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Super Ministry or Schutzstaffel?

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It seems the passage of time has isolated all but those familiar with the atrocities of the last World War from the warning signs that signal the rise of malevolent power.

In the post-war wash-up, the world moved progressively toward globalization, and the horrors of war effectively pushed the far-right front into fractured isolation.

We live in a world of cyclical trends – be it fashion and music, or politics and ideology. With regards to the latter, what started quietly as a seed has now germinated (pardon the pun) in many quarters of the Western world into a sense of nationalism which is scarily reminiscent of the pre-Second World War era.

The threat of global terror, be it real or perceived, has driven a tide of xenophobia which runs the gamut from simmering distrust to open persecution. Islamophobia is the new black, and the fear is aggravated by deliberately skewed media spin and propaganda.

The divide between the working class and the ruling class is growing, with the rising sense that the general populace feels disrespected, ignored, and oppressed by their governments, politicians and rich business moguls. This growing dissatisfaction with ‘traditional politics’ has seen the Western world wandering down and old seemingly-forgotten path in the search for alternatives. And it’s not the yellow brick road variety; it’s the shadowy path that leads to grandma getting eaten by the wolf.

We are witnessing the rise of a far-right conservatism which is once again capitalizing on the status-quo to foster the narrative that foreigners and immigrants are to blame for our woes. We see the demonizing of foreigners in USA’s Donald Trump and in Australia’s own Pauline Hanson and the increasingly vocal conservative wing of Turnbull’s LNP government. Foreigners, if you believe the spin, are running amok in violent crime sprees. Muslims are killing our people in terror attacks. Traditional religious freedoms are under threat. Immigrants are taking all our jobs. The phrase ‘border protection’ is bandied about ad nauseam. Far-right conservatism offers protectionism and national security to counter these perceived threats. This sense of territorial nationalism, of ‘taking the country back’ particularly appeals to the poorly educated and the lower working class and unemployed demographic.

Just what is happening under this nationalistic smokescreen with the emergence of the Australian Home Affairs ‘super ministry’ should terrify ordinary Australians to the core. Problem is, as they sit watching the idiot box with a beer and a pizza it isn’t directly affecting them. Yet. Quite to the contrary, it plays to the carefully crafted perception that our streets are under siege from Islamic terrorists. And this is precisely how it happens …

“In Hitler’s Germany, first they came for the Communists but I wasn’t a Communist so I didn’t speak up …”.

Adolf Hitler rose to power in the 1930’s in similar circumstances. Following the German defeat in the First World War, Europe was plunged into the Great Depression, and Germany suffered years of economic struggle marked by runaway inflation and mass unemployment. Hitler blamed it on the foreigners. The Jews, in particular were made the scapegoat for Germany’s economic and social woes. He offered the German people a solution to make their nation great again.

From 1929 until his regime’s collapse in 1945, the Schutzstaffel, (meaning ‘Protection Squadron’) better known as the ‘SS’, was established as Hitler’s foremost agency of security, surveillance and terror within Germany and German-occupied Europe. To counter the perceived threats to the Fatherland – which eventually included communists, Jews, gypsies, trade unionists and homosexuals – SS Chief Heinrich Himmler was tasked with amalgamating the various German police and intelligence forces into a single new centralised agency called the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) and policing authorities took on an increasingly para-military complexion.

Fast-forward to 2016 where concerns are growing that the Australian Border Force is taking on an increasingly military style and ethos.

In January 2016 it was revealed the Department of Immigration spent more than $1.3 million on medals for its staff, outspending the Department of Defence and prompting new concerns about the militarisation of the portfolio. ABF uniforms were changed and took on a severe military air, which reportedly intimidated many travellers. At the same time, Minister Dutton was being handed more and more sweeping powers, and his department became the most litigated against of all government departments. Under his watch, long-term permanent residents have been deported in numbers not witnessed since the Second World War. What war is the government fighting, and who are the enemy? The parallel between the steady development of Border Force as a para-military force and the rise of Himmler’s SS should send a shiver down your spine.

