I was stunned to read reports that Peter Dutton’s home affairs department is rife with bullying and harassment. You learn something new every day.
I just assumed any department headed by Dutton would be a happy, friendly place, with puppies running around and flower gardens and lambs and group hugs every hour.
Yet a recent study found that about a third of the home affairs department’s 10,000-strong workforce actively want to leave.
It’s hard to get your head around it: what is it about destroying the lives of vulnerable people, while also being bullied, that people don’t like?
Dutton gets a bad rap, but at least he is consistent. Every single person who wants to come to this great nation is judged by exactly the same criterion: are you an au pair for one of his rich mates or not?
People get angry, for instance, that the government is so determined to deport the Biloela Tamil family. But, as Dutton and Prime Minister Scott Morrison point out, it would be “unfair” on other asylum seekers to let this one family stay.
And when you think of the Morrison government, “fairness” is definitely the first phrase that comes to mind. Either that or “future defendants at The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity”.
It’s a toss-up.
A cynic might suggest that another way to resolve all this unfairness might be to stop being unfair to everyone. But this is obviously utopian thinking given the urgent need to “stop the boats”.
Now, I know, we’ve all heard for fucking years about how the Coalition government “stopped the boats”, but, turns out, they haven’t.
In fact, the government is now really keen for us to know that six boats of asylum seekers fleeing Sri Lanka have sought to reach Australia since May.
Morrison really wants us to know this, he said, so as to keep “the issue of the ever-present threat of illegal arrivals to Australia foremost in the public’s mind”.
Strangely, this was not a consideration when the Coalition was seeking re-election on the (now admitted false) claim they had “stopped the boats”.
Asked about this odd inconsistency, Morrison said: “The government releases information as it believes it’s important to do so.”
This might seem like a disturbing attempt by an authoritarian government to control information for political gain, but it is just like what ex-PM John Howard said: “We will determine whether the media reports on who comes to this country and the conditions in which the media reports their coming.”
Regardless, Dutton says there are no grounds for the family’s claim for asylum — and, surely, there can be no weaker claim than being a Tamil from Sri Lanka.
Sure, the Sri Lankan state committed genocide against Tamils. And, sure, it is the scene of ongoing disappearances, torture and institutionalised discrimination.
But did you see that show where Morrison told journalist Annabel Crabb how much he loved the curries he ate that time he was there? How could anyone legitimately flee such a place?
Obviously, they are just economic migrants who for some reason hate really nice curries.
Supporters of the Biloela family have pointed out that they could not be more “assimilated” into Australian society. After all, the two young kids have worked so hard to seem to “legitimately” be “from” Australia that they even arranged to be born and live their entire lives here.
You might say, however, the point is not how well they have assimilated. Nowhere in the United Nations refugee convention does it mention the right to seek protection is determined by whether you get a job in rural Queensland and become a loved part of the community.
Instead, it is determined by more minor things like “genuine fears for your life”.
But I prefer to ask: could they have done more to fit in?
Do any of the family have a Southern Cross tattoo? Have they posted even one status on Facebook about the threat of Sudanese gangs? Have they racially abused a single non-white person on public transport?
Not that doing all of that would sway Dutton, of course. Nothing would, short of all four family members getting jobs as nannies for Dutton’s personal friends.