Dutton compares pro-Palestine protest to Port Arthur massacre

Dutton doubles down on Port Arthur comparison

Source: ABC News

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has refused to back away from comments comparing a pro-Palestine protest at the Sydney Opera House to the Port Arthur massacre, as he railed at a “national moral fog” under Labor.

In a speech at the Opera House on Wednesday night, Dutton accused police of being “weak and woke” in their response to the wild protest two days after the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

“It would be concerning if – among our top-ranking police officers – there is a reluctance to enforce the law because to do so risks offending certain cultural sensitivities or stoking tension in particular communities,” he said.

“If our top-ranking police officers harbour such fears and have adopted a soft approach, they do a disservice to these very communities who want the law enforced just like their fellow Australians.”

Delivering the seventh Tom Hughes Oration, the former Queensland police officer said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s leadership had been lacking throughout a “supine law enforcement response to incidents of anti-Semitism across the states”.

“The Prime Minister and members of his government have downplayed the unprecedented level of anti-Semitism afflicting our country by dishonestly treating it as analogous with other forms of prejudice,” he said.

“Additionally, what should have been clear-cut condemnations of anti-Semitism from the Labor Party have been clouded by instances of moral equivalence and moral ambiguity.

“What remains is a national moral fog, which has made anti-Semitism permissible.”

Dutton said Australia needed a “reassertion of our cultural values” following the protest, when a “seething mob” sought to incite anti-Jewish violence.

“We must not surrender our civilisation to anti-civilisational forces,” he said.

“What we saw that night was a contempt for law and liberty, a contempt for freedom of belief and association, and a contempt for democracy.”

Dutton said that while no one was killed in the Sydney protest, it was “akin to a Port Arthur moment in terms of their social significance”. His comments come just over a fortnight ahead of the 24th anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 people died.

“The events of the Sydney Opera House have shone a light on the fact that there are people in our country today who do not subscribe to our liberal democratic values,” Dutton said.

“There are people in our country today who have ripped up the social contract.”

Asked about his comments on Thursday, Dutton said that then-PM John Howard, who strengthened Australia’s gun laws after Port Arthur, was “strong as a leader, not weak”.

“Did I think John Howard stood up in ’96 when he needed to, in our country’s interests? Absolutely. And did Anthony Albanese stand up and show the strength John Howard demonstrated and change the course of our country’s history? No, he didn’t,” he said.

In his speech, Dutton also took aim at the government’s foreign policy positions, which he claimed had exposed a “clear prejudice” towards Israel.

He said Labor had failed to provide the moral clarity to distinguish the “lawful from the lawless, which differentiates civilisation from barbarism, and which discerns the good from the evil”.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s remarks about potentially recognising a Palestinian state were labelled “utterly illogical, ill-timed and inappropriate”.

“For a crass domestic political win, Penny Wong has irreparably damaged our relations with our ally Israel,” Dutton said.

“It is the most reckless act of a foreign minister I have seen in my 22 years in the parliament – and it has weakened our international standing.”

Despite that, support for a two-state solution is official Coalition policy.

Albanese again backed Wong’s comments on Thursday, saying they reflected what had been said at an international level. He said he was “taken aback” by Dutton’s comparisons with Port Arthur.

“People will draw their own conclusions about that. I … was somewhat taken aback by those comments. And it’s up to him to explain that,” he said.

“I’m someone who has spent time, including recently in Parliament House, with the family of victims of Port Arthur. And I think that sometimes what Peter Dutton does in his comments, is to think about how hard you could possibly go and how angry you could possibly be – and then go one step further.”

NSW Premier Chris Minns also hit back at Dutton’s claims.

“Keep NSW Police out of the federal political fight,” he said on Thursday.

“They do a great job in NSW and we should all get behind them.

“The men and women that make up the police force work around the clock … being a police officer is way harder than being a senior politician, including being the Leader of the Opposition.”

– with AAP

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