Three days into the summer of 2018, Peter Dutton made comments on Sydney’s radio 2GB that would echo throughout the nation and the year.
“The reality is, people are scared to go out to restaurants of a night-time because they’re followed home by these gangs.
“We just need to call it for what it is … African gang violence,” he told conservative political commentator, Chris Kenny.
In the months since, leadership pretender and Minister for Homeland Security, Mr Peter Dutton, has been campaigning for stricter bail laws because of “African gang violence”, which has rarely been out of the headlines.
Now, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declaring he will stand down today if the party room moves to spill the leadership, the bookies are still giving Mr Dutton’s leadership strong odds, despite competition from Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop.
Regardless of what happens to resolve the leadership crisis, South Sudanese community leaders in Melbourne are preparing for an escalation of divisive politics.
“I think Dutton’s comments were some of the most extreme about African Australians that were said out of any Australian politician,” says Nyadol Nyuon, a Melbourne lawyer and vocal advocate for the South Sudanese community.
“So I’m expecting more of the same. And now with an even louder and more powerful platform as Prime Minister,” says Ms Nyuon, who has been kept busy explaining and defending her community over recent months, calling out discrimination by both politicians and the media. She predicts that an Australia led by Peter Dutton would focus on immigration and national security.
“He’s already saying that we should reduce immigration. He’s gone as far to say that immigration is not good for the economy.”
Ms Nyuon says that Mr Dutton would not only make life hard for Melbourne’s South Sudanese community, but for other minority groups in Australia.
“This is the guy who walked out on the apology for Indigenous people. His track record is already bad enough.”
She says that there is a feeling of exhaustion within Melbourne’s South Sudanese community, as it braces for an escalation of racially-based rhetoric.
“For some people this is just talk, but for other people it leads to abuse on the street, physical abuse, harassment and in at least one case, a person was murdered.”