MUNGO MACCALLUM. Dutton on a power trip.

The Greens reckon that Peter Dutton is a sadist – that he positively enjoys inflicting cruelty on his defenceless victims.

But this is probably unfair to the potato-headed potentate. Dutton is certainly heartless, but his cruelty, while undoubtedly real, is more of an inevitable consequence of his demeanour than a deliberate agenda.

What the Home Affairs Minister really enjoys is power – what George Orwell once described as the image of a boot crashing down on a human face. He exults in trampling his opponents, leaving them defeated and demoralised. He gets his kicks not so much from tormenting them, but from crushing them into impotent misery.

Thus the brutality of his treatment of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers is almost incidental. What matters is his demonstration of supremacy – his ability to override all the normal standards of decent behavior just because he can.

There is no conceivable rationality about his intransigence. The idea that allowing a single family to stay in the country where they have resided and worked hard for years, in exemplary fashion and with the acceptance and affection of their Biloela neighbours and beyond would destroy the entire fabric of border protection and unleash uncontrollable invading armadas is too silly to contemplate even for the likes of Barnaby Joyce and Alan Jones.

But not, apparently for our Prime Minister, in total thrall to his untouchable colleague. Scott Morrison’s response to the public outcry for common sense and compassion was an outright lie: “I know what happens when people think it’s OK to make an exception here or there. I remember the deaths. I remember those terrible images and I will never allow that to happen again.”

In fact ScoMo’s fanciful recollection occurred not after an exception here or there, but after the 2007 Labor government dismantled  John Howard’s Pacific Solution. Since Morrison reinstated it and made it even more draconian, there have been several exceptions, most notably last year’s Medivac legislation. We were warned then of the onslaught of the people smugglers, but of course it never happened and there is no reason to believe giving succor to four Tamils in the outback would be any different.

And equally the message Morrison is so fearful about eluded the people smugglers when Dutton waived the rules to give a couple of au pair girls visas to help out a rich mate. It should, for the record, be noted that this was not and is not evidence of inconsistency: Dutton’s arbitrary glory of his power extends to rewarding friends as well as punishing almost everyone else.

As does the dumping of the confected concerns over on water operations and operational matters, when  there was a need to orchestrate leaks to compliant media. And the midnight abduction to shift the Sri Lankans ever further from their friends and supporters, even the gratuitous nastiness of denying a birthday cake to the three year old, was less calculated viciousness than simple, systematic megalomania.

Entirely explicable, but hardly reassuring. As the Greeks used to say, the system of tyranny is only as good as the worst man who can become a tyrant, and Peter Dutton is well on track.


Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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5 Responses to MUNGO MACCALLUM. Dutton on a power trip.

  1. Avatar Andrew McRae says:

    Good article Mungo, but I too think you’re letting him off lightly.

    To Lindy I would say that you can add vindictive and vengeful to sadistic; that’s why Morrison is scared of him.
    And to Ken I’d say you could add ‘white’ as an adjective describing those ‘people’ to whom and by whom any assistance was offered, in that execrable statement about his police experience.

    I’ve seen before that statement quoted by Ken. The really telling, chilling bit is that Dutton thinks certain people are barely deserving of life. It’s a black and white world, Dutton’s; unrestrained by society’s laws and norms, he’d shoot people. Or get others to do it.

  2. Avatar Lindy Patterson says:

    It’s nice, Mungo, that you are looking at the ramshackle personality of Potato, however as someone who has worked forty years in psychiatry I would have to say that enjoying the power does not lessen Potato’s capacity to get a real thrill out of the sadism of his behaviour
    The two capacities, for megalomania and for sadism are entwined rather than mutually exclusive
    In fact I think he has intensely personal reasons for making powerless people suffer
    To inflict the level of suffering he does requires much power
    He will never be satisfied with the amount of power he can get, but he is a sadistic pervert as well
    Morrison is clearly afraid of him

    • Avatar Florence Howarth says:

      People seem to forget that Morrison created what Dutton rules over. Dutton is little different to what Morrison was.

  3. Avatar Marilyn Shepherd says:

    Morrison did not reinstate the so called Pacific Solution, that was Julia Gillard who also deleted the entire nation for refugees who come by sea to ever be allowed to apply to stay. It is Rudd who made the famous lie ”if you come by boat without a visa you will never stay here”, in 2013 to win racist votes.

  4. Avatar Ken Dyer says:

    In Dutton’s maiden speech to Parliament, he said,

    “I often say to people that, as a police officer, I have seen the best and the worst that society has to offer. I have seen the wonderful, kind nature of people willing to offer any assistance to those in their worst hour, and I have seen the sickening behaviour displayed by people who, frankly, barely justify their existence in our sometimes over tolerant society.”

    As a politician, when he looks in the mirror in the morning, he no doubt sees “…the sickening behaviour displayed by people who, frankly, barely justify their existence …”, and no doubt, in the Biloela case he has seen but not experienced, “…the wonderful, kind nature of people willing to offer any assistance to those in their worst hour….”

    Yes, Mr Dutton, you are a true hypocrite.

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