Politics Analysis

Overseas affairs with corruption: Peter Dutton’s latest hits

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Yet another bribery scandal pointing to maladministration of the Home Affairs portfolio by then-Minister Peter Dutton has emerged. Dave Donovan and Michelle Pini take a closer look at the murky details. 

DISTURBING REVELATIONS about corruption in Australia’s offshore detention centres have again highlighted the dismal, broken state of Australia’s immigration system.

According to an investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Bachelard and Nick McKenzie, in 2018, then-Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton awarded a multi-million dollar offshore detention contract to an Australian businessman, despite the Federal Police advising him that this man, Mozammil Bhojani, was under investigation for $100,000 worth of bribery.

Independent Australia, over more than 13 years reporting on refugee issues, has found ample fault in both major parties. However, the approach of the Coalition, in general, and that of current Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, in particular, has been beyond belief.

Former Queensland drug cop Peter Dutton has repeatedly claimed he is a man of integrity.

This, despite joking about waves lapping at the door of Pacific Islanders lobbying his government over climate change.

This, despite claiming African gangs were terrorising Melbourne and that refugees and asylum seekers lacked literacy and numeracy skills, and that Lebanese immigrants were terrorists. 

This despite walking out of the 2007 Apology to the Stolen Generations and, in recent times, shamefully attempting to undermine the Referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Dutton is, quite frankly, a racist ─ and not someone who should ever hold higher office in this country, let alone be just one vote away from becoming Australia’s next prime minister.

Bachelard and McKenzie’s latest shocking report further supports the now compelling argument that Peter Dutton is, not only a man lacking integrity but one who has presided over severe maladministration in his executive roles as both Home Affairs Minister and the Minister for Immigration.

MOZAMMIL BHOJANI: BRIBERY RADIANCE, AS USUAL

According to the SMH report, after Bhojani’s conviction for bribery in 2020, it was business as usual for his company, Radiance International, which continued to provide accommodation for refugees on Nauru.

The article states:

‘The allegations also show that money continued to flow to entities long after AUSTRAC warned about potential corruption and money laundering.’

Peter Dutton was unavailable for comment on this breaking story, being allegedly away on leave, so it was senior shadow frontbencher Michaela Cash who fronted the media yesterday.

Cash told ABC Radio that it was all the public servants’ fault:

“There is no suggestion that Peter Dutton himself played a part in signing the contracts. These contracts are signed by the Department of Home Affairs.”

Cash added that they were, “matters for the Home Affairs Department”.

Why would the Minister for Home Affairs be expected to take responsibility for the Department of Home Affairs? This was, IA would add, the same excuse used by Scott Morrison after the ReboDebt Royal Commission, and is one used by the Coalition as far back as John Howard and Alexander Downer in the AWB Oil-for-Wheat scandal around the turn of the millennium.

Ministerial responsibility is so 20th Century, it seems.

UNTIDY FOREIGN AFFAIRS UNDER DUTTON

And it’s not as though bribery and corruption under Dutton is a new concept.

As the Refugee Action Committee’s Ian Rintoul told IA:

'The offshore detention arrangements with Nauru and PNG were corrupt from the beginning. The Australian Government offered a one-off “bribe” to both governments the equivalent of foreign aid for a year, to get PNG and Nauru to agree to become Australian gaolers.'

The system is made for bribery, continued Rintoul:

'The regular visa payments to Nauru were another financial pipeline to Nauru politicians. The recent revelations are just the tip of the iceberg of the way Australia systematically suborned Nauru's willing politicians.’

Then there was the time (also reported in IA here) back in June 2015, when: 

Allegations surfaced that Australian Government officials had paid Indonesian people smugglers to turn back 65 Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi and Burmese asylum seekers who were attempting to reach New Zealand by boat.’

Despite being confirmed by the United Nations, as Dr Martin Hirst pointed out in IA, that particular story was spun by the Murdoch media in the following way:

‘If Australians did pay people smugglers they were probably trying to save people’s lives in a desperate situation at sea.’

That was also under Dutton, who was then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, but again, we can hardly expect the Minister to be held accountable for the actions of his department.

Then there were allegations of corruption on the part of Dutton, such as the visa scam exposed in 2019, where hundreds of criminals were handed back their visas.

As investigations editor Ross Jones reported exclusively for IA:

‘Apart from intimidating the detainee and threatening an internal investigation, Dutton seems to have taken no action despite the seriousness of the allegations.’

Then there was the “au pair" affair, where Dutton used his ministerial powers to allow globe-trotting, visa-breaking au pairs to stay in the country. Of course, they weren’t just any visa-breaking au pairs. The babysitting services of these particular au pairs were required in exchange for food and accommodation, by Callum MacLachlan – the AFL's then-CEO’s cousin – whose father is a generous donor to the Liberal Party, so obviously Mr Dutton’s ministerial intervention was warranted. Who knows how many outings Mr MacLachlan may have missed, due to Australian babysitters probably wishing to be paid. That’s not the way it works, clearly!

Then there was the time Peter Dutton allegedly accepted bribes in order to free captive drug lords, as we reported. Yes, you read all that right.

Dutton, while Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and/or Home Affairs, can also hardly be blamed for the gulags on Nauru and Manus where people were tortured, refused medical treatment, and died.

This is because, during one of his many, earlier failed bids to become Prime Minister, he said he would bring everyone here from Manus and Nauru, if only he could:

"If I could, I would put them all on a charter flight to Australia tomorrow."

It seems no one told Peter Dutton he could grant visas and organise transport for genuine asylum seekers, as well as globe-trotting, visa-breaking au pairs.

This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter. These editorials are usually only available to subscribers and may be read online in the IA members-only area.

You can follow, on Twitter, founder and publisher Dave Donovan @davrosz and managing editor Michelle Pini @vmp9Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and Facebook HERE.

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