‘the reality is there is a bit of a jihad being conducted against the government by Fairfax at the moment …
they’re being helped by the ABC as well, there’s no question about that …’ Peter Dutton on Skynews and on ABC Radio 1 September
In his quixotic crusade to keep the nation safe, a mission which is fraught with grave risks for himself and for a largely unsuspecting nation our Immigration Minister, Chucky lookalike, Peter Dutton took the morning out from policing our streets and borders to win our hearts and minds, take us into his confidence after yesterday dismissing out of hand as a ‘political witch hunt,’ the senate select committee’s report into alleged sexual abuse and its recommendations for reforms on Nauru.
It proved a disturbing experience. Dutton buttonholed a series of media hosts only to make some wild accusations; a series of crackpot rantings suggesting that all is not well with the Minister or his government.
Dutton accused Fairfax and the ABC of conspiring to bring the government down. It was a rude shock to most listeners who foolishly expected some form of ministerial responsibility. He had bobbed up, we reasonable assumed, to take questions about Operation Fortitude; deal with the fallout over his Friday Border Force fiasco in Melbourne and with anything else that needed clearing up. Instead he went on the attack.
On ABC Radio National’s AM programme Peter Dutton was asked a fluffy question about how the coalition could get back on course; communicate its message to voters. Dutton immediately leapt into the media. It was not that his government has little coherent to communicate, but that media organisations were conspiring to sabotage everything his government tries to do. Aside from the fact that the government has been doing a fine job of self-sabotage, the attack on the media was as ill-judged as it was alarming. The man is not travelling well.
Nor is the government travelling well as it lurches from crisis to catastrophe. The recent debacle in Flinders street being but the latest in a sequence of bizarre stunts and stuff ups. Even more alarming, apart from hopping into public enemies number one the ABC and Fairfax, the PM and his Immigration Minister have assured media that Operation Fortitude was perfectly normal. Or SNAFU, to use military slang.
‘What was happening as part of this Victorian police operation to, I gather, crack down on anti-social and unlawful activity at transport hubs, was that anyone who the Victorian police suspected might have a visa issue would then be referred to Australian Border Force in the normal way,’ the Prime Minister told reporters in western Sydney Friday.
So what went wrong? If it was normal, why was it announced beforehand? The government has yet to reconcile an array of conflicting explanations and eye-witness accounts. Some of these are not reassuring.
Friday was ‘our first hit out in community safety operations,’ a senior official explained, using an unfortunate metaphor.
But not only is the media to blame, it’s the media AND Labor. This all started when reporters went ape after Labor, in the final stages of the last government and we’ve just been dropped into their mess, Dutton volunteered. He could have added that the officers were entirely within the law in their plans to ask for papers.
The newly amended Migration and Maritime Powers legislation Act permits an authorised officer to ask for information from someone the officer “knows or reasonably suspects is a non-citizen”.
Border Force officials have a range of powers to enforce migration laws, including the power to compel a person to produce such documents as visas and tax file numbers to check whether they are an unlawful non-citizen.
Until Friday’s disaster the ABF has been going from strength to strength since its creation by the Abbott government in July. Recruiting is proceeding apace to meet plans for some five to six thousand officers. Most are to be trained in the use of force.
A government which must cut welfare, hospitals and schools can afford 10 million so far, on signage and quasi-military uniforms for their new border enforcers. Officers taught racial profiling to help target their community protection. It is an alarming assault on our democratic society by a government which is increasingly secretive and autocratic.
Now the force is being road tested as we saw in Melbourne last Friday. Other recent trial manoeuvres include ‘Operation Brothel Creep’, an assault last Wednesday on Top End massage parlours which saw 19 NT ‘establishments’ raided in a joint operation with police. None of this is adequately explained. Instead we are treated to an attack on the messenger, the media for challenging or holding to account a government increasingly out of control.
We don’t want to hear that the operation was normal. Spare us your nut-bag conspiracy distractions Mr Dutton. The Australian people need to know why we need an armed paramilitary force at all.
After Friday’s sneak preview, it is clear that the minister must apologise, resign and that his ‘border force’ goon squad be disbanded immediately. The uniforms could be donated to the next gay Mardis Gras.