A few years back, 2016 to be exact, I wrote a piece for The AIMN suggesting that being in Opposition was a thankless, powerless task with few positives. However, enormous expectations from those who follow you and your party are always present. Bill Shorten discovered that the release of party policy is considered shaky before the election campaign begins.
I wrote that the media focuses on the incumbent, and often, a 10-second grab on the nightly news is about all one can expect. You will be dammed if you produce a good policy that is unpopular with the party but good for the country.
I was wrong because being in Opposition provides, particularly the LNP, many opportunities to regain government through lying and negativity. It works; take the referendum for establishing an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament, for example. From its inception, the right of politics denounced the idea comprehensively with no word of endorsement.
In 2016, I befriended Stuart Whitman on Facebook, and we had coffee together at the famous Federation Square in Melbourne.
We immediately recognised a common thread of humanity that we both shared. At the time, Stuart worked in his own business before taking up an opportunity to work with Mark Dreyfus and his team. From there, he moved on to the Institute for Religion, Politics and Society at the Catholic University.
In our conservation, l asked him about political motives and why people sought a political career; what made them tick? What made them do and say the ridiculous things they often do?
He suggested the primary motive was formed from two choices or a combination of both.
“I’ve spent enough years observing now to work out there are generally two motives for people who go into politics – those who enter politics for “who” they want to be, and those for “what” they want to do.”
I haven’t heard from Stuart for a few years, but our conversations are firmly embedded in my mind.
Stuart’s quote could easily be applied to politicians like Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott.
Was it for “who” they wanted to be or “what” they wanted to do that they entered politics? Their actions and words over many years suggest they were in it to do nothing but create a pathway to the top job.
Contrary to what l said about the Opposition back then, Tony Abbott made my thesis seem unremarkable. He proved that becoming the Australian prime minister was possible simply by opposing everything and being totally negative, telling lies with an absence of policy, and adapting to the requirements of a Trumpish personality.
Is it as simple as that? So far, Peter Dutton has followed Abbott’s example by being even more damaging. The media called Abbott the best Opposition leader ever and still needs to explain their criteria for doing so. If it was because being negative made him successful, then the Enlightenment never happened.
What motivates the right-wing media to do and say the things they do? A lust for power?
Is it purely to stir up hatred of those with a darker skin tone for political reasons? What pleasure do they get from their dalliances with sewer politics? Do they think that the public falls for their lack of compassion because they were both tough on asylum seekers and others? I now think they do.
Remember when Victorian Police described Dutton’s “African gangs” crime wave claims as “absolute garbage” and backed it up with facts? Dutton said that – because of these apparent gangs – people were so afraid they wouldn’t step outside their doors.
Kathleen Kildare tweeted at the time:
“Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs, is a disgrace and should be stood down for manufacturing community discontent with the complicity of the Daily Mail.
Furthermore, his Trumpesque attacks on Victoria’s Judicial system smacks of authoritarian overreach, grr!”
Dutton is the politician Stuart Whitman describes as the “who” they want to be and not the “what” they want to do politician.
Dutton stepped up the rhetoric against the judiciary the following day, blaming “soft sentences” on appointing civil libertarians as magistrates and labelling one Supreme Court judge a “left-wing ideologue”.
The judge in question, Lex Lazarus, is one of Victoria’s most respected jurists, and Dutton would know that by convention, he cannot reply.
And the “who” they want to be as politicians during times of poor leadership is a most dangerous animal because the likes of Turnbull at the time had no power to stand up to them.
So, Dutton has kept up his sarcasm (except for when he sleeps) and other offensive expressions calculated to raise racial hatred and break down society.
Dutton ignored ASIO's warning:
“there are direct connections between inflamed language and inflamed community tensions”
And as Murphy summed him up so well:
"Peter Dutton is Australia’s figurehead of fear and fake news, like Trump but without charisma"https://t.co/QidZedO1nO
— Simon Rosenberg (@simon_rosenberg) January 15, 2024
We can only conclude that Dutton is not in it to help create a better society and future for all. He has failed at his two Ministries, has a reputation for laziness, and compassion has eluded him thus far in his career. I can only conclude that the Liberal Party believes they need a man of ill repute in charge, a mongrel, in other words, so Dutton was an easy choice.
I do not doubt that what Stuart Whitman says is correct, and when you look at the current Shadow Ministry, it’s difficult to imagine any of them being in the “what” they want to do category.
My thoughts for the day
Sometimes, it is good to stop, think, evaluate and formulate one’s own opinion instead of being influenced by the media and other vested interests.
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