Dutton and Morrison: Shades of the Third Reich

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(Artwork by John Graham / @JohnGrahamArt)

Lyn Bender examines the recent re-branding of Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison and finds only "lovely lies" and the same old hard-hearted cruelty. 

SOME STORIES that the media tell are unbearable. I'm not talking about poverty, war, tragedy and suffering, although these accounts are deeply disturbing.

No, I'm talking about phony, contrived, publically touted faux compassion, otherwise known as hypocrisy.

These are the lovely lies. And they are now emanating as reporting from our naïve media. But these lies do not disguise cruel hearts.

I could hardly contain my incredulity as I read the story of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton touring the world’s second biggest refugee camp, Zaatari in North Jordan.

He declared that the fate of the children: 

“tugged at his heartstrings.” 

Nevertheless, he pronounced his own work – as the evil commandant of concentration camps in Australia – to be well done.

Seeing the suffering of the children, Dutton attributed Australia’s acceptance of Syrian refugees to the Government’s "tough" turn-back-the-boats policy, stating:

"The fact that we have a tough border policy in Australia means that we can offer a helping hand and a new life to those Syrians …”

As a daughter of parents who suffered the Holocaust, I may be forgiven for seeing dark shades of the ominous Third Reich. But let me try to make sense of Dutton’s convoluted argument: the government is allowing children to suffer in the camps at Nauru and Manus Island in order to make an example of their suffering.

This is called the policy of deterrence, and is presented as saving people from drowning at sea. But it is really punishing the ones who did not wait in the so-called queue until Dutton arrived to handpick them. Collective punishment was a Nazi specialty, I believe.

Now, Peter Dutton is selecting those who shall have the chance of life and those who shall remain in the camps in Jordan and Nauru and Manus Island — more shades of the Nazi final solution. Meanwhile, Dutton maintains that he is somehow being cruel to be kind.

The logic seems to be: "Because I am cruel, or 'tough' to some, I can be kind to a selected number of those I deem worthy of a chance" — in Australia’s name.

Dutton was photographed looking serious and concerned as he surveyed the desolate camps in Jordan. He must have marveled to himself at how well he had replicated the conditions of the camps in Australia’s own off shore camps and therefore created “no advantage” in coming by boat. Dutton, looking stressed or maybe hot and bothered, said the trip had been “confronting” but the lesson learned was that stopping the boats had been the “right”  thing to do.

But he has learned the wrong lesson!  This terrible place in Jordan is the push back destination for boat people but for Dutton this doesn't seem to be folly but pure genius.

Let’s cast our minds back to some recent pronouncements. Dutton’s heartstrings were not being pulled in the case of the raped Somalian woman Abyan. Despite being assessed as a refugee, pregnant Abyan was forced to remain in the very danger that she had sought to flee.

Nor did he show much empathy for the plight of those inhabiting Pacific Islands inundated by rising sea levels when he was caught out laughing about it with Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison.

Now, we are being shown the man who has heartstrings that can be tugged at by sad little children forced to live in camps with little hope. Except that of the 79,000 in the Jordan camp, a lucky 12,000 could be selected for entry into Australia. At last former policeman Dutton can play the good guy.

Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison are, arguably, two of the most conspicuous hard-hearts of the former Abbott clique still remaining in positions of influence.

But Morrison, famous for keeping stum about on water operations, is now being served up anew as an affable, friendly kind of guy who cooks up Sri Lankan food with gusto.

Morrison welcomes Annabelle Crabb with flowers for their TV “date” and smilingly confides on her Kitchen Cabinet show that he discovered Sri Lanka's wonderful food on a trip there (while still in Opposition) with Julie Bishop.

Annabelle Crabb is the picture of warm girlish delight as Morrison explains he had travelled there to discuss future policies with the Sri Lankan Government. The level of accommodation left much to be desired — no sheets and poor Julie only had only a tiny towel and bucket of water as a shower. Despite such hardships, they checked out deals regarding returning Sri Lankan economic migrants when they achieved Government.

Morrison also expresses relief that his new portfolio means he travels less. No longer is he doing the rounds of poor countries such as Cambodia while trying to palm off unwanted refugees. He now gets to spend quality time with his family. Scott Morrison is after all just a nice working, family man.

As I watch this excruciating example of soft sell political pornography I am having flashbacks. I’m thinking of the self-immolation suicide of Leo Seemanpillai under Morrison’s watch and his subsequent refusal to grant Leo’s parents a visa to come to Australia for his funeral. Some say the tragic death was due to the cruel immigration policy that left the young man in limbo amidst intimations that he would be sent back to Sri Lanka.

There was no welcome with flowers for refugees by Scott Morrison. Instead, the cruel message that even those assessed as refugees would never come to Australia — not ever. Those who were not refugees could go back where they came from or stay in Nauru for a very long time. They should tell their friends not to come.

So beware of the slick, rebadged old guard claiming to now be the new guard — it’s still the same hard-hearted gang until proven otherwise. The only question remaining is how will Greg Hunt, George Brandis, and Julie Bishop be reinvented for the new Turbull team? 

Lyn Bender is a professional psychologist. You can follow Lyn on Twitter @Lynestel.

The original John Graham artwork featured at the beginning of this piece may be purchased from the IA store HERE.

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