“Then they came for the trade unionists, but I wasn’t a trade unionist so I didn’t speak up …”.

Gaining momentum in 1936, the Gestapo were used for political gain and the crushing of Hitler’s political opponents. Himmler, now promoted to Reichsfuhrer SS, further amalgamated the Reich Criminal Police with the Gestapo to form a ‘super ministry.’

In 2017, the commissioning of the controversial new Australian Home Affairs department saw Mr Dutton – a man who already possesses extraordinary unchecked administrative powers – become the head of a ‘super ministry’ which amalgamated immigration, police, security and intelligence departments including ASIO, ASIS, the Australian Federal Police, Border Force and the Criminal Intelligence Commission. The move drew concern from many quarters, including officials within the very agencies in question.

Controversy abounded in October 2017 when the Australian Federal Police staged coordinated raids on the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Australian Worker’s Union in an attempt to uncover documents relating to alleged donations to political factions opposing the government. Not only was the Federal Police used brazenly for ideological and political gain, but the entire operation was staged with media in attendance, drawn by a government tip-off to ensure coverage. Another disturbing move which reads directly from the Nazi playbook.

“Then they came for the Jews but I wasn’t a Jew so I didn’t speak up …”.

With the Nazis established in power, and the outbreak of war; the SS and its collective intelligence arm gained in strength and momentum. They continued to pursue and implement Hitler’s ideological policies. It was of course Himmler’s SS and Gestapo who hunted and rounded up the Jews for placement in concentration camps. Operations enacted through the SS ‘super ministry’ were not constrained by judicial or administrative review, which permitted them a broad reach.

In precisely the same manner, the suite of powers afforded to Minister Dutton have permitted him a ‘ministerial discretion’ in the decisions of who may remain in this country and who may be granted a visa. What this means is that his decisions cannot be challenged by administrative review by independent bodies like the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), and judicial bodies like the Federal Court can only recommend that he re-considers visa cancellation decisions. Dutton’s resentment for the constraints of rule of law has been made abundantly clear in the numerous instances where he has overturned the rulings of the courts to reverse visa cancellation decisions. Like Himmler, he has been given unchecked power to effectively make himself judge, jury and executioner.

Flashback to 2015 when the newly formed Australian Border Force announced an ominous new initiative called ‘Operation Fortitude.’ A press release advised that ABF officers would be stationed around Melbourne’s city checking “any individual we cross paths with” to assess visa status for possible immigration fraud.

It is hard to fathom exactly how a para-military force might randomly “cross paths with individuals” and casually ask if they possessed a valid visa, like a shop assistant offering samples of cologne to passers-by. Common sense dictates that they had an agenda of racial profiling which they would employ to target potential visa holders, and that is a frightening prospect which smacks of the profiling that the Nazis employed to track down their ‘enemies.’ Fortunately, public reaction stopped Operation Fortitude dead in its tracks.

Was Border Force testing the waters for future incursions, or to assess just how much they could get away with? Tellingly, the operation was named after a Second World War operation which was enacted just before the D-Day Normandy landings in 1944.

And yes, Australia has its very own concentration camps. Make no mistake – that is what they are. Not processing centres or detention centres. We have a network of camps where refugees and non-citizens languish in indefinite detention, drawing intense criticism from the UN Human Rights Committee.

With the atrocities of Manus Island now firmly in the spotlight, 2017 saw the largest compensation payout in Australian legal history for those illegally detained there, and it seems the apple is ready to fall in the onshore detention regime as well.

“Then they came for the Catholics but I wasn’t a Catholic so I didn’t speak up …”.

So where will Dutton take his Home Affairs juggernaut in 2018? You can bet your bottom dollar that the ‘foreigners running amok in crime sprees’ theme will continue to get air-time whilst there is political mileage to be gained. This plays to the LNP government’s narrative that the opposition has gone soft on crime; that criminals are protected over victims. It also sets the scene for increasing AFP intervention in state affairs.

We will continue to be reminded of the ever-present threat of Islamic (is there any other kind?) terrorism. Dutton will remind you of the threat of more boats and the pitfalls of relaxed border protection. If we are to believe him, only an LNP government will keep us safe.

