Peter Dutton au pairs

Well known for being unable to count when it comes to the party room, Home Affairs hardman Peter Dutton, it seems, also struggles with being able to tell left from right.

In response to the Director-General of ASIO specifically singling out right-wing extremism as a terrorism threat in Australia, Dutton yesterday attacked “left wing lunatics”, among which he included Islamist terrorists.

Given Islamist terrorists are religious fundamentalists who seek the overthrow of secular societies, hate LGBTI people and atheists, deny basic rights to women and who historically first came to prominence fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, this is, at the very least, a novel interpretation by Dutton.

Islamist terrorists looking to avenge Western military intervention in Muslim countries also have as much in common now with the right — is it not Trump himself who wants to end “forever wars”, to the cheers of anti-interventionist conservatives in the US — as with the anti-American left.

Dutton might have been correct to worry about left-wing terrorism if it was the 1970s and the Red Brigades, the Red Army Faction and Action Directe were still running amok in Europe. Now it is white supremacists and incels carrying out mass murders in Europe, the United States and New Zealand.

The FBI recently identified Nazi and white supremacist terrorism as the greatest threat to US security along with Islamic State terrorism. The state of Texas says white supremacists are its greatest security threat, along with incels.

British police say the fastest-growing security threat is far-right terrorism and in October, MI5 took over as the lead agency in combating that threat in the UK.

So why is Dutton talking about left-wing terrorism instead? The surge of right-wing terrorism, of extremism based on the same chauvinist rhetoric Dutton has long espoused (boycotting the Stolen Generations apology, “African gangs”, myths about white South African farmers, attacks on Lebanese-Australians), presumably makes even the Home Affairs minister shift uncomfortably in his seat; to have it confirmed by a security agency in his own portfolio must have indeed stuck in his craw.

All of this goes to the broader point that Dutton is, and has always been, a risk to Australia’s national security. This is a minister who has presided over a massive increase in illegitimate asylum seekers arriving via airports — who then go on to undercut Australian workers’ wages — a weak visa compliance system and repeated cybersecurity failures.

His rhetoric has consistently targeted minority groups, in direct contrast with the advice of security bodies like ASIO, who — in order to do their jobs effectively — need to work with communities attacked by Dutton.

And literally everything, no matter how inappropriate, appears to be an opportunity for Dutton to rail at his hated “lefties”. When you’re as far right as Dutton is, it’s perhaps unsurprising literally everyone looks like they’re to your left.