Peter Dutton is Australias official Immigration Minister and has recently come under fire for some of his statements about immigration in this country. He recently spoke out in parliament being very critical about former Prime Minister Malcolm Frasers decision in the 1970s to allow an influx of Lebanese and Muslim refugees from “rural areas” into Australia because the newest generation of Lebanese Muslim youth appear to be terrorists or conspirators of terrorism.
Now before i am found guilty of quote mining and misrepresenting Mr. Dutton, let us see exactly what he says because right after his statistics of fear he does provide a little disclaimer – albeit in the wrong order- before he is jeered by the opposition party. Mr Dutton says:
“I thank the leader of the opposition leader for his question, if i said that i have….out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist relations in this country- 22 of those people are from second or third generation Lebanese Muslim background. I’m not going to allow people who are hard working, who’ve done the right thing by this country, who have contributed, who have worked hard, who have educated their children- I’m not going to allow these people to be defined by those people who are doing the wrong thing and who have been charged with terrorist offences, or who are involved in crime otherwise.“
Did Mr. Dutton state the truth statistically? Well yes he did, those numbers do appear to be accurate and of course we should all be concerned about the safety and security of our entire Australian community. Yet when we look at the maths behind these statistics we find a number that is so underwhelming and irrelevant that bringing this up in Parliament appears to have been nothing more than a political push to promote our dwindling past, current and future dealings with refugees and immigrants.
You see approximately 200,000 people fit within the mould of second and third generation Lebanese in Australia. Twenty Two is the number of those charged with terror related offences. Divide the numbers up and we find that 0.011% of the entire second and third generation Australian Lebanese community have been involved in terror offences.
That is right, our immigration leader is speaking out against a former prime minister for letting in these Muslim Lebanese populations in the 1970’s because it appears they produced 0.011% of the terror related population in this country today.
As a matter of fact Peter Dutton states “The reality is Malcolm Fraser did make mistakes in bringing some people in, in the 1970s, and we’re seeing that today. We need to be honest in having that discussion. There was a mistake made.“
You see this is where his statement hits home hard and heavy for me personally. Although i am only half Lebanese his comments do offend me and my family. Mr. Dutton is talking specifically about my fathers generation and my generation. He is addressing both my Father and I. A Lebanese, Muslim man from “rural Lebanon” who came to this country with his family in the 1970’s during Malcom Frasers leadership. Calling my fathers migration to Australia a “mistake” is essentially calling ME a mistake. His comments almost negate my existence, it is like Mr. Dutton is pointing his finger at me saying he wishes i weren’t here and that i was a mistake, along with my father. Not exactly the welcoming language you’d expect from an immigration minister.
Peter Duttons argument is basically this. We should have not allowed Muslim Lebanese people from “rural Lebanon” into Australia because a few generations later they would breed little potential terrorists. That would be like me saying we should not have allowed Anglo Saxons into this country because a few generations later they would wipe out almost the entire Aboriginal population of Tasmania. Or they would later be responsible for the most drink driving deaths on the road”.
Would it be fair if Mr. Dutton made his comment like this? “Out of the last 100 people who have been charged with drink driving in this country – 60 of those people are from second or third generation Anglo Saxon Australian background.”
This is where his little disclaimer fails him abundantly and even though members of his party have defended him saying he is being taken out of context, he clearly is not. His statement worked within this format. Firstly he speaks to the media and insults a former Prime Ministers handling of immigration calling his acceptance of Lebanese Muslims a “mistake”. Then in parliament he hits us with a “statistic” which reveals a dismally small percentage of his case study. Then he says BUT we cannot allow this minority to represent the majority.
You cannot negate your clear fear mongering via the media and the parliament using extremely explicit language about a very distinct community relating to both race and religion to the Australian parliament and people within this hostile climate – and then in the end say “We cannot allow the minority to represent the majority” when very clearly your statements show you are allowing the minority to represent the majority.
The fact is highlighting these figures and statistics even though they are factual is absolutely unnecessary. Do you see anybody relating to figures in regards to any topics when the total number of their example is 0.011%? Imagine if parliament spoke about every issue highlighting such statistics? It’d be tossed up and trashed in any market of academia yet suddenly it’s okay for our Immigration Minister to push these statistics of fear?
Look the Lebanese community and the Muslim community are far from perfect, the bad apples exist just like in all communities. Yet My father, myself and the majority of my family who are of Lebanese Muslim background are contributing members of this society and i will never accept being labelled a mistake. My father came here with little English, low education from the cesspool of civil war and has established himself well here. I myself am another example of this generation that Mr. Dutton seems to look at with suspicion and tunnel vision.
I do believe what Mr. Dutton said was irresponsible and he can scream out “facts” all he likes but his position comes with a responsibility for the people. He needs to ensure that he is unifying and not dividing. His language, statements and comments about the Lebanese Muslim community in particular have been detrimental to our current social climate.
Eleven years ago we had people on a beach chanting “Fuck Off Lebs” after a race riot and we have worked so hard within the decade to bridge that gap and come together as first and foremost Australians. Yet forgive us for feeling a little uncomfortable with being labelled as “mistakes” by our own immigration minister. I think the only mistake is your own irresponsible rhetoric in parliament.