This is a ministry which operates under intense secrecy. And here’s the thing about secrets – except for keeping quiet about that surprise birthday present for your partner, you only ever keep dark things a secret. There will be secret files created on target individuals, a fact which Secretary for Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo has already openly alluded to in a scary, off-the-wall speech which confounded businessmen attending the 2017 Trans-Tasman conference.

Expect Home Affair’s intel agencies to start digging the dirt on the government’s political opponents, while Dutton himself continues to grab for further power to extend his reach. His heavy-handed dealings with non-citizens and refugees is now well documented. Hitting the ground running following his promotion to Minister for Home Affairs, he announced plans to pursue criminal offenders holding dual citizenship. In 2018 you can expect him to further test just how far he can stretch the legislation to strip Australians of their citizenship. And beyond that …

“Then they finally came for me — and by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

(Quotes in bold italics attributed to Rev Martin Niemöller – a Lutheran pastor who survived years of imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp 1938-1945).


18 comments

  1. sandrasearle

    I’ve actually posted this on my Facebook page so that I can share this article with as many people who read it.
    Thank you Leo for such a well constructed precise of exactly how history could well be repeating itself as it was before WW2 in Germany.
    Dutton has been given so much power that we should all be very, very afraid of the consequences if this government is not stopped in its tracks sooner than later.
    The centre right and left of both major parties should call this for what it is – facicsm, pure and simple.
    The people of this country deserve to know what is going on under our very noses so that we can discuss and educate each other.
    I am an older citizen of this country so have been witness to the awful aftermath of what devastation we were all faced with after WW2.
    What we now need is for people to become aware of what is happening around them and to encourage them to stand up and call out this very ugly thuggish government and especially Turnbull and Dutton.
    Bring on an early election would be the best thing to happen in 2018.

  2. Rob

    Agree Snadrasearle, problem is an apathetic electorate. The LNP has been dumbing them down for so long ,they are bored, disinterested and easily lead. The parallels with pre WW Germany are stark and there for all to read. Reading takes too long, don;t look backwards look forwards etc etc. The LNP, its sabre rattling, finger pointing and blame culture are becoming the norm, not the exception. turnbull is a sham, his party, a dictatorship in waiting. Scare tactics, your’re safer with us or the unions will get you. No they won’t, but the liberals and their cohorts will. THe IPA the policy Wing of the LNP, already has the President of The Senate, various IPA members in the senate and sympathisers in the Reps Chamber, who go to IPA dinners / meetings just for the canapes and soda water.

    To quote the OP:
    “With the Nazis established in power, and the outbreak of war; the SS and its collective intelligence arm gained in strength and momentum. They continued to pursue and implement Hitler’s ideological policies. It was of course Himmler’s SS and Gestapo who hunted and rounded up the Jews for placement in concentration camps. Operations enacted through the SS ‘super ministry’ were not constrained by judicial or administrative review, which permitted them a broad reach.

    In precisely the same manner, the suite of powers afforded to Minister Dutton have permitted him a ‘ministerial discretion’ in the decisions of who may remain in this country and who may be granted a visa. What this means is that his decisions cannot be challenged by administrative review by independent bodies like the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), and judicial bodies like the Federal Court can only recommend that he re-considers visa cancellation decisions. Dutton’s resentment for the constraints of rule of law has been made abundantly clear in the numerous instances where he has overturned the rulings of the courts to reverse visa cancellation decisions. Like Himmler, he has been given unchecked power to effectively make himself judge, jury and executioner.”

    Dutton is the front man for the faceless who want it all, with or without us voting for them. (The IPA by the way want to abolish Compulsory voting in case you weren’t aware)

  3. Joseph Carli

    And yet the “good people” of New England voted back in Barnaby Joyce with an increased majority!..I worry that with a now corrupted electorate, we just may be ripe for a corrupted militia-style border force…It doesn’t auger well..

