Just when you thought that Tony Abbott’s being dumped from the nation’s parliament was going to necessarily lift standards, Peter Dutton picked up his baton and ran with it.
Let us backtrack a week however. If you can bear it, watch this interview with Annabelle Crabb, on ABC’s Insiders programme, to be seen here:https://iview.abc.net.au/show/insiders
It is there for all to see, seemingly set in stone, at about 10 minutes, 30 seconds into the show. It may be available for all eternity, although I hope not. Imagine you are one of his electors, from Queensland’s seat of Dickson. He arrives, bright eyed and bushy tailed, almost charming. You could almost forgive yourself for electing this person, he looks so nice.
And then he stonewalls every single question, returning to his talking points relentlessly. No, he ignores the suggestion that the Australian Federal Police has become a political player in prosecuting selected journalists, he dismisses any feeling that sham security concerns are driving a militarised, spying agenda against Australians, he ignores the huge, wasted expenditure of re-opening Christmas Island for nothing, he states that he does not want anyone on Manus or Nauru, but stops short of actually addressing the ongoing suffering of everyone still there. The rolling over of the contract, again without a tender process, is probably going to happen, though he’s not sure, it is in the hands of the department … He seems not to understand that ‘the department’ operates under his direction.
He goes on to deny that the Americans sent anyone here in exchange for our own refugees, oh, except for two mass murderers, who somehow slipped in, no need to worry about them, he is not sure where they live. We should however be worried about alleged rapists, paedophiles and murderers who might become sick, and while being treated for their illness, will present an unacceptable danger to us all.
He implied that killing western tourists using a machete is not as heinous a crime as a more recent rape on Nauru, as if the timing of a crime is important in establishing its seriousness. And he is not sure that those facts (the machete murders) have been proved, notwithstanding the men pleaded guilty in the US.
It is difficult to judge whether he is simply dodging questions for political gain, or is he ‘just not very good on his feet’, a bit of a plodder, although when searching for political targets he appears competent. Whatever the question, he fails to answer even one of Ms Crabb’s questions. If it is not paedophiles and murderers it is Labor we should be afraid of.
But herein lies our dilemma. This is only one interview. It lasted ten minutes, and it was what I would call a ‘train wreck’. It was excruciating, and a waste of time, and it revealed the state of decay of our democracy. An interview like this would have once meant the end of a ministerial career, but his career didn’t finish, it soared. He was emboldened.
Later in the week he made the claim that rape victims on Nauru were fabricating their claims. “Some people are trying it on,” he said. “Let’s be serious about this. There are people who have claimed that they’ve been raped and came to Australia to seek an abortion because they couldn’t get an abortion on Nauru. They arrived in Australia and then decided they were not going to have an abortion. They have the baby here and the moment they step off the plane their lawyers lodge papers in the federal court, which injuncts us from sending them back.” When Dutton speaks someone suffers; his words need no embellishment. And Peter Dutton worked for the Queensland Police in the area of sex crimes.
But there’s more. Peter Dutton denies that there is a single child in detention in Australia. But we have evidence of at least two; a four year old and a two year old, siblings living in the Melbourne detention centre. I cannot imagine how he is able to explain to himself how they got there, and secondly why the little one was denied a birthday cake when she recently turned two. Additionally this child has serious dental issues, caused by a lack of sunshine during her formative years, which were spent ‘in detention’, and also a lack of remedial dental care, within our very own gulag.
Where was the Prime Minister when this week unfolded? Did he feel he should censure his minister? Did he flinch when he heard the insensitive comments about victims of sexual violence? Did he gulp with sympathy for the little girl living in pain and misery, denied even a token celebration? (Child Protection practitioners in Australia describe denying children the opportunity to celebrate significant milestones, such as birthdays, as child abuse.)
I’m not sure how Mr Morrison responded, but his stand-in, Michael McCormack, had no comment to make. So the Australian government stood idly by, during a week when a senior government minister so under-performed that he has become a by-word for insensitivity, if not downright crassness and casual cruelty. Mr Morrison wants to govern humbly, in his own words.
You can almost hear him asking, “How good’s Dutto?”
Mark Buckley is a Melbourne writer. His blog is www.askbucko.com