As the warmth of summer gives way to shorter days in the nation’s capital, it’s heartening to see one of the hardy perennials of Canberran bureaucracy, a “Department of Homeland Security-style mega-department” once again in flower. An Aussie DHS last bloomed in 2014 when it was proposed as a vehicle for the monumental ego of then-immigration minister Scott Morrison, only for his colleagues to put him back in his box. Since then, Morrison has underwhelmed as Treasurer and disappeared from leadership calculations. Labor toyed with the idea for years — as far back as Mark Latham’s time. Back then, the Coalition thought a Department of Homeland Security would be “a cynical window-dressing exercise which is going to bog down Australia’s anti-terror efforts in bureaucratic quicksand”.  Not that Morrison — or, now, Peter Dutton — is the only ego involved.

The other giant head in the room is the man responsible for turning Immigration into a paramilitary outfit, secretary “Iron” Mike Pezzullo. Pezzullo would undoubtedly love to run a mega-department — just imagine what billion-dollar contracts it could completely botch! Oh and there’s a fourth ego — that of George “Sadim Touch” Brandis, who is treated in Hartcher’s piece like so much ministerial garbage to be chucked out. Mind you, Tony Abbott did strip Brandis of counter-terrorism responsibility and give it to Justice Minister Michael Keenan … hmmm.

Peter Fray

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