  4. Kronomex

    Like I’ve said before, Dutton reminds me too much of Himmler (that’s why I nicknamed him Heinrich Dutton). A colourless rat cunning nothing suddenly given immense power and he’s now unleashing his inner fascist with no-one stopping him. Trembles won’t that’s for sure.

    Roll on election time.

  5. David Stakes

    And all this happening under Turnbulls watch, giving Dutton these powers. It has to be a trade off for him to keep his job, and not be removed by a spill. Get to an election and LNP will hope they can fool everyone again and get in. Then will they remove Turnbull in a coup and put Dutton in power. From then on the rest is history repeated. Until people wake up.

  6. Andreas Bimba

    When you critically analyse the behaviour of the duopoly and so many Australians towards helpless and innocent asylum seekers, the ongoing failure to create the circumstances for a decent life for far too many indigenous people, the acceptance of very high real levels of unemployment, underemployment and working poor, the sociopathic treatment of the unemployed, poor and disadvantaged, the ongoing brutality of our prisons and the ever diminishing levels of foreign aid – Australia has clearly degenerated badly.

    Are we any more humane or wise than the German people of the 1930’s? I don’t think so.

    I firmly believe that our ruling corporate and wealthy oligarchy along with most of their equivalents in other nominally democratic as well as autocratic nations like China and Russia are knowingly and incrementally implementing a form of police state that is indeed fascist. The ruling elites do indeed fear the people and have no intention of allowing true democratic control which will unwind their power, wealth and privilege.

    It is not just the Conservative right part of the establishment but the ‘progressive’ establishment who are just the other side of the same coin, that are almost certainly involved by design or by neglect in the dissolution of true democratic control.

    I don’t trust the current ALP but at least the rate of degeneration will no doubt be less under their governance.

    Malcolm Turnbull is I believe more than just a puppet of the corporate and wealthy oligarchy but is one of them. I also suspect his prior support of an Australian head of state and a Republic was in reality an attempt to hijack the process so as to further entrench our degeneration into an authoritarian oligarchy by subtly weakening our very democratic but royalist constitution and installing a head of state selected by a 2/3 majority of a joint sitting of both houses of Federal Parliament which in reality means selection by the heavily compromised and neoliberal duopoly.

    I am not a royalist but currently I would prefer a nominally progressive King Charles as our head of state rather than a neoliberal stooge chosen by the duopoly. The current Queen has always walked in time with the ruling elites.

    Any President must be democratically elected and I do not care if that then provides a mandate to exert real influence. Any changes to our constitution must be extremely carefully considered which I think is impossible under the current rule by the corporate and wealthy oligarchy with their mass media and their current puppets in the duopoly.

    One of the very few things I would like to thank John Howard for is the blocking of Malcolm Turnbull’s attempt to undermine our constitution and the vital independent power of the head of state to dismiss a government and to call elections if necessary.

  7. Kaye Lee

    They thought they were free.

    “This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

    Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?

    “To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.”

    http://press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/511928.html

  8. Jack Russell

    We think we are free . . . except for those who see the rachet.

  9. John Richardson

    While everyone seems ready to attribute the rise of Dutton, Abetz & the other “knuckle-draggers” from the “right”, not only in the elected Parliament, but also in the bureaucracy & the intelligence services, to Turnbull’s weakness, loss of principle or fear of losing the Prime Ministership, I am now starting to wonder if there might be something far more sinister afoot & that Turnbull may in fact not be in a position to control events taking place around him … or is that just another “conspiracy theory” & am I being too kind to him?

  10. Keitha Granville

    Agree with all of the above writers, and what a great piece spelling it out – glad I am not alone. Surely there are enough of us who actually “read, mark, learn ” (drummed into me by a high school maths teacher) and listen to everything rather than just letting the world go by. I am convinced the German population did just that, and could not believe until shown it just what had been perpetrated in their name. (I know, many of them DID know, just chose to ignore)

    The similarities with the rise of Nazism, the SS, Gestapo etc MUST be obvious, mustn’t they ? Or did you need to be born in the post war era, with a family who fought against the powers of darkness, to get it, to understand the danger.

    Those who know and remember enough must continue to fight, to educate and to oppose this regime. It’s not a government, it is a regime.

