Peter Dutton; Under the Radar

A first draft to which additions will be made.

FAMILY HISTORY

The Leitch family had first settled and established a dairy farm in the 1860s. Peter’s grandmother, who is 92 years of age, still lives at Albany Creek in the original family home. [5]

Peter Craig Dutton was born 18th November 1970 in the working-class Brisbane suburb of Boondall, about 15 kilometres north of the city, the eldest of five children to Ailsa, nee Leitch, who worked in childcare, and Bruce, who was a builder. He was an adult before he hit adolescence. “He’s always been very responsible, a very straight-down-the-line person,” says Ailsa, who’s now 69, divorced from Bruce and living as a retiree in the Brisbane bayside suburb of Manly. “Right is right and wrong is wrong.” [9]

1980’s

“I was a fairly shy child growing up and not involved in student politics. I didn’t see myself in the limelight,” Dutton says. “I was more interested in making money through part-time work.” [9]

He started his working life at 12 – delivering newspapers, mowing lawns and working after school as a butcher’s boy – a job he continued until starting university. He purchased his first property at 18. [1]

Peter grew up on the north side of Brisbane, in Albany Creek and finished high school at the relatively new (founded 1960) Anglican St Paul’s School in Bald Hills. [5]

He drifted, rather than rushed, towards the Young Liberals after leaving school [9] and in 1988 he joined the Liberal Party. [4] In 1989 became the Policy Vice-Chair of the Bayside Young Liberals 1989 [7] and ran as the Liberal candidate against popular Labor MP Tom Burns in the then-safe state Labor seat of Lytton, in Brisbane’s east. It was a try-on, with the Liberals needing a candidate to stand against Labor, which everyone expected to be ushered into power after more than 30 years of conservative rule. Dutton didn’t lack confidence, though; he thought he could win. “Every politician, even young ones who run in hopeless seats they can never win, always harbour some desire to win,” he says now. “Youthful exuberance.”

1990’s

He became Chair of the Bayside Young Liberals in 1990. [7]

In 1990, Peter graduated from the Queensland Police Academy and was a police officer working in the Sex Offenders Squad, the Drug Squad in suburbs such as Red Hill, Brisbane, and the then National Crime Authority.[1] [8]

About 1992 Peter Dutton married but it was not a long-term relationship as the marriage ended after just a few of months. [9] dutton3

Dutton has been a Company director since 1993. [7]

Around this time Peter also completed a Bachelor of Business degree at QUT. [5]

He resigned from the Police Force in 1999 to take up full-time employment managing the family business and to prepare the ground for the Federal election campaign due in 2001. [5] [1] [9]

2000’s

Dutton became Secretary of the Liberal Party Brisbane Central Branch 2000. [7]

It was Dutton’s success in wresting Dickson from Kernot in 2001 that first made John Howard take notice. “He did extremely well to beat Cheryl Kernot,” says Howard. “He held his nerve.” He is referring to a suggestion, made during the campaign by Kernot, who’d won the seat in 1998 by just 176 votes, that journalists should question why Dutton quit the police force when he did. The insinuation, in the wake of the police corruption inquiry, was obvious: that Dutton might be hiding a blemished record. Dutton labelled the innuendo “offensive and preposterous” and managed to produce glowing references from the National Crime Authority. Still, he was worried some mud would stick and that her comments would hijack media coverage of his campaign. But Kernot’s attack backfired when ALP leader Kim Beazley requested she withdraw the comment and, on election day, he won the seat and his ticket to federal parliament with a 6 per cent swing. [9]

In his inaugural speech he drew attention to a personal characteristic which draws criticism from many who know him. Speaking of his family building business he said, “The business now employs close to 40 Australians, both young and mature age workers. I thank them for working with a boss who perhaps has not always been as tolerant as he could have been, but certainly who always demanded the best for our valued clients.” [4]

Mr Dutton also spoke passionately about Liberal principles of individualism and reward for achievement. He urged minimalist government intervention in people’s lives, blasted inadequate sentences for criminals and the ”dictatorship” of the trade union movement and the civil liberties lobby.[2]

