When John Howard turned almost certain defeat into victory at the 2001 election by exploiting fears about refugees and national security, he set us on an unholy path
The Liberal party decided that creating fear and disharmony and then spending a fortune on supposedly keeping us safe from miniscule threats is a winning formula.
And they are embarrassingly blatant about it.
In 2011 Scott Morrison suggested the Coalition should capitalise on community concern about Muslims. Tony Abbott began his “stop the boats” mantra. To start with we had Morrison’s weekly press conferences to tell us he couldn’t tell us anything and, when that became too ridiculous, Abbott asked for a weekly national security announcable.
In those days, Turnbull was against Abbott’s attacks and intemperate speech and felt the courts should deal with citizenship issues.
“Honest people, knowledgeable people, really well-informed people can have very different views about what the right measures are on national security, and have very different views about the right balance between, say, citizenship and national security.”
Turnbull went on: “It is not good enough that laws simply be tough … this is not a bravado issue … you’ve got to get the measure right.”
“What is the essence of a democracy?” he asked. “Some people would say a democracy is one where the majority get to do what they want. That’s not a democracy, that’s tyranny!
“The genius of a democracy governed by the rule of law – our democracy – is that it both empowers the majority through the ballot box and constrains the majority, its government, so that it is bound by law.”
Turnbull argued that, “under section 35 of the Citizenship Act, which has been in our law in that form since 1948, an Australian citizen who is a national of another country, who fights in the armed forces of another country – it may not be the same other country – against Australia, loses his citizenship automatically.” With a minor tweaking, this law could apply to people fighting for ISIS even though it was not, as such, another country. He seemed concerned about ministerial powers being above the law.
Until Dutton became, apparently, crucial to Turnbull’s survival.
Dutton wanted tougher citizenship laws so the government set up an inquiry, then refused to publish the 13,000 submissions on Dutton’s proposed citizenship test changes, arguing they had been “provided in confidence”.
Dutton is now off the leash. Whether it is pedophile asylum seekers, second and third generation Lebanese, African youth gangs, Kiwis who have already served the time for their crime, or just migrants who don’t have a university level of English, Dutton is front and centre promoting hatred and division, facts being no impediment to his overblown dog whistling. He has the “power” to say and do what he wants.
P Duddy and his sidekick, Mike Pezullo, not content with turning customs and immigration into a black-uniformed gun-toting quasi-military force, wanted an empire, and they got it.
Professor John Blaxland, head of the ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre who previously worked in Army intelligence, was one of many experts who warned against the creation of a Home Affairs portfolio.
He said the proposed structure could concentrate power “in a way that is unprecedented in the Australian context”.
In 2016, the Prime Minister commissioned an independent intelligence review which recommended, when released in July 2017, that “An Office of National Intelligence (ONI) be established as a statutory authority within the Prime Minister’s portfolio” which would “be led by a Director-General (DG ONI) and this appointment be at departmental Secretary level”.
“DG ONI would be the head of the National Intelligence Community (NIC) as well as the Prime Minister’s principal adviser on intelligence community issues, with the role including advice on the appointment of senior NIC office-holders and succession planning.”
The day before the review was publicly released and ignoring its advice completely, Malcolm gave the job to Peter Dutton.
This is the man who first ran for state parliament just after his 19th birthday. Unsuccessful, he filled in nine years in the police force before Dutton and his father founded the business Dutton Holdings, which was registered in 2000. Dutton Holdings operated under six different Trading and Business Names. Dutton Holdings bought, renovated, and converted buildings into childcare centres. It continues to trade under the name Dutton Building & Development.
Dutton was then successful in his bid for the federal seat of Dickson in 2001, just before his 31st birthday.
This is the man who was the only shadow cabinet minister to boycott the Apology to the Stolen Generation.
This is the same man who was voted worst health minister ever by health professionals, and whose immigration department has received scathing reviews, both internal and external including two from the Australian National Audit Office, pointing to gross mismanagement.
In his years as Immigration Minister he has been completely unable to come up with any solution for the refugees incarcerated on Manus and Nauru. Morrison paid a kazillion for Cambodia to take a couple, Turnbull begged Trump to take a token few more, but Dutton? Nuttin’.
This is the same man who voted no to marriage equality, presumably because he believes in the sanctity of marriage, except his first marriage, at age 22, ended after a few months. He then had a baby with another woman in 2002 before marrying his current wife the next year.
Perhaps most disturbingly, the man who tried to send a supportive text describing a journalist as a “mad, fucking witch” to a colleague who was sacked for sexual harassment of a staffer but who mistakenly sent it to the female journo instead, the man who didn’t notice the boom mike when he made racist jokes about ATSI people and laughed about Pacific Islands being inundated, is now head of our intelligence services.
Peter Dutton has completely defied the Peter Principle. No degree of incompetence, no gaffe regardless how gauche, no lie no matter how blatant, can stand in the way of his promotion.
In the 2016 election, Peter Dutton won the seat of Dickson by 2,911 votes. There were 3,172 informal votes. I wonder how many young people were prompted to enrol since then because of the marriage equality postal thingy where 65.2% of voters in Dickson voted yes.
For those concerned about national security, the best thing they can do is send the party who thinks Dutton is the solution into oblivion.