The view from Billinudgel

Unholy trinity suffers a setback
The sacking of Roman Quaedvlieg is only a minor impediment to Dutton’s plan


Peter Dutton’s unbending plan to rule the world encountered a minor setback last week. Not only did he put his own jackboot in a cowpat, but his chief enforcer, Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg (anagram: love and quagmire) hit the wall over findings of inappropriate and misleading conduct with the employment of his girlfriend.

It took almost a year, during which Quaedvlieg trousered some half a million bucks for doing nothing much other than texting his lover about 14,000 times, which works out at about $36 an SMS.

But the lavishly uniformed bureaucrat will have to be replaced, no doubt at vast expense. And Dutton’s very well-paid éminence grise – Home Affairs departmental head, the almost insanely ambitious Mike Pezzullo – is surely already on the case looking for someone equally arrogant and brutal.

Dutton’s quest for power has so far gone pretty well: the various amalgamations to his empire now run to a workforce of some 23,000, making it one of the biggest bureaucracies in Canberra and one of the least accountable. The magic formula, “we stopped the boats,” is seen to justify any excess, any outrage.

Thus when the question arose about if, how and when South African farmers might be forced to leave their land, Dutton did not hesitate. These were the real refugees, he proclaimed, persecuted and threatened by a ruthless government. The only proper course would be to bring them to Australia where they would, being white, Christian and Anglophone (apart from those who only spoke Afrikaans – and surely they could learn), become model productive citizens.

Of course, they were not the only ones being persecuted and threatened. It is widely rumoured that there could be others: Rohingyas, Syrians, Afghans, Libyans, Sudanese … Quite a lot of victims, really, including a few asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island, where they have already been found to be genuine refugees, but remain indefinitely.

Most, if not all, of these are in much worse plight than the South Africans, who, if they are forced to leave their rainbow nation, will do so more as what Dutton used to call economic refugees rather than the real kind.

But Dutton insists they are entitled to a “civilised” country, the clear implication being that South Africa is not one: presumably it is what Donald Trump would describe as a “shithole”. Unsurprisingly, the South Africans are not amused, and Australia’s refugee advocates have dismissed the minister’s thought balloon as racist. And it is, in a low-key sort of way – more ignorant and stupid than malicious, but embarrassing nonetheless.

Although there were those who poured shit on him, Peter Dutton remained undeterred, haranguing the ASEAN meeting about the need to beef up borders on an international basis – with, presumably, him in charge. The original unholy trinity of Dutton, Pezzullo and Quaedvlieg may have been broken up, but there are always more budding tyrants willing and eager to fill the gap.

As Bertolt Brecht once put it:

“This was the thing who nearly had us mastered.
Don’t yet rejoice in his defeat, you men!
Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.”

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum was a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Much of his work can be found here: The View from Billinudgel.

Read on

Image showing installation view of Refik Anadol’s Quantum memories, 2020

NGV Triennial 2020

With a mix of eye-catching works, the second NGV Triennial blends the avant-garde with the populist

Bangarra’s Spirit. Photo © Lisa Tomasetti

Healing story

Bangarra Dance Theatre’s ‘Spirit’ pays tribute to collaborators

Image of movie still from Mangrove

Deep cuts: ‘Small Axe’

Black solidarity is a palpable force throughout Steve McQueen’s five-film anthology

Distortion nation

Why are we more outraged by cheating cricketers than alleged war crimes in Afghanistan?