“There are echoes of the bush about him,” says John Howard, who considers him one of Abbott’s finest performers, despite what he calls his “laconic manner. I was impressed by him from the word go.” Those who sit on the other side of the political divide paint an alternative picture of Dutton – that of a nasty Liberal bully boy driven by very right-wing ideology. “His default position is the best defence is to attack,” says opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King. [9]

”Not everyone loves him, that’s for sure,” says his friend and long-time Canberra flatmate, Liberal MP Steve Ciobo. ”But that’s a consequence of him being a straight shooter – and that’s a very good thing.” [2]

His first term in Parliament was highlighted more by personal events than by political.dutton2

His daughter Rebecca was born in March 2002 and now divides her time between her parents. [5]

Dutton married Kirilly in July 2003 in Italy and they have two sons: Harry, born July 2004, and Tom born in 2006. [9]

“He’s very sentimental,” says his wife, Kirilly, who runs a family-owned childcare centre “with very traditional ideas. He insists on keeping all the children’s drawings, every photograph taken of them and even items of clothing they might have worn to mark a special occasion.” He is, she emphasises, deeply traditional. Christmas for the Duttons is always the same: church on Christmas Eve followed by a festive lunch the next day at the home of Dutton’s 69-year-old father, Bruce. [9]

dutton1Re-elected with an increased majority in 2004 Dutton was appointed Minister for Workforce Participation, with responsibility for the Job Network, Disability Employment Services, Work for the Dole and improving transition to work opportunities for all unemployed Australians. At the time of his appointment Peter was one of the youngest Minister’s since Federation.[1]

In January 2006 he was appointed Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Revenue. [8]

Dutton successfully retained Dickson in the 2007 federal election with a majority of 0.26%, after an 8.76% swing to his rival Fiona McNamara. [8]

2008 – Into Opposition

In 2008, when new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations, Then Liberal Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson called on his front bench to supported the motion. Dutton was the only coalition front bencher to abstain. [10]

Dutton is stridently opposed to an Australian Republic and same-sex marriage, but he does regret boycotting Rudd’s apology. “I underestimated the symbolic and cultural significance of it,” he says. At the time, he couldn’t see how a statement of national regret would help those Aboriginal children being assaulted and raped in record numbers. In fact, he thought the gesture reeked of hypocrisy. “The sexual assault of children is something I cannot comprehend. It upsets me greatly.” [9] (Editor’s Query – Does this only apply to white Anglo-Saxon children? And not to those children incarcerated on Nauru Island? Why does the word “hypocrite” spring to mind?)

He has made enemies in the snakepit of Queensland conservative politics and is accused by them of being churlish and duplicitous. [10]

In 2009, a proposal was made under the Commonwealth Electoral Act to alter Dutton’s electorate of Dickson. The alteration may have had the effect of making the seat less secure for the Liberal Party. Wary of losing his place in the House of Representatives, Dutton sought endorsement for the safe Liberal seat of McPherson. Despite the support of Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, the retiring member for McPherson Margaret May, and several other party luminaries including former Prime Minister John Howard, Dutton was defeated by rival candidate Karen Andrews. The final redistribution cemented the erosion of the Liberal Party’s position in Dickson, albeit less adversely than originally proposed. With no better option available to him, Dutton opted to recontest Dickson at the next election. [8]

Dutton contested and won Dickson at the 2010 federal election, achieving a swing of 5.45% to easily overcome the 2009 redistribution. This resulted in a two-party-preferred vote of 54.69% as of 23 August 2010. Following the 2010 election, he was appointed as Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing. [8]

2013 – In Government again

Dutton retained his seat at the 2013 election, and now sits on a margin of 6.7%. He was appointed the Minister for Health and the Minister for Sport from 18 September 2013 until 21 December 2014. [8]

