Politics Analysis

9 Coalition years equal 50 years regression, Dutton notwithstanding

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(Cartoon by Mark David | @MDavidCartoons)


Have you heard the one about how the Liberal leopard changed his spots?


He moved from the Government spot to a spot in the shadows to pounce on progress at a future date.

THE MORE the Liberal and National parties talk of change, the more things stay the same.

Apart from the front men (for they are usually men) who are quite regularly replaced or recycled, this is true no matter which Coalition yardstick you care to examine: health, gender equality, education, climate change, Indigenous affairs, the economy, cost of living pressures or corruption.

While the regression in these areas certainly fluctuates in terms of severity, the fact that they remain largely unaddressed by the previous Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government is testament to the degree to which the Coalition entrenches inequity across most social parameters.

And, though the leaders and MPs are regularly replaced – most recently in significant numbers – the basic premise endures: to succeed in the Liberal and National parties you need to be committed to maintaining the "rightful" order of things. This rightful order may not be clearly articulated as systemic inequality which favours the privileged, but it is certainly evident in every policy commitment, every policy area lacking attention and in the dogged unbending allegiance to this principle within every, single, leader — at least the ones that stick around.

And now there’s Peter Dutton.

Independent Australia readers are familiar with the “true” Peter Dutton through his past actions, which have been well documented here, whatever the establishment media are currently spruiking. This week, it’s the “soft” and “cuddly” Dutton who smiles (sort of) and helps little old ladies across the street, before sending them back to hell-hole aged care facilities to be fed cold baked beans and stale bread for dinner.

Since our readers already know Dutton in all his terrifying glory, we do not intend to look back on his litany of transgressions today.

Let’s look, instead, at the way in which his latest actions perform this service better than any past dirt file and prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that when Dutton speaks of “change” he is referring only to the packaging and how the Liberal Party can pretend to embrace “change” while remaining unerringly exactly the same.

This week, Dutton returned to his rightful place as dark lord of the shadows with his appointment as Opposition Leader and announced his Shadow Ministry to much fanfare from the establishment media, most of whom also recently “crossed the floor” to cheerlead for the electorally annihilated Opposition team.

By way of introduction, Dutton said sagely:

"I'm cognisant of trying to bring people through for an opportunity."

This is Liberal-speak for making sure all one’s mates are properly rewarded for their loyalty while any enemies/rivals are sent to backbench obscurity. In this case, Scott Morrison and buddies Stuart "Robodebt" Robert and Alex "Ruby Princess" Hawke are now benched, at least until the next leader emerges to resurrect them. While this likely has nothing to do with integrity and everything to do with Dutton’s personal security, their demotions are still the only positive thing that may be seen in the “new look” shadow ministry.

Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley, who opined that "while women speak for women, they also speak about other issues" and shared her disappointment moments after being elected deputy that it was women who hadn’t “heard” the Liberal Party, not the other way around, is now the Shadow Minister for Women. How very… new! Clearly, the selection criteria were rigorous since she is a woman. What better way to ensure nothing changes for women? Ever.

Ley was also given the shadow industry portfolio, where the selection process was obviously not as rigorous.

Then there’s Angus Taylor as Shadow Treasurer. Sure, Taylor has more corruption question marks over his name than most of the other contenders, but how else will the “new look”, “old Liberal values” Opposition ensure all the money stays in the “Right” hands? Fantastic! Well done, Angus!

Alan Tudge, who Dutton described as “an incredibly experienced minister” who “worked in the parliament in an exemplary way” was gifted with the shadow education portfolio.

Tudge is better known as the minister who temporarily stood aside following allegations of sexual harassment of a staffer, over which a $500,000 payout was made to the alleged victim, but for which an explanation was never forthcoming. Indeed, the investigation was so "private", that even the then PM said he wasn’t privy to the outcome. So, something new and unexpected right there! No doubt Tudge will be able to educate us all on how to dodge accountability. 

Former Foreign Minister Marise Payne apparently indicated she did not wish to be a member of the shadow cabinet, but Dutton 'convinced her to hold the role of Shadow Cabinet Secretary’. After all, no one practised lurking in the shadows better than Payne as former Minister for Women.

Michaelia Cash – the former Minister for Employment who spent most of her time and considerable taxpayer dollars demanding inquiries and royal commissions into union corruption which yielded nada – was the obvious choice for employment and industrial relations in the “new look” shadow ministry. (Ahem.)

Meanwhile, over at the not-so-poor country cousins' party room, newly elected Nationals leader David Littleproud was also bleating on about “renewal" and "generational change”. In his past incarnation as Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, Littleproud watched as the nation burned down before his eyes during the bushfire crisis and pronounced that he didn’t “know if climate change is manmade” — and that the question was “irrelevant”.

Among Littleproud’s proud new appointments, climate denier and previous Nats leader Barnaby Joyce – who is likely singlehandedly responsible for the destruction of the Murray Darling Basin – remains on the front bench. However, rather than natural waterways, he is now inflicted on war veterans.

Australia’s regression under nine years of Coalition rule will be reinstated with full and unchanged force if Dutton is able to lead his party to victory at the next election. Like the “true” Peter Dutton, a regressive, inequitable and heartless Coalition-led nation is simply the conservative Coalition's natural order of things.

Have you heard the one about how the Liberal leopard changed his spots? He moved from the Government spot to a spot in the shadows to pounce on progress at a future date.

This is an abridged version of an editorial originally published in the IA weekly newsletter. Subscribe now to read the full version online in the IA members-only area.

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.

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