Mark McGowan has blasted Liberal Party leadership frontrunner Peter Dutton as an ‘extremist’ who isn’t fit to be prime minister.
Fresh from delivering Anthony Albanese a majority government with a massive swing to Labor in Western Australia, the premier unleashed pent-up anger.
Mr McGowan used a Covid briefing on Monday morning to attack the outgoing defence minister’s intellect and brand his party ‘a fringe group’.
‘He’s an extremist, and I don’t think he fits with modern Australia at all,’ he said of Mr Dutton, who is one of the more conservative Liberal MPs.
‘He doesn’t seem to listen, he’s extremely conservative and I actually don’t think he’s that smart. I’ve seen him present on things [and] I don’t really pick up there’s much there.
‘As opposed to Scott Morrison, who is a clever guy, I don’t pick up that Peter Dutton is fit to be prime minister.’
Mr McGowan also attacked Mr Dutton’s record as defence minister, which involved frequently critical comments about China.
The premier is a frequent defender of the authoritarian communist superpower and his state draws a massive proportion of its revenue from selling iron ore to China.
‘Peter Dutton was out there talking about war and war footing and conflict… that’s absolutely crazy,’ he said.
Peter Dutton is heavily favoured to replace Scott Morrison as Liberal leader, but could face stiff opposition from the party’s moderate wings
‘We’re a country of 25 million people, China has 1.4 billion people, with nuclear weapons. Why would a mainstream political party be talking about that?
‘Let’s just have a sensible, strong relationship with China and continue our strong alliance with the US and Britain.’
Mr Dutton is heavily favoured to replace Scott Morrison as Liberal leader as shell-shocked heavyweights jockey for position after former deputy Josh Frydenberg was outed from his seat at the election.
With the former treasurer, and expected Morrison successor, now unemployed alongside other touted future leaders, Mr Dutton is widely expected to win.
Many in the party are concerned he represents a brand of conservatism that was rejected at the polls in a huge swing to the Greens and ‘teal’ independents.
But others believe the best hope is to fully embrace conservatism in line with Mr Dutton’s vision, to create starker points of difference with Labor.
The Chinese spy ship Intelligence Collection Vessel, Haiwangxing, (pictured) which was caught operating off the coast of Western Australia at 6am on Friday
Defence chiefs released a map tracking the Chinese spy ship’s movements
Under Mr Dutton’s leadership, the Liberal Party would likely move further to right right to distance itself from Labor and energise its conservative base.
Conservatives such as Senator Alex Antic and former chief of staff to Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin, want this outcome as it would present a ‘strong alternative’ and appeal to the outer suburbs and regions.
Credlin described Scott Morrison’s government as a ‘Labor-lite government that gave in on ”net zero”, compromised budget responsibility and freedom during the pandemic, and refused to fight any culture wars.’
She claimed Mr Morrison shifted to the left, alienating conservative voters who turned to One Nation and the United Australia Party and did not preference the Coalition.
Instead of trying to win back inner-city seats from the Greens and independents, she argues they should be abandoned and the focus shifted to winning suburban and regional Labor electorates.
But leading moderates including Mr Birmingham and Mr Frydenberg believe the next election will be won from the centre and the party must embrace climate change action to win back city seats stolen by teal independents.
The fight for the soul of the Liberal Party is underway and it’s going to get VERY ugly, writes CHARLIE MOORE. How moderate and conservative forces are now in a DO-OR-DIE battle after wipeout of blue-ribbon seats
The fight for the Liberal Party of the future is underway – and it is going to get very ugly.
Just hours after a bruising election defeat and the shock loss of a swag of inner-city seats to so-called teal independents, there is already fierce internal debate about what went wrong and how to win back power.
Conservatives such as Senator Alex Antic and former chief of staff to Tony Abbott Peta Credlin want to the party to move to the right to present a ‘strong alternative’ and appeal to the outer suburbs and regions.
But leading moderates including Simon Birmingham and outgoing Treasurer Josh Frydenberg believe the next election will be won from the centre and the party must embrace climate change action to win back city seats stolen by teal independents.
Former chief of staff to Tony Abbott Peta Credlin wants the Liberal party to move right to present a ‘strong alternative’ and appeal to the outer suburbs and regions
The next leader is most likely to be right-wing conservative Peter Dutton, whom moderates fear will push the party even further to the right – making it harder to win back the seats lost to the teal independents.
But Credlin summarised the argument in favour of a more conservative approach in her News Corp column on Saturday night.
After Anthony Albanese won power with a projected 77-seat majority and the Liberals only on 54 seats, she claimed the Coalition lost because it was not right-wing enough.
She described Scott Morrison’s government as a ‘Labor-lite government that gave in on ”net zero”, compromised budget responsibility and freedom during the pandemic, and refused to fight any culture wars.’
Credlin claimed Mr Morrison had shifted to the left, alienating conservative voters who turned to One Nation and the United Australia Party and did not preference the Coalition.
‘Instead of sticking with the Quiet Australians who’d supported him to his miracle win last time, Morrison’s shift to the left didn’t placate the Teals, but it sure alienated one-time Coalition supporters who moved in droves to splinter parties on the right whose preferences haven’t returned in anything like the numbers needed to hold government,’ she wrote.
Credlin argued the Coalition should forget the six seats in Melbourne and Sydney won by the climate-conscious teals and instead try to win suburban and regional Labor seats in 2025.
‘It should be pretty simple for the Coalition to see its future representing a new generation of Menzies’ ‘Forgotten People’ living outside the leafy inner-city suburbs that used to be the Liberals’ heartland, in places where people worry about earning a living, about what their kids are taught at school and hope they still live in country where hard work means getting ahead,’ she wrote.
Leading moderates including Simon Birmingham and outgoing Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (pictured together) believe the next election will be won from the centre
However, leading moderate Senator Birmingham disagreed and said the lesson is that the Coalition must do better on climate change and women’s rights.
He called for an increase to the Coalition’s 2030 emissions targets.
‘It is already clear that we disproportionately lost the votes of many women and professionals. Issues of equality, inclusion and respect played a role, along with policy on climate change,’ he wrote in a long Facebook post.
Senator Birmingham said it took too long for the Coalition to agree on net zero emissions by 2050 in the face of resistance from the National Party, the junior Coalition party.
‘It shouldn’t have taken such effort to bring the Coalition on that necessary journey. Sadly, the process of getting there cemented doubts in the minds of too many voters about the genuineness of the commitment,’ he wrote.
‘In too many seats, especially where we faced independent challenges, too many voters thought that we didn’t share their values or concerns.
‘All of this presents an opportunity for a swift Liberal comeback, if we react the right way.
‘If we listen to the messages from the electorate, embrace change where we need and ensure the selection of many, many more skilled women then we should approach the next election with optimism.’
Mr Frydenberg, who lost his seat to teal independent Monique Ryan, also said climate change was crucial, describing it as ‘a salient and most important issue, not just here in Kooyong but obviously for the country’.
He said: ‘Australia has not been well served by the culture wars on climate change.
‘Whether you believe in it or don’t believe in it, climate change is not a religion.
‘It needs to be dealt with from a perspective of engineering, economics and also environmental science.’
Former foreign minister and Liberal moderate Julie Bishop said the party must better reflect women.
‘Women did not see their concerns and interests reflected in a party led by Scott Morrison in coalition with Barnaby Joyce,’ she said on Channel 9.
‘We have not mentioned at this point the impact of Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins, they changed the narrative when they exposed an ugly side to the workplace in Canberra. That resonated with women.’