Election Echidna column

Updated April 26 2022 - 11:25am, first published 5:00am
All at sea while asleep at the wheel
All at sea while asleep at the wheel

Instead of allowing Australia to enjoy a sleep-in during another long weekend, Peter Dutton spent Sunday sounding alarm bells and insisting the nation nervously look under its bed. Apart from the usual monsters lurking there, like secretive Labor tax hikes, the defence minister wanted to shine a light on another bogeyman - that old Red Devil itself, China.

"I make this point," said Dutton yesterday in the pointed style of politicians who always make their point by pointedly pointing out they are about to do so. "China conduct their business in a very different way than we do ... we don't pay off; we don't bribe people. The Chinese certainly do and they have demonstrated that in Africa and elsewhere".

Dutton's real point was not whether the Solomons had been given a bag stuffed with cash to sign its recent security pact with China. "People can draw their own conclusions," he said. His purpose, of course, was to provide another visceral reminder that the world's most populous nation remains on the march toward global domination.

Labor's Penny Wong and the rest of the opposition front bench have spent days labelling the Chinese deal with Solomon Islands the "worst Australian foreign policy blunder since the end of WWII''. But the government, clearly caught short by the agreement and facing the possibility of a Chinese military base less than 2000km from our mainland, is not about to allow such an embarrassment to bog it down in the campaign.

This is, after all, the campaign you have when there is absolutely nothing new to talk about. Both parties have decided it is safer to recycle old issues and resort to some traditional scaremongering.

One of the most common phrases on the campaign trail last week was "asleep at the wheel". It's how Labor described the government's handling of the Solomon Islands issue and the Libs referred to Anthony Albanese's first nervous days on the hustings.

All that talk of people sleeping at the wheel simply reminded The Echidna of an observation made years ago by the American humorist Jack Handey. "When I die I want to go peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather ... not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car."

It used to be funny. But it no longer feels that way given we are now the passengers trapped on this campaign trail to nowhere...

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Ian Moore


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