Minister for Defence Peter Dutton (Image: AAP/Albert Perez)

Maybe his modest defamation win against activist Shane Bazzi has contributed to his sense of grandiose impunity, but is it just us or is former immigration minister Peter Dutton getting a bit weird and bellicose since donning the khaki and binoculars at Defence? Well, even more weird and bellicose.

Here he is, helpfully weighing in to the mounting crisis at the Ukraine border, where more than 100,000 Russian troops have massed ahead of what some people believe will be a full-scale invasion:

“.. [Russian President Vladimir Putin] sees no doubt that Ukraine is part of the Russia that he wants to bequeath to his successor at some point,” Dutton told 2GB.

“He’s 69 years of age, and these sort of dictators, who are getting older and want to leave their legacy, start to become more and more irrational.”

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I mean, it’s true, but you’re not supposed to say it.

This is just the latest in a series of statements that might worry us if we weren’t so distracted by the government’s catastrophic handling of the pandemic.

China

Dutton’s primary target has been, predictably, China, as it has been for all the more hawkish elements of Australian foreign policy. In a National Press Club address in November, he spoke of the “dark clouds” building in the “deteriorating” region, and appeared to compare China with the Axis powers in the lead up to World War II:

Every major city in Australia, including Hobart, is within range of China’s missiles … Both the prime minister and I have spoken about how the times in which we live have echoes of the 1930s. The world would be foolish to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s.

Of course this followed the AUKUS submarine deal, a submarine deal with the US and UK which was explicitly about building a bulwark between ourselves and China (mere decades from now) and picking sides in what Professor Hugh White called “a new cold war in Asia”. This followed Dutton’s early contention that conflict with China over Taiwan “should not be discounted”.

Apart from anything else, as we pointed out at the time, the whole “China is a bit like Nazi Germany” was a funny thing to say given Dutton was a senior member of the governments that welcomed Xi Jinping to Canberra, signed a major trade deal with China, and sought to enforce an extradition treaty between the two countries.

The great de-wokening

Of course Dutton was very clear about his priorities at Defence from the outset. One of his first acts as defence minister was to take aim at the “morale slump” in the armed forces.

The horrifying allegations of the Brereton report concerning alleged war crimes in Afghanistan had soldiers feeling a bit down, and Dutton wanted to remind them the government “has their back”. This was bound up in concerns from the Liberal Party right that the army had become too “woke”. The ban on death symbols, the stripping of meritorious unit citations from special forces and, somehow related, the bizarre episode in which a twerking dance troupe performed at the dedication of a warship was taken as further proof.

On cue, Dutton clamped down on almost anything that pursued a “woke agenda”, like changing language protocols and morning teas for causes like the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia.

“Defence represents the people of Australia and must at all times be focused on our primary mission to protect Australia’s national security interests,” he said at the time. “We must not be putting effort into matters that distract from this.

“To meet these important aims, changing language protocols and those events such as morning teas where personnel are encouraged to wear particular clothes in celebration … are not required and should cease.”