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“Peter Dutton is a Potato” – an analysis

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton MP is well known for throwing out subjective opinion as fact. His flippant assertions are plastered across mainstream news, regardless of how incorrect, offensive or harmful to Australia’s diverse communities. However it’s one thing to pander to the ideological sensitivities of the conservative fan-base with misinformed declarations, and another thing entirely to take serious action with significant legal consequences based on nothing more than supposition and conjecture.

In the case of Australian-born terrorist Neil Prakash, the latter applies. In what can only be described as an embarrassing botching of a matter which should have been a public relations winner, it appears that Dutton has stripped citizenship from a sole Australian citizen, rendering Prakash stateless. The government has made the ill-advised assumption that Prakash is a national or citizen of a country other than Australia, namely Fiji, because his father is Fijian. Accordingly, Dutton gave written notice to Prakash, as required by law, advising that he had ceased to be an Australian citizen by virtue of his overseas terrorist/foreign fighting activities.

Clearly Dutton, or his advisors, or the senior bureaucrats responsible for briefing Dutton, didn’t actually read the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, legislation which Dutton so fervently advocated for. Or they read it, and didn’t understand it. And yet, in the face of senior Fijian officials contradicting the Australian government, and legal experts throwing doubt on the veracity of Dutton’s claims and the legality of the administrative action in affirming the cessation of Prakash’s citizenship, Dutton is holding strong.

To see just how ludicrous it is for Dutton to maintain that Prakash is a citizen of Fiji, the same creative logic can be applied to another definitive statement.

“Peter Dutton is a potato”.

In order to analyse this seemingly erroneous, or at best metaphorical statement, it’s necessary to step through the logic which should have been applied when determining if section 35 of the Australian Citizenship Act actually applied to Prakash.

The elements required to be satisfied for section 35 to apply are unambiguous:

     (1)  A person aged 14 or older ceases to be an Australian citizen if:

                    (a)  the person is a national or citizen of a country other than Australia; and

                    (b)  the person:

                             (i)  serves in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia; or

                            (ii) fights for, or is in the service of, a declared terrorist organisation; and

                    (c)  the person’s service or fighting occurs outside Australia.

Clearly Prakash is over the age of 14 being now 27 years old, and Australia-born, is at least capable of losing his Australian citizenship if the remaining elements are satisfied.

Section 35(1)(a) requires that a person “is a national or citizen of a country other than Australia”. This element is particularly relevant to determining the correctness or otherwise of the statement “Peter Dutton is a potato”.

There are no two ways to interpret the requirement in section 35(1)(a). However breaking it down for ease of understanding the operative word is “is” followed by the nouns “national” or “citizen”. The ordinary definition of “is” is the present tense third-person singular of “be” which means to equal, have identity with, or to have an objective existence. There is no “maybe” or “possibly” or “subjectively could be” or “Dutton really wants it to be the case because political convenience”.

For section 35 to apply, and for Prakash to have ceased to be an Australian citizen, he must have objectively existed as a national or citizen of a country other than Australia at the time he fought in a declared terrorist organisation, Islamic State, while overseas. That doesn’t mean “entitled to” or “eligible for” Fijian citizenship; the statement “Prakash is a national or citizen of Fiji” must have been definitively true at the applicable time.

This is where it gets awkward for the government.

Whether or not someone is a national or citizen of a country is a question of fact. Nationality and citizenship are distinct legal concepts, which are defined in a constitution or legislation or codified in the relevant country. The status of someone as a national or citizen is not simply a matter of opinion. And Fijian officials have stated quite unequivocally that Prakash is not a citizen of Fiji.

So back to the contemporaneous assertion that Peter Dutton is a potato.

Once again, there is no ambiguity in the interpretation of “is”. Peter Dutton either is, or is not, a potato. He doesn’t act like a potato or look like a potato, or want to be a potato. The statement doesn’t inquire whether he is entitled or eligible to be a potato. It states that Peter Dutton objectively exists as a potato.

From an ordinary reading, this statement is clearly nonsensical, as Dutton is a homo sapien and not a starchy plant tuber. However using the same creative interpretive logic as the government, there is a stronger argument that Dutton is in fact a potato compared with the assertion that Prakash is a Fijian citizen.

