It was after Peter Dutton suggested refugees were terrorists and criticised Malcolm Fraser for his compassion that the prime minister praised him.
“Peter Dutton is a thoughtful and committed and compassionate immigration minister,” Malcolm Turnbull said. “Peter Dutton is doing an outstanding job as immigration minister.”
At the time the words played as farce. The longer Dutton is in cabinet, the more they sound like tragedy.
Peter Dutton is a disgrace. He is this country’s worst impulses. He is a man scared of the world. His only business is division. His only tool is malice.
This week, he complains of lawyers giving their time free to prevent his government from abusing refugees. He argues that this is un-Australian. Of particular concern are those refugees who require medical treatment, who courts agree should not then be returned to terrible mistreatment on Manus and Nauru. He complains that the High Court makes the passing of inhuman policy difficult. “It’s gone on for too long,” he says, “and I think people believe in a fair go but this is ripping the system off.”
We now know who Peter Dutton is. He is a man who regards the constitution as an inconvenience. That alone should make him unfit for office. He has no respect for the laws made to protect the public from people like him.
This is the man who lied about the intentions of a woman raped while in detention, a woman who was pulled from a hospital bed and deported back to Nauru lest Australian laws be used to protect her. She had been waiting for counselling after seeking an abortion required by that rape.
This is the man who suggested that refugee advocates had coaxed people into self-harm. The man who suggested with no evidence that refugees were paedophiles. The man who ignores the facts of the wicked edifice over which he presides: that people are destroyed here, by rape and violence and mental sickness, and that these terrible facts are not accidents but part of his deliberate system of deterrents.
This is the man who looks at all this and sees only relish. “I enjoy it a lot.”
Dutton’s is a career of moral turpitude. Nowhere can he point to good. His portfolio is this nation’s disgrace.
More than anyone in this government, he stands on real corpses. He stands on women destroyed by rape, and children robbed of their childhoods by imprisonment. He stands on a calculus of cruelty.
It is this man who is touted as a future leader of the Liberal Party. The Australian has written a draft of the speech he would give. It draws on family values and a celebration of his simplicity.
There is nothing to celebrate in Dutton. He could be dismissed as dim if his idiocy were not so calculated. He allows himself to be stupid because he wants this country to be stupid. He wishes to strip Australia of its dignity and its humanity, to ruin its institutions and blacken its soul.
There is nothing to see in Dutton except the worst of what this country could be. We can only be thankful that the court he so criticises stops him from taking us there with him. He plays politics as if it were a game but there is nothing to win, only losses.
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 2, 2017 as "National disgrace". Subscribe here.