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Turnbull will do anything to keep his job including sacrificing our democracy

Yesterday, George Brandis, in his farewell speech, fired a warning shot at the Liberal Party and, in particular, at Peter Dutton.

Brandis said “powerful elements of right-wing politics” had abandoned the liberal tradition in favour of “a belligerent, intolerant populism which shows no respect for either the rights of individual citizens or the traditional institutions which protect them”.

“I have not disguised my concern at attacks upon the institutions of the law – the courts and those who practice in them,” he said. “To attack those institutions is to attack the rule of law itself.”

It was the attorney-general’s duty to defend the rule of law, Senator Brandis said, “sometimes from political colleagues who fail to understand it, or are impatient of the limitations it may impose upon executive power”.

He also warned that as responsibilities for ASIO are assumed by Mr Dutton in the Home Affairs super-portfolio, the spy agency’s independence from ministers “must remain sacrosanct”.

If this is the opinion of the man who occupies the highest legal position in the country, it begs the question as to why Malcolm Turnbull, with the creation of the Home Affairs portfolio, has given Peter Dutton such individual unfettered power.

In a report by Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project released in May last year, former Fraser-era immigration minister Ian Macphee said he was “disgusted by the power accorded to current ministers regarding the lives of people fleeing persecution”.

“Ministers now exercise power that is mostly beyond the review of judges,” he said. “Such power should be exercised humanely and in accordance with morality, not absolute law.

“The law and its practice is now unjust. It is un-Australian.”

Current powers include various discretions to approve, refuse, or cancel visas, to detain or re-detain an asylum seeker without warning, to send asylum seekers to offshore detention centres and, in some cases, prevent reviews of decisions not to grant protection visas.

The report found the creation and use of discretionary powers, particularly under immigration and national security legislation, had risen over decades, despite warnings from several previous ministers.

The report also pointed to two more Coalition bills that sought to expand them even further under the current minister, Dutton. These powers, the RAP said, would further allow an immigration minister to “play god”.

“Those decisions are not made in a transparent way in accordance with fair processes,” the report said.  “Rather, the minister is empowered to an alarming degree to make decisions based upon his whim, with scant regard for due process.”

The report found that the immigration minister held 47 “public interest” or “national interest” powers that conferred largely undefined ministerial discretion.

“This is an astonishing development of unchecked discretionary power considering that in 1989 there were only three comparable public interest based discretionary powers and, prior to that, there were none whatsoever,” the report said.

Report author Lauren Bull said: “Under Australian law, no other minister – not even the prime minister – is given anywhere near as much unchecked power.  It is fundamentally at odds with basic principles of democracy and the rule of law for one politician to have [that much] personal power to make such important decisions affecting people’s most basic of rights.”

There are also serious concerns about new powers for the incoming Attorney-General, Christian Porter, to compel the national intelligence watchdog to investigate a security matter.

The IGIS scrutinises the activities of ASIO, ASIS, the Office of National Assessments, the Australian Signals Directorate, the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation.

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Margaret Stone told a parliamentary inquiry that new legislation governing her agency following the establishment of the Home Affairs portfolio will undermine her office’s independence and likely open the Attorney-General, who authorises warrants requested by ASIO, to a perceived conflict of interest.

“For instance, could a direction to undertake a particular inquiry be seen to divert the resources of this office from a review of ASIO warrants?” she said.  “The power of the Attorney-General to compel an inquiry would materially detract from the Inspector-General’s ability to assure the public, as well as parliament, that the decision to conduct an inquiry is free from political influence.”

We have already seen how the Coalition have seconded the AFP for political purposes.

Gillian Triggs, in her first public speech after stepping down as president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, attacked Coalition government ministers for interfering with the judicial system and for destroying the integrity of Parliament by peddling “alternative facts”.

“A culture of post-truth has allowed politicians and Parliament to reject evidence based reports by credible agencies in favour of populist decision-making that denies the truth and responds to fear,” she told UNSW’s Power to Persuade symposium.  “This is particularly the case in relation to refugees, asylum seekers, terrorism, and conflict matters in general.”

Professor Triggs also referred to the Turnbull government’s “extraordinary and unprecedented growth in executive decision-making contrary to the principles of the separation of powers”.

“We have ministers now with non-compellable and non-reviewable purposes that are not subject to review by the courts,” she said. “We have seen a corresponding diminution in the role of the courts, as a lawyer that is something that I am especially concerned about.”

With all of these organisations and experienced office-holders, and many more, warning against the unprecedented rise of ministerial power with no oversight, the politicisation of security forces, the undermining of the independence of statutory bodies, and the contemptuous attacks on the judiciary, Malcolm Turnbull’s meek acquiescence to the empire building aspirations of Peter Dutton and Mike Pezzullo is exposed for the cowardly self-preservation that it so obviously is.

