JOHN MENADUE. The Best of 2018: Peter Dutton is an embarrassment for all of us.

Dec 31, 2018

Peter Dutton failed as Health Minister. His track record since then is even worse. 

Most recently Peter Dutton told us that white South African farmers needed our help. He was rebuked by Julie Bishop who said that Australia’s Humanitarian Visa Program will not be changed. Typically, Malcolm Turnbull avoided the issue.

Peter Dutton recently commented that ‘South African farmers are the sort of migrants that we want to bring to our country’. As former white British colonies, we share a dark racist history with South Africa. We should not repeat it, The infamous ‘dictation test’ to enforce White Australia was copied from Natal. We fought in the Boer War on behalf of British Whites. Robert Menzies and John Howard bitterly opposed the dismantling of apartheid.

As Minister for Immigration in 1981, Ian Macphee was concerned about racial violence in WA against Asian immigrants. We were advised by our own department officials and the police that much of this violence was provoked by white migrants from Southern Rhodesia. I am not sure how successful we were, but we attempted to put a stop to migration of these sorts of people from southern Africa.

After Nelson Mandela came to power there was a rush of White South Africans ‘packing for Perth’ as Jon Piccini described in The Conversation of March 19 2018 .

Malcolm Fraser must be turning in his grave at the welcome Peter Dutton is extending to Afrikaaner farmers.

Does Peter Dutton want a repeat of this dark racist history? Perhaps he does.

Then there is the brutality of Peter Dutton’s approved regime to punish asylum seekers in order to deter new arrivals. Numerous international agencies, including the UN have pointed to countless cases of physical and psychological abuse. Unfortunately the ALP has soiled its hands as much as Peter Dutton on this issue.

Peter Dutton attempted to amend the Citizenship Act to extend the qualifying period for applicants, raising the English language requirements, banning citizens whose conduct was inconsistent with Australian values (whatever that meant) and limiting the number of times a migrant applicant could sit the Australian citizenship test. This enterprise of Peter Dutton’s was all political as well as being ‘poisonous and pointless’ as Peter Hughes described in Pearls and Irritations. In the end, Peter Dutton was left with scarcely a supporter. The citizenship legislation had to be completely withdrawn, but not before it had all blown up in his face with the citizenship fiasco problems of members of parliament, including the Deputy Prime Minister.

One of Peter Dutton’s creations has been the Australian Border Force in 2014. The force has been one disaster after another, which has now culminated in the dismissal of its Commissioner, Roman Quaedvlieg. ABF is in a mess. In regard to both the Home Affairs Department and the ABF, Peter Dutton has clearly shown that he cannot manage and control organizations for which he is responsible.

His harassment and attacks on non-white people was vividly illustrated in his attacks on ‘African gangs’ in Melbourne. He told us that citizens were afraid to go out to dinner. As usual, Malcolm Turnbull tagged along in support. It was no concern of Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull that last November the Victorian Crime Statistics Agency declared that crime had decreased 6% in Victoria, the largest drop in 12 years. The Economist Intelligence Unit also published an annual Safe Cities Index which listed Melbourne as the fifth safest city in the world with better rankings than any other Australian city.

Most recently Peter Dutton weighed in with Michaelia Cash’s personal attacks on women staffers in Bill Shorten’s office. Sanctimoniously Peter Dutton said that he could not tolerate morals lessons from Labor figures, even though the ALP had not mentioned the personal behavior of Barnaby Joyce but drew attention to possible abuse of taxpayers funds. Peter Dutton added that ‘to be lectured by the Labor Party really sticks in the craw’. He did not have the same reticence when he attacked African gangs in Melbourne.

And then there was Peter Dutton’s first ministerial performance as Minister for Health in the Abbott government. As a result of his performance in Health, he had to be shifted to Immigration.

As Minister for Health he was responsible for the $7 co-payment mess which he vigorously pursued for months. He abolished the National Prevention Health Agency, an outcome which is disastrous for the long term health of Australians. He opposed the plain packaging of tobacco.

The Australian Doctor magazine has a readership of around 20,000, mostly GPs and specialists. In a survey of its readers, 46% out of 1,100 readers ranked him as ‘the worst health minister in 35 years’.

Surely Malcolm Turnbull knows what an embarrassment Peter Dutton is to him and to Australia. Unfortunately, Malcolm Turnbull depends on people like Peter Dutton to bolster his fragile prime ministership.

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