The view from Billinudgel

Peter Dutton’s leadership ambitions
A reminder of why the minister’s recent dog-whistling should be of concern


If Peter Dutton were 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.

The fact that he is increasingly open about his leadership ambitions, fuelled by the adulation of his lunar right supporters, means that the threat Dutton poses has to be taken seriously. He may be just another former copper, but he wants to rule the nation – 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. This was, in effect, a defence of his right to say anything he wished, including the expression of racism, bigotry and prejudice at any level.

Of course it was couched in the rhetoric of free speech, but most readers 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 that have become the standard fare of the right-wing media, most obviously in the Murdoch press and Sky News.

Their heroes are the 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 number of such figures are being shipped in from overseas – mainly from America, presumably because there are plenty of them there.

And their mere presence seems to urge the locals on to greater atrocities. Andrew Bolt has long been on the edge; his recent column about the “colonisation” 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 Bolt’s 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 broadcasting an interview with 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. In fact, 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 at the prospect of an even darker future.

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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