Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is supposedly the darling of the Liberal Party’s conservative wing. Labelled the new champion of the far right just a month ago, he is now apparently the most senior trusted member of the cabinet. One of the last remaining vestiges of the Abbott era, Dutton is still fiercely loyal to the deposed former Prime Minister. Like Abbott, he does not hide his basic contempt for humanity. He remains a strong supporter of the hard line approach to border protection. He is a firm advocate for torturing asylum seekers in offshore camps. He actively supports the trashing of human rights. And like Abbott, it is manifestly clear that he is not fit for office.
The latest scandal involved Dutton accidentally texting a female journalist and calling her a ‘mad f*cking witch’. Naturally, the usual conservative supporters are right behind him, making excuses on his behalf and justifying the serious transgression: The text was accidentally sent. The message was meant for friend and dumped colleague, Jamie Briggs. And apparently, according to the conservative fan-club, calling a woman a mad f*cking witch for publicly commenting on a junior Minister’s alleged sexual harassment of a public servant is fine, because Dutton realised immediately the error of his ways and personally apologised.
Except it is not fine. It is not even the slightest bit fine.
It is a national embarrassment, a disgrace and a further sign of the incompetence of Peter Dutton.
It does not matter even remotely if it was a flippant remark, if it was meant in jest, as a joke or a passing slur. It does not matter that the journalist in question has accepted Dutton’s apology. It is irrelevant that she has laughed the whole incident off, stressing that there are more important things to worry about than an errant text message.
Indeed, there are plenty of other important things to worry about.
And Peter Dutton’s gross failures as a Minister and elected representative are equally as serious and important.
Peter Dutton is a senior Government Minister. He is a member of the Cabinet. He is a man in such a responsible and important position that he holds the lives of innocent people in his hands.
Dutton alone, has the power to condemn people to a possible death by coercing them to return to the warzone they fled. Dutton alone, has the power to banish people from Australia forever, for something as simple as his dislike for their associations. Dutton alone, has the power to turn around boats and send them back from where they came from, with reckless abandon and nary a thought for the consequence.
Dutton, a man with enormous executive power, demonstrably cannot be trusted to send a text message to the correct recipient.
Putting aside the right to free speech and the freedom of opinion and expression, it is quite simply unacceptable for a Government Minister, a man in Dutton’s position, to refer to any person, male or female, as a ‘f*cking’ anything.
If Dutton is the champion of the conservatives; if Dutton is considered suitable for a senior Ministerial role, the standards of acceptable behaviour in the Liberal Party must be set appallingly low.
According to his supporters, Dutton’s apology has absolved him of any impropriety and wrongdoing. The unwavering support from Dutton’s colleagues and friends demonstrate what actions are condoned in the Turnbull Government. It is a telling sign of the gross contempt that the conservative parliamentarians hold Australians in. It is a clear indication of how little regard they have for respect, accountability and professionalism.
But Dutton is not absolved. An apology does not counter that Dutton thought such a message was appropriate to send in the first place.
Dutton has a problem with behaving appropriately. He accused pregnant refugees detained on Nauru of trying to blackmail him after requesting to give birth in Australia rather than an ill-equipped third world hospital. He fiercely defended his Department’s decision to deny a dying man’s family a visa to see him in his final days. He was caught out chuckling at his own joke about Pacific Islanders having water lapping at their doors. He wilfully misled Australians about the intentions of a raped Somalian refugee seeking an abortion, accusing her and her advocates of lying.
It is not the slightest bit surprising that Dutton and his conservative allies are dismissive of Dutton’s gaffe. It would not be surprising if they thought it completely appropriate to refer to a female journalist as a mad f*cking witch. In comparison to previous blunders, it has nowhere near the same disturbing consequences. International relations are not directly affected. No lives will be destroyed by his comment.
But it is not acceptable. It is not justifiable. Dutton is an embarrassment. He rivals Abbott for sheer stupidity of action and word.
Dutton is the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. He is a member of Cabinet. He has been touted as the next deputy leader.
Dutton, who exhibits such a lack of propriety, continues to bring shame on Australia.
There are certain standards of behaviour expected of an elected member of parliament. There are certain standards of behaviour expected of a representative of the people. There are certain standards of behaviour expected of anyone holding a public position.
And Dutton fails. Again and again he fails.
The time for appeasement of the conservative right is over. Dutton is not fit for office, and like Abbott, he must go.