TRUE OPINION: Who’s the real piece of trash? Answer: Peter Dutton

TRUE OPINION: Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is back with his dastardly deeds; this time deporting children, writes Gary Johnston.

In July last year, Australia resumed its policy of deporting New Zealanders who fail the so called ‘character test’ back to their country of birth.

The policy was suspended for a while at the beginning of COVID pending hopes about the development of a Trans-Tasman ‘bubble’ that could lead to a change in the law.

The law in question is The Migration Act of 1958 which states that any person who is not an Australian citizen and who has been convicted in Australia of an offence for which the person was sentenced to imprisonment for more than a year may be deported to protect the community from the possibility of further criminal behaviour and to remove from the community those persons whose actions are so abhorrent to the community that they should not be allowed to remain within it.

In 2014 the legislation was amended to include anyone with what’s called a ‘substantial’ criminal record, and that the justice minister deems “a danger to the Australian community” or even if they take the view that the person is not of good character due to their past and present criminal or general conduct”.   So, in other word, the government has the power in statute, to deport anyone it doesn’t like the look of.  Even if they’ve never been convicted of a crime.

Now, if we look at the Kiwi deportees, it’s a recognised fact that the majority of them are people from a Māori background – that’s a coincidence isn’t it- ? and so you can see that Peter Dutton’s – adjective? – use of language – he’s described the policy  as “taking out the trash” is almost certainly reflective of a wider, more sinister, some would say racist outlook.

Just last week, we saw the deportation of a 15-year-old boy, sent back alone, to a country he barely knows.  The Australian government has already said this child won’t be the last to be sent away.

New Zealand politicians of every stripe have condemned the policy, though they accept that under this archaic legislation Australia is entitled to do it.

Jacinda Ardern in fact said last week – “New Zealand, frankly, is tired of having Australia exporting its problems,” “If the shoe were on the other foot, we would take responsibility – that would be the right thing to do and I ask Australia to do the same”.

Responsibility? Morrison’s government?  Not exactly its strong suit is it?

There are nearly ¾ million New Zealand citizens in Australia and most of them have lived here for most of their lives so if they do become involved in criminal activity, due to disadvantage, racism, deprivation, addiction, poverty or whatever isn’t that due in the main to environmental conditions that exist here and therefore isn’t that this country- Australia’s – primary responsibility?

But Australia as we know has a poor reputation in dealing with crime , it’s a national blind spot, especially here in Victoria , said to be most  sophisticated state in Australia – damming with faint praise there: Victoria spends $138,000 a year for every person in jail and the number are rising alarmingly , not least because of new  bail legislation which has increased the prison population by significant levels, with Indigenous women by far the fastest growing cohort.

Nearly $140,000 per person and half of those people will return to jail within a 2 year period – talk about throwing money away?

So, in a ham-fisted, short sighted and frankly blatantly transparent attempt to reduce the cost, passing the buck through deportation which has long been policy, with its racist overtones of stereotyping and ignorance continues and continues to be popular. 

It might be popular.  It might even be lawful.

But it certainly isn’t ethical. 

And it definitely isn’t right.

About Gary Johnston 79 Articles
Gary Johnston is an author, academic and former parole officer with decades of experience in the criminal justice system. He is True Crime News Weekly's Deputy Editor and Melbourne correspondent. His book 'No Previous Conviction' was published in May 2017 and is available on Amazon.

1 Comment

  1. Policy like this was popular under the De Gaul government – they would deport anyone with a criminal record, which meant lots of French Algerians. And of course that meant police targeted Algerians for petty crimes, trumped up the charges, as a deliberate strategy to ‘clean up’ the streets.
    Australians’ acceptance of this is deeply troubling to me. The youth of France didn’t accept it back in 1968 and that was a major reason for the advancement of French politics and culture.
    If only Whitlam hadn’t been deposed in a coup our present would be very different now.

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