  11. Kaye Lee

    Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’

  12. Cool Pete

    I agree with Kronomex. I call him Adolf Heinrich Goebbels Mutton Carcass. I have long said that granting him such powers is dangerous, in fact, I warned that electing the abbott excuse for a government was dangerous! I also call him Adolf Heinrich Goebbels Mutton Carcass as I am embarrassed that he has the same given name as me.

  13. Andrew J. Smith

    Not simply parallels with Nazi Germany and Axis allies, but Australian, UK and US ‘Anglosphere’, and middle Europe are drawing from the same (poisoned) wells.

    Chris Hedges describes unethical Christianity from 1930s Germany aka (im)Moral Majority.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Fascists:_The_Christian_Right_and_the_War_on_America

    Earlier Martin Lee wrote of more direct links with Nazis post WWII.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beast_Reawakens

    Quite disturbing not just the activists but the passivity and acquiescence of society.

  14. Phil

    There was a time – and it was recent – when writing like this would immediately invoke Godwin’s Law – but not so today with Dutton’s ominous elevation to a post way, way beyond his intellectual capacity, but well within his crude, evil and ambitious goals.

    Prime Minister Turnbull is the spineless quisling who gave this evil cretin Dutton his unchecked powers and I want to see Turnbull pay dearly for this treasonous appointment against the good nature and the decency of majority Australians.

  15. stephengb2014

    There is some sort of saying or truth or something when people equate current events to Nazi Germany – sorry the saying escapes me.

    My fear is that we are scared of making this comparison for fear of being called negative, pessimistic or something similar (paranoid) not sure but it will be something to fear.

    I cannot for the life of me understand how any individual, certificate or license holder, officer of the crown, approved person, delegate, or minister; can be afforded unfettered power, it is totally opposite to a democratic system or society.
    The only reason is for my mind is to cercumvent natural justice, due process, the right to advocacy, the right of innocece until proven guilty, our day in court and judgement by our twelve good and true.

    I, tell you how concerned I am, I have made a point of revalidating my British Passport, as a precaution. I am sure that under this new Home Affairs Ministry, there will be a means to note every single person who has uttured the slightest desent toward this current government (this guy Pelluzzo indicates clearly this is the case). Given the propensity for all of the LNP especially its minister to lie, there is no doubt in my mind I, and many like me, could find ourselves indicted for something we didnt do just to deport us, after a suitable time of mind bending treatment in a concentration camp.

    Yes call me scardy custard, because yes I am.

    S G B

  16. Andreas Bimba

    And don’t forget the power of distractions. A very apt Guardian article brought to my attention by Sydney based humanist and Facebook friend – Victor Bien.

    “Ex-Google strategist James Williams thinks talk of dystopia is not far-fetched. He did a PhD at Oxford studying persuasive design. It was a journey that led him to question whether democracy can survive the new technological age.”

    “It is against this political backdrop that Williams argues the fixation in recent years with the surveillance state fictionalised by George Orwell may have been misplaced. It was another English science fiction writer, Aldous Huxley, who provided the more prescient observation when he warned that Orwellian-style coercion was less of a threat to democracy than the more subtle power of psychological manipulation, and ‘man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/05/smartphone-addiction-silicon-valley-dystopia

  17. lawrencewinder

    This will all end as messily as it did in the 40’s!

  18. diannaart

    A significant difference today from the circumstances mid 20th century – we and most worryingly our leaders have an almost infinite array of media with which to distract, debilitate, deceive and dominate.

    Our freedom of communication is being used against us – time to take back our voices. However, we cannot do this while arguing among ourselves, this begins with us here at AIMN – it is not acceptable to make assumptions about people we do not really know apart from the forum. We may well have disagreements, however to then ignore everything another person has to say because of a single point is just wasting time.

    I tire of defending myself from people who claim to be progressive. I need my energy for more important work than dealing with the petty. We are facing a very dangerous time, as noted above; Godwin’s Law no longer applies, the rise of fascism is clear across most of the OECD nations. We keep letting ourselves be divided…

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