22 Mar 2018

Dutton defends plan to resettle South African farmers in Australia

8:30 pm on 22 March 2018

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has brushed off claims of racism over his plan to resettle "persecuted" white South African farmers in Australia.

Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton

Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton Photo: AFP

His comments also sparked a diplomatic row with the South African government, which demanded an apology and strongly refuted claims of "torture and abuse".

Mr Dutton has told ABC despite the criticism, he is pushing ahead with ways to help the farmers head to Australia under humanitarian visas.

"All the criticism over the last week has meant nothing to me," he said.

"We're looking at ways we can help people to migrate to Australia if they find themselves in that situation. We've been inundated with messages of support and references for particular cases.

"I'm completely blind as to somebody's skin colour, it makes no difference to me.

"It concerns me that people are being persecuted at the moment, that's the reality - the number of people dying or being savagely attacked in South Africa is a reality".

A day after Mr Dutton publicly revealed the plans, Canberra's High Commissioner in South Africa was hauled in for a diplomatic ticking off.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale also labelled the Minister "racist" and argued the resettlement would amount to a return to the White Australia policy.

Mr Dutton said he was unfazed by the commentary.

"There's lots of outrage from some of the crazy lefties at the ABC, The Guardian and The Huffington Post can express concern and draw mean cartoons about me and all the rest of it - they don't realise how completely dead they are to me," he said.

"That's the reality; if people think I'm going to cower or take a backwards step because of the nonsense fabricated fake news criticism, then they've got another thing coming."

In response to the plan, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia's humanitarian visa program was non-discriminatory.

A number of Mr Dutton's colleagues threw their support behind the push.

Mr Dutton said regardless of skin colour, the farmers needed Australia's help.

"I'm bringing people to our country solely based on what's in our national interest, what's in our national security interest," he said.

"I want people who can settle here, I don't want people coming here as criminals - if they commit crimes here they are out."