Reactionary succession: Peter Dutton, Australia’s new opposition leader

May 31, 2022
Liberal Party Leader Petter Dutton with an image of Robert Menzies in the background
Newly elected Leader of the Liberal Party Peter Dutton speaks to the media after a party room meeting at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, May 30, 2022. Image: AAP/Lukas Coch

An inevitable consequence of the loss of the election by the Liberal National Coalition has been the resignation of the former PM as the leader of the Liberal Party. Peter Dutton has replaced Scott Morrison as leader of the Liberal Party, unopposed.

Whatever party Peter Dutton might lead, it cannot be called the Liberal Party. Peter Dutton is not a liberal. He is not unprejudiced. He is not open to the reception of new ideas. He is not respectful of individuals’ rights and freedoms.

The writer, for one, believes that the leadership of Dutton will see the beginning of the end of the Liberal Party, established some 70 years ago by Robert Menzies.

There are three large questions facing our new government, and Australia as a nation; indeed, it might be said, facing the World. Peter Dutton is ill-placed to address any of them.

The first is climate change and the environment. Dutton is a climate sceptic. He will no doubt advance that he has moved on the issue and supports the growth of a renewables industry. One can be certain, however, that whatever his enthusiasm for action to address climate change, it will be muted.

The second large question is what the writer describes as American capitalism. It is a large topic. It embraces surveillance capitalism, by which is meant that capitalism now implemented by the net, and actioned by companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft et al. It is a capitalism which is dependent upon the loss of our individual privacy. It is a capitalism designed and intended to ensure the socio-economic hegemony of US corporations.

Google is an excellent example. Google does not believe that it should be constrained at all by such a thing as, for example, Australian law. Not only should it not be required to pay taxes to the Australian government, but Australian defamation law, for example, has no place when inconsistent with its business model.

American capitalism will continue to advance the privatisation of our government agencies, such as penal institutions, and those providing health services. American capitalism will continue to cause a widening gap in incomes of our citizens. There will be a few more billionaires. There will be an increasing number of people living on the borderline.

Australia can do better than that. We need to ensure that our government provides the services needed. If that means that all people, including the billionaires, including foreign corporations, such as Google and Facebook, have to pay taxes, so be it. We must teach our community that taxes are good – taxes enable proper health and aged care, taxes provide infrastructure, housing, education, whatever is needed for a caring and inclusive society.

How does Peter Dutton fit into this? It is perhaps more apparent when we turn to the third question, but the writer has heard nothing from Peter Dutton to suggest that he is mindful of the need for us to step back from our economic engagement with the US, reject privatisations, and, rather, undertake spending for social (public) benefit.

The third large question is international relations. It is associated with what the US calls a ‘rules-based order’. The US promotes a ‘rules-based order’ for all countries but itself – and, of course, Israel.

The US calls the Russian incursion into Ukraine a war crime. No such description applies, however, to the US/British/Australian invasion of Iraq. No such description applies to the Israeli invasion and annexation of the Golan Heights, nor of its repeated invasions of Gaza or the West Bank.

The US demands that persons, countries, which act contrary to the interests of the US empire be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges. It does so whilst at the same time refusing to become a party to the ICC thereby seeking to deny the ICC jurisdiction over US citizens.

What is Peter Dutton likely to do about this matter? All of Dutton’s statements during the last Government show a preparedness to ingratiate himself/Australia with the US government, to deepen our engagement with the US military, and to associate us with a policy of opposition to China.  Dutton presents as being very comfortable with continuing the ‘Cold War’ with Russia, and extending it to China.

To be fair, the phrase that I have not heard uttered by Dutton is ‘yellow peril’. However, he just as well might have. Any and every step by China to engage with, interact with, its neighbours near and far, is seen as totally improper. One can only ask, why? China has one military base outside of China. The US has over 800 military bases outside of the US. Which of the two countries is seeking to impose itself on the rest of the World?

Dutton’s support of AUKUS and his advice to us to ‘prepare for war’, gives a good indication of where he might go on related decisions.  In parenthesis, this third question raises the future of the United Nations in its current form. The structure of the UN must be reconsidered, including the composition of the Security Council, and the abolition of the veto for the permanent members.

Included in this third question is the issue of refugees. It is of course quite appropriate for Australia, along with its white, Christian, Anglo-Saxon allies (Five Eyes) to create the conditions which give rise to refugees. Just don’t expect Australia to take the refugees – particularly if they come in a boat!

Where does Peter Dutton stand on this issue? We don’t need to go past the Murugappan family.  Here is a perfect instance of why he cannot be called a liberal. Dutton would not have contemplated Malcolm Fraser’s opposition to apartheid in South Africa. He would never have approved of Malcolm Fraser’s acceptance of Vietnamese refugees at the end of the Vietnam war.

Such actions would be perceived by him to be inconsistent with the continuing remnants of the British Empire, and the advance of the US Empire: viz. AUKUS.

Come on true liberals! You can do better than Peter Dutton.

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