Duttonisation – an existential threat to Morrison?

Make no mistake – Dutton’s thirst for power remains unquenched. His conviction that he is ‘the better man’ to be prime minister continues unabated. This piece argues that in pursuit of this lofty goal, he has now consciously embarked on a process best described as ‘Duttonisation’.

Let me explain.

The most recent demonstration of what I have termed Duttonisation was his foray into intimidation of sections of the mainstream media that dared to reveal information that was embarrassing to the government. By bringing the Australian Federal Police into play, he exposed his intention to flex his muscles and push his retaliatory line, even if it embarrassed Morrison in the process.

What’s more, I posit that it’s credible to deduce from Dutton’s recent behaviour that his intention is to put the finger on Morrison until he buckles and the time is right to strike. This is the theme of this piece.

There is no need for me to detail the intimidating AFP raid on the Canberra home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, or the raid on the ABC's Sydney headquarters; you have seen accounts of them ad nauseam. They will remain as emblems of the Morrison government’s strident push towards authoritarianism, its intolerance of criticism, and its rejection of any disagreement with its values and actions.

Some critics insist that this push will inexorably lead to ‘a police state’! They put side by side the authoritarian pattern of behaviour exhibited by Dutton and Morrison and that of ‘Big Brother’, the central character in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty Four. who, as leader of The Party engaged ‘Thought Police’ to persecute individuality and independent thinking. Read what David Tyler had to say about this in ScoMo embraces police state in a shocker of a week on The AIM Network. 

Although Morrison has not resisted the push towards authoritarianism, it is the mean, intemperate Dutton who is the driving force. His nastiness is legend, his persona exudes it, and his daily words and actions confirm it. Paul Keating’s request to his electorate to ‘drive a stake through his mean heart’ was ignored by the voters of Dickson, who re-elected this meanest of men. You can picture him in his former role as a ‘tough cop on the beat’.

Morrison ought to be worried about this viper in his nest, who would undo him in an instant should the opportunity arise.

If you have doubts about Dutton’s agenda, reflect on the words and extraordinary actions of his departmental head Mike Pezzullo, who took the unusual action of ringing Senator Rex Patrick to tell him to watch his words after he issued a press release criticising the media raids.

What did Patrick say? “The overall trend has been clear for some time with the Government clearly working up a suppression trifecta: routinely obstructing and delaying Freedom of Information applications; persecuting whistleblowers such as Witness K and Richard Boyle, and now using the police to intimidate journalists. There is no doubt that Coalition Ministers and senior bureaucrats have no love of media scrutiny.”

What was Pezzulo’s beef? Apparently, he felt the last sentence reflected poorly on his character! We can be sure that he would not have said what he did without a nod of approval from Dutton. Departmental heads do not go out on a limb different from their masters.

Morrison’s reaction was muted. While hinting that Pezzulo’s action was not appropriate, he did not come down heavily on him for castigating an elected member of the Senate. Was Morrison afraid of upsetting Pezzulo’s boss – the intemperate Dutton?

Following a previous episode of criticism, Dutton had angrily retorted: ” Some of the crazy lefties at the ABC, and on The Guardian, and The Huffington Post, can express concern and draw mean cartoons about me and all the rest of it. They don’t realise how completely dead they are to me.” His insolence is legend.

Recall his oft-used words when, as Immigration Minister, he was publically commenting on ‘boat arrivals’ and their asylum-seeker cargo. He shrouded vital information about them by insisting he would not comment about “on water” matters, “operational” matters, “national security”, “commercial-in-confidence” matters, or matters “under investigation”. He insisted that such matters were a “report to government not by government”. Whenever he elected to address the public, his obsession with secrecy ensured that the truth was obscured.

Sadly, secrecy has now become the Morrison government’s modus operandi.

Writing in The AIM Network, Kaye Lee comprehensively spells out the Coalition’s obsession with secrecy in Pull your head in Mike. Do read it.

As current Minister for Home Affairs, Dutton continues on his shameless pursuit of those who seek asylum in our country. Although our National Anthem joyfully declares: "For those who've come across the seas, we've boundless plains to share", Dutton differs. His intention is to punish those who try their hand in leaky boats.

A recent case exposes yet again Dutton’s mean heart. Sri Lankan Tamils Nadesalingnam and Priya arrived separately by boat in 2012 and 2013, having fled the civil war in that country. After being processed on Christmas Island, and having been given a bridging visa, they met in Queensland, married, and started a family in Biloela. But one day after Priya’s visa expired last March, the family was moved to the Melbourne Immigration Detention Centre (MITA), 1800km south of Biloela, where they remain to this day. Dutton insists they are illegal migrants, and the courts confirm this. He is hell-bent on deporting them. But that is not the point of this story.

