One of the oldest tricks going around for making people accept a bad outcome is the bait and switch strategy of offering a truly awful alternative first so that the slightly less awful second option is received with a certain measure of relief.
I was reminded of this last week after the Coalition leadership spill. For a brief moment in history, it seemed as though the next Australian Prime Minister could be the singularly unworthy Peter Dutton.
As I would rather see him on trial in the Hague than governing from the Lodge, this was obviously a pretty damning moment in Australia’s history, so I have to admit to a fleeting sense of relief that his attempted coup blew up in his face.
But it was only fleeting.
A few thoughts about Dutton's leadership challenge.
Firstly let me state plainly, the man is a first order creep and singularly undeserving of the title (not that his recent predecessors have set a high bar there). He is an unrepentant liar and dog-whistler who was a failure as health minister and a monster as immigration minister.
His shamefully deceptive claims that he removed children from detention several years ago are particularly hard to stomach. Especially as a 12-year-old detainee who has spent years in Nauru was flown to Australia for medical treatment in the same week. There are still over 100 children held in overseas detention at his behest. Dutton does not care for children.
Politicians of all persuasions spoke out pretty hard against racism the day after Fraser Anning’s “Final Solution” speech to the senate (although most conservative senators including Cormann, Bernardi, Canovan and Mckenzie offered the senate’s newest pariah handshakes and even embraces directly after he spoke so let’s not kid ourselves as to how outraged they were).
The backlash did answer a question I never knew I wanted answered: “What is too racist for Pauline Hanson?” Apparently, the answer is Fraser Anning appropriating holocaust language, although I wonder if Hanson’s attack is more about diminishing a competitor for the racist vote mixed with some spite at Anning’s defection from her One Notion Party.
But so they should have spoken out. Much of Anning’s speech was repulsive. But for all the eloquence, bipartisanship and passion of these public denouncements; there was a fair-sized elephant in the room yesterday whilst they occurred.