The attack by Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, on Malcolm Fraser’s refugee policies is outrageous. We have had a succession of inadequate immigration ministers in recent years but Dutton is setting the standards even lower. Yet, Turnbull recently declared him to be “an outstanding immigration minister”. The Liberal Party has long ceased to be liberal.
Dutton’s attack on Fraser’s refugee policies grabbed headlines he had hoped for. The SMH headline was “Peter Dutton attacks Malcolm Fraser’s refugee legacy”. The Australian’s was: “Peter Dutton says Malcolm Fraser’s immigration policy to blame for crime gangs.” These were the headlines that Dutton must have wished for after his interview with the extremist Andrew Bolt on Sky News.
Yet it outraged many community organisations led by former refugees and their children with whom I have remained in contact. Their anger is justified. For Dutton’s words offended them, especially as they attacked Malcolm Fraser for whom they have profound respect and whose policies enabled them to integrate with and expand the understanding of other Australians of the rich, diversified culture that Australia has due to the contribution of migrants and refugees.
When Dutton’s remarks were reported I was at a conference on refugee law and policy at the Kaldor Centre at the University of New South Wales. All present were experts on aspects of refugee settlement and were astonished by Dutton’s ignorance.
A Parliamentary enquiry has been established to consider resettlement outcomes for migrants to Australia. I hope that some of the experts at the conference will be allowed to participate and defuse ignorant, alarmist voices such as those of Dutton, Bolt and Hanson.
Ian Macphee, Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in the Fraser Government, 1979-82.