Malcolm Turnbull today brought on a leadership spill, where he beat back Peter Dutton’s challenge by a narrow 48-35 margin. This pre-emptive strike is unlikely to hold the conservative forces for long, and as I write, senior ministers are resigning from their posts. So today I ask the question, who is Peter Dutton?
As Fraser Anning demonstrated, a politician’s maiden speech serves well as a declaration of intent, offering one of the best windows we have into their core values. So I plumbed the depths of Hansard for Peter Dutton’s first speech in 2002. I present the selections below with little commentary, as I feel they speak for themselves.
I often say to people that, as a police officer, I have seen the best and the worst that society has to offer. I have seen the wonderful, kind nature of people willing to offer any assistance to those in their worst hour, and I have seen the sickening behaviour displayed by people who, frankly, barely justify their existence in our sometimes overtolerant society.
The overtolerance of our society is a common thread which weaves its way through Dutton’s speech.
In society today we are experiencing unacceptable crime rates, causing older Australians to barricade themselves in their homes, all in the name of safety. We are seeing an alarming number of households where up to three generations—in many cases by choice—have never worked in their lives, and a society where in many cases rights are demanded but no responsibility taken.
Melbourne’s imagined African gangs aren’t the first crime wave that Dutton has invented, and they won’t be the last. The refrain against welfare queens is from a more conventional conservative playbook.
The fight for a better place in which to live is today made even more difficult for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the boisterous minority and the politically correct seem to have a disproportionate say in public debate today. The silent majority, the forgotten people—or the aspirational voters of our generation, as some like to term them—are fed up with bodies like the Civil Liberties Council and the Refugee Action Collective, and certainly the dictatorship of the trade union movement. Australians are fed up with the Civil Liberties Council— otherwise known as the criminal lawyers media operative—who appear obsessed with the rights of criminals yet do not utter a word of understanding or compassion for the victims of crime. Their motives are questionable and their hypocrisy breathtaking.
Civil liberties? Who needs em’? Our jackboots must be free to apply full force against the dictatorship of the trade union movement.
The terrorist attacks and the attacks on our day-to-day lives by criminals who have complete disregard for common decency must be dealt with in a measured way. At this point in time it is stating the obvious that in my opinion the courts are not representing the views in the large of the broader community. Time after time we see grossly inadequate sentences being delivered to criminals whose civil rights have far exceeded those of the victim and others in our society. This imbalance must be addressed, and for the sake of living standards and reasonable expectations for all Australians must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Criminals have too many rights and need harsher sentencing.
(A)s part of this process we must set ourselves on a course of information sharing between law-enforcement agencies and other government departments, with this end in mind: when does the right of privacy for the individual start to impinge on the common good of society? We must face the reality that criminals in today’s society are well resourced, professionally operated and structured and administered, and must be combated to ensure the fabric of our society remains intact.
This is really not the guy you want in charge of a monolithic, whole of government security department. And I suppose that his departure to the backbenches offers this ray of light – for the moment he isn’t. But these fragments demonstrate clearly Dutton’s primary driving force.
Peter’s isn’t a particularly nuanced or thoughtful playbook, but it is no less effective for that. Civil liberties are seen as mere obstacles which must be overcome to provide police with all the powers they need to clamp down on those whose existence in our society isn’t justified. This government has already been willing to deploy the AFP against their opposition in the trade union movement. If and when he rises to the leadership, Dutton will deploy a firm authoritarian hand, assuring citizens that the destruction of individual privacy is a small price to pay to get those criminal gangs of foreigners off the streets.
Such a campaign, tapping into the prejudices fanned by the flames of talkback radio, tabloid news and sensationalist current affairs could well prove effective. Australia retains a racism embedded within our core as a nation. Indeed, I think that a Dutton led campaign focused on fear of immigration combined with harsh law and order rhetoric is probably the Liberal Party’s best chance at winning the next election. Turnbull is a dead man walking, having lost 38 newspolls in a row. I see no reason why a returned Tony Abbott would be any more popular than he was last time he led the country, and he lost 30 consecutive newspolls before Turnbull turfed him out. There’s no way Julie Bishop could get past the conservative party room. So Liberal strategists have one card left to play.
The Tampa card. Just as Howard turned around a losing position in 2001 by adopting One Nation rhetoric and policy, a Peter Dutton led government could pivot right and pick up swathes of dissatisfied right wing voters. History shows Labor would happily follow them along, and that the Liberal Party does well when fighting in these murky waters. At the latest Ipsos poll, 19% of voters supported a party other than the big three. Most of those voters have fled to One Nation and the increasingly crowded far-right. Essential polling shows that ‘Other’ voters hate Malcolm Turnbull, even more than Labor voters do. Changing to a brazenly nativist and authoritarian leader like Dutton could well bring large swathes of them back onside. The brazen racism of the Murdoch media serves to normalise and lay the groundwork for this style of campaign.
It would threaten to destroy the multicultural fabric of Australian society in the process, but to Liberal strategists happy to accelerate the destruction of our planet for political points, a few lynchings may be a small price to pay. Especially when those lynched are, as Peter Dutton would say, barely justifiying their existence in our overtolerant society.