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The New Daily

Who is Peter Dutton? The ex-cop tipped to be the next leader of the Liberal Party

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Peter Dutton is the man tipped to be Australia’s next Opposition Leader.

With Scott Morrison stepping down on Saturday night after his election defeat, and former treasurer Josh Frydenberg losing his seat, the field is clear for Mr Dutton to take the reins of the Liberal Party.

He is expected to run unopposed in the upcoming internal party room election.

Former environment minister Sussan Ley is poised to become his deputy.

Mr Dutton’s three Liberal predecessors have all been from Sydney, meaning he will be the first Queenslander to lead a major party since Kevin Rudd.

Like Scott Morrison, Mr Dutton comes from the right faction of the Liberal Party.

He has downplayed the effects of climate change and consistently spoken against marriage equality – he voted ‘no’ in the postal survey but ‘yes’ when the legislation arrived in Parliament with a clear public mandate in 2017.

Perhaps most central to his reputation is his stint as immigration minister and, later, home affairs.

It remains to be seen whether the conservative stalwart will preside over a more moderate shift on issues like climate action and women’s rights to claw back some of the wealthy, inner-city seats that his party lost to the so-called ‘teal’ independents.

What we do know is that he has a lengthy and controversial track record in politics.

Here’s what it shows.

Before politics

Mr Dutton joined the Young Liberals in 1988 when he was just 18.

When he was 19, he unsuccessfully ran as a Liberal at the 1989 Queensland state election.

After this early dabble in politics, Mr Dutton worked as a police officer for almost a decade.

He left the Queensland police force in 1999 with the rank of detective senior constable.

Peter Dutton has held the Brisbane seat of Dickson since 2001. Photo: AAP

For the next few years he worked with his father to run a company that converted properties into childcare centres.

Rising up the ranks

Mr Dutton was first elected to federal parliament in 2001.

He would go on to hold various positions over the years, including minister for sport and minister for health.

In 2008 Mr Dutton was one of seven MPs who boycotted Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations.

As assistant treasurer at the time, he was the only front bencher to do so.

“I regarded it as something which was not going to deliver tangible outcomes to kids who are being raped and tortured in communities in the 21st century,” he said on Q+A two years later.

“Now, if I thought for a moment that it was going to deliver positive outcomes to those kids, to their families, to those communities, then I would support it in a heartbeat. But I thought it distracted us from that.”

In 2014 he said he regretted his decision to boycott the apology.

Mr Dutton also attracted criticism during his time as health minister for proposing a $7 GP co-payment, and eventually cutting billions of dollars in funding for hospitals.

In 2019, Peter Dutton and his wife went on a PR blitz of News Corp tabloids to rehabilitate his image. Photo: Supplied

In 2015, Australian Doctor magazine ran a poll for the worst health minister in the past 35 years.

Mr Dutton won with 46 per cent of the vote.

Immigration and home affairs

Mr Dutton rose to the most senior ranks of the Liberal party room when he was promoted to immigration minister in 2014.

During this time he became the face of Australia’s hardline border policies regarding asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

Also during his time as immigration minister, Mr Dutton received international scorn when he was overheard joking about climate change and meetings in the Pacific.

“Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door,” he told then-PM Tony Abbott and then-social services minister Scott Morrison.

Mr Morrison quickly replied: “There’s a boom [microphone] there.”

Mr Dutton would later move on from immigration minister to an overlapping remit running the home affairs and defence portfolios.

In 2017, asylum seekers detained on Manus Island and the Papua New Guinea police force accused Mr Dutton of lying about an alleged shooting incident at the camp.

Mr Dutton claimed asylum seekers had lured a local boy behind the fence, but official accounts blamed the incident on drunk soldiers shooting indiscriminately.

In 2018, he fanned the “African gangs” panic – referring to crime incidents in Melbourne that Victoria Police insisted were neither race-based nor criminally organised.

Just months after these comments about African-Australians, Mr Dutton suggested granting humanitarian visas to white South African farmers in the wake of a widely discredited myth that farmers in South Africa were being murdered as part of a supposed white genocide.

“I do think, on the information that I’ve seen, people do need help and they need help from a civilised country like ours,” Mr Dutton said at the time.

South Africa’s high commissioner to Australia demanded the then-home affairs minister retract the comments.

Around this time, he also called for Australian school students to make an American-style pledge of allegiance.

As immigration minister, Peter Dutton presided over the Manus Island and Nauru offshore detention centres, the latter pictured here in 2018. Photo: Getty

Fast forward to 2022 and one immediate outcome of Labor’s victory is that the Biloela Tamil family will be allowed to remain home in Australia as refugees.

But back in 2019, Mr Dutton referred to the family’s two daughters – one of whom would go on to contract sepsis on Christmas Island – as “anchor babies”.

Defamation case

Mr Dutton most recently made headlines when he sued refugee advocate Shane Bazzi for defamation last year.

Mr Dutton had said in 2019 that women detained on Nauru who sought an abortion after being raped may have been “trying it on” as a ploy to come to Australia for treatment.

The defamation case related to a six-word tweet in which Mr Bazzi called the home affairs minister “a rape apologist” and linked to an article about the Nauru situation.

In December, a judge ruled in Mr Dutton’s favour and ordered Mr Bazzi to pay $35,000 in damages.

However, Bazzi successfully appealed against the ruling just this month.

It’s not the first time Mr Dutton has been in strife over a tweet.

In 2016 his office asked a press gallery correspondent to remove an unflattering photo of him from Twitter – only for the photo of Mr Dutton to go viral worldwide.