The following news item appeared in The Australian on 21 November 2016, under the caption ‘I won’t be bullied’ (if you follow the link, you have to scroll down for the piece):
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has crossed swords with Bill Shorten in a fiery question time exchange, accusing the Opposition Leader of misrepresenting him about his comments last week in which he criticised parts of Malcolm Fraser’s immigration policy in the 1970s.
The Opposition Leader asked Mr Dutton about the comments he made on Sky News and his statement that Malcolm Fraser “did make mistakes in bringing some people in the 1970s and we’re seeing that today”.
Mr Shorten asked what people Mr Dutton was referring to and whether he would apologise to Australia’s hard working migrant communities including the Vietnamese community.
But an angry Mr Dutton slammed the question, beginning his answer by saying: “I’m not going to be misrepresented by this great fraud of Australian politics.”
Mr Dutton accused Mr Shorten of unfairly trying to demonise him. “I won’t be bullied by this union leader. That may have been his working life. He may have bullied people and he may have double-crossed everybody he’s come across in his working life, but I won’t be bullied and I won’t be demonised by this union leader,” Mr Dutton said.
But Mr Shorten persisted, following up the question with a second on the same topic in which he again pushed Mr Dutton to nominate the country from which people should not have been allowed into Australia when Mr Fraser was Prime Minister.
Mr Dutton said that he had received advice that, out of the last 33 people to have been charged with terrorist-related offences, 22 were from a second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim background.
“If the Leader of the Opposition wants somehow to conduct a phony debate in this country and not to be honest in relation to these matters, that’s an issue for him,” Mr Dutton said. “I’m not going to shy away from the facts … Many people who have built this country over many decades deserve to be praised. But I am going to call out those people who are doing the wrong thing.”
There’s a couple of things to be said about this. First, and most obvious, Dutton seemed to be channelling his inner Julia Gillard as he (perhaps unwittingly) adopted the style of her famous misogyny speech. Second, and unlike Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech, it was laced with dishonesty. Until the end of his “answer”, Dutton kept well away from dealing with the question. When finally he addressed the question, he suggested that Shorten “wants somehow to conduct a phony debate in this country and not to be honest in relation to these matters”. But Dutton is chronically dishonest about matters in his portfolio.
He refers to boat people as “illegal arrivals” which falsely suggests that boat people break the law by coming here the way they do, in order to seek asylum. It is a lie. It is a lie on which the Coalition have supported the deliberate, wilful mistreatment of boat people since the Tampa episode in 2001. It is a sad thing that Dutton, a former Queensland copper, brings to his role as a Minister of the Crown the habits he learned in an earlier career. Or maybe he has taken up lying more recently, because it is good for his political career. Who knows? What difference?
Just as bad as his dishonesty, Dutton finally justified his comments by suggesting that 22 people descended from immigrants who came to Australia 40 years ago. Over 10,000 Lebanese immigrants came to Australia during Fraser’s time as PM. On ordinary population growth figures, there would now be about 50,000 Australians who can trace their ancestry back to a Lebanese immigrant who came to Australia during that time. So Dutton is troubled by the fact that 0.04% (that’s one 40th of 1 %) of a particular cohort are behaving badly. Australians with no Lebanese ancestry are 6 times more likely to engage in criminal behaviour.
Dutton is, apparently, putting into practice the philosophy of that great Attorney-General George Brandis, that “People do have a right to be bigots…“