Defence Minister Peter Dutton has issued defamation threats to a number of social media users who labelled him a “rape apologist” after he made dismissive comments about Brittany Higgins.
Dutton has targeted a wide range of people with letters from his lawyers, from unemployed Twitter users to prominent politicians including Greens Senator Larissa Waters (who later apologised).
We shouldn’t be surprised. This is the same man who in 2016 demanded a photo of him lurking in the shadows be removed from the internet. In typical internet fashion, that demand resulted in a flurry of photoshopped images of him as Pennywise and Hannibal Lecter.
It seems Dutton can dish it out, but he can’t take it. Here are a few unsavoury things he’s said in his time (and a list of things you can joke about if you’d like to get sued).
“He said, she said”: When defending not telling Prime Minister Scott Morrison about Higgins’ rape allegation and the potential reopening of the police case, Dutton said he hadn’t been provided with “he said, she said” details of the incident. He had been provided with the “she said” details — but evidentially for Dutton, it would have been the “he said” details that mattered to address the alleged crime.
“Mad fucking witch”: Like something out of Mean Girls, in 2016 Dutton texted the person he was bitching about — journalist Samantha Maiden — instead of the person he was supposed to be bitching to, calling her a “mad fucking witch”.
“Scared to go out to restaurants”: In 2018 Dutton said that Melburnians were afraid to go out to restaurants because of “African gang” violence. He provided no evidence for this claim.
Refugees a “mistake”: Allowing Lebanese Muslim refugees into Australia in the 1970s was a “mistake” Dutton said in 2016, before accusing them of terrorism and crime.
Rising sea levels: In 2015, Dutton was caught on camera making light about rising sea levels affecting Pacific Island nations, joking about “water lapping at your door”.
On the LGBTIQ+ community
“Stick to your knitting”: At a 2017 Liberal National Party event, Dutton was accused of homophobia after attacking Qantas CEO Alan Joyce for commenting on Australia’s gay marriage debate. “I’d prefer publicly-listed companies stick to their knitting and that is delivering the services for their customers and providing a return for their shareholders,” he said. He also accused businesses advocating diversity and anti-discrimination measures of pushing a PC agenda.
Keep your opinions to yourself: Again in 2017, Dutton requested other MPs stay quiet on equal marriage rights until a party-room discussion, calling their views “emotional“.
On asylum seekers
“Trying it on”: In 2019 Dutton claimed pregnant rape victims on Nauru were “trying it on”. Dutton was criticising laws that allowed critically-ill refugees and asylum seekers to get treatment in Australia, including abortions. “They have the baby here and the moment they step off the plane their lawyers lodge papers in the Federal Court, which injuncts us from sending them back,” he said. Again, he provided no details or data to back this claim.
“Crystal clear” position: Calls to settle LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers in Australia were also rejected under Dutton’s reign at Immigration. They were told they could return home or resettle in Papua New Guinea (where gay sex is illegal). “The minister has made the position regarding those in Manus crystal clear innumerable times,” a spokesman for Dutton’s office said at the time.
Nauru strip-searching: Dutton, in his capacity as home affairs minister, was responsible for the treatment of asylum seekers. Refugees reported hundreds of incidents of physical assault, abusive behaviour and sexual violence while in offshore detention. The minister didn’t respond to the reports for weeks.