By Lauren Bull
These two men hold an astonishing amount of power in their tiny little hands, and seem to be reading from the same how-to-make-racists-and–influence-people playbook. The similarities are striking:
1. The way they talk about migrants:
Who can forget Peter Dutton’s logistically impossible claim that ‘illiterate and innumerate’ refugees would ‘languish’ on the dole and simultaneously take Australian jobs? Or his plainly racist opinion that settling Lebanese migrants in Australia decades ago was a mistake?
His American sweetheart Trump must have been reading from the same page when he referred to Mexican immigrants living in the United States as ‘people that have lots of problems…they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.’… Or when he labelled undocumented migrations ‘criminal aliens’ and pledged that they would be ‘gone’, in a speech swooned over by a former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard.
2. The unbelievable reach of their personal powers
In Australia, the Minister for Immigration has more personal power than any other Government Minister. And yes, that includes the Prime Minister. This personal power is non-compellable, which means that Dutton can’t be forced to consider people’s cases. When he does consider cases, his decisions are often guided by the test of ‘personal ministerial satisfaction.’ If this test sounds like it means Dutton can do as he pleases, it’s because he can.
To make matters even worse, when Dutton makes decisions about people’s lives on the basis of ‘national interest’ or the ‘public interest’, the courts can’t review whether that decision is fair or just or even lawful. The Minister literally answers to no one.
In a similar vein, the President of the United States has the power of the Executive Order at their fingertips, should they be dissatisfied with legislative decision-making. The courts can rein in executive orders – as we have seen with Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ – but in reality this only occurs in very limited circumstances, including when the Executive Order is illegal or unconstitutional.
Who can forget Peter Dutton’s logistically impossible claim that ‘illiterate and innumerate’ refugees would ‘languish’ on the dole and simultaneously take Australian jobs?
3. The way one decision by these men can cause chaos
The decision to send a person to Nauru or Manus Island is one for the Minister alone to make. Every time the Minister sends a person offshore or refuses to bring them here, he wields power over that person’s life: we know that offshore detention often separates families and causes lasting physical and mental health problems.
In a particularly horrific case last Christmas, Minister Dutton chose not to exercise his ministerial power to help Faysal Ishak Ahmed, who died as a result. Knowing the health risks Faysal was facing, Mr Dutton decided to leave him languishing in an unsafe, inadequate and terrifying environment.
No one could force Dutton to act in this situation as he can’t be compelled to use his personal powers. And his failure to act caused the death of a young father.
Across the other side of the world, Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ resulted in chaos at airports around the world when people were barred from getting on flights and barred from entering the United States. Again, one man’s thoughtless exercise of power tore apart people’s lives.
These men combine enormous power with narrow minds, and the fact that very few (if any) people can counter their reach is cause for serious concern.