MUNGO MacCALLUM. Peter Dutton wants to rule the nation.

If Peter Dutton was to be arraigned before an international tribunal for serial abuse of human rights I would cheer. If the charges were upgraded to crimes against humanity I would regard it as a fair cop. But if the court in its wisdom imposed a death sentence I would protest in the streets. My opposition to capital punishment is absolute and unequivocal.  

But having said that, I felt mildly let down by the news that Dutton had survived the Lombok earthquake while so many innocent victims had perished. It seemed not just unfair, but something of a missed opportunity, because Dutton is not only loathsome but dangerous.

And the fact that he is increasingly open about his leadership ambitions, fuelled by the adulation of his lunar right supporters, especially in the Murdoch Press, means the threat has to be taken seriously. He may be just another thick-as-two-planks Queensland provincial copper, but he wants to rule the nation, if not the world – and the hapless Malcolm Turnbull is too feeble to pull him into line.

Last week it emerged that the Minister for Everything He Can Get His Hands On had given a public rant on the evils of political correctness, which was in effect a defence of his right to say anything he wished, and that included racism, bigotry and prejudice at any level.

Of course it was couched in the rhetoric of free speech, but any normal reader would have understood it as the kind of dog-whistling and race-baiting the outgoing Racial Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane identified as a growing and worrying escalation of the culture wars which have become the standard fare of the right wing media, most obviously in the Murdoch Press and Sky News.

Their heroes are the retarded adolescents and incoherent exhibitionists who are paraded (for quite a lot of money) as what is called the “alt-right,” presumably because they rely on Donald Trump’s alternative facts for their information. A disturbing number of them are being shipped in from overseas – mainly from America, presumably because there are plenty of them there.

And there mere presence seems to urge the locals on to greater atrocities. Andrew Bolt has long been on the edge; last week’s column about the colonization of Australia – by which he apparently meant the arrival of too many migrants who are not conservative Christian white Dutchmen like himself – sailed well past the edge and drifted off into outer space.

But his employers were unfazed; indeed, they probably applauded his outrages and were hoping for more and worse. Sky News did, belatedly and reluctantly, draw the line over the neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell, but only after it was explained that a fan of Mein Kampf who wants a picture of Hitler in every school could be considered a liability for the channel.

But by the logic of Dutton’s position. Cottrell should be given free rein for his opinions; and in any case Dutton would probably think the idea of a picture in every room was not a bad idea — but of course it should be of him perhaps captioned Big Brother. We should look not at the dark past, but the prospect of an even darker future.

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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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