Politics Opinion

Racism runs through Dutton's 'dog act' in Alice Springs

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(Cartoon by Mark David | @MDavidCartoons)

Opposition leader Peter Dutton this week made serious allegations about Indigenous communities in Alice Springs. Again, he failed to provide evidence to back up his spurious, race-based claims.

*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.

Dutton visited the central Australian city with Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price this week after officially announcing the Federal Liberal Party will oppose the Indigenous Voice To Parliament.

While in Alice Springs, Dutton repeated claims he’s often made that “young Indigenous kids are being sexually assaulted on a regular basis” in what Northern Territory (NT) Police Minister Kate Worden angrily described as "a dog act"

The Police Minister said:

“None of the evidence substantiates his claims...”

Catherine Liddle, chief executive of National Voice for our Children (SNAICC) reportedly said:

“I’m beyond frustrated, actually and [it's] really disappointing that someone in a leadership position can stand up and say the same things over and over and over again.”

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Minister Linda Burney called upon Dutton to report any evidence he had to NT Police. Both McCarthy and Burney urged Dutton to stop using Alice Springs as a political football.

Arrernte man Graeme Smith, chief executive of Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation (the representative body of Arrernte traditional owners of Alice Springs and business owners), said:

“We’ve heard all this before. Reading between the lines, if kids are being abused, then what’s he calling us?”

As an ex-police officer who once worked in the Sex Offenders Squad and the National Crime Authority, Dutton knows that serious allegations of child abuse must be based on facts supported by evidence. Anecdotal claims, not based in fact, are unhelpful, disingenuous and inadmissible in court. If Dutton’s claims are genuine, he is legally compelled to report that evidence to NT Police. 

To date, Dutton has not claimed to have contacted NT Police about specific cases of child abuse in Alice Springs, as he is required to do under Northern Territory law.

During this week’s visit to Alice Springs, Dutton claimed he had met with “shoppers in shopping centres, people who are having their businesses boarded up, people who are actually living in the community and aren’t afraid to speak out”.

Dutton did not claim to meet with Indigenous leaders or Indigenous groups in Alice Springs this week.

He did meet with local non-Indigenous businessman Darren Clarke who has often featured in the conservative mainstream media and who set up the Action For Alice 2020 Facebook page, which was recently suspended for 28 days for violating 'bullying and harassment policies'.  

Mr Clarke, to Dutton’s chagrin, said the social problems in Alice Springs had worsened in the last four years, implicating Dutton and the Morrison Government, who governed for three of those four years.

Peter Dutton has a long history of making racist remarks.

As with his infamous 2018 “African gangs” claim, which similarly was not based in fact, Dutton appears to want to cast aspersions on entire communities in order to score political points.

In November 2016, Dutton reportedly suggested:

'... the arrival of Lebanese Muslims in the 1970s is partly to blame for a small number of Australians joining ISIS/Daesh as foreign fighters.'

In 2018, a former Greens leader labelled Dutton “racist” over Dutton’s claim that White South African farmers are being persecuted and need to be brought to safety in Australia.

In February 2019, Dutton claimed the Medevac Bill would see asylum seekers who are alleged murderers, rapists and paedophiles coming to Australia. By June of that same year, then-Home Affairs Minister Dutton admitted he had no idea if alleged murderers and rapists had come to Australia.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, when discussing Barack Obama's Refugee Resettlement Deal, told then newly-elected U.S. President Donald Trump during their first phone call:

“They are basically economic refugees from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. That is the vast bulk of them. They have been under our supervision for over three years now and we know exactly everything about them.”

Turnbull went on to explain to Trump – in their January 2017 phone call – his reasons why Australia was refusing to resettle these asylum seekers:

“It is not because they are bad people...”

Despite this, Dutton continued for years to perpetuate the lie that they were.

In September 2019, Dutton referred to the children of Biloela’s Tamil asylum seekers as “anchor babies”, a far-Right American term insinuating that asylum seekers had children specifically to assist their settlement claims.

The Opposition Leader has also been closely linked to Mark Ellis – his former QLD police colleague – a Nazi sympathiser, failed One Nation candidate and one of the “Pinkenba Six”.

Dutton also infamously boycotted the National Apology to the Stolen Generations — apologising for doing so 15 years later when he became Opposition Leader.

There is an unmistakable theme of racism running through Dutton’s comments and behaviour on a variety of issues over the years. And this now threatens to tear the Liberal Party apart.

For months, Dutton has demanded “detail” on the Voice To Parliament, even though the detail has been publicly available and was presented to Cabinet by former Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt when Dutton was a Cabinet Minister.

Ken Wyatt has since quit the Liberal Party over Dutton’s decision to oppose The Voice.

MP for Berowra, Julian Leeser, quit as Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians and Shadow Attorney-General because he does not support opposing the Voice To Parliament. Dutton insisted his frontbench must campaign for a ‘No’ vote, while backbenchers were free to support the ‘Yes’ campaign if they choose, which was the impetus for Leeser to quit the frontbench. (Leeser remains a Liberal backbench MP.) 

Speculation abounds whether other moderate frontbench Liberals will also quit the Shadow Frontbench. A number of backbench Liberals do support The Voice and have made their position clear, including Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer and Senator for NSW Andrew Bragg. Junior Coalition partner, the Nationals, chose to oppose The Voice late last year.

Dutton’s racist undertones and outright racist remarks were once ignored or dismissed as the actions of an outspoken, hardline Immigration and Home Affairs Minister. 

It was argued every time he made inappropriate comments on race that these did not reflect the views of the Liberal Party. That claim can no longer be made — Dutton’s opinions reflect the party he leads, so if he is racist, the Liberal Party is also racist.

If Liberals ever want to govern again, then they have to expel every racist from their party permanently and publicly.

Racism is an abomination within our modern, multicultural, multi-faith Australian society.

It’s time to take a stand and stop sanctioning the intolerable words and actions of elected representatives who don’t represent Australian values. 

It’s time to stop racism in Australia.

*This article is also available on audio here:

You can follow Belinda Jones on Twitter @belindajones68.

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