Dutton’s au pair drama shows hypocrisy of immigration policy


“As a discretionary and humanitarian act to an individual with ongoing ne, it is in the interests of Australia as a humane and generous society to grant this person a tourist visa.”

That’s Peter Dutton, then immigration minister, in the official document by which he intervened to allow an au pair to enter the country.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

And what an incredible sentence it is! A humanitarian act. An individual with ongoing ne. A humane and generous society. So … a tourist visa? What humanitarian situation serious enough to require intervention from the immigration minister himself can be relieved by a spot of tourism?

The whole thing is absurd. Not truly scandalous, given Dutton acted within his legal power and that politicians doing favours for people is hardly unprecedented. But absurd and important for precisely that reason. This episode reveals just how hypocritical and disingenuous our approach on immigration in this country really is.

The story here isn’t that Dutton did a favour for a mate (or a mate’s mate, or a Liberal Party donor). It’s that in this tiny episode, Dutton revealed himself to be happy to violate the very principles on which he has based his entire position on immigration. Dutton’s political trade is based squarely on being a tough, uncompromising applier of rules; a kind of maniacal preserver of order. He will not be bowed or be swayed except in the most extreme cases, and even then, probably not.