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EDITORIAL: PM Abbott, Dutton fail the leadership test

Peter Dutton, the Australian Immigration Minister, epitomises everything that’s wrong about the Australian Government. His off-the-cuff jokes last Friday about stereotypical Aboriginal behaviour and the adverse effects of climate change
13 Sep 2015 15:24
EDITORIAL: PM Abbott, Dutton fail the leadership test

Peter Dutton, the Australian Immigration Minister, epitomises everything that’s wrong about the Australian Government. His off-the-cuff jokes last Friday about stereotypical Aboriginal behaviour and the adverse effects of climate change on the Pacific Islands display an astonishing arrogance.

Waiting for a meeting in Canberra that had gone longer than expected, Dutton had quipped, that the meeting was going on ‘Cape York time.’

This was a reference to Cape York peninsula, located in the far north of Queensland, that has a thriving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders community. In response, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, quipped, ‘We had a bit of that up in Port Moresby,’ and in response Dutton uttered the famous line, ‘Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to … have water lapping at your door.”

Private philosophy determines public performance, as the adage goes. Dutton’s sudden decision to clam up because he was confronted by the Australian media to explain his comments, reveals one thing. He has a condescending, bordering on racist, view of Pacific Islanders.

He has offended Pacific islanders and indigenous Australians in one moment of stupidity.

His comments uttered in the full view of the Australian media are not ‘private comments,’ as he would like us to believe.  In fact they were uttered in the presence of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Social Services Minister Scott Morrison.

It didn’t help that Mr Abbott laughed at Mr Dutton’s comments.  The comments were uttered in the Australian Parliament, as the three men waited for a community roundtable on the resettlement of Syrian refugees. What else do these clowns think in private? (to paraphrase the deputy leader of the Greens Larissa Waters).

To call Dutton a loose cannon would be an understatement. Judging from the backlash on social media, even his own country folk don’t share his condescending views of climate change and its adverse effects on the Pacific Islands. President of Kiribati Anote Tong described the comments as ‘vulgar’ and ‘unbecoming of leadership.’

In fact, Pacific island leaders should not even dignify Dutton’s comments with a reply. There are more important things to focus on. The Australian and New Zealand positions are crystal clear. They have put their economies before the needs of their small island neighbours. That’s realpolitik for you, Australia and New Zealand-style.  The Australian and New Zealand leaders might find themselves in the minority soon, given that green politics is influencing the United States, the European Union and strangely enough, China.

PM Abbott tried to defend his beleagured colleague yesterday, citing his ‘hard work’ on offering to resettle about 12,000 Syrian refugees.

Abbott’s ‘hard work on the refugee issue’ argument  is a smokescreen designed to cover the political schizophrenia in Canberra. Australia wants to be ‘big brother’ in the Pacific, but refuses to listen to our concerns, regarding climate change.

It then boasts about ‘caring for the 12000 Syrian refugees.’ This mantra will score more than a few political points with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who, unlike the Australians, has consistently extended her country’s services to refugees from all over Africa and Asia, without prejudice. Pacific islanders can be assured that their concerns on climate change will be heard with sympathy in the corridors of power in Berlin.

U.S President Barack Obama said it himself:

“Any leader who doesn’t take climate change seriously is not fit to lead.”

Since Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton have failed this leadership test, we respectfully say, they are not fit to lead and should step down.

They could start by leaving the Pacific Islands Forum since they obviously treat it as a joke.

Feedback:  josuat@fijisun.com.fj

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