From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours … 

The company you keep. The issue of land seizures for white minority farmers in South Africa has gained national attention in recent days, with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announcing that the government was looking into fast tracking visas for those affected, despite Farmers’ group AfriForum SA — the group who has done the most to bring the issue to international light — politely declining the offer. “We would like to solve the problem in South Africa. So we don’t necessarily think the solution is for everyone to leave the country,” said the organisation’s deputy chief executive Ernst Roets.

And Dutton is not the only one who has softened their usual stance on refugees in this instance. The Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA), the political arm of the hard right, anti-Islam Q Society, has sent around a petition calling on Dutton to help South African farmers. This is the same Liberty Alliance that called for Australia to withdraw from the UN refugees charter.

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The email, from ALA deputy president Ralf Schumann, notes that “ALA stands for a zero net immigration program” but, if we have to have refugees, “let’s give a hand to the right people”.

The petition calls for  “80% of available refugee visa places for South African and former Rhodesian farmers, workers and their families” — yep they still call Zimbabwe Rhodesia — adding “These farmers and workers are proud and hardworking people, used to stand on their own feet. They speak our language, respect the same values and share our culture. They don’t come to bludge, steal, deal drugs or rape our daughters”.

Not a million miles from Dutton’s suggestive observation to The Daily Telegraph: “We want people who want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare.”

And another thing … We’ve come upon an alternative theory for Dutton’s sudden interest in a very select group of refugees — simple demographics. South Africans make up 181,400 of Australians, or 0.8% of the population, while in Dutton’s district of Dickson the proportion is nearly twice the national average, at 1.4%. In suburbs such as Albany Creek and Arana Hills, it’s as high as 2%. Is Dutton just courting their votes? The number of South Africans in Dickson is just over 2000. In 2016, after a 5.12% swing to Labor, Dutton snuck past Labor’s Linda Lavarch by 2911 votes, on the two-party preferred. Maybe his interest in the “plight” of South Africans is just simple maths? Robert Mukombozi, the President of Queensland African Communities Council said the push had not come from them, nor any other African representative group he was aware of. He also said QACC were planning to write to the minister to get a brief on the details of how such fast tracking of visas would work. We asked Dutton’s office if they had received any specific requests from South African constituents or groups regarding the issue but did not hear back by deadline. 

Looking for a New England? Is Malcolm Turnbull considering a snap election? A tipster got in contact to tell us they had just been phone polled in the New England electorate, and they reckoned it sounded like a Liberal-inspired poll “judging by the way the questions were framed”. Following the tough sell of Labor’s proposed tax reforms — and possible incoming shocks following this weekend’s elections (Batman federally and South Australia) — is Turnbull sensing an opportunity? Have you been targeted with a similar poll? Get in touch.

Vandals! Well the traditional pro-Labor vandalism has begun in Batman, with paste-up jobs on Greens poster in day-glo colours done overnight, reprising “bullying” allegations against candidate Alex Bhathal. No indication of the culprits, but it’s reminiscent of the last-minute trashing of Greens posters in the Melbourne Ports electorate prior to the 2016 election. Bill Shorten’s mate Andrew Landeryou was pinged for that, with three other “middle-aged powerbrokers” as described by The Age. Powerless brokens more like. The quartet included David Boutros-Asmar, of the HSU union, that had been run by Kimberley Kitching — who is married to Landeryou, and herself questioned by the Trade Union Royal Commission about sitting certification exams for union staffers. Kitching is now being put front and centre in estimates, possibly an attempt to create a crusading image. Labor’s broken boys avoided having a conviction recorded for vandalism and interfering in an election. Doubtless they learnt their lesson and had nothing to do with this. But who knows what the next 24 hours will bring? And what it will do to Labor’s image nationally?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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