As the definition of  “national” or “citizen” is a distinct legal concept, it’s a question of fact whether a person is or is not a national or citizen, and a narrow or broad interpretation of such will result in the same conclusion. It may be difficult to navigate the complex citizenship laws of foreign countries and it may be necessary to consult legal experts from the relevant jurisdiction. But regardless, the citizenship status of a person will usually be definitive.

However because there is no legislative definition of “potato”, it’s necessary to adopt an ordinary meaning as defined in a dictionary. A narrow interpretation of “potato” results in the claim that Dutton is a starchy plant tuber. However a broad interpretation could include definitions found in a standard dictionary or an urban dictionary. This provides a far more imaginative use of the word. Dutton could be an object of poor quality, or a confusing word at the end of a sentence, or the sad forever alone single, a not-so-confident girl, or a person who is brainless and not aware of anything.

It appears on the available information that Prakash does not, and has not at any time, objectively existed as a Fijian citizen. As such, it is likely that section 35 of the Australian Citizenship Act does not apply to Prakash. His alleged involvement in overseas terrorist activities did not cause automatic cessation of his Australian citizenship, and Dutton erred in providing him with written notice that his Australian citizenship had ceased.

However it is evidently open to interpretation that Dutton is in fact a potato. While this goes some way to explaining how such a monumental and internationally embarrassing error could have occured, it is no consolation to Australians currently subject to Dutton’s continued reign of nincompoopery.

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34 comments

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  1. Peter F

    No, he is NOT a potato, but I have photographic proof that he is a rock.

    Still, the is at least consistent in his judgement and resultant actions.

  2. Rossleigh

    No, he’s not a potato. However, he’s entitled to be a potato. Therefore, we can strip him of his humanity and declare that he now is a potato…

    Whoops, that stripping of humanity bit… Too late!

  3. Andrew Smith

    Don’t think being true or legal actually matters for Nativist Conservatives (in Anglo sphere), it’s more salami tactics that conditions an ageing constituency and undecided of similar ilk into compromising their own ethics or values.

    Like Brexit (of which some Australian consultants were involved) and Trump/GOP, it’s about triggering emotions and sentiments while confusing and bamboozling anyone trying to understand and analyse more objectively; even if lying, egregiously.

    Seems to have become a permanent political media/PR tactic or agit prop for Nativism Conservatives globally; doesn’t say much for the ethics of ‘western civilisation’?

  4. terence mills

    The evidence is mounting up :

    The word potato comes from the Spanish word patata. Potato plants are usually pollinated by insects such as bumblebees.

    Mr Dutton is a great supporter of diversity within the Liberal party, seemingly for greater representation by more starchy plant tubers but not necessarily more women : his attitude to women was neatly summarised in a text he thought he sent to one of his LNP mates but actually sent it to his target, Samantha Maiden, a political editor at News Corp.who he called a “mad fucking witch”.

  5. RomeoCharlie29

    Now this is a worry isn’t it? Clearly there’s a principle, and a matter of strict legality involved in the stripping of citizenship from this bloke, but then again it’s a pity the subject of such a principled defence is a terrorist and therefore probably undeserving of defence. It’s a quandary. I am torn between despising Dutton for yet another bungle, and not giving a rats about Prakash.

  6. helvityni

    Well, he is not a potato; potatoes are nourishing, and depending how they are cooked, they can be very nice tasting…
    ( they can be starchy, and therefore fattening, no probs if you don’t eat too many of them)…

    Anyone , if some people see him as potato, he’s your very own Australian potato, and I for one ponder, how high a mere potato can rise…he almost became our first potato PM…..

    So a humble potato would not be my choice, something a bit classier like an avocado ,or a mango…perhaps?

  7. Jon Chesterson

    The Oxford dictionary definition of terrorist is ‘A person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims’, which we could also call malice. This very accurately defines Peter Dutton’s inflammatory attacks on civilians of numerous nationality including Australian and illegal circumnavigation of the law, which the Oxford dictionary more precisely defines as criminal or lies, ‘in the pursuit of political aims’ – Not unlike Trump and his business acumen in this regard. Of course Dutton attempts to write new retro laws to get round this and is known to adjudicate his own justice, not so much for the entertainment of the masses as Judge Judy, but clearly without donning a wig or gown, without qualification or gavel and usually without just cause or reason, other than ‘in the pursuit of political aims’ or malice.

