Peter Dutton

The announcement by Prime Minister Turnbull, without any cabinet consultations, of the establishment of a substantially enlarged, security based, Department of Home Affairs under the ministerial control of Peter Dutton is unnecessary and unlikely to produce worthwhile results.

The proposed mega-department will include the Australian Federal Police, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the present Department of Immigration, all under the control of a Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott, current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton have all maintained that the department’s principal task will be to make the Australian people safer. It is ironic that the policies they have adopted during the last decade have ensured that the Australian people are less safe than they used to be. In this context, former prime minister Kevin Rudd announced that he had reversed the position he originally took and now believes that the refugees should be admitted to Australia.

The increased vulnerability of the Australian people to terrorist attacks stems from the government’s failure to concentrate on our own region of the world, namely south-east Asia, north Asia and the south-west Pacific. It follows logically that we should have avoided involving Australia in the Middle East and particularly on the same side of Saudi Arabia, given what is going on in Yemen, including the current cholera epidemic.

A range of people, including the Opposition Leader, are asking why this move proposed by Dutton is necessary — especially as the previous government had decided not to take such a step.

I have spent the last 66 years in the public service — as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and an adviser to both Coalition and Labor prime ministers and foreign ministers — and I am seriously disturbed that our present Coalition and ALP leaders have adopted the policy towards refugees that they have done. The policies that they are following clearly include elements of Islamophobia, Sinophobia and Russophobia. It is disappointing that Australia has adopted a course that, despite assertions to the contrary, is not in our real national interest.

The Islamic State is not a state. It has no army, no navy and no clear boundaries. It is clear that IS is delighted with the potentially damaging attitudes of Australia, which the Coalition and ALP leaders have adopted. I find why they have done so, hard to comprehend.

Australia’s present political culture seems to me disconnected from the real and rapidly changing global situation.  I fear that Australia will continue to fall behind if the government does not change its present course.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who has been in Australia since she was two, has now left the country because she feels she has been driven out by what she says is the hatred of a non-white woman wearing a headscarf.  This does raise the question of what is happening to our stated devotion to free speech.

*Richard Woolcott was formerly head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and president of the UN Security Council

*This article was originally published at John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations

Peter Fray

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