Victorian MLC Moira Deeming: the pretty face of…

“I can’t wait until I’m legally able to hunt you down.” This curse…

Science & Technology Australia welcomes National Reconstruction Fund

Science & Technology Australia Media Release The nation’s peak body representing 115,000 Australian…

Calculated Exoneration: Command Responsibility and War Crimes in…

Being the scapegoat of tribal lore cast out with the heavy weight…

The Voice: Remember When The Liberals Were Still…

At the moment we're witnessing the Liberal Party at their absurd best.…

Nazis on our streets: don't judge protesters by…

On some level, it is straightforward for a Neo-Nazi protest to be…

Whither Constitutional Change?

Within a very short space of time, we are going to be…

A Hazardous Decision: Supplying Ukraine with Depleted Uranium…

Should they be taking them? Ukraine is desperate for any bit of…

Murdoch's Zero Sum games: divisive propaganda meant to…

The Murdoch media drives resentment with propaganda as constant as drums of…


Dead cats and reset buttons

Let’s not give further oxygen to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s nonsensical, bigoted and racist comment the other day regarding refugees coming to this country, taking our jobs and adding to our unemployment queues. Apart from the obvious flaw in the argument (if you lower yourself enough to call it that) how can people that are taking our jobs add to our unemployment statistics at the same time? Dutton’s outburst is factually wrong on so many levels.

As Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk points out, her grandparents were refugees (that fortunately came to Australia in an era with greater enlightenment). While you may or may not agree with her and her Father’s (a former Minister in various ALP Queensland Governments) political leanings, the Palaszczuk family clearly needed and received support when they arrived and to this day have made a significant contribution to Australia, far greater than the assistance the family received on their arrival. The Palaszczuk family is not the only example, there are thousands of them, from renowned Doctors that treat ‘impossible’ cases referred to them from around the world, to Nobel Prize winning scientists. Don’t forget there are also those that go to work every day, bring up their families and live in relative anonymity who also make an excellent contribution to Australia. Should we attempt to list them all, we could be here to election day and still miss people out.

So how about we look at this differently. Why did Dutton make a statement that was almost guaranteed to get reported widely and put people offside in an election campaign? There are two real options, he didn’t think about what he was saying, or it is a distraction.

Regardless of what you think of Dutton, he continues to imprison people who have a right under United Nations treaties (which Australia agreed with by signing in 1951) to apply for refugee status in any country of the world. Regardless, the Abbott/Turnbull Coalition Government believe this unlawful action is a positive. In an election campaign do you really think that Dutton would have forgotten his ‘message’ when fronting the media. TV cameras placed in front of you is a pretty good indication that you need to keep to ‘message’ or the powers that be will come down on you like a ton of bricks. The Prime Minister and Deputy Liberal Leader/Foreign Minister supporting the comments proves it wasn’t accidental.

So it is probably a distraction. Dutton is sitting on a relatively health 6.7% – the ABC is calling it a safe LNP seat. Dutton can afford to lose a few local votes by making a statement that has been seen by many as outrageous and his statement has certainly removed a lot of less favourable (to the Coalition) issues from the election discussion. To quote former Lord Mayor of London Boris Johnson

Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as “throwing a dead cat on the table, mate”.

‘That is because there is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout “Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!”; in other words, they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.’

When you think about it, it’s a similar strategy to that used if two friends are starting to get involved in an argument that observers recognise isn’t going to end well. One of the observers will frequently try to diffuse the situation by bringing up a completely unrelated topic, such that the recent results of the favoured football team, the benefits of the 1974 Holden Monaro versus the 1975 model or similar. Change the subject and the previous heated discussion is forgotten. It’s sort of like pressing the ‘reset’ button when an electronic device has decided not to play nicely.

It has been acknowledged that the first couple of weeks of the election campaign haven’t gone the way the Coalition would have preferred. The refugees statement by Dutton brings the election discussion back to a place where the Abbott/Turnbull Coalition Government feel that they have the advantage and while Dutton personally may take a slight hit for his statement, he will probably be re-elected. In fact, ‘taking one for the team’ can only improve Dutton’s chances of higher office in the future.

