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.
Who we got instead was only incrementally better.
They say you can’t polish a turd but the media portrayal of new Prime Minister Morrison as affable man of the people with a love of rugby suggests otherwise.
Before Dutton, Scott Morrison was the architect of the government's brutal and secretive refugee policy (admittedly extending on Labor's shameful policy reversal, but taking it even further..
Like Dutton, our new Prime Minister is also guilty of outright and unrepentant lying to the public (such as when he accused Save The Children workers of coaching refugees to threaten self-harm- a claim he never substantiated and the government ended up paying over $1000000 compensation for) and also like Dutton, he has blood on his hands.
As treasurer, he has also shown himself to be financially incompetent, overseeing a period of time in which government debt tripled even whilst cutting support to pensioners, welfare recipients and domestic violence victims.
How do you even do that?
I had little fear that Peter Dutton would lead the Coalition to electoral victory next year. His cruelty and dog-whistle style of politics is so plain to see that only a minority of Australians could truly accept this diminishment of our nation. However, even allowing for their first up disastrous Newspoll, I am more worried about Morrison.
He is every bit as vicious as Dutton, but has managed to cultivate a better image. If he is successful in foisting this onto the broader public, he will be a lot more dangerous than the man whose defeat came as such a relief to many of us.