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Rumours run rampant of Dutton leadership spill

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(Image by Dan Jensen)

After continuing his characteristic bullying, racism and negativity, there is talk on social media that Peter Dutton is facing an impending Liberal Party leadership spill. Belinda Jones reports.

RUMOURS SWIRLED on social media this week of an impending “Libspill”. By no means is this an accurate indication of an imminent leadership challenge in the Federal Liberal Party rooms, just the results of a social media “pub test”.

You could define a “pub test” as a barometer of public feeling on any particular person or issue. Ironically, the best results are often recorded in pubs, though now more commonly on social media.

“Libspill” tends to swirl about on social media quite often and most times it comes to naught. But, at other times, there has been an element of truth to the rumours.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has had a challenging year in the polls, beginning this year in Newspoll’s Better PM stakes on 26 points, chasing Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s 56. Dutton has increased by ten points since then, while Albanese has dropped ten points. Even now, on 36 points, that’s nothing for Dutton to write home about, certainly not an election-winning margin.

And, with a federal election likely about 17 months away, the Coalition had better get its skates on. It doesn’t have much time to dilly-dally around with a leader who’s not cutting through. Especially after losing another seat to the crossbench this month, with veteran Liberal Russell Broadbent quitting the Liberals, taking the current number of Independents on the crossbench to 12.

(Image via the Parliamentary Education Office)

Dutton has become synonymous with the word “No” and negativity by opposing virtually every issue or bill the Albanese Government supports, often asking in Question Time why the Government is not doing anything on those issues after doing everything he can to block action. Dutton has guided the Coalition to earn the nickname “the Noalition”.

Dutton's base political tactics have been at play since he became leader and he has no compunction about using any and every issue, no matter how trivial or how complex. They are just a political plaything for Dutton in his pursuit of political power. 

Dutton may have scored a few tries since becoming Liberal leader but coming into the final quarter, he’s at no risk of winning the game. That fact may be the impetus for those “Libspill” rumours, plus his lacklustre performance in the media and on the floor of Parliament lately.

While doing media on 21 November 2023 to criticise the Prime Minister’s overseas travel, Dutton repeated patently untrue talking points without having the political nous to correct himself throughout the course of the day.

On morning television, while interviewed on Sunrise, Dutton said, “Scott Morrison didn’t go away during the time when he was needed”, prompting many viewers to scoff, remembering Morrison’s infamous Hawaii trip in the middle of the bushfires. Later, on Sky News Afternoon Agenda with Kieran Gilbert, Dutton repeated, “Scott Morrison didn’t go away during the time when he was needed”

This suggests that Dutton doesn’t have the capacity or leadership for independent thought and routinely parrots talking points verbatim no matter how incorrect or stupid they sound.

In the last sitting fortnight of Parliament, Dutton told the House of Representatives that he would act illegally if he were Prime Minister and defy the ruling of the High Court. From a man who leads the party that tells us they respect the Rule of Law — clearly, they don’t.

Dutton used every opportunity to infer he’d take tough action and attempted to whip up a racist frenzy about the detainees being “rapists and murderers” as he has done so often before.

Recently, Dutton jumped on the anti-offshore wind farm bandwagon, even though it was Coalition policy that instigated the wind farms.

In the race for former Senator Marise Payne’s vacant Senate spot, Dutton has backed not one, but two contenders. In a large, diverse field, Dutton chose to go with two male former Liberals who have both recently lost elections.

Again Dutton jetted off, this time to Western Australia where he was spotted at a posh “bush doof” with mining magnate Gina Rinehart.

These recent episodes of negativity, hypocrisy, intent to defy the High Court and Rule of Law, stoking racism and jetting around the country to fraternise with billionaires hardly endear Dutton to hardworking, honest Australians.

Dutton is not cutting through because Australians can see through bullshit from a mile away. He rarely strays from his pattern of behaviour over his 22 years in Parliament. Despite Dutton’s recent cringeworthy, soft-lens promo video and attempts to “soften” his image, he just can’t live up to his communications team’s image of him. He remains who he always was.

Dutton is to the Liberal Party what interest rates are to the RBA — a blunt instrument. He’s more likely to attempt to “bash through” rather than “cut through” and probably meets more resistance simply because of the way he goes about things.

If that’s what the Liberal Party chooses to go with into the 2025 federal election campaign, then that’s their choice. The competition from Independents will likely be more nuanced and finely tuned to the community.

There’s a Newspoll due this weekend, which history suggests is usually the trigger for a Liberal leadership challenge. Parliament sits next week and party room meetings are usually held on Tuesday morning, so if there’s to be a “Libspill”, I guess we’ll know by then.

You can follow Belinda Jones on Twitter @belindajones68.

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