Why Turnbull can't sack Peter Dutton over Abyan

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(Image via @Talaolp)

Despite being a serial – and more or less criminal – incompetent, the hard right of the Liberal Party won't let Turnbull sack Dutton, because he is their man in cabinet, writes Peter Wicks.

MALCOLM TURNBULL cannot sack Peter Dutton.

I say that not because he deserves his role as immigration minister and not because he is showing any competence in his portfolio — I say it because it is a political reality.

Dutton was re-appointed to his role by Turnbull just weeks ago after a cabinet reshuffle. While removing Dutton may be the right thing to do, and would be welcomed by virtually all, it would be a disaster politically.

If Dutton is removed from his portfolio after a year, it looks like he screwed up; if he is removed from his portfolio after a few weeks, it looks like a Turnbull screwed up in re-appointing him to the position.

And screwing up is something that, in the choices he made for his cabinet, Turnbull has done in spectacular fashion. Perhaps the most spectacular screw up since Godwin Grech and the Utegate scandal. Since utegate Turnbull has learnt a lot about delivery, but clearly little about anything else.

His cabinet includes Arthur Sinodinos who is still in a cloud of doubt over ICAC revelations in NSW, and Mal Brough who is currently under police investigation for his role in the Ashbygate scandal. Turnbull makes his Captains Picks.

Now we have Peter Dutton as immigration minister — a position that carries with it the weight of responsibility for the lives of real people fleeing desperate circumstances. Who better to look after this portfolio than the man who turned his prior health portfolio into an utter dogs breakfast of chaos and catastrophe crunch?

Over the last few weeks we have seen how Turnbull's chosen Immigration Minister Peter Dutton deals with problems in his portfolio through the horrific and gut-wrenching story of a Somalian asylum seeker referred to as Abyan — a story that played out before us in all of its savagery.

Abyan, whose only crime was the desire for a better life, was the victim of a horrific rape. This violent crime happened in the detention centre at Nauru which is under Peter Dutton's control. Abyan is an asylum seeker who, in a quest for a better life, instead wound up in detention experiencing the sour taste of Australia's indifference towards her.

Abyan came to the public's attention after her lawyer tired of waiting for a response to an urgent plea for both help and mercy from his client to the Australian Government. Abyan had been left pregnant, terrified and desperate after the rape. Her physical and emotional pain exaggerated by the knowledge that, if she carried her child full term, she was to have a living, breathing, lifetime reminder of her horrific ordeal. Rather than spending most of her life raising her rapist's child, she sought an abortion, however given as that was impossible on Nauru, she was going to need the assistance of the government holding her captive.

When the Turnbull Government failed to respond, her lawyer thought they'd see if leaking the story to the press would prompt a response.

It did.

There was an almost immediate outpouring of grief around the country for this poor woman who had been made a victim and then ignored by our Government. The public cries for the Government to fly Abyan to Australia to enable her to have an abortion were almost deafening. Considering a large number of the Coalition caucus are anti-choice, this must have been a contentious issue.

The good news, however, was that Abyan was to be bundled into a plane and brought to Australia for a stay in an onshore detention centre and an abortion, not exactly the regular tourist trail.
Upon arrival to Australia Abyan who must have been feeling more than nauseous from the emotional roller coaster ride she had been forced to suffer was grateful to all.

I'm not going to speculate as to what sort of hideous persuasion or threats the emotionally and physically scarred Abyan was subjected to in order to illicit a thanks from her to the government that had willingly exploited her suffering, but she did thank the government.

However that gratitude was short-lived.

Like some sort of CIA extraordinary rendition, a military aircraft was sought by the government, Abyan was once again bundled on and in a no doubt distraught state, flown back to the scene of the crime. No teary goodbye, no termination, and certainly no compassion or care.

It was reported that Abyan had sought counselling prior to the termination, something that is normal for anyone having this procedure — let alone a rape victim who is a prisoner in a strange callous country. Some reports claim that Abyan was refused access to a counsellor and would not go through with the termination as a result of that unimaginable decision.

Twitter went into meltdown and most were left in a state that went beyond outrage — a shock that we have a government capable of such vicious cruelty.

Dutton, in a press release, talked of misleading statements, without actually explaining what they are. He then stated that the woman refused the termination and was put on a chartered flight back to Nauru. He talked of fabricated comments, without saying what they are. He then talks of those using this poor woman's circumstances to promote their own political agenda, saying they should be ashamed, a valid point. Dutton then takes the opportunity using the Abyan case to promote the Coalitions political agenda re anyone coming to Australia by boat.

I wonder if this left him ashamed?

As I was about to post this, the Somali refugee has allegedly spoken out accusing Peter Dutton of lying.

My opinion is that Turnbull and Dutton bowed to public pressure and, wishing to appear as if they had hearts, flew the distraught Abyan over to have the issue resolved. My opinion is, however, is that once Abyan arrived the extreme right of his Party, who are anti-abortion, may have told Turnbull "provide an abortion over our dead bodies", forcing Turnbull to back down or face a civil war in his own Party. This would have left Dutton fumbling for any lame excuse to imply that she had refused the procedure. 

This leaves me wondering, who is really running the country? Cory Bernardi?

This whole incredibly cruel and sordid episode, which will have no doubt greatly damaged the lives of Abyan and her family, will end up a mere blip on the CV of Peter Dutton, as we have a prime minister who is not big enough to admit his mistake in appointing such an inept minister by correcting it.

Better to let Abyan suffer what must be the most soul-destroying misery and torment for the rest of her life than for Turnbull to face a days embarrassment whilst on the honeymoon period of his stolen prime ministership.

Abyan must feel as if she has been raped all over again.

And to think, we thought things were bad under the leadership of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison...

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW State Labor candidate. You can follow Peter on Twitter @madwixxy

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