Editorial
Hypocrite to child’s care

It is almost clichéd to criticise Peter Dutton. The man is a moral void. His actions as a minister have debased this parliament. He is a cartoon of overreach and indifference, the proud jailer of innocent refugees.

It is a grotesque spectacle that this man now seeks to interfere in the education of children, that he is willing to use children to start a sly war over nationalistic values.

In his first major speech as minister for Home Affairs, a position that should never have been created and much less given to him, Dutton argued that children should “talk more about our story, about our history and our core values”.

He wants children to pledge their allegiance to Australia, a process that dresses up its jingoism as a kind of inclusion. “In my view,” he says, “there is a place for the pledge in a broader rejuvenated civics effort with school-aged children, regardless of their background.”

As minister for immigration, Dutton is directly responsible for the children imprisoned on Nauru. He has failed them. He has ignored credible reports of rape, ignored self-harm. He has divided families to see if they will break. For political gain, he has stolen childhoods. These are years and lives that will never be got back.

This is the man who now seeks to dragoon schoolchildren into his culture war, who claims the capacity to teach values. He cannot be trusted with this.

Against all advice, Malcolm Turnbull created a super ministry for Dutton. This is the tenuousness of his leadership. The prime minister would sooner disfigure this country’s security agencies than risk his hold on power.

Dutton lives in a fantasy of control. He wants facial scans and the rote learning of identity. Like most demagogues, he operates without an intellectual frame. His only guide is his own shamelessness.

In criticising the country’s judiciary, he disgraces the traditions of our democracy. In torturing refugees – and it is torture – he turns this country in from the world. His borders are a kind of cage, to keep out reality.

Dutton has militarised once-open bureaucracies. He now threatens the independence of our spy agencies. He has the brute simplicity of the Queensland cop he never stopped being.

The Australia Dutton hopes for is a horrific one – a fantasy place without private reflection or independent thought, a place of constant surveillance and enforced values. His fetish is for a uniformed dystopia.

This may seem hyperbolic. But the horrors of the Nauru files would seem hyperbolic if they were not also true. The misery of those documents, the beatings and rapes and deprivations, should see anyone responsible drummed from the parliament and the damage done by them righted and righted urgently.

In the Australia of Turnbull’s cowardice, however, those same documents are a brief for promotion. We live in the paradox of a man without morals seeking to teach them.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 24, 2018 as "Hypocrite to child’s care". Subscribe here.