Turnbull, in choosing Dutton in the first place and then expanding his power, shows no judgement of ability and no regard for the best interests of the country, the rights of individuals, or the separation of powers.

He will gladly sacrifice our democracy in order to maintain his position.

He is a self-serving coward.


29 comments

  1. Terry2

    ….. it begs the question as to why Malcolm Turnbull, with the creation of the Home Affairs portfolio, has given Peter Dutton such individual unfettered power.

    Or perhaps for how long will Peter Dutton continue to tolerate Malcolm Turnbull as the proxy Prime Minister ?

    Kaye, thanks for the article, interesting that Brandis should be the canary in the mine. He could have just gone quietly and enjoyed his London sinecure but under all that haughtiness and pomposity there still beats the remnants of a Liberal heart.

  2. Keitha Granville

    So, as he is leaving, he has the courage to say what he thinks how about fighting for the true Liberal way while he was inside? Just the same as MT, not an ounce of integrity or adherence to your own basic principles. Malcolm has sacrificed every vestige of his own ethics, and anything he used to believe, to hang on to the job.
    Senator Brandis can wander off to his cushy new job – nice for him

  3. Glenn K

    ….and Brandis kept his mouth shut whilst he was inside the tent to ensure he didn’t endanger getting his cushy new job. Another pig at the trough. Fascism does not announce itself during an election – it creeps up on the population through the generation of false fear and fabrication. There will not be a pretty ending to all of this.

  4. Frank Smith

    Kaye Lee,
    James Button has provided some interesting insights into the rise and rise of Dutton and Pezzullo in his essay in the current issue of “The Monthly”. I recommend the article to readers of this blog – these are two very ambitious and dangerous men who, as you point out Kaye Lee, are an enormous threat to our so-called democracy.

    https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2018/february/1517403600/james-button/dutton-s-dark-victory

  5. wam

    Scary, Kaye and Glenn,
    How much worse it would be with the rabbott?
    Go for it, bill, or go???

  6. Terry2

    When Joe Hockey left the parliament to take up his New York sinecure he also told the truth in his valedictory speech, when he said :

    “In that framework [of being wiser and more consistent on tax concessions] negative gearing should be skewed towards new housing so that there is an incentive to add to the housing stock rather than an incentive to speculate on existing property.”

    Precisely the policy that Labor have been pushing and which Trumble as recently as yesterday said would take a sledge-hammer to the economy. The sad thing is that they know in their hearts that what they are doing is not in the national interest yet they persist for purely ideological reasons.

  7. Kaye Lee

    It’s not sad, Terry. It’s despicable. They view the Treasury as their personal bank account and government as an opportunity to further their own ambitions and those of their supporters. Public service is completely absent.

    And now Barnaby has been given a whole new slush fund to porkbarrel his way to success. Even Darren Chester said the porkbarrelling is disgraceful.

    “”[The] lack of transparency on grant allocations is undermining public trust in our system of government.”

    Mr Chester said the history of short-term election sweeteners with no long-term planning was further eroding the electorate’s faith in the system.

    No matter where you look, this government is a pathetic pack of political hacks milking the system for all it’s worth.

  8. diannaart

    Brandis – there beats the heart of a true liberal(?). At the end of his career in the Canberra viper pit on his way to a position of privileged comfort.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Frank,

    Thanks for the link to The Monthly article. So much information to wade through but one telling fact struck me.

    When Mike Pezzullo took over as head of Immigration , thirty members of the Senior Executive Service, more than a quarter of the total, left the department.

  10. lawrencewinder

    …and it remains to be seen whether Labor, if elected, will reverse these fascist pieces of legislation and also remove Pezzullo. The Monthly article on Dutton and M.P. was very sobering reading…. this nation is in a very dangerous place.

  11. Roswell

    We are now seeing what little regard Peter Dutton has for human life. Is it little surprise, then, that he was once voted the worst Minister for Health? Ever?

  12. Roswell

    Lawrence, do you have a link?

    I’d very much like to read it.

  13. Kaye Lee

    There is a very dangerous precedent being set here.

    On Ray Hadley today a listener rang to thank Peter Dutton for personally, and immediately, acting on his request that someone be deported.

    “On the radio this morning, Mr Miller became emotional thanking Mr Dutton for his support.

    “I’d just like to thank Peter. An accomplice to my son’s death was sentenced to over 12 months jail… and there was a bit of a mix up at the courthouse and he was let to walk free,” Mr Miller told the program. (He didn’t mention, or perhaps understand, it was a suspended sentence.)

    “I got on to Peter Dutton’s office in Canberra, he was unavailable at the time and he rang me back at 4.30pm.

