa scheme "was potentially lying to immigration officials?"
"Yes, I agree," Mr Maguire said.
Temora real estate agent Angus McLaren told ICAC last month it was "possible" he provided "false" visa paperwork to Home Affairs, but his signature might have been forged by Mr Maguire's associate.
"I mean it's a scam, isn't it, so anything goes," Mr McLaren said.
Great Southern Electrical director Shaun Duffy agreed at ICAC he signed visa paperwork that was "misleading in a number of respects".