On last Sunday’s Insiders, Dutton insisted that he had got all children out of detention here in Australia, patently a lie, as the family remains at MITA. About to celebrate her second birthday, youngest daughter Tharunicaa was eagerly waiting the arrival of her birthday cake – a strawberry cheesecake – but this was denied entry into MIT. Although Dutton is responsible for goings-on at MIT, did that touching situation melt his hard heart and persuade him to intervene? Will it? Don’t hold your breath! Will Morrison get involved? What do you think?

Now that the Federal Court has ruled that doctors do not have to have a face-to-face interview with a refugee before determining whether they need medical treatment in Australia, and can instead make a recommendation based on a person's records, the medevac issue has been raised to prominence once more. Already Dutton has claimed: "It may have applicability to many hundreds of people, which has certainly the potential to restart boats and that would be a travesty." No doubt he will again insist that countless murderers, rapists, paedophiles, and sundry criminals will soon arrive on our shores. Dutton never misses an opportunity to mount a monumental scare campaign, no matter how many safeguards are in place to prevent this. ‘Fear’ is part of Dutton’s stock in trade.

How will Morrison react? No doubt he’ll amplify Dutton’s scaremongering. He certainly won’t attempt to dampen down any of the fear Dutton generates around Medevac. Fear is his stock in trade too!

Now in case you think that Dutton could not behave even more abhorrently about the effect of Medevac, reflect on what he said on Sky News on 12 June: “…women have been “trying it on”, under the Medevac legislation. Let’s be serious about this. There are people who have claimed that they’ve been raped and came to Australia to seek an abortion because they couldn’t get an abortion on Nauru. They arrive in Australia and then decide they are not going to have an abortion. They have the baby here and the moment they step off the plane their lawyers lodge papers in the federal court which injuncts us from sending them back.” And now he’s claiming that asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island and Nauru are refusing resettlement offers in the United States because of the medevac legislation!

Dr Kerryn Phelps, former member for Wentworth, who led the charge for Medevac, blasted Dutton’s claims: “It’s outrageous that the Minister of Home Affairs should come out swinging on this law, and try to deny people the healthcare they need on World Refugee Day. To denigrate the motives and reputations of the doctors who are giving their time for a humanitarian cause is unconscionable.

“These doctors are acting out of compassion in the interests of human rights and the obligations of the medical profession to provide healthcare where possible to people who need it. To disparage their reputation in this way is just unforgivable. It’s an international embarrassment.”


So what can we conclude?

In summary, this piece argues that Dutton is resolutely determined to elevate his status and eventually take control of the LNP government. From the moment Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership came into question, Dutton believed he was the ‘better man’ to replace him, and that his bid for the top job should be supported by his colleagues. There is no evidence that he has abandoned this lofty ambition. In fact, recent revelations show how he and Morrison colluded in this shameful process. And I’m not the only one who sees it that way. Read David Tyler’s Dutton’s naked power grab in The AIM Network, and Kristina Keneally's assessment of the 'man who cries wolf' in The Guardian.

I wonder how Dutton will react to the recent National Press Club statement on the AFP raids and the NPC event on 26 June: Press Freedom - On the line featuring the Managing Director of the ABC, David Anderson, the Chief Executive Officer of Nine, Hugh Marks, and the Executive Chairman Australasia, News Corp, Michael Miller?

Watch Dutton in the months ahead and draw your own conclusions.

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Martin Connolly

28/06/2019

If it came to a spill etc, what is Duttons power base?

Abbott is gone yay!, so who are the Duttonites remaining?

Ad Astra

29/06/2019

Martin Connolly

We’ll see how many Duttonites there are left when he inevitably makes his power play. His counting will need to have improved from when he chanced his hand at toppling Turnbull.

The Dutton saga has a long way to play. Turnbull’s memoirs will be very revealing. He will put Dutton against the wall and make him squirm. There’s lots more fun in store for political tragics. 

TalkTurkey

30/06/2019

"There’s lots more fun in store for political tragics."

Gee Ad I'm glad you have fun with the politics these days, I have to say that since the stolen election the political scene makes me feel physically sick with fury and frustration. I can't watch Insiders or any of its ilk any more, I don't feel writing commentary, because I know that nothing we can say or do will change enough Australians in the direction of goodwill and fairness to reverse the direction this country has taken. We could have been leading the world in many ways. New Zealand shows us what could have been here. Grrrr and Bleahhh.

Ad Astra

30/06/2019

Talk Turkey

The political scene, both here and overseas, is depressing, but out of the local chaos that is enveloping the Morrison outfit comes the hope that their hollowness and incompetence will so impact the electorate that next time around they will be swept away and deposited in landfill. Rubbish will be seen for what it is.

Fairness and equality will return only when a progressive government is once more in place. 

What does two plus 1 equal?