Morrison Should Let Dutton Fend for Himself

If Scott Morrison had been hoping for a honeymoon period after taking over from Malcolm Turnbull, he was fooling himself.

A new Australian prime minister who isn’t immediately mired in the muck of their own party is a rare thing.

In Morrison’s first weeks, he’s already getting a beating in the polls and facing the legacy problem of Peter Dutton.

The Home Affairs minister has problems of his own — and is also a problem for Morrison.

Dutton is facing attacks from multiple angles.

He’s under scrutiny for his decisions to grant two au pairs tourist visas after they were detained on the suspicion they were going to work in Australia.

One was given a reprieve after a former Queensland police colleague of Dutton’s sent his office an email.

The other was let off when AFL boss Gillon McLachlan asked his office to talk to Dutton’s office.

Even if everything is above board and Dutton wasn’t doing favours for mates or powerful people, the explanation for his actions has not been clear.

Dutton fought in the courts to stop AAP accessing documents he relied on to give the au pairs visas.

He has not been able to clearly explain why these two young women got visas so quickly despite officials believing they were in Australia to work.

It stands in contrast to Dutton’s hard line on many other visa cases, a number of which had strong compassionate grounds.

The au pair case has also exposed a bitter feud with former Australian Border Force boss Roman Quaedvlieg.

The two men once worked hand-in-hand keeping Australia safe — now they trade insults via question time, a Senate inquiry and Twitter.

When Quaedvlieg went public with his version of events about what he said was an au pair case, Dutton attacked his mental health and used parliamentary privilege to say Quaedvlieg ‘groomed a girl’ 30 years younger than him.

Dutton escalated the fight on two occasions, rather than shutting it down, and now Quaedvlieg says he has more to say.

Turnbull is also attacking Dutton, this time over his eligibility to sit in parliament.

Section 44 of the Constitution disqualifies anyone who has a ‘direct or indirect pecuniary interest’ in any agreement with the Commonwealth.

Dutton’s family trust financial interest in childcare centres means he could be benefiting from taxpayer money — and only the High Court can decide.

He has strong legal advice, but so did many of the MPs caught out by the citizenship saga.

And Labor is demanding to know whether Dutton stepped out of cabinet every time the changes to childcare funding were discussed.

All of these attacks mean Dutton is in the news, eating up oxygen Morrison desperately needs to distinguish himself as the new prime minister.

Labor is polling 56–44 two party preferred. An election wipeout is looming.

And Dutton’s continuing prominence puts pressure on the prime minister.

The conservatives got close once before, Turnbull out-manoeuvred them, but their ambition hasn’t gone away.

Every day this week in Question Time, Labor asked Morrison why Turnbull was gone and he was the PM, and every day Morrison couldn’t quite explain it.

Because the real reason is more than half the party had no desire to see Dutton rewarded for wrecking Turnbull’s leadership.

They didn’t want Dutton in power, and were prepared to back a softer conservative over Julie Bishop just to guarantee Dutton lost.

Unfortunately for Morrison, he can’t come out and say that.

So he’s left straddling two boats, simultaneously trying to show how great the coalition government has been for five years, while also pointing out the need for change.

Morrison the tourism marketing guru is now trying out lines, focus-grouping them on the fly in press conferences and parliament.

He appears to have the ability to cut through to voters that some Liberal MPs thought Turnbull lacked.

But the Dutton situation hampers him at every turn.

The Home Affairs minister could be referred to the High Court, his public spat with Quaedvlieg doesn’t appear over, and he still has ambitions to lead the party.

Morrison is mired in the muck and he doesn’t have a circuit breaker in sight.

PS: Tired of paying more tax, year after year and decade after decade? Find out what you could do to help stop Australia’s already-crushing tax burden blowing out even further this year. Click here to download our latest research report free.

The Australian Tribune with AAP

Comments: 1

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

  1. If it ain’t broke no need to fix it….as someone said the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.