Australian values and the deceitful dogwhistling of Peter Dutton

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Dutton should resign or be sacked, but that won't happen under this government

Apparently, it is Australian values to blatantly lie and incite hatred towards asylum seekers, writes John Passant.

Australian values, eh?  Let’s cut through this bullshit. There is only one value the capitalist class is interested in. That is the value it can extract from its workforce and turn into profit.

All the rest is window dressing. The ruling class disguises its exploitation in phrase mongering and nationalist claptrap.  Appeals to these mythical Australian values are but one example.

For example, with ANZAC Day fast approaching, be prepared for the usual torrent of lies about brave Aussies (Oi! Oi! Oi!) dying for democracy. In fact, the invasion of Turkey (accompanied, lest we forget, by the defeat of Australian and other troops at Gallipoli) is an expression of one eternal and key ruling class value — war.

Australian militarism is the logical extension of settler colonialism and the genocide that established Australian capitalism.  The war within becomes a war overseas and for the same purposes: to establish and extend the profit-making territory and influence of the Australian ruling class.

That ruling class consistently aligns itself with the major imperialist power of the time (the UK before World War II and the U.S. since then), not because it is a lackey, but because it is in the imperialist and economic interests of our own ruling class to do so.

What other values does our ruling class hold, apart from war? How about ecocide, genocide, racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, running refugee concentration camps, screwing poor people and workers…. All in the name of profit or protecting their patch of the exploitative system.

They use these "values" to both naturalise capitalism, and to divert workers’ attention away from the trials, tribulations and challenges of their lives.

As U.S. President Lyndon B Johnson put it:

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is a master of the same strategy. He combines racism with xenophobia and Islamophobia and runs concentration camps for asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island and Nauru.

But sometimes their lies catch up with them. And that is the case with Dutton, a failed health minister and possibly the next prime minister.

Let’s look at Manus Island. You may remember that 12 months ago the Papua New Guinean Supreme Court ruled that holding refugees in a camp on Manus Island was illegal and unconstitutional.

Yet a year later the camp is still there and the wider imprisonment on Manus itself continues. The PNG and Australian governments are awaiting the outcome of the rotten deal with Obama to resettle some of the Manus refugees, a commitment reaffirmed by the comparatively sensible one in the Trump administration (god help us!), Vice President Mike Pence, in Australia on the weekend.  

It will do nothing to save many of those illegally imprisoned there. Bringing them here would.

The latest outrage occurred on Good Friday. Drunk Papua New Guinean soldiers fired on refugees on Manus Island.  The Prime Minister claimed the soldiers shot into the air

According to asylum seekers there, this is not true, with the bullet holes in their accommodation to prove it. According to the local police commander, two people, including one senior PNG immigration officer, were treated for injuries.

Not only that, but as the refugees pointed out, this attack threatened Australian staff. No one is safe on Manus. Yet the government, rather than defending its own citizens, does nothing. They could close Manus Island and bring the asylum seekers and refugees here.

They won’t. Divide and conquer for the profit system is their strategy.

Then, Peter Dutton crawled out from under his rock on Thursday (20/4/17) to comment.

According to Stephanie Anderson on the ABC News website:

Mr Dutton told Sky News today that the mood on the island had been tense following an alleged incident "where three asylum seekers were alleged to be leading a local five-year-old boy back toward the facility".

‘"There was concern about why the boy was being led or for what purpose he was being led away back in the regional processing centre," Mr Dutton said.

‘"I think it's fair to say the mood had elevated quite quickly. I think some of the local residents were quite angry about this particular incident and another alleged sexual assault."

Dutton is lying. He lied again about the "incident" – very unconvincingly and despite Barry Cassidy giving him the evidence – on ABC Insiders on Sunday morning.

Refugees on the Island have refuted the Minister’s lies. The PNG police have rubbished Dutton’s untruths. A hungry ten year old boy was escorted into the camp five days before the shootings and given fruit to eat. It was all captured by CCTV footage.

Dutton has continued the lies, including on Insiders, where he said about his story: "of course it's true".

But of course, the truth is not important for Dutton and those like Malcolm Turnbull who keep this man – a man who has blatantly lied to the Australian people – in government.  Indeed, Dutton is a key cog in the Turnbull Government, the minister for demonising refugees and asylum seekers. So, Turnbull will not sack him for lying to the Australian people.

What could better appeal to the racist mindset than Dutton’s suggestion of paedophilia by those often non-white and Muslim people on Manus Island?

Dutton is not only talking to and attempting to cajole this constituency. He is encouraging and inflaming it. Pauline Hanson and Reclaim (white) Australia have been the result of past demonisation (plus the failures of neoliberal capitalism). These lies from Dutton will only feed Hanson’s base.

This is not the only One Nation victory. The proposed 457 visa changes take this demonising a step further, supposedly putting Aussie (Oi! Oi! Oi!) jobs first.

The changes remodel the 457-visa scheme, keeping intact most of its essence, tightening up some of the eligible categories and worsening the outcome for workers wanting permanent residency. Sections of the left nationalist union and labour movements have welcomed the racist logic of 457 visas and the proposed changes under the guise of putting Australian jobs first. What rubbish.

Then the Prime Minister announced changes to the citizenship test. It is all about "Australian values", he told us — although just what those values are, neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister for Immigration could tell us.

The new citizenship questions, including for example ones about beating your wife and female genital mutilation, are aimed specifically at Muslims. There are no questions aimed at keeping paedophile Christian priests out.

The questions reflect One Nation stereotyping and give credence to the racists and Islamophobes who hide their racism and Islamophobia behind generally fake concern for women, young girls, democracy, safety, obeying the law and so on, and so on, and so on.

Not all Australians have these historically embedded racist views, Australian values. On Palm Sunday, tens of thousands marched across Australia for refugees. I was one of them.

Yet nothing changes. These Sisyphean protests do not challenge the power structures of Australian capitalism and the systemic racism at its heart. They have not changed the policies of successive Labor or Liberal National governments in locking up refugees and asylum seekers.

Maybe it is time we took a leaf out of the protesters of the past who won their campaigns. Maybe we should be fighting to turn the Palm Sunday and other refugee rallies into mass civil disobedience to force the Government to close the camps, and bring them here, and to combat the rising tide of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia engulfing the country.

We are going to have to fight for universal values of humanity, democracy, decency, peace and love. If we don’t fight, we lose.

Read more by John Passant on his website En Passant or follow him on Twitter @JohnPassant.

Signed copies of John Passant’s first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016) are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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