    The potato comes from the Andes, a region in South America equivalent to modern-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia. Its nationality at the time of extraction to Europe was Inca. Unlike the Dutton variety it is a benign tuber of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), thus related not surprisingly to Belladonna (Deadly Nightshade), and can be toxic if not properly prepared and cooked.

    Andean Indians prepared their potatoes in a variety of ways, such as mashed, baked, boiled and stewed in ways similar to modern day Europeans, and clearly with good reason, if they were to remain in the country and be of any productive use at all. Eaten raw, though lawful renders the humble potato an instrument of terror by poisoning, suicide or self harm, and either way an act of ‘violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims’ or malice, whether inflicted on self or others.

    It would seem to me that given Dutton is, ‘A person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims’, that by popular admission and self inflicted stupidity qualifies as a potato (and lets face it if it looks like one, walks like one and acts like one, then it probably is one), and given that the potato’s identity, although multicultural today clearly has its national identity and origin from in and around Peru or Bolivia (borders aside), we are in a position to repatriate this potato-head back to Latin America, poor buggers. I’m pretty sure the argument is more solid than Fiji and they won’t have him anyway – Unless, we do as the Andean Indians do, have him mashed, baked, boiled or stewed! What about fried anyone?

    One thing’s for sure, Trump is still building a wall, so they won’t let him. No matter, we can put him on a boat and point it in that direction, who needs to know and who cares what becomes of him as long as he is never seen or heard of again? Oh wait, we have a General election on the horizon!

  8. helvityni

    …sadly all the references to vegetables when speaking of our politicians is turning me off not only of potatoes, but also of my much loved beetroot…

  9. David Evans

    He is actually a dead potato to me.

  10. terence mills

    And it came to pass that Trump vowed that his wall would be paid for by the Mexicans and his supporters cheered and vowed that it would be so.

    Then he was asked ‘but how will you ensure that the Mexicans pay for this wall ?’ and he replied that all imports from Mexico would have a tariff applied to them and this would pay for the wall and his supporters roared their approval.

    Then a small boy pointed out that if a tariff on imports from Mexico were to pay for the wall, then the American consumer would effectively be paying for the wall.

    So Trump closed down the government, insisted that the American taxpayer fund the wall and , for good measure, he blamed the Democrats.

    And his supporters roared their approval and vowed that it would be so !

  11. Deidre Zanker

    I think he might be a brussel sprout. They appear to be disliked by the majority of people.

  12. Diannaart

    Deidre

    Brussel sprouts are delicious, segmented, lightly pan fried in olive oil and slivered almond, addition of bacon for the carnivores.

    A good dusting of cracked pepper. Yum.

    Dutton? More like something stony that failed

  13. Kronomex

    Il Duttonuci is a stone. Potatoes can be boiled, baked, chipped, etc and eaten. You can do the same to stones to absolutely no avail, it just remains a hard unthinking object with no nutritional value and possible broken teeth if you try to eat it.

  14. Barry Thompson.

    After the election he will be a potato crisp.

  15. helvityni

    Deidre Zanker, yes, you are right, especially most kids will refuse to eat Brussel’s sprouts, but most of them love potato chips, but not the ones Barry Thompson is referring to, stale before opening the packet, too salty, too vinegary…

  16. guest

    Literally, Dutton is not a potato. Metaphorically, he is.

  17. Deidre Zanker

    Diannaart, thank you, I will try your cooking method.

  18. Phil Atkinson

    ” (1) A person aged 14 or older ceases to be an Australian citizen if:

    (a) the person is a national or citizen of a country other than Australia; and

    (b) the person:

    (i) serves in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia; or

    (ii) fights for, or is in the service of, a declared terrorist organisation; and

    (c) the person’s service or fighting occurs outside Australia."

