Peter Dutton

Dutton – just keeps digging that proverbial hole

The only reasonable explanation for Peter Dutton’s behaviour lately is that he’s trying to make his way to the other side of the world through the hole he keeps digging for himself.

Someone should warn him that it leads nowhere hospitable – he will end up in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Perhaps he thinks even that would be better than his current predicament in his ministerial portfolio of immigration and border protection. I almost feel sorry for Mr Dutton, because he did inherit a thankless job from Scott Morrison, with practically no redeeming features.

But my sympathies end there, because most of his troubles are self-inflicted, created by a combination of the inhumane government policies he supports, and his own ministerial incompetence.

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Sack Dutton now!
What a mutton!
The Australian calls the kettle black

If you take poor ol’ Dutton at face value, he is bullied by just about everyone.

Asylum seekers.


The media.

Amnesty International.

Lawyers and advocates.

If you listen to Mr Dutton long enough, you realise that a soundtrack accompanying his ministership would require an orchestra of violins. I suggest we would have been all better off if Malcolm Turnbull accepted his resignation back in September.

But, for better or for worse, we are stuck with him … definitely for worse.

All of the available evidence points to Australian officials having committed a transnational crime by, in effect, directing a people-smuggling operation, paying a boat crew and then instructing them on exactly what to do and where to land in Indonesia. People-smuggling is a crime usually associated with private individuals, not governments – but here we have strong evidence that Australian officials are not just involved, but directing operations.
Australia: Damning evidence of officials’ involvement in transnational crime uncovered, Amnesty International (28 October 2015)

His latest troubles were set off by an Amnesty International report titled ‘By hook or by crook,’ which is a direct quote from a radio interview on 3AW given by our deposed ex-Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, following allegations our navy bribed people smugglers to turn asylum seeker boats around, back to Indonesia, and new revelations by The Guardian about the Abyan affair.

Amnesty’s call for a Royal Commission

The Amnesty report is a scathing criticism of Australia’s asylum seeker policies, and calls out the government on its breaches of international law.

New evidence gathered by Amnesty International suggests that Australia’s maritime border control operations now resemble a lawless venture with evidence of criminal activity, pay-offs to boat crews and abusive treatment of women, men and children seeking asylum.
Australia: Damning evidence of officials’ involvement in transnational crime uncovered, Amnesty International (28 October 2015)

The report should be shocking, but given our government’s track record on asylum seekers, it is tragically an expected reflection on an utterly unacceptable political reality.

Related stories:
‘Worst refugee crisis since World War II’
When the ends justify the means …

How did Mr Dutton respond? By accusing Amnesty of ‘bullying,’ in a radio interview with Ray Hadley on 2GB:

They don’t like Operation Sovereign Borders, they try and attack the border force staff and the naval staff, and I think it’s a disgrace. I think at the end you can take the word of people smugglers, or you can take the word of our staff at Australian border force.

Amnesty International and others don’t like Operation Sovereign Borders and the fact that we’ve stopped the boats.

We’re not going to be bullied into some watering down of that.

Amnesty International is not an organisation to be taken lightly, or ignored. They are a respected human rights organisation, and a thorn in the side of rights abusers and despots. The fact our government and nation likely have become one of those rights abusers is an unpalatable realisation, but just because we don’t like to admit to it, that doesn’t make it any less true.

If our democracy is to remain liberal and robust, accountability and transparency are not negotiable. If our society is to remain civil and humane, compassion and humanity are not negotiable.

Amnesty International’s call for a Royal Commission into Operation Sovereign Borders, ‘to investigate and report on allegations of criminal and unlawful acts committed by Australian government officials,’ is something we must consider seriously. To use a phrase governments love to throw around in a national security and data retention context: ‘if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear.’

The Australian public is entitled to know whether the government had paid people smugglers and, if so, an explanation how doing so discourages people smuggling, and saves lives. If payments have been made, it would be arguable that the primary objective of the current policy is to shore up the political fortunes of the Coalition by ‘stopping the boats’ at any cost, rather than the prevention of deaths at sea.

When all Mr Dutton has left are hysterical reactions, such as accusing the media of a ‘jihad,’ and Amnesty of bullying, in response to calls for government accountability and transparency, our nation is in big trouble.

The Abyan affair

In the same interview Mr Dutton also revealed Abyan would now be brought back to Australia for medical treatment.

This is the least Australia can do given her previous experience in Australia, and the consequent harassment she reportedly suffered at the hands of conservative Australian journalist, and now apparently ‘sexual assault expert,’ Chris Kenny, from The Australian.

It’s curious that the first journalist to be granted a visa to visit Nauru in 18 months would be a one-person cheer-squad for our offshore detention centres, and that he would be allowed to visit at this particularly sensitive time. There have been intense speculations about the involvement of the government in the visa being granted to Mr Kenny.

Reports of Mr Kenny being accompanied by local police to Abyan’s doorstep are also extremely disturbing.

To put Chris Kenny’s visit into perspective, let us remember that:

  • Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs was blocked from visiting Nauru; and
  • Northern Territory Senator Nova Peris was prevented from visiting the Christmas Island detention centre, located in her own electorate.

Yesterday afternoon The Guardian also published a detailed report about three ignored urgent requests by International Health and Medical Services to transfer Abyan to Australia for medical treatment, the first such request dating back to 16 September 2015.

The information revealed by The Guardian brings the government’s account of the events surrounding Abyan into serious question, and requires Mr Dutton to explain himself.

Someone get him a shovel, quick, this time around he might just make it all the way to the North Atlantic Ocean …

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