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How to destroy any remaining voter goodwill in one easy lesson

What were Peter Dutton and this cabal of urgers thinking? Encouraged by the right-wing press and the conservative hardliners of the Liberal Party, the Abbott-Dutton gang decided that dragging the Liberals further to the right by installing Dutton as Prime Minister was an election-winning strategy – and PM Turnbull had to go. Surely any student of Australian politics knows the swinging voters are in the Centre of the political spectrum, not on the extremes of the right, out with the bigots and xenophobes.

At the end of a week of political infighting, closed door meetings, switching loyalties, back stabbing, front stabbing, media speculation and wild conjecture, it came down to a contest between an ex-Queensland policeman, once alleged to have injured indigenous children in the back of a police van by driving erratically, and a devotee of evangelical prosperity theology (the doctrine of wealth and health delivered to those who pray sufficiently, and to the exclusion of the unworthy poor).

And the voting public was not involved. Public scrutiny of parliamentary performances for the combatants had no input to the leadership ballot. Both Morrison and Dutton have track records of belligerence, bigotry, arrogance and hyper-partisanship, self-justified by crowing they are acting in The National Interest.

Morrison was once described by a Sydney Morning Herald journalist as “the greatest grub in the federal parliament for stoking xenophobic and racist fears for political advantage”.

Dutton once called a female Guardian Australia journalist a “mad f...ing witch” in a text sent to her, though meant for a fellow parliamentarian.

Morrison was the architect of Sovereign Borders, an inherently cruel policy whose cost blowouts continued under Dutton as Minister for Immigration & Border Protection, to the widespread derision of the international community and the United Nations.

The Australian Medical Association once considered Dutton the worst ever Health Minister.

As Treasurer, Morrison repeatedly blocked the need for a banking royal commission, dismissing it as a ‘populist whinge’. He cut pensions, health and education funding so the government was ‘living within its means’. Yet government debt has blown out to $531.2 billion, up $258 billion since the 2013 election – whilst he was the cheerleader for the corporate tax cuts fiasco.

A 2017 audit by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) of the Department of Immigration & Border Protections’ management of contracts for security and welfare services on Manus Island and Nauru cited $2.3 billion in payments which were not authorised or recorded correctly, including payments of $1.1 billion where there was no departmental record of who authorised the payments at all. Minister Dutton dismissed the audit report as “another indictment of the Labor-Greens border failures”. Yet it is his government that has been in power with an oversight of those contracts since 2013.

A former state director of the NSW Liberal Party, Morrison ran for pre-selection of the safe Liberal seat of Cook against a well-known local Lebanese Australian, Michael Towke, in 2007. Towke easily won the pre-selection ballot. Allegations against Towke of branch stacking and embellishment of his resume appeared repeatedly in the Daily Telegraph in the following days. An unprecedented second ballot was ordered by Party heavyweights, which Morrison duly won following the co-ordinated attacked on Towke’s credibility and integrity. The Daily Telegraph settled Towke’s defamation case just days before the scheduled court date.

Both Dutton and Morrison are coal industry acolytes, Morrison going as far as bringing a lump of coal supplied by the Minerals Council of Australia into the chamber (in defiance of the rule against ‘props’ in parliament) and childishly taunting the Labor Opposition and mocking climate change science.

A reasonable person could rightly think any of the above behaviour would at least hinder if not disqualify the rise of the offender to the leadership of a country. Yet here we are.

Months of leadership speculation ended in a week of Canberra chaos (including the shutting down of Parliament last Thursday when it was all too hard to get on with the job of governing) and the elevation of Scott Morrison to Prime Minister via the backdoor. Dutton dressed as lamb is now our leader.

NewsPoll shows Turnbull as preferred Prime Minister over Bill Shorten since October 2015 when he became PM. Despite this, the constant loss in the two-party preferred polling to Labor was enough for vengeful hard right Liberal Party members to believe the dumping of Turnbull was necessary for re-election.

Did not one of them realise the Rudd/Gillard fiasco is not ancient history. It is still fresh in the minds of voters as the initiator of this polling result/media echo chamber/revolving door Prime Minister mentality that has invaded Australian politics.

To further insult the intelligence of the electorate, we had the typical ‘we will be working for all Australians’ and ‘the Party is united behind the new leader’ platitudes from the winner (in complete denial of the 45-40 ballot result.)

Plus, the soft touch media articles painting Morrison as a warm and fuzzy football-loving pious family man have already started. Get ready for the inevitable sniping from the defeated hard right and their media toadies.

Any notion of voter goodwill towards politicians was wilfully smashed again in the name of leadership ambitions and polling results.

Greg Smart

By his own admission, Greg Smart was born 40 years old and is in training to be a cranky old man. He spends his time avoiding commercial television and bad coffee.