Dutton attempted to introduce a GP copayment of $7, but this proved highly unpopular with both the public and the medical profession, and the plan was dropped. Dutton was overwhelmingly ranked as the worst health minister in 35 years according to a poll run by Australian Doctor magazine. [8]

On 23 December 2014 he was appointed Minister for Immigration and Border Protection after a cabinet reshuffle. [8]

2015

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has paid more than $2.3 million for a luxurious beach-front apartment on Queensland’s so-called ‘Millionaires Row’. The one-time Health Minister joins 11-time surfing legend Kelly Slater and five-time Moto GP world champion Mick Doohan as residents of the much-sought after Palm Beach address. [6]

During his term as Minister for Immigration he has increased the powers of the Customs Department and, in fact has now turned it into Australia’s Border Force with Roman Quaedvlieg (whose name, in old Dutch, means “Evil Fly”) as its head. What’s in a name? If you’re the newly created Australian Border Force, the answer is about $10 million – splashed on military-style uniforms and thousands of signs at airports and detention centres to create a fresh, hardline image. [11]

On 5 June 2015 Dutton categorically denied claims made by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young that she was spied on during a visit to Nauru. At the same time he called into question her credibility and track record “when it comes to facts”. The spying claims were later confirmed by the Immigration Department and Wilson Security who carried out the spying operation. [8]

PERSONAL WEALTH

PROPERTY

‘The burden of handling one of federal politics’ most controversial portfolios isn’t holding back Immigration Minister Peter Dutton from building his substantial personal wealth.Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is one of parliament’s less publicised multi-millionaires. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch.

The Member for Dixon is one of parliament’s less publicised multi-millionaires, having accumulated assets worth at least $10 million — perhaps as much as $20m — mainly through investment in residential real estate.

While protesters this week were hijacking the parliament over the Turnbull government’s refugee policies, Dutton was ­disclosing that he had been on a real estate spending spree since May. He’s snapped up two new properties for his portfolio in his beloved Queensland — one in inner city Brisbane’s Spring Hill and another in far north Queensland’s Townsville.

No wonder Dutton was one of the most strident critics of Labor shadow treasurer Chris Bowen’s proposal to end negative gearing on property. “Labor’s essentially said they want to lower house prices and they want to increase rents and I think that would be a disaster,” Dutton said of the proposal back in March. Going by these latest acquisitions, those fears have passed.

With his Perth-born wife Kirilly, Dutton, 46, also has investment properties in Canberra’s Kingston, one on Moreton Island and a $2.4m beachfront pile he bought last year in Palm Beach. That home sits on “Millionaire’s Row” alongside one owned by surfing legend Kelly Slater, the former boyfriend of Baywatch’s Pamela Anderson.  The Duttons live in an expansive 20,000sq m spread at Camp Mountain — which is just over a 30-minute drive northwest of Brisbane’s CBD.  All up, that makes six residential properties in the Dutton portfolio.

The former Queensland cop got the property bug early — buying his first property when he was 19, funded by a paper run as a teenager, work after school in a butcher and a strict avoidance of smashed avocado. On the side from his policing, he worked in the building business, Dutton Holdings, he founded with his father. [12]

CHILDCARE

And the family also control childcare operations in Queensland.The pair developed childcare businesses, which they eventually sold to ABC Learning’s Eddie Groves, who back in 2004 was a donor to Dutton’s election campaign.

The now failed businessman gave Dutton $15,000 in two tranches in 2004. Considering their subsequent trajectories, Groves now might need that money back. [12]

EPILOGUE

dutton4

Dutton’s unique facial features and his apparent innocuousness and unpopular decisions have led to some visual artists to represent him as that most disliked of vegetables, the Brussels Sprout.

While I tend to avoid “nameflaming” and references to appearance, in this case I can see the resemblance.

“[Dutton] is a cop, an institutional conservative,” one minister says. “He believes in respect for law and order, for institutions.” Certainly, the things that matter most to him, agree those who know him well, are attention to detail, loyalty, respect for authority and a conviction that good must, and will, triumph over evil. It is the belief system of a conscientious law-enforcement officer. [8]

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