For democracy's sake, Dutton must go

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @mdavidcartoons)

Peter Dutton's failed coup for the prime ministership along with rampant sexism has left the door open for progressive female political heroes, writes contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence.

A BIRD IN THE HAND is worth au pair in the bush.

Ask Peter “the skull” Dutton, our minister for gnome affairs, whose failed messianic bid on 24 August to supplant Malcolm Turnbull as Australia’s Prime Minister is mostly responsible for the Vesuvian-strength political disruption against the Liberals in Saturday’s state election in Victoria and political rockstar Julia Banks moving to the crossbench as an Independent, severing from the Liberal Party entire.

Banks (despite her Greek heritage) is famous for her Marie Antoinettish quote that she could live on $40 a day and was the only Liberal National Coalition candidate in the 2016 federal election to wrest a seat from Labor in the marginal electorate of Chisholm, thereby giving the desperate Coalition its one-seat majority. For this she was much lauded.

That is, until after the Turnbull coup when Banks announced she wouldn’t contest Chisholm at the next election, saying the leadership spill was the “last straw”. She denounced the bullying of women in politics and revealed she had been bullied by both Liberal and Labor members and would not tolerate bullying or intimidation.


She was true to her word. On Tuesday, in one of the more honest and courageous speeches made in parliament this year, Banks called out the Right-wing reactionary culture of the Liberals, man-shamed the major parties and parliament’s now endemic turgid anti-female manifesto. Nai!

Reading from a well-drafted statement devoid of spin, Banks cut to the chase, saving the best for the worst — her Liberal colleagues:

...the coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, preselection endorsements or silence. Their actions were undeniably for themselves – for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition – not for the Australian people who we represent, not for what people voted for in the 2016 election, not for stability and disregarding that teamwork and unity deliver success. The aftermath of those dark days in August then acutely laid bare the major parties' obstructionist and combative actions and internal games, all for political pointscoring rather than for timely, practical, sensible decisions on matters which Australians care about.

And then Banks gave a shout-out to three female independents whose ranks she now joins — Dr Kerryn Phelps, Rebekha Sharkie and Cathy McGowan:

“Like the three female independent representatives, the new member for Wentworth, the member for Mayo and the member for Indi, sensible, centre, liberal values are at the core of what I stand for... I am so proud to serve as a member of this House of Representatives with honour and respect because of the good people it represents, the people that the major parties have stopped listening to: the Australian people.”


How curiously convenient it is, then, that Dutton apparently has had surgery after injuring an arm whilst fencing on his farm. En garde.

Dutton didn’t front for work this week, thus avoiding further media scrutiny about his impact on the demolition derby that left Victoria’s Liberals a write-off and pertinent questions about another attempt in the House to refer Dutton’s political eligibility under Section 44 of the Constitution to the High Court. The Banks defection and other convergence means this time Labor could gather the numbers.

For some weeks, IA has been listening and chatting with other “ordinary” Victorian people, the real focus group, observing early voting centres and habits, overhearing remarks of passers-by to those handing out how-to-vote cards and trying to get a sense of the public vibe.

Time and again, the Turnbull coup was raised, as was the deplorable behaviour of politicians including rorting and untrustworthiness. Topics raised including violence – especially violence towards women by partners and our mistreatment of refugees, especially children – and, yes, law and order, immigration issues, mental health, drug, housing, health, privacy encroachment by government and homelessness. Climate change is also high on the list and, from some, a fear for Australia’s future in the corporate greased palms of our political parties — basically that the country and people are being trashed by the politicians. Dutton’s thwarted PM bid was cited, as were concerns he would make a second bid and that he is regarded as worse than Tony Abbott in his personal ambition and will stop at nothing. His name was mentioned more than Scott Morrison's.

We are clearly angry and fed up with Dutton’s longstanding toxic political formulae, the brutalizing of human rights and democracy that he promulgates through arrogant and autocratic abuse of power and portfolio.


This culture of abuse has contributed to bringing the nation to this inglorious day, where the Coalition is dysfunctional and conniving to the extent that in order to enhance its re-election prospects (fat chance) next year parliament will only sit for 13 days.  

The Coalition now has little to offer Australia and offers even less to women.

The Liberals are a dead party walking.

We need to extricate ourselves from this malaise. The people are more progressive than our politicians, better informed and lesser slaves to multi-nationals, corporate behemoths and the extremist covens that occupy and continue to infiltrate the Liberal and National parties and others.

Australia is being trashed by Dutton and his like.

He is a hypocrite, that we all know.


So once again, Dutton runs for cover, reminding me of Abbott fleeing the chamber to avoid voting in public against the same-sex marriage bill.

Dutton, a political coward par excellence, again escapes fronting the media and accounting for his political sins.

Thus, Dutton is missing in inaction.

A pity that, unlike some prisoners and even religious clergy, Dutton couldn’t attend parliament via video link. But then, we’d have politicians rorting the system with impunity and claiming travel costs and living away from home allowances and claiming exorbitant phone and internet bills.


No doubt after his accident, Dutton was immediately evacuated to Manus Island or Nauru by medivac for expert emergency medical treatment and hospitalisation.

Possibly he is recuperating on the latter, a famous tropical paradise resort that gets five stars from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.


Perhaps the internationally acclaimed asylum seeker quid pro bono quo advocate against au pair trafficking, Gillon McLachlan, who also moonlights as the Australian Football League chief, intervened on Dutton’s behalf to secure safe visa entry to one of our fabulous offshore detention centres.


You know, fellow great unwashed, there is sweet justice in beleaguered PM Scott Morrison holding crisis squawks with demoralised Victorian Liberals who are seething with anger about the further injury inflicted upon them by their own parent company, whilst in Canberra, progressive Independent Dr Kerryn Phelps was being sworn in as the new member of Turnbull’s former bespoke seat.

Already, Phelps and colleagues on the crossbench have shown sensible, strong, compassionate resolve to put an end to our flagrant child abuse of children in Nauru and will introduce a private member’s bill in parliament’s last sitting days for the year, next week, to bring all children and families to Australia.

The bill will also include the immediate evacuation to Australia for any asylum seeker/refugee on Manus Island and Nauru who needs urgent medical attention.

From the ABC:

As a doctor, I cannot go on seeing people, knowing that people are suffering on Australia's watch in indefinite offshore detention. I think it's incredibly important that we put this matter back into the hands of the medical profession and the Government gets out of the way. I cannot see an argument against this.

I am not about political maneuvering, I am about addressing the real issue at hand. Realistically, I believe that we can make the point that this is a humanitarian crisis, this is a medical solution and it is something that will not affect border protection, it will not affect other government policies.

At long last. Straight talk. No spin. And it must be noted that the crossbench seems to be a unifying force since its newer additions and there is a degree of collegiality in that place that has been AWOL for too long.

Phelps is everything that Dutton and his mates are not. Hopefully, she is a sign of good things to come for Australia and its governance.

Maybe the children will be home in Oz for Christmas. If so, it will be the bestest present, not only for them but for Australia. We may even regain some self-respect and salve our conscience and all that has been done in our name.

Scrooge you, Dutton !

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