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(Cartoon by Mark David / @mdavidcartoons)

This week’s comments by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in which he made the laughable assertion that African crime gangs are terrorising Melbourne is another sign that he is only sitting in The Lodge at the behest of the troglodyte Peter Dutton faction of the Liberal Party argues political editor, Dr Martin Hirst.

 

THANK DOG for the good humour of Twitter. If it wasn’t for the comic relief offered by intelligent tweeps, I’d likely want to beat myself to death with a brick rather than face the horror show that is Malcolm Turnbull’s tenure in The Lodge.

With his attack on migrants and refugees from African backgrounds, the Fizza has outdone himself in terms of debasing his reputation for the sake of a few more months as Prime Minister.

"There is certainly concern about street crime in Melbourne. There is real concern about Sudanese gangs," Turnbull told 3AW.

When he was pressed to provide evidence, this was his lame response:

"I've heard people, colleagues from Melbourne, say there is real anxiety about crime in Melbourne.”

Yes colleagues, like Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, who himself recently stoked the racist flames with his support for a very dodgy campaign leaflet that was distributed only a few days before Malcolm "misspoke".

The Victorian Liberals are gearing up to fight a state election in a few months’ time and they are willing to do anything, it seems, to unseat Premier Daniel Andrews.

Liberal flyer (Fiberal liar?) distributed in a suburb with a significant immigrant population

The Liberals have targeted Attorney-General Martin Pakula’s seat of Keysborough with the anti-gang flyer. In particular, they were distributed in the suburb of Noble Park, which apparently has a significant population of migrants from African backgrounds.

Pakula called the leaflet disgraceful — a sentiment echoed by South Sudanese Australian lawyer and advocate, Nyadol Nyuon.

Ms Nyuon has told IA that she is disappointed, but not surprised that Turnbull appears to have endorsed the racism of the Victorian Liberals.

As they saw an opportunity to use this to the advantage of the Liberal party in the state election, his comments also are political.

It is also disappointing that many innocent people in the community will continue to have their lives impacted by these kinds of comments and media reporting as confirmed by the figures recently released by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission that there has been a dramatic rise in race-based discrimination reported over the past 12 months.

In fact, the EOHRC report found a staggering 76% increase in formal complaints about racially-motivated discrimination over the last year. The report goes further and links the increase in racism to inflammatory statements by politicians and the almost stenographic reporting of them in the media.

According to the EOHRC media release issued only a few days ago:

The rise follows inflammatory race-related political statements and reporting in January of this year, revived again last week by some media outlets.

Today’s figures suggest that a racially-charged atmosphere persists long after the headlines have faded.

"This sudden jump in race-related discrimination reports should be a wake-up call for politicians who have made racially divisive statements," said Commissioner Kristen Hilton. "Linking skin colour and crime causes more problems than it solves." 

That last statement is very true, but solving crime is not what Matthew Guy, the Victorian Liberals, or Malcolm Turnbull are on about.

For them, race-baiting and gaslighting Victorians is just another campaign tactic in the upcoming November State Election.

No doubt, Turnbull wants to help Guy, who is seen by many as a useful idiot for Melbourne crime bosses after he was outed having dinner with an alleged mafia figure at a bayside seafood restaurant. The meal, which quickly became known as “lobster with a mobster” was in August last year. But, it seems, Victorians have not forgotten.

The Opposition Leader has been given the nickname “Wise” Guy for his mob links, but his ability to beat Daniel Andrews in a clean fight has to be questioned. Recent opinion polls show the election is going to be close with the ALP enjoying a slim margin at the moment.

The most recent ReachTEL poll conducted only two weeks ago gives Labor a lead of around two points (51 – 49). Andrews’ lead over Guy as preferred premier is similarly close.

So the real target for Guy’s racist anti-gang leaflet was not a handful of voters in Martin Pakula’s safe Labor seat. Handing out the flyers there was a publicity stunt that was designed to maximise media attention and influence votes in marginal seats where the Liberals think they have a chance.

TURNBULL'S DESPERATE BY-ELECTION PITCH

However, Turnbull’s intervention this week is about more than the Victorian state election. It is aimed squarely at shoring up the COALition vote in next weekend’s important House of Representatives by-elections.

The Liberals are in trouble in seats they are hoping to win. In South Australia, the seat of Mayo, held by the Xenophon-linked Rebekha Sharkie until she fell foul of S44 troubles, is being contested by blow-in candidate and IPA clone, Georgina Downer.

Sharkie won with a 5% margin in 2016 after scooping up most Green and ALP preferences. It seems that Downer has not managed to put much of a dent in this lead and Turnbull is, perhaps, more than a little worried.

Georgina Downer – the hapless daughter of Alexander “Fishnets” Downer – has been pushed in front of the news cameras at every opportunity and party heavyweights have visited South Australia to campaign for her. It’s not apparently working too well. A June poll showed Sharkie set to win. In fact, the SBS headlined its story on the issue 'Sharkie to romp Mayo by-election: poll'.

However, Mayo is a heavily Anglo and northern-European seat and perhaps Turnbull thinks attacking mysterious black people in Victoria will frighten enough of them to get Downer over the line.

Perhaps more importantly, Turnbull no doubt had one eye on the seat of Longman in Queensland and Braddon in Tasmania. These are both seats that the COALition has some chance of winning.

In Longman, the margin is only 0.8% and in Braddon 2.2%. Turnbull will be particularly keen to pick up one or both of these seats to offset a likely Sharkie win in Mayo.

If he gets one of the Lower House seats, it will increase his majority and make his government a little bit safer — for now.

It is interesting that Nyadol Nyuon said she was not surprised by Turnbull’s comments last week. Neither should we be.

If we go back six months, to January, we can recall that Turnbull backed Home Affairs Monster Peter Dutton when he first raised the so-called “African gangs” issue.

You might remember Dutton’s nasty and brutish comments, which – surprise, surprise – were made to Murdoch hack Chris Kenny in the 2GB Sydney studios.

When you look at some of the joke of sentences, there’s no deterrence there.

The reality is, people are scared to go out to restaurants of a night-time because they’re followed home by these gangs.

We just need to call it for what it is… African gang violence.

We all know that Sinister Mutton is a callous, heartless bastard ex-cop, but some of us (perhaps not IA readers, but certainly many political journalists) thought that Turnbull was better.

After all, Fizza wore a leather jacket without a tie, and even went into pubs now and again to have a beer with ordinary people. However, I can’t find any evidence that Turnbull contradicted Dutton back in January.

When he was given a chance to do so last week, he didn’t.

Instead he doubled-down in his reported remarks:

Asked whether Dutton had provoked racial hatred with his comments, Turnbull said it was “nonsense” to suggest that, adding he was “simply seeking to do the best job” as the minister for home affairs, responsible for domestic security and migration.

“There is real concern about Sudanese gangs,” Turnbull said. “You’d have to be walking around with your hands over your ears in Melbourne not to hear it.”

What is going on?

Well, I’ve voiced this theory before and, to me, it is the only way any of this makes sense.

Malcolm Turnbull is totally controlled by Peter Dutton. Turnbull is living on borrowed time. He is Prime Minister only because the Dutton faction keeps him there.

Dutton wants to be Prime Minister (Did you feel that cold blast of icy breath on your neck? That’s him!). But he only wants to be PM in a winning government. Turnbull can stay in situ and lead the COALition to a defeat next year, then Dutton might take over.

I can’t put it any more clearly than that.

You can follow political editor Dr Martin Hirst on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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