Peter Dutton

I think it was anthropologist Ghassan Hage who once said that Australians are in constant fear of their country being stolen — again. Australia has a history of policy-making based on the fear of the outsider. But of all the acts of government based on that fear the new Home Affairs portfolio of Peter Dutton will rank as one of the most dangerous.

The status quo in this country is ... interesting. Take the man who deliberately chased down 14-year-old Elijah Doughty in a four wheel drive, killing the Aboriginal teenager in Kalgoorlie, yet was acquitted of manslaughter by a jury without any Aboriginal people on it.

But don’t worry, he was found guilty of “dangerous driving”, which makes me wonder if the judge gave him a stern lecture about taking more care on the roads or next time he might kill someone whose life matters.

A hallmark of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was responding to falling opinion polls by holding press conferences full of totalitarian imagery, announcing moves to weaken civil liberties or intensify persecution of refugees in the name of keeping Australians safe from the apparent existential threat of terrorism. His successor, Malcolm Turnbull, is trying to out-do him.

Refugee activists from the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA) hung a banner off the Channel 7 building in Melbourne’s Docklands on June 23.

The Channel 7 building is in direct line of sight of the Border Force headquarters in Customs House, where operational matters in Manus Island and Nauru refugee detention camps are managed.

The Australian Refugee Action Network (ARAN) held its inaugural conference on May 20-21 at the Australian National University in Canberra. It brought together more than 150 activists and representatives of 48 refugee advocacy and activist groups from around the country. 

Participants included a large number of activists from Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) groups. RAR held its own national meeting over the conference, and elected a new leadership. The proposal to form ARAN came out of discussion at last year’s RAR conference.

As the embers cooled in the debris of US President Donald Trump’s 59 Tomahawk missiles fired at Syria, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered an immigration crackdown that includes a new US-style patriot test for those seeking Australian citizenship and the scrapping of 457 foreign worker visas.

The refugee rights movement is gaining momentum, but the establishment is looking for ways to placate and demobilise it.

The growing breadth of the campaign is evident in the response to the Guardian's release of the Nauru Files, which contained more than 2000 reports detailing sexual assault, child abuse and acts of self-harm in Nauru detention centre.

Almost immediately, "Love Makes A Way" actions were organised, involving a diversity of organisations protesting outside more than 40 Coalition and Labor MP's offices across the country on August 15.

When the Census website crashed and was taken offline on August 9, the ABS was quick to blame overseas hackers. And in its defence, blaming foreigners has worked pretty well for authorities in this country on pretty much every other issue up till now.

Election after election of racist and Islamophobic rhetoric from both major parties, combined with a growing swarm of far-right outfits, is resulting in violent hate crimes.

A car firebombed at the Thornlie mosque in Perth on June 28 and racist graffiti on the wall of an Islamic college are the latest in a string of attacks. Hundreds of people were praying inside the mosque and it was only a matter of luck that no one was injured or killed.

The Refugee Action Collective Queensland protested outside the electoral office of immigration minister Peter Dutton in Strapthine on June 9.

The collective presented the minister’s office with a copy of the Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru report Protection Denied, Abuse Condoned: Women on Nauru at Risk, authored by five prominent Australian women.

Pages

Subscribe to Peter Dutton