Boris Johnson’s Lord Mayoral campaign and the current Coalition campaign have both been run by the same person, Lynton Crosby, so the similarities between the campaigns are probably obvious and not co-incidental. In one fell swoop, the discussions about negative gearing, education and other issues that have proved to be friendly to the ALP have been taken off the table to be replaced by the ‘dead cat’ of refugees. It seems not to matter that the statement made was disgusting and demonstrably wrong – in fact it probably helped.

The ALP also attempts the same strategy. Opposition Senate Leader Penny Wong recently made the statement that the Government deficit had tripled since Abbott came to power. ABC’s soon to be wound up Factcheck Unit has investigated and discovered the claim is exaggerated (the deficit has ‘only’ doubled!) but the point remains that by the time the facts come out, the statement has been made, those that choose not to research or investigate further have accepted or rejected the claim and the world has moved on. Dutton’s claim is exaggerated as well, it is inevitable that at some point some refugees that have come to Australia will be unemployed and claim benefits.

His other claim about taking ‘Australians’ jobs is pure and unadulterated crap – everyone in Australia is either an immigrant or descended from immigrants. The first Australians walked here over a land bridge some 40 to 60 thousand years ago, others began to arrive by boat commencing in 1788 and from the 1960’s or 1970’s immigrants also came by aircraft. There is no process that magically turns you and your forebears into ‘Australians’ after your family has been here for a predetermined length of time – for the record parts of my family have been here since at least 1850; if there was such a thing, I’d probably know about it.

Anyway, there is still over a month to go before the election date and politicians (and their party hacks) will continue to ‘throw dead cats’, exaggerate and play politics,

Those who oppose the Coalition need to stop taking the bait. The Coalition does not want the election to be focused on education, Medicare or housing affordability which are far more important issues to voters and Labor’s strengths. Instead it wants it to be focused on refugees and national security because they see them as electorate winners. Labor does not win votes talking about either. They either lose votes to the Coalition or the Greens.

It won’t be the last time that the Coalition tries this tactic during this election but progressives need to far get better at responding and shifting the focus away whenever a “dead cat” is thrown.

Politicians will play politics, the media will report what it wants (and not necessarily present all sides of a story) which leaves it up to us. Next time some politician comes out with a statement that grabs all the headlines – ask yourself why are they doing it. It is genuinely newsworthy or has someone decided to hit ‘reset’ again by throwing a dead cat?

What do you think?

Did Dutton overreach?

Is the ‘dead cat’ a reasonable strategy?


This article by 2353NM was first published on TPS Extra.

 414 total views,  2 views today


Login here Register here
  1. etnorb

    Yes, the “dead cat” strategy is undoubtedly another of Crosby’s party tricks, & boy, it seems he has done, once again what he set out to do! I just hope there is “Crosby” within the Labor party & its “advisors” who can come up with a similar ploy to play the Libs at their own game?
    Just another fine discussion piece AIMN! Thank you!

  2. Matters Not

    There are two real options, he didn’t think about what he was saying, or it is a distraction

    Re the ‘two real options’, not sure about the ones you postulate. There are many other ‘constructs’ or ‘concepts’ that might be considered.

    Try exploring concepts such ‘xenophobia’, ‘ethnocentrism’, ‘racism’, and the like.

    Let’s face it, mutton Dutton is ‘base’.

  3. bobrafto

    Malcolm’s election spending

  4. bobrafto

    I think Labor threw a dead cat on the table with the pollies double dipping, they might have gone and pinched this dead cat from Mark Textor.

  5. 2353

    @ etnorv – thanks (I suspect the ALP has moved on from the ‘dead cat’ – look at Andrews and Palaszczuk campaigns)

    @ Matters Not – Your options are more certainties aren’t they? Yes his statement was all of the concepts you suggest which is a real concern for the Immigration Minister. Perhaps even more concerning is that a news organisation (ABC I think) walked around parts of his electorate and most didn’t even connect the comments came from their local MP and they had the means to get rid of him.

