Dutton and the Coalition: Ramping up fear and racism

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Facing defeat at the next election and with a record of failure, Dutton and the Coalition are conjuring up African gangs in a desperate attempt to enlist fear-based support, writes John Passant.

WHAT AN UGLY human being Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton is.

His comments about Melbournians being afraid to go out to restaurants at night because of "African gangs" was a calculated effort on his part to try to boost support for the Turnbull Government.  

But these "gangs" are not gangs. They are young Australians hanging out together like young Australians do.

There is nothing new under the sun. Back in 2007, the mainstream media lied about Sudanese gangs. Media Watch exposed these media outlets for the liars they were (and still are).

This latest African gang nonsense is a moral panic unleashed by a gang of mainly rich white men to save their sorry butts at the next election. Given the Turnbull Government’s consistent low polling, such an attempt seems doomed.

However, racism and fear worked for Dutton’s hero, former PM John Howard, back in 2001. Before Tampa, it looked as if Labor would win. With the Tampa hysteria, then 9/11 and the Howard Government lying about asylum seekers throwing their children overboard, Howard won easily.

Unlike Howard, the Turnbull Government has no policy "achievements" to its name — only failures. The list is long. Growing inequality, falling wages, declining public health, education and transport services — all are part of a bigger story of shifting wealth from labour to capital that is the hallmark of this Government.

Oh and let’s not forget the incompetence for which this Government is legendary. The NBN is a "calamitous train wreck", to use Turnbull’s own words — and that much is certainly true. But in typical duck-shoving mode, Turnbull falsely blames Labor. I am not sure if anyone has told him, but Labor lost government in 2013 and he was the Minister in charge of the NBN from then until he became Prime Minister in 2015.

Their successes? Well, Turnbull claims "jobs and growth" as one. Unemployment has officially been around 5.6% throughout 2017, give or take 0.1%. Yet the real story is much worse than that. Roy Morgan Research puts the real unemployment figure at 9.8% and the under-employment figure at 8.4%. So even the Turnbull Government’s one seeming accomplishment is a mirage of misconceptions and misleading material.

This Government has nothing concrete it has done or is planning to do that will win it the next election. Tax cuts for the rich and big business are unlikely to win over ordinary workers on or below the average wage. Falling real wages won’t win us over either.

So the only strategy the Government has is demonising the other — people whom conservative white Australians see as different to them and, therefore, not Australian. Couple this with small business unease and you have the potential for populist reaction taking hold, especially without a genuine mass left-wing political current in Australia.

One Nation is an expression of that. So, too, is the turn from dog whistle racism – "stop the boats", for example – to megaphone racism with "stop the Africans" by the likes of Dutton. But it is not just Dutton. So-called small "l" Liberal, Malcolm Turnbull, has been shouting the same anti-black Australian nonsense. His Health Minister Greg Hunt joined in. And now Dutton is threatening to deport any non-citizens (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) involved in any criminal activity. This would condemn Sudanese kids to death in the war-ravaged countries from which they fled.

This threat of deportation reinforces the idea in the minds of some conservatives that we can keep Australia safe by throwing out "the foreigners". It is rubbish, of course. So-called "African gangs" are much less of a threat than white gangs, police gangs, government ministers, or the Catholic Church.

Crime in Victoria is at biggest drop year on year since 2005. But don’t let facts stand in the way of racist scaremongering and moral panic for base political objectives. And which criminal activity threatens us?

Government cuts to funding for shelters contribute to crime. However, family violence arises as a consequence of a system that treats women as broodmares — they are the cost-free bearers and carers of the next generation of workers. That helps explain why governments do little to address domestic violence.

On Thursday, a gang of 100 "lawless" young people went on the rampage in Torquay in Victoria. In the media, there was no mention of their "race" or colour. Why not? Because they were white?

Dutton, Turnbull and Hunt were silent. Why? Because they were white?

Barrie Cassidy also had a few words about the role of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corpse in all of this. They, of course, have been blowing up big time about the supposed danger young black men pose to society. This meme captures Cassidy’s thoughts and words on the media’s rotten attempt to inflame the situation.  

Let’s be clear. This is a desperate Government. It will sink lower and lower if they think that will win back or keep votes. And, I suspect, given Australia’s colonial settler status and the fact this means some white settlers feel systemic insecurity, there is a section of Australian society, including some workers, for whom this puerile parroting of prejudice appeals.

President Lyndon Johnson captured the politics of this when he said:

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best coloured 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.”

Peter Dutton is now the very powerful Home Affairs Minister. He is the Minister for "othering" asylum seekers and refugees. His Border Force, for example, kidnaps refugees and asylum seekers, and holds them hostage on small islands.

Othering Australian citizens who are not part of the reactionary stereotype – blacks and Muslims especially – comes naturally to Dutton. But he is not a rogue element in this Government. They are desperate and think the only thing that can keep their gang going is othering.

So, expect more of the same from Dutton and from the rest of the Turnbull gang. This othering is Turnbull’s strategy and it will not just be black Australians or Muslim Australians they up the ante on. It will be the unemployed, single mothers, the disabled, pensioners, the homeless, unions, workers ...

Dutton will lose his seat at the next election. However, the vile canker of racism and fear he, Turnbull and the rest of the Government are opening up will fester and infect the whole of our body politic — if we let them.

The real gang we should be frightened of is the Turnbull Government. The real gang we should be fighting is the Turnbull government and their puppet masters — the rich and powerful.

Read more by John Passant on his website En Passant or follow him on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John'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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