It is a given that a Coalition government will, rightly or wrongly, promote their credentials on national security. Who could forget Tony Abbott’s ludicrous promise to shirtfront Vladimir Putin.
The tough talk might appeal to some but this political posturing has real-life consequences for people.
“Stop the boats” was not a strategy to deal with the global refugee crisis. It never addressed how our role in foreign wars was contributing to the exodus, how our greed consigned others to poverty, or what would become of the people we turned around on the high seas.
Incarcerating asylum seekers indefinitely became a weapon – a warning to others who may look to us for help. We have spent tens of millions keeping the family from Biloela locked up on Christmas Island, and hundreds of millions fighting court cases and paying compensation for the harm we have done to traumatised people who fled from danger seeking a safer life.
Buoyed by what they call success, Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and Mike Pezzullo have decided, with an election looming, to up the ante.
Deporting a 15 year old boy to New Zealand is called “taking out the trash”.
Australian citizens who try to return from pandemic ravaged India face jail time.
And Australians are warned that we must prepare to send our children off to a war with China over islands that having nothing to do with us.
The arms manufacturers are delighted. Out trots Peter Jennings from ASPI, who are sponsored by these same arms dealers, to agree that we must spend hundreds of billions more on missiles we will never shoot, submarines that will be obsolete before they are built, jet fighters that will spend most of their time on the ground.
Let’s get real here – we are never going to be a military power.
Is diplomacy dead in Australia?
Our ADF could play a vital role in building relationships if these hairy-chest thumpers would shut up and let them play to our strengths.
We are very good at search and rescue, disaster response, medical emergencies, humanitarian relief, peace-keeping, building infrastructure, providing expert advisors. Domestically the ADF have been crucial in assisting with natural disaster clean-ups and rebuilding, border closures, quarantine, and vaccine rollout. They are an agile, skilled workforce who can make a valuable contribution here and overseas rather than an expendable asset offered up for war.
Peter Dutton has failed at every portfolio he has ever been given. The critical reports of his departments have been scathing. Yet the Canberra media call him a powerbroker, a man who brings gravitas to his new role as warmonger.
Dutton is, and always has been, only focused on promoting himself.
When he went close to losing his seat of Dickson in the 2007 election, winning by only 217 votes, Dutton chose to abandon his constituents, running for preselection in the safer seat of McPherson for the 2010 election.
Interestingly, despite a lot of pressure to roll over and let Dutton have his way, Karen Andrews, Dutton’s successor in the Home Affairs portfolio, defeated him in the preselection ballot and refused to stand aside. Dutton had to skulk back to Dickson.
As the person responsible for our domestic security, Andrews needs to show that same determination now.
Home Affairs department secretary, Mike Pezzulo, hugely overstepped the mark with his belligerent drums of war speech. It was either a job application to head Defence, or a power play to let the new Minister know who is in charge. Either way, Andrews should have asserted her authority and shut it down when shown it “as a matter of courtesy” just beforehand. It was unnecessary chest-poking from a man whose experience should make him know better. What audience was he hoping to appeal to?
Karen Andrews has no experience in this area so will no doubt take a little while to find her feet – it’s a big, and important, portfolio.
Will she be strong enough to keep Batfink and Karate in check? That remains to be seen. In the interests of our national security, social cohesion and, quite frankly, our humanity, I sure hope so.
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