The view from Billinudgel

Dutton’s crystal ball
Only clairvoyance can explain some of the actions of the immigration minister

Malcolm Turnbull has become positively fulsome about his cherished immigration minister. For many of us, the main, indeed the only, saving grace about Peter Dutton is that his name rhymes with mutton, but our glorious leader gushed all over the man last week. 

Dutton, he effused, was an outstanding minister, thoughtful, committed and compassionate, and, as Turnbull was not immediately struck dead by a just deity, we must assume he meant it. But even then, he was selling the nonpareil of border protection short, because Dutton’s truly remarkable quality is his clairvoyance.

How else could he have known that when Malcolm Fraser (deceased) admitted desperate fugitives fleeing from war-torn Lebanon to Australia, some of their descendants would go on to be charged (not necessarily convicted, although such pettifogging distinctions are clearly beneath Dutton’s visionary gaze) with terrorism-related offences?

Admittedly, not many of them, but for Dutton, those 22 out of the 80,000 Muslim Lebanese now resident in our fair shores are more than enough – and the curse of their forebears must be visited upon them and on the gullible prime minister who did not foresee the plague that future generations would wreak on the wide brown land.

And it is fortunate indeed that Dutton has now revealed his own telepathic powers, because in the process some of his own policies make a curious kind of sense.

For some years now it has been clear that his department has not been a ministry of immigration, but a ministry of exclusion. The aim was not to welcome and assist prospective arrivals, but to refuse them succour on any available excuse.

Many of the rejections have appeared arbitrary and even cruel; those who had sought refugee status have been thoroughly ejected, or if that course was not practical, interned indefinitely until they gave up and returned to the persecution whence they came, or in some cases went mad or committed suicide.

But we can now see that there was method it. The asylum seekers themselves might be exemplary citizens, and potentially worthy newcomers to Australia. But Dutton and his departmental head, the intractable Mike Pezzullo, and their black-uniformed enforcers knew better.

The new arrivals could breed, and their progeny could carry on their tainted genes until … until … until sometime in the foreseeable, or even unforeseeable future, the bad seed would emerge. Thus, they must be punished unto the third and fourth generation, and just in case, we will start right away.

So now it is all clear: the presumption of innocence is a purely temporal phenomenon, and what matters is the broad sweep of the history to come. Unlike so many timeservers in the Turnbull cabinet, Dutton is not concerned only with the next election; he legislates for the ages, for times past, present and future. 

We can only hope his prescient reach can encompass other fields – knowing just when and how the budget will be balanced would be nice. But confirming the inherent evil of those who look to us for salvation is an exciting start. No wonder Turnbull is impressed. Not even his pope has managed that trick.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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