CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Peter Dutton, the government lawmaker who has challenged Australia’s prime minister for his job, is publicly perceived as a hard man and a leading hard-right conservative. His face is associated with turning back asylum seekers boats, stripping citizenship from extremists and striving to increase the English-language standards for migrants who want to gain citizenship.
Dutton gave up the largest security portfolio in the government when he resigned as minister for home affairs, who controls the newly created Department of Homeland Security. The department is designed to tackle the new security threats of a changing geopolitical environment.
While highly regarded by the conservative Liberal Party’s hard-right faction, Dutton’s broader appeal has been questioned, particularly among ethnic minorities.
He has been criticized for saying the level of Lebanese Muslim immigration under a humanitarian program in the 1970s had been a mistake that Australia was now paying for through a rise in domestic extremism.
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He also attracted accusations of racism through comments that white farmers under threat of violence in black-majority South Africa should be treated as refugees because “they need help from a civilized country.” He has angered many in the ethnic-African community by saying people in Victoria state were “scared to go out to restaurants of a night time” because of “African gang violence.”
Dutton, 47, is a former police drug squad detective from the politically and socially conservative state of Queensland.
He was first elected to Parliament in 2001 and quickly rose to the rank of minister three years later.
He became minister for immigration and border protection in 2014, when he became responsible for Australia’s contentious policy of sending asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat to immigration camps paid for by his government on impoverished Pacific island nations for Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The Australian navy also turns asylum seekers boats back to Indonesia, which Jakarta regards as an affront to Indonesian sovereignty.