    “He got onto the Queensland Police and Border Force immediately and that illegal immigrant was taken back into custody by 6.30pm that night and held for deportation to New Zealand.

    “I’d like to that Peter Dutton for that, he didn’t know me from a bar of soap. The guy’s a champion, he’s out there looking out for Australians and the Australian way of life.”

    https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/thanks-for-deporting-cole-killers-accomplice/ar-BBIPQVr?li=AAgfYrC&ocid=mailsignout

    So Dutton, on the basis of a phone call from a stranger, takes one man’s assessment of court rulings as “a bit of a mix up” and immediately uses his powers to act within less than two hours of speaking to this man he doesn’t know on the phone?????????

    PS Roswell, scroll up. Frank gave a link for the Monthly

  14. Roswell

    Thank you, Frank. 👍

  15. Graeme Henchel

    Is Turnbull a waffling banker or a baffling wanker?
    Is Dutton a creeping plod or a plodding creep?

  16. Kaye Lee

    Are they there to serve the public or give the public a serve?

  17. Phil

    Well stated Kaye Lee. It must have taken many hours if not days to get a picture of Dutton’s forced smile. He’s an evil man with evil powers. Turnbull is indeed a coward, clearly intimidated by Dutton and the hard right of the party.

    Turnbull deserves the nation’s contempt – he’s certainly got mine.

    What will Labor do with all these new ministerial powers when it takes office? I’d like to hear from the ALP as to how it intends to roll back the undemocratic powers, break up this ugly Home Affairs portfolio and reinstate the separation of powers.

  18. diannaart

    What will Labor do with all these new ministerial powers when it takes office? I’d like to hear from the ALP as to how it intends to roll back the undemocratic powers, disband this ugly Home Affairs portfolio and reinstate the separation of powers.

    Yes indeed, Phil, what will Labor do?

  19. corvus boreus

    Here’s an alternate image from the ‘smiling Dutton’ search.

    Ps, truth note; it’s actually the photo of a museum puffer-fish specimen that was first pickled to bloat then dried out for public display.

  20. John Lord

    does Dutton have some knowledge about the PM that enables him to demand such appointments.

  21. Glenn Barry

    John LordFebruary 8, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    does Dutton have some knowledge about the PM that enables him to demand such appointments.

    I have often wondered precisely the same thing, extortion isn’t something which ever really goes out of fashion in politics, especially with the desperation which defines Turnbull

  22. paul walter

    John Lord, until the events involving his marriage he had the support of the Right and big business, as one of a number of ministers and other political and media figures (eg Andrew Robb) advocating and implementing the IPA view and program via parliament.

    Which is not to say that the recent farce will have the slightest impact on the overall neolib consensus and Bop in parliament, except on the issue of declining Nats influence.

    Since when have scandals cost most of them anyway, on another tack?

    The era of Agrarian socialism, like most other socialisms, is arguably on the wane as neoliberalism continues to blunt opposition from communities to what it regards as “development. Of course the upper echelons of the Nats never minded so much when FTAs and “development”/agri business had them earning a place at the troughs, but the resentment reflected in the rise of Hansonism means that the Nats could become more marginalised.

    To a limited extent Labor has had also to deal with the imperatives of neoliberalism against the interests of say, disillusioned manufacturing workers or environmentalist fleeing to the Greens.

    If there is a change it will be in consolidation of the power of Martin Plaza and Collins Street and their offshore collaborators against rural groups not fond of the banks, so it can be included as part of a general trend away from populism which is useful for getting the Right into power, but at times then awkward when it comes to the implementation of neoliberalism of the financialised globalisation sort.

  23. Dale

    Just look at the emboldened JIm Molan, there are so many in the lnp now that are determined to provoke, just look at the latent spite in people like Pine, Turnbull, Dutton, Molan, Joyce, Cash, the list goes on…I can only believe that they are determined to invoke civil insurrection, because it`s in their DNA.

  24. Cool Pete

    Dutton is a latter day combination of Himmler and Goebbels.

  25. jimhaz

    Recently I was chatting with someone who knows Jim Molan. That person said – He has almost no political knowledge and entered parliament because he was bored.

  26. jimhaz

    Fact 1: There are more than 100 species of pufferfish.
    Fact 2: They can grow up to nearly four feet long.
    Fact 3: When threatened, they can puff up to make themselves up to three times larger.
    Fact 4: Pufferfish are among the most poisonous animals on earth.
    Fact 5: Pufferfish are like chameleons.

    Fact 6: Pufferfish have four teeth.
    Fact 7: Some species of pufferfish build `nests’
    Fact 8: Pufferfish can be kept as pets.
    Fact 9: Pufferfish are a delicacy in Japan.
    Fact 10: Some species of pufferfish are endangered.

    I so wish number 10 was true for Dutton.

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