How to make Dutton just a bad memory

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Even if Australia can't change the Government on 2 July, it is imperative it rids itself of its most callous and demented minister — Peter Dutton. To this end, Mark Hipgrave has a plan.

TO paraphrase Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a reasonable person in possession of a sound mind expects his or her elected representatives to be competent, diligent and honest.

We don’t expect them all to be intellectual giants. That would be asking too much. But we do expect them to represent us in a way that reflects our values, views and aspirations.

Much has also been made over recent years of the need for politicians to come to the job with a varied range of life experiences, rather than having served time as party hacks.

That said, it could be expected that Peter Dutton, having come from the Queensland Police Service – which was once regarded as the best police force money could buy – would make an ideal candidate for whichever side of politics he favoured.

However, Dutton’s performance, firstly in shadow portfolios and later as minister for health, then minister for immigration, indicate he doesn’t meet these fundamental criteria.

The New York Times recently wrote of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump: 

'... cosmetics cannot obscure his brutish agenda, nor the narcissism, capriciousness and most of all, the inexperience paired with intellectual laziness that would make him a disastrous president.'

Leaving aside the presidential bit, the same, pretty much, could be said of Peter Dutton.

Yesterday, another Nauru inmate set fire to herself, this time a 21 year-old Somali woman. 

The Nauruan Government issued a statement:

'We are distressed that refugees are attempting such dreadful acts in order to attempt to influence the Australian government's immigration policies.'

They may be distressed, but they shouldn’t be surprised, for that is the exact outcome Peter Dutton’s management of the immigration portfolio is trying to achieve — impose a brutal regime of systematic abuse that removes all hope, with the intention of dissuading others from seeking refuge here.

Dutton is not competent. And is a liar, too

It’s not Dutton’s fault that Abbott anointed him as minister for immigration. If he had done a half decent job in Health he might still be there. However he didn’t and had to go. Abbott regarded Morrison as deserving of a promotion and moved him out of immigration and into social services (perhaps hoping he would fail there) and so Dutton got immigration. The policies were already in place and Abbott would have told him to merely "hold the line and don’t fuck it up".

However, he has proven to be more callous, more unfeeling and more brutal then Morrison ever was.

Winston Churchill scribbled in the margins of a cabinet briefing paper in late 1944:

'Let 'em starve .... They can rot at their leisure.'

He was speaking about the Channel Islanders, but this sums up our own Government’s position on the detainees.

Crikey summed it up well when awarding him the 2015 Arsehat of the Year:

'Peter Dutton really came into his own for arsehattery in 2015. He ditched the “Do Nuttin” moniker when he traded Health for Immigration at the end of last year and swapped being merely indifferent to the sick for being callous to the desperate. Dutton managed to gloss over reports of widespread abuse, sexual assault and self-harm on Nauru, played down the death of an asylum seeker and out-of-control rioting on Christmas Island, and sent a pregnant asylum seeker who said she’d been raped back to Nauru in the dead of night before she could procure the abortion she had begged for. What a champ.'

There is no need to repeat the litany of inhumanities perpetrated by the government and its servant Transfield Services (aka Broadspectrum) here. Many have decried the shameful way we are treating those on Nauru and Manus Island and Dutton’s general incompetence. For those needing a refresher, try here, here, here and here

And he tells lies too.

So what can we do about him?

The people of Dickson electorate, on Brisbane’s northern fringes, have a perfect opportunity on 2 July, to do us all a favour. 

They won’t have forgotten the contempt Dutton showed for them in 2009, when a redistribution made Dickson more marginal and he tried to bail on them in favour of the Gold Coast electorate of McPherson. The preselectors in McPherson didn’t want him, so he came back to Dickson with his tail between his legs. He was, surprisingly, re-elected in 2010 and again in 2013, with a two-party-preferred lead over Labor of 57 per cent to 43 per cent.

Recently, the ALP nominated Linda Lavarch, the former Queenland attorney-general and former wife of Keating Federal Government Attorney-General Michael Lavarch, as its candidate for 2016. (Michael held the same seat from its formation in 1993 to 1996). Linda is well known in the electorate, having held part of it as a Queensland state member from 1997 to 2009. She has a good chance of winning and the seat has been marginal since its formation in 1993

We can help the Dickson electorate to dump Dutton. 

Voters in marginal seats like Dickson have already indicated they want a more compassionate asylum seeker policy. On 2 July, they can give their first preferences to whomever they want. They just need to put Dutton last on their ballots.

So what can we do to help this happen?

Queenslanders from all walks of life showed remarkable ability to mobilise quickly and protest outside Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Hospital when, in February, doctors refused to discharge an infant burns victim on the grounds that Nauru was unsuitable place for here to be returned to. 

(Dutton eventually got the message and came up with a compromise, but shamefully implied that perhaps the mother had deliberately scalded her child, just to get the family into Australia. This suggestion, more than any, showed the moral vacuum within the LNP — it’s OK to maintain a regime that might cause a mother to deliberately harm her child to relieve the family’s suffering, but wrong for the mother to crumble under the pressure of that regime and do so.)

It’s not a big ask for the wider community to maintain the rage and transfer it a few kilometres up the Bruce Highway with a series of apolitical protests, town hall meetings, doorknocks, phone campaigns, street side placards, or whatever, to convince just a few per cent of the Dickson electorate that they – and we – deserve better than Dutton.

It may not change Government policy, or the Government itself, but it will at least send a strong message to both parties that we – and these asylum seekers – deserve better. If this happens, as Winston might say, it could truly be said of the people of Dixon that "never (since World War II) has so much been owed by so many Australians to so few."

And here, for free, is a slogan: “Send a message to Malcolm: dump Dutton”.

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