The year was 2007 and, just as now, a conservative federal government was staring down the barrel of electoral defeat. Then, as now, the tabloid press and the shock jocks fulminated about the problem of “African crime gangs”. Then, as now, a Liberal immigration minister pointed to the apparent failure of some people to successfully integrate into Australian society and by his commentary added fuel to a racist fire.

Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton, various state and federal colleagues and tabloid media have continued to offer every new instance of ethnic criminal activity in Victoria as evidence of a failing by the state government.

“What Peter Dutton is saying is palpable nonsense,” barrister Greg Barnes tells Mike Seccombe. “You have to view this in the context of a state election [coming up in November]. It’s part of this absurd law and order auction that seems to be in the DNA of Victorian politics.”

Plus: Tarneen Onus Williams on the Djab Wurrung embassy, Sean Kelly on lessons from the byelections, and Linda Jaivin on Borneo’s Gomantong Caves.

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The Saturday Paper