    To me, the operative word here is “and”, between 35(a) and 35(b). The strong inference here is that condition (a) has to apply before condition (b) can be invoked. So far, the Fijian government has said that not only is Prakash NOT a Fijian citizen, he also has no entitlement to make application for same. We have to take the Fijian government at their word. It therefore follows that condition (b) cannot apply (whether true or not) as Prakash has failed to meet the criteria for (a). The Australian government has thus far not established if Prakash is a citizen of any other country and so it seems that removal of his Australian citizenship could have been unlawful – whether deserved or not.

    Stand by for the compensation claim. What a joke.

  19. Diannaart

    Deirdre

  20. Rhonda

    You are so right, Phil. And this the gestapotato an enabler!

  21. Grumpy Geezer

    Spud, Adolph Kipfler, Dick’tater, J Edgar Tuber, master of the political potato wedge, a chip off the old neo-Nazi block, head of the Gestapotato…if the jacket fits.

  22. helvityni

    Grumpy Geezer, after reading your amusing post ,I’m not so grumpy anymore…..

  23. DrakeN

    Oh! Dear! Diannaart; tender as it may be, I just couldn’t possibly eat a whole one of those.

  24. Grumpy Geezer

    Can’t claim authorship of all of of those helvityni…J Edgar Tuber for example came from The Guardian. It’s a good’un though.

  25. Vikingduk

    Dutton, that thing with all the charisma of a rotting corpse, the gene pool scraping with the competency of a dog shit and the character of a squashed cane toad can not and could never claim membership of the human race. A dutton by any other name would smell as foul. Well paired with that other noxious slime pezzulo free to enact their revoltingly cruel treatment of the weak and suffering.

    These things aren’t men, aren’t humans. Yet they are called honourable,they are respected and lauded by many, reviled by some, free to wallow in their evil cruelty.

    What a fucking sick society we are, how shits such as these aren’t facing crimes against humanity charges, charges of treason, racial vilification and just being incredibly cruel, evil nasty horrible fuckwits, I think shows us how morally bankrupt this society is.

  26. Diannaart

    DrakeN

    Oh dear, I see what you mean …

    😊

  27. Kronomex

    If we launched Benito Duttonolini into orbit would he be a Spudnik?

  28. corvus boreus

    I do not think that Dutton is a potato.
    Potatoes are not only palatable (fried, boiled, mashed, baked or stewed) but calmly silent, and also, spuds have no teeth.
    Dutton is not only repulsively unpalatable but it is also offensively raucous, and not only shows teeth, but tries to use them maliciously.
    Personally, based on facial recognition, I think that the Dutton creature is some horribly mutated land variant of the dog-faced puffer fish.

    https://static.ffx.io/images/$width_800,$height_450/t_crop_fill/t_sharpen,q_auto,f_auto/49f673d417de44662fe0f8423eec4c7753972c16

  29. king1394

    I would prefer the Australian citizen Neil Prakash to be returned to Australia to face our law and our punishment. By stripping him of Australian citizenship and leaving him apparently stateless, Prakash is now completely free to continue in any criminal or terrorist enterprise that will have him.
    The Libs are far too thirsty to take away citizenship and residency rights from anyone who gets involved even in relatively minor criminality – if you incur a jail sentence of more than one year you can be kicked off to some other place if you haven’t clearly established Australian citizenship. This is happening to many Kiwis, some of whom will be forced to leave children behind.

  30. roma guerin

    My thanks to all for this learned dissertation. It is rare for the mention of that man to raise a smile from me. Go to the top of the class!

  31. James Lawrie

    Dutton is the worst type of official; one who will never acknowledge a mistake and always doubles down, thus making a poor situation worse

  32. margcal

    Looks like a potato, thinks like a potato, must be a ….

  33. Kaye Lee

    Judge Sandy Street has had more than 70 cases overturned in the four years since he was appointed by the then attorney general, George Brandis. He has been found to have denied procedural fairness more than once, and to have failed to properly try cases and give proper reasons for his decisions.

    He has been criticised in the past over his frequent ex tempore decisions and on the basis of research by lawyers which found in his first six months he ruled against asylum seekers 252 times in 254 cases.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/dec/01/judge-sandy-street-asylum-seeker-decision-overturned

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