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Fifteen things you didn’t know about Peter Dutton

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It has been a rocky few months for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, full of gaffes and controversy.

In August, the Australian Border Force – an organisation he is responsible for – had to make an embarrassing back-flip after initially announcing plans to spot-check visas in Melbourne’s CBD over a weekend.

Protesters took to the streets of the world’s most liveable city as the operation was slammed on social media and, in an unmitigated PR disaster, quickly cancelled.

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Then, during a September meeting on Syrian refugees, Mr Dutton, a climate change sceptic, was captured on camera joking about the threat of rising sea levels to Pacific island nations.

Jamie Briggs resigned from the front bench last week.
Jamie Briggs resigned from the front bench last week. Photo: ABC

The 45-year-old did not know the cameras were rolling.

Mr Dutton hit the headlines again this week when it emerged that he accidentally sent a text message – in which he referred to a reporter as a “mad f****ng witch” – to the journalist herself.

Mr Dutton intended to send his text to Jamie Briggs, who stepped down from Cabinet after acting in an inappropriate manner towards a colleague on a work trip overseas, but accidentally sent it to Samantha Maiden, a political editor at News Corp.

While his recent stuff-ups are well-known, here are 15 things you didn’t know about Mr Dutton.

1. It was Mr Dutton who, as Health Minister, tried to introduce an added fee of $7 for visits to GPs, but this was strongly and successfully resisted by both the public and the medical profession.

2. In 2015, Mr Dutton denied claims by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young that she had been spied on during a visit to Nauru. However, the spying claims were later confirmed by the Immigration Department and the company that carried out the spying operation.

3. He was a Queensland police officer for nine years, working mainly in the drug squad in Brisbane. He also has a Bachelor of Business from the Queensland University of Technology.

4. Mr Dutton won the Queensland seat of Dickson for the Liberal Party in 2001, and, in doing so, brought an end to the Parliamentary career of sitting Labor member Cheryl Kernot, who had been prominent as the leader of the Australian Democrats who later switched to the Labor Party.

5. In 2008, when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made his apology in Parliament to the Stolen Generations, both sides of the House applauded but Mr Dutton was the only Coalition frontbencher to abstain.

Mr Dutton was a close ally of Tony Abbott. Photo: AAP
Mr Dutton was a close ally of ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: AAP

6. When Malcolm Turnbull successfully challenged Tony Abbott for the Prime Ministership in 2015, Mr Dutton supported Mr Abbott. He nevertheless retained his position in Cabinet.

7. Mr Dutton’s stint as Health Minister lasted just over a year. He was later voted as the worst Health Minister in 35 years in a poll run by Australian Doctor magazine.

8. Among adjectives used to describe Mr Dutton are: smart, articulate, astute, charming, funny, straight, churlish, duplicitous. No-one has ever used the words gentle, caring, patient. He has also never been called a wimp or indecisive. He is viewed as being on the Right of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. Even his former Canberra flatmate, Liberal MP Steve Ciobo, said: “Not everyone loves him, that’s for sure.”

9. From his maiden speech: “As a police officer, I have seen the best and the worst that society has to offer. I have seen the wonderful, kind nature of people willing to offer any assistance to those in their worst hour, and I have seen the sickening behaviour displayed by people who, frankly, barely justify their existence in our sometimes over-tolerant society.”

10. On Twitter, he once remarked on Kevin Rudd’s hair: “KRudds fringe looks like it’s been welded on this morn. More hair spray than Dame Edna.”

11. Mr Dutton’s great grandparents started dairy farming near Brisbane in the 1860s. His grandmother, who worked on that farm, was in Parliament on the day of his maiden speech in 2001. So were his parents.

12. Mr Dutton and his wife, Kirilly, have two sons (Tom and Harry) and a daughter (Rebecca).

13. He has spoken out against the inadequacy of many prison sentences: “Time after time we see grossly inadequate sentences being delivered to criminals whose civil rights have far exceeded those of the victim and others in our society. This imbalance must be addressed, and for the sake of living standards and reasonable expectations for all Australians must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

14. During his maiden speech he also lamented that the “boisterous minority” and the “politically correct” have a disproportionate role in public affairs. “The silent minority, the forgotten people, or the aspirational voter of our generation, as some like to term them, are fed up with bodies like the Civil Liberties Council and the Refugee Action Collective, and certainly the dictatorship of the trade union movement.

“Australians are fed up with the Civil Liberties Council, otherwise known as the criminal lawyers media operative, who appear obsessed with the rights of criminals yet do not utter a word of understanding or compassion for the victims of crime.”

15. He was born in 1970, the same year as supermodels Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer, singer Mariah Carey, and actor Matt Damon.

Doug Aiton is a newspaper journalist and radio broadcaster. He has worked for The London Times, The Age, ABC Radio and 3AW.

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