Culture

Fairfax And The ABC Want To “Bring The Government Down,” Says Minister/Huge Baby Peter Dutton

Call the waaaahmbulance.

First thing to point out: that feature image of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton as a baby? I didn’t even make that today. I made it more than a year ago, for an entirely different article, and it brings me so much joy that I somehow get to use it again. Peter Dutton’s weird old-baby face is never not at the front of my mind.

Anyway! Details about party-room divisions on things like marriage equality somehow keep finding their way into the hands of journalists. Even Tony Abbott’s directive to Cabinet to stop leaking things was leaked by someone, which is hilarious in a meta kind of way, and it’s making Abbott and his allies in Cabinet pretty nervous.

Frontbenchers like Eric Abetz and Julie Bishop have devoted a lot of time recently to publicly urge whoever’s doing it to stop; Abetz called anonymous leakers “gutless” a couple of weeks ago, and Abbott himself read ministers “the riot act” warning of consequences if they’re found out.

But the leaks have kept coming; on Monday, two Cabinet ministers told Fairfax that Abbott is being urged to sack Treasurer Joe Hockey before the next election. The new leaks forced Abbott to publicly declare that Hockey has his “full confidence” and prompted former Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos to accuse former government colleagues of engaging in “political sabotage”.

The whole thing weirdly smacks of the exhausting back half of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments, whose constant infighting shenanigans largely got Abbott elected in the first place.

Australia’s government for the last five, six years.

To try and right the ship, Peter Dutton took to the airwaves on the ABC’s AM program this morning, dismissing the leaks and talking up the government’s achievements. Or he was meant to, probably, but he got a little flustered and accused half the nation’s media of running a conspiracy campaign to bring the government down instead:

AM reporter TOM IGGULDEN: “What does the Government need to do to get back on course and get its message being heard out there in the community?”

PETER DUTTON: “I think it would be helpful if some of the commentators in the area, in this space of politics, started reporting on the incidents, as opposed to being players themselves. I think there’s a huge move by Fairfax at the moment to try and bring the Government down, that’s fair enough. But they aren’t, they aren’t….”

TI: “Regime change, is that what you’re saying?”

PD: “They aren’t supposed to be political players, they’re supposed to be objective reporters of the news and I think many of them have morphed into frustrated politicians themselves.”

When Iggulden pointed out that Dutton was sounding a lot like Julia Gillard circa 2011, Dutton responded by sounding like Julia Gillard circa 2011, with a dash of “the ABC is Communism” thrown in for good measure:  

TOM IGGULDEN: “That was a criticism the Gillard government made often of News Limited. I don’t think it did them any favours. Is this really a wise path to go down?”

PETER DUTTON: “You ask me what I think of the current political environment, I think that’s part of the problem. I think regardless of what Tony Abbott does, Fairfax will say it’s bad. I think regardless of what Joe Hockey or the Abbott Government does, Fairfax will say it’s bad.”

TI: “They’re being helped, aren’t they, by people who are prepared to leak to them and talk to them on background?”

PD: “They’re being helped by the ABC as well, there’s no question about that, some elements of the ABC.”

The fact that the government is doing a pretty good job of bringing itself down didn’t seem to occur to him. Nor did the words of one Tony Abbott in 2013, who gave the then-Labor government some sage advice when he said: “if you want better coverage, be a better government.”

In fairness to Dutton, there is a skerrick of a good point buried in there. Australia’s media loves to make itself feel important by shoehorning itself into the political process, as any panel of journalists being interviewed by another journalist about some other journalist’s article will tell you. When a journalist publishes something a politician’s leaked to them without revealing who they are, they very consciously play into that politician’s hands.

But the journalist’s willingness to do it anyway doesn’t stem from some fiendish desire on their part to help a politician bring a government down. Journalists are addicted to publishing juicy stories; that’s their job, after all. Articles about government leaks don’t happen unless there’s someone doing the leaking, and the very fact that someone inside a government is actively working to destabilise it is an interesting story in itself.

It’s also a bit rich for anyone in the current government to whinge about media outlets being biased, considering they were elected in the first place off the back off stuff like this:

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In case he was in peril of saying something that could charitably be stretched to make sort-of sense if you squint really hard, Dutton then went on Sky News and accused Fairfax of running “a bit of a jihad” against the government, and we were back in the comforting, familiar confines of crazy-town Australian politics has nestled in for the last ninety years or so.

As an aside, how do you have just “a bit” of a jihad? Were each of the Crusades after the third one just “a bit” of a Crusade?  That aside, the whole thing has become yet another opportunity to reflect on how spectacularly dumb Peter Dutton is, which people on Twitter have seized with gusto.

Considering we did all this with tweaks to the names and locations five years ago, the moral of the story is that nothing ever changes and this hideous pointless dance will continue until we die.