Peter Dutton has vowed to stare down “crazy lefties” and told the ABC and left-leaning media outlets they are “dead to me”, as he pursues a plan to offer refuge in Australia for white South Africans.
The Home Affairs Minister said on Thursday he was unfazed by “mean cartoons” and negative media coverage which have appeared in various media criticising and parodying his decision to help the “persecuted” farmers.
“I think the ABC and others report these things how they want to report them, and how they want to interpret them,” Mr Dutton told 2GB radio station.
“Some of the crazy lefties at the ABC, and on The Guardian, Huffington Post, can express concern and draw mean cartoons about me and all the rest of it. They don’t realise how completely dead they are to me.
“We just get on with making decisions that we need to.”
Mr Dutton sparked widespread anger and diplomatic tensions last week when he argued that persecuted white farmers in South Africa needed help from a “civilised country” like Australia.
The Minister wants the farmers to be fast-tracked through Australia’s refugee program.
Greens senator Nick McKim branded Mr Dutton a racist and fascist, claiming he was using speaking points from neo-Nazi and white nationalist websites, who were bragging they had “captured” the Minister.
“It’s naked and it’s transparent and it’s out in the open,” Senator McKim told Sky News.
He claimed Mr Dutton’s move was proof the Liberal Party was still wedded to the White Australia policy, and that Australia’s immigration settings under the Turnbull government were race-based.
The outspoken Senator pointed out there were no white people held in offshore detention by Australia.
“I can be absolutely certain that if a South African person arrived by boat to seek asylum in Australia they would not end up on Manus Island and Nauru under Peter Dutton’s regime,” he said.
Mr Dutton insists that skin colour did not influence government policy and the country would continue to bring in migrants based on the national interest.
“It concerns me that people are being persecuted at the moment – that’s the reality – the numbers of people dying or being savagely attacked in South Africa is a reality,” he said.
Mr Dutton likened the latest backlash to reaction over his comments about a supposed African gang crisis in Melbourne over summer.
“Stick to the facts and you’re on safe grounds so all of the criticism over the last week has meant nothing to me,” he said.
Mr Dutton said he had been inundated with messages of support and references to particular cases of white South African farmers in need of help.
“We’ll start to work through those and if people meet the criteria under the program then they’ll settle under the program here,” he said.
“If people think I’m going to cower or take a backward step because of their nonsense, fabricated, fake news criticism, then they’ve got another thing coming.”
I wonder if @PeterDutton_MP thinks Palestinian farmers, who are subject to land grabs & persecution by Israel, are as worthy as white South African farmers to have their immigration applications to Australia "fast tracked"?#auspol Or is this the White Australia Policy revisited?
— Sheoakbloke (@Sheoakbloke1) March 15, 2018
— indie harrison (@indieharrison1) March 21, 2018
Meanwhile, one of his Coalition colleagues is warning there could be food shortages if white South African farmers are allowed to migrate to Australia.
“The black South African farmers certainly have not proved themselves,” Nationals MP Andrew Broad told ABC radio.
“They need the skill set of the white South African farmers if they’re going to have any chance of feeding the population that they’ve got.”
Mr Broad, who travelled to South Africa some years ago, urged other MPs to visit and see for themselves.
“We’d be better to be working with the South African government to make them value those white farmers, rather than trying to help them flee.”