Jul 18, 2017

Dutton anointed, Brandis humiliated. Malcolm Turnbull has finally lost it.

Malcolm Turnbull has announced a home affairs portfolio, in a major win for Peter Dutton that reflects how weak the Prime Minister is.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

"Ten-flag Tony", Prime Minister Abbott was dubbed, as the number of flags behind him at his ever-proliferating number of national security announcements grew and grew; journalists began making bets on how many would be wheeled in ahead of every media conference. The urbane Malcolm Turnbull was better than that, of course -- the man who as a minister dismissed claims from his colleagues George Brandis and Julie Bishop that Islamic State was an "existential threat", the man who seemed too worldly, too self-aware, to rely on crass jingoism to bolster his flailing government.

Yesterday, though, Turnbull out-flagged Abbott, comprehensively. Instead of pole after pole of flags, neatly arrayed behind him, Turnbull announced that the government would be making it easier to call out the military for domestic terrorism incidents at what looked for all the world like a Call of Duty convention, with gas-masked soldiers, an assortment of rifles and other military paraphernalia, including an assault vessel -- any terrorist incidents on our waterways, presumably, would be dealt with vigorously.

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46 thoughts on “Dutton anointed, Brandis humiliated. Malcolm Turnbull has finally lost it.

  1. lykurgus

    Last year, 100 Australians died falling out of bed. I want to know what the nonce Minister plans to do about the egregious scourge of bed-sponsored terroristy carnage. This is it, Theresa Peter! This is your moment! Lead the charge against ID (Ider Down)!!
    At last – you’re a Minister!!!!

  2. K

    I say this as someone who worked within one of the relevant agencies for more than 10 years, the last 5 of which were in roles involving close co-ordination with all of the other agencies:

    This will be an unmitigated disaster.

    It will build on past failures:

    1. The integration of the Australian Protective Service into the Australian Federal Police 15 years ago was a mess that took the best part of 10 years to bed down.

    2. The integration of Customs and Immigration had been a complete debacle, which has resulted in a dysfunctional agency with possibly the lowest morale in the entire federal government and staff who have had no pay rise or 3 years since their last enterprise agreement lapsed.

    Forget about integration of IT systems and reporting structures – those are the easy fixes. The real problem will be the fundamentally different cultures and functions of the agencies. This is what was at the heart of the past failures. APS into AFP was easy by comparison – even though the AFP staff (derided as “plastic police” or “plastic fantastics” by their State colleagues) regarded Protective Services as security guards. Customs was already an agency with a split personality between those “facilitating” international trade and those “enforcing” border controls. The “enforcers” in Customs (who gained the ascendancy in the Border Force renaming) regard themselves as an entirely different (and superior) breed than the clerks in Immigration who sit behind a desk processing visa applications. ASIO is a completely different kettle of fish altogether. They operate in a world of utter secrecy, even from AFP and Border Force.

    Mashing these agencies together into a Home Affairs portfolio will more likely destroy the cultures that define these individual agencies – in the same way as it has done to Customs and Immigration. Thousands of staff (and particularly those in leadership positions) will have their attention turned inwards to deal with the merger issues, precisely at a time when they should all be looking outwards at the very threats that have been used to justify this merger.

    At best, this will be a distraction. At worst, it will lead to griping, low morale, staff retention problems, and massive loss of productivity. Is that really what we need at the moment?

    1. AR

      Wot K said, from a similar perspective.
      The only one missed was the “abolition” of NSW Special Branch – the dossiers went straight to “another agency”.

  3. Venise Alstergren

    Is it possible that Bill Shorten by agreeing in principle to what has to be one of the most disastrous and craven political moves in Australian history, may have short-circuited (pun intended) his own ambitious path to the top? I know the Oz electorate is, when it comes to security, as craven as our PM Turnbull, but at the next election, surely even they will want the coalition out of the way.

  4. zut alors

    If Turnbull & Abbott were palying chess the latter has just delivered a neat ‘check’. Abbott has announced he was advised against a Home Affairs super ministry therefore decided not to establish one.

    Your move, Malcolm…

  5. Frank Dennis

    Brilliant commentary which restores my faith in the old maxim ” you can fool some of the people some of the time but not all the time”!

  6. ali

    Great reporting. I only have a mobile phone but I would love to see this pic of Turnbull and troops, above the pic of Kim Jong-un laughing with his troops and the Malcolm quote from his recent UK speech … “”Australians are very fleet of foot … we don’t muck around. And we’re very simple.”” That would be hilarious

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