    @ bobrafto – I thought the pollies double dipping came from a journalist – not an MP. Shorten and crew simply had the ability on this occasion to read the tealeaves correctly.

  6. you can't be serious

    “There are two real options, he didn’t think about what he was saying, or it is a distraction.”

    Or it is a tried and true vote and possibly election winning dog whistle!
    History shows we should not underestimate the bigotry and stupidity of many swinging voters in swinging electorates, who may well determine the election outcome. And Dutton is pumping that bigotry and stupidity, along with Mr Harbourside who is engaging in a a parallel scare campaign about Labor’s position on refugees.

    I though I heard Dutton mention “immigrants” rather than “refugees”.

    If he is so concerned about immigrants taking Australian jobs – he has done nothing about one of the major causes of the tight job market that is within his Govt’s control and power to fix. He can reduce numbers of migrants allowed – 2013-14 permanent migrants – 190k were allowed (in addition to humanitarian category), there were unlimited (skilled) 457 and similar temporary workers permitted and 127,000 approx entered Australia, that is on top of those already here taking up jobs and of course the 290,000 student visa holders who are entitled to work 20 hours per week during school term/semester and unlimited hours during vacations.

    Hard to see why voters should be concerned about Labor policy on refugees and any consequence of them “taking” jobs from locals, when Dutton is overseeing a system that is doing just that and in far greater numbers than anything refugees even at peak arrivals could ever have done.

  7. Glenn K

    I note that the govt is running the Howard era “terrorism hotline” number again, with adverts on tv. “Suspect everyone and everything, call the hotline, terrorists everywhere” ……all that sort of shit. Hmmm.

  8. Steve Laing -

    What is interesting is that despite them running the Tory candidates London mayoral campaign (using the same xenophobic message), the role was won by a Labour, Pakistan heritage Muslim. London has a similar mix of migrants to Australia. Enough Londoners clearly have had enough of dog whistle politicking, hopefully enough Australians will vote react similarly.

  9. Matters Not

    Yep and he did so with 56.9% of the popular vote.

    Sharia Law is on the way. And they voted for it.

    (Just jokin …)

    Australians are just fearful dumbos. Easily scared.

  10. Terry2

    I see Pyne and others saying that we took Peter Dutton out of context.

    Stop it right there – No we didn’t !

    Dutton was dogwhistling and he knew it and it has worked, he has succeeded in taking the spotlight off the appalling situation on Manus and Nauru and his failure as a government minister responsible for the resettlement of these people.

  11. metadatalata

    And with the latest dog-whistling from the politicised AFP, The Australian has put a story into their paper this morning about Andrew Wilke being suspected of leaking a top-security document. Now how did News Corpse get another politically sensitive leak from the AFP? It seems that some high-level execs in AFP have been leaned on to leak material aimed at smearing LNP opposition members. It is hardly a coincidence after the AFP raids on Labor’s main NBN critics last week. A pattern is forming and it involves LNP using AFP as a political tool in an election campaign. It is a pretty serious misuse of an intelligence service that already has a massive over-reach of powers under the recently introduced national security acts.
    Labour or Greens would pull a lot of voters if they offer to overhaul the role of AFP/Borderfarce and ensure these services are investigated by an independent panel.

  12. Michael Taylor

    Meta, my wife and I were just pondering the same thing. How on earth, if it’s top secret, does it get into the hands of a Murdoch journalist? There are only two possible ways: there was a leak, or the AFP has a hot line to The Australian. If it’s the former – which I suspect it is – they would be investigating the source without hesitation.

  13. jimhaz

    [Did Dutton overreach?]

    I think he just made a mistake – the mistake being that he showed his true colours.

    Expecting everyone to answer questions perfectly for every interview is crazy.

    [Is the ‘dead cat’ a reasonable strategy?]

    Yes, for the politicians only, but the public should hate it and be taught to recognise it and to devalue those who use the tactic. For those interested in democracy it is corrupt political behaviour. Parties who use it the most consistently are the conservative parties. It’s part of their playbook, I suppose because they have little hesitation in lying and are already corrupt because they pretend to govern for all when they clearly do not.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

Return to home page
%d bloggers like this: