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Dutton goes the full Trump, with fake news and false facts

by Michael Pascoe | May 20, 2024 | Comment & Analysis, Latest Posts

Opposition leader Peter Dutton’s budget reply speech was an exercise in pure Trumpism. Unconcerned with truth, focused on stirring outrage and headlines. Michael Pascoe watched in horror.

In 2022, the Liberal Party was knocked over by people voting for Teal women. In 2024, the LNP budget reply was knocked over by rugby league women. Never mind Newspoll and Resolve, the television ratings on Thursday scored 665,000 for the first game of the NRL women’s State of Origin series, defeating Peter Dutton’s speech with 477,000

Dutton burnishes his tough guy image by boasting he plays tackle, not touch. So do women.

Not that there’s any comfort for Jim Chalmers in the TV numbers. His Tuesday night half-hour upon the stage drew 619,000 without Origin competition.

And considerably more people were interested in what Dutton had to say last week than last year when only 386,000 tuned in. In context, that 477,000 score is respectable, not too far adrift of the 519,000 who watched Anthony Albanese’s budget reply speech in 2022 in the shadows of the election when what the Opposition Leader had to say had immediate potential relevance.

The concern with Dutton gaining traction is that it will confirm and strengthen his chosen strategy: going the full Trump –

not merely populist but wilfully just making shit up, debasing Australian politics.

It is possible the Opposition Leader’s sundry advisers are all inept and innumerate as well as intemperate. That would help explain the various falsehoods trotted out. More likely is that the Dutton machine is on display for what it intentionally is – unconcerned with truth, only with stirring outrage and headlines.

Former press gallery veteran Geoff Kitney fingered the Trump tactics:

Facts and tactics

Unlike most of the gallery, Laura Tingle didn’t hesitate in calling out Dutton on facts and tactics. For example, on the facts: “Dutton told Radio 2GB on Friday that “at the moment … the government’s predicting 528,000 this year” for net overseas migration.

“Actually, no. That’s the figure for 2022-23 in the budget papers, which say that in the financial year just ending, net overseas migration has already fallen back to 395,000. “It is predicted to fall to 260,000 in 2024-25 (a number Dutton described as “pretty dodgy”) and then to about 235,000. (Both numbers notably also less than those forecast in 2019).”

And on the tactics:

“The significance of a major political leader playing so divisive a card on our community is a step that shouldn’t go unnoticed, no matter how inured to it we have become over the years in the wake of Pauline Hanson and ‘boat people’ politics. “It is deadly simple, but very dangerous, politics.”

The Guardian’s Karen Middleton sourced the politics:

“It was all straight from focus groups and from the Howard government’s old Crosby-Textor playbook. Find out what the people are complaining about and repeat it back to them, with sympathy and volume.”

The triumph of the Trump/Steve Bannon “flooding the zone with shit” playbook is not needing to let facts get in the way of a good scare campaign.

Trump regularly employs the “people say” or “I hear” lines to say whatever he wants, however outrageous. Dutton is a fan of “people tell me” to the same effect.

Dutton being loose with the numbers

Dutton’s budget reply numbers were as loose as IPA anti-renewables “research”. His claim of being able to immediately free up 40,000 homes with his initial immigration cuts (without explaining which permanent migrants he would exclude) was quickly shot down by those who actually understand both migration and housing, but that does not matter.

Credibility isn’t the point. Dutton is not seeking the votes of people who fact check or read checked facts or even think much – just those whose prejudices he can appeal to, those who think that for every large, complex problem, there is a simple solution, not minding that it is wrong.

Modular Reactors. Peter Dutton hasn’t done his nuclear homework

There were major misses in Jim Chalmers’ budget, a timid effort designed not to offend anyone while pushing the consumer price index a little lower.

I wrote a piece for The Saturday Paper demonstrating that, despite its many announcements,

Labor is only looking to maintain our failed housing status quo.

Deadlines being what they have to be for a physical paper, I filed before the budget reply, missing the opportunity to point to its much greater failure, that the coalition’s housing policy – such as it vaguely is – would have us sliding further, worsening affordability, preferencing property owners.

Our housing failure has been four decades of neoliberal ideology in the making. The migration surge over the past year has made it worse, but is not the root cause.

That’s not what the focus groups are saying, though. That doesn’t reinforce prejudices. It’s not Trumpy – or Duttony.

Jim Chalmers’ Budget face saver for the RBA on inflation – voters too

Michael is a journalist, commentator, speaker and contributing editor for The New Daily.

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