World

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull retracts Peter Dutton’s offer to help white South African farmers

By Peter Fabricius 29 March 2018

The Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have effectively retracted Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s offensive remarks but without slapping him down. By PETER FABRICIUS.

South Africa and Australia have officially ended the row between them over Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s offer to help “persecuted” white South African farmers.

Both sides have confirmed that “the case is now closed”.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop effectively resolved the dispute by implicitly refuting Dutton’s offer to help South African farmers on the basis of their skin colour. But they have not directly slapped him down nor has he retracted his remarks.

Dutton had told media he believed white farmers deserved “special attention” because they faced violence and land seizures.

If you look at the footage and read the stories, you hear the accounts, it’s a horrific circumstance they face,” the Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying at the time.

We have the potential to help some of these people that are being persecuted.”

Dutton said he had directed his department to explore whether the farmers could be accepted into Australia through refugee, humanitarian or other visas, including the in-country persecution visa category.

I do think on the information that I’ve seen, people do need help, and they need help from a civilised country like ours,” Dutton was quoted as saying.

South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation reacted by saying: “The South African government is offended by the statements which have been attributed to the Australian Home Affairs Minister and a full retraction is expected.”

Dutton was also blasted by Australian opposition politicians as a racist.

Pretoria’s protest and demand were conveyed directly to the Australian High Commission in Pretoria. Dutton himself remained defiant, refusing to retract his remarks.

In an interview on ABC News with Barrie Cassidy on 18 March Bishop said Australia did monitor the rate of violent crime in South Africa, “and there has been a dramatic increase in recent years.

Last year there were about 19,000 murders in South Africa, and that’s a very high number for a country of that size. Australia does have a humanitarian visa programme if any person feels they are persecuted, then they can apply to Australia for a humanitarian visa, and that would be considered on its merits, and I believe that that’s what Peter Dutton was referring to.”

However Bishop made very clear that Australia’s humanitarian visa programme “is non-discriminatory and each application is considered on its merits and I believe the humanitarian programme’s credibility comes from the fact that it is non-discriminatory and that each application is assessed on its merits”.

That’s been the case under the Turnbull Government, and as far as I’m aware, there are no plans to change that visa programme.”

Turnbull himself confirmed this at a media conference with his Singaporean counterpart on 16 March when he said: “We have a non-discriminatory humanitarian programme. … We have migrants to Australia from every part of the world … and we have a refugee programme that is non-discriminatory.  As you know, we take around 18,000 refugees throughout humanitarian program every year, including, and in addition to which, we took 12,000 from the Syrian conflict zone. Our programme is thoroughly non-discriminatory.” He added that many South Africans of all communities had successfully emigrated to Australia and contributed to its multicultural society.

Diplomatic sources said given the nature of Dutton, it would have been unrealistic to expect him to publicly retract his remarks. But they noted that Turnbull and Bishop had effectively done so for him – and he hadn’t contradicted their statements.

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said this week she had received a letter from Turnbull containing his response to the matter.

And we are quite satisfied,” she added. “We requested them to take note of the matter and to withdraw (Dutton’s remarks). They have responded. And we are glad that we have that behind us.”

Apparently the letter was from Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop not from Turnbull but it clearly did contain the reassurances that Sisulu wanted.

The matter is now closed,” one official source said. DM

Photo: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, 27 March 2018. Photo: EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Gallery

Are You A South AfriCAN or a South AfriCAN'T?

Maverick Insider is more than a reader revenue scheme. While not quite a "state of mind", it is a mindset: it's about believing that independent journalism makes a genuine difference to our country and it's about having the will to support that endeavour.

From the #GuptaLeaks into State Capture to the Scorpio exposés into SARS, Daily Maverick investigations have made an enormous impact on South Africa and it's political landscape. As we enter an election year, our mission to Defend Truth has never been more important. A free press is one of the essential lines of defence against election fraud; without it, national polls can turn very nasty, very quickly as we have seen recently in the Congo.

If you would like a practical, tangible way to make a difference in South Africa consider signing up to become a Maverick Insider. You choose how much to contribute and how often (monthly or annually) and in exchange, you will receive a host of awesome benefits. The greatest benefit of all (besides inner peace)? Making a real difference to a country that needs your support.


Comments

Please or create an account to view the comments. To join the conversation, sign up as a Maverick Insider.

Mokgoro Inquiry

Feigning victimhood and indignation, Jiba testifies at Mokgoro inquiry

By Nkateko Mabasa

Days of Zondo

Gupta Inc’s Eskom woes reloaded before Justice Zondo

Jessica Bezuidenhout 16 hours ago

Female-named hurricanes kill more people on average than male hurricanes. This is due to people not being as intimidated by the former as the latter.