A minor set back last week for Peter Dutton’s unbending plan to rule the world. Not only did he put his own jackboot in a cowpat, but his chief enforcer, Commission Roman Quaedvlieg (anagram: love and quagmire) hit the wall over findings of inappropriate and misleading conduct with the employment of his girlfriend.
It took almost a year, during which Quaedvlieg trousered some half a million bucks for doing nothing much other than texting his lover some 14,000 times, which works out at about $36 an SMS, surely not excessive.
But the lavishly uniformed bureaucrat will have to be replaced, no doubt at vast expense, and Dutton’s very well paid eminence gris – Home Affairs departmental head the almost insanely ambitious Mike Pezzullo is no doubt already on the case looking for someone equally arrogant and brutal.
Dutton’s quest for power has so far gone pretty well: the various amalgamations to his empire now run to some 23,000, making it one of the biggest bureaucracies in Canberra and one of the least accountable. The magic formula, “we stopped the boats,” is seen to justify any excess, any outrage.
Thus when Dutton decided to weigh into the debate about if, how and when South African farmers might be forced to leave their land, Dutton did not hesitate. These were the real refugees, he proclaimed, persecuted and threatened by a ruthless government; the only proper course would be to bring them to Australia where they would, being white, Christian and Anglophone (apart from those who only spoke Afrikaans – and surely they could learn) become model productive citizens.
Of course they were not the only ones being persecuted and threatened – it is widely rumoured that there could be others: Rohingyas, Syrians, Afghans, Libyans, Sudanese – quite a lot of victims really, including a few asylum seekers on Nauru ,and Manus, where they have already been found to be genuine refugees but remain incarcerated indefinitely.
Most if not all of these are in much worse plights than the South Africans, who, if they are forced to leave their rainbow nation, will do so more as what Dutton used to call economic refugees rather than the real kind.
But Dutton insists they are entitled to a “civilized” country, the clear implication being that South Africa is not one: presumably it is what Donald Trump would describe as a shithole. Unsurprisingly, the South Africans are not amused and Australia’s refugee advocates have dismissed the minister’s thought balloon as racist. And it is, in a low-key, Queensland sort of way – more ignorant and stupid than malicious, but nonetheless embarrassing.
But although there were those who poured shit on him, Peter Dutton remained undeterred, haranguing the ASEAN meeting about the need to beef up borders on an international basis – with, presumably, him in charge. The original unholy trinity of Dutton, Pezzullo and Quaedvlieg may have been broken up, but there are always more budding tyrants willing and eager to fill the gap.