The Politics    Thursday, August 18, 2016

Things Peter Dutton has said since May

By Sean Kelly

The words of the nation’s minister for immigration tell their own sad story

After two refugees in a single week set themselves alight – the first a young man, the second a young woman – Dutton in early May sought to blame activists for encouraging the refugees to burn themselves to death as a political tactic.

Asked two weeks later about a proposal to increase Australia’s refugee intake, Dutton said:

They won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that. For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues …

Asked last Thursday about the reports of abuse leaked to the Guardian, Dutton skipped the activists this time and said that those who set themselves alight did it as a tactic to get to Australia: “Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia.”

Also last Thursday, asked about those reports in the Guardian, he said:

I just add a word of caution to some of the hype that is out there at the moment; if people have done the wrong thing – whether it is security guards, whether it is people in our employ directly or elsewhere – then there is a price to pay for that – but bear in mind that some people do have a motivation to make a false complaint and we have had instances where people have self-harmed in an effort to get to Australia and I am not going to tolerate that behaviour either.

Also last Thursday, asked why there would not be an investigation into abuse reported on Nauru, given the prime minister’s quick response to reports out of Don Dale detention centre in the Northern Territory, Dutton responded that “Nauru is not part of Australia, so this is an issue for the Nauruan Government.”

Also last Thursday, Leigh Sales asked him “Doesn’t it tell you something, if you’re offering them thousands and thousands of dollars to return and they won’t, there’s got to be a reason, doesn’t there?” Dutton responded: “Well it tells me the reason is that they want to come to Australia.”

And today, Dutton attacked the media, saying

Frankly, with the approach of the Guardian and the ABC has been to trivialise the very serious issues by trying to promote the 2100 reports as somehow, all of those being serious when they're not.

A little later he said, “I’m not going to be defamed by the Guardian and by the ABC because we are doing everything within our power to provide support for people.”

I have sat here for a little while now trying to figure out how to end today’s piece. I had some devastating draft paragraphs, really ripping Dutton to shreds. Some of you would have liked them. They might have made me feel a little better, briefly. But they would have been simple to dismiss, too, as predictable outrage. The clever vitriol you expect from our age’s opinion cyclone. And it would have made it all about Dutton, rather than the political environment which must provide some incentive for him to keep saying the things he does. As horrible as some of the comments above are, they hardly exist in isolation.

So instead I’m going to leave it here, in the belief that Dutton’s comments above tell their own sad story. I know that some decent members of the government read this column, sometimes. Someone show the minister his own words. If he can’t see the problem himself, see if you can explain it to him. And if he still doesn’t understand, please talk to the prime minister, and ask that he be removed.


Today’s links

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and was an adviser to Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.


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