Peter Dutton has made fear based statements in the wake of the medevac bill passing. Picture: Gary Ramage
Peter Dutton has made fear based statements in the wake of the medevac bill passing. Picture: Gary Ramage

‘The charisma of a dropped cauliflower’

SO HERE we are, if not officially, then essentially in election season.

You can tell. You can smell the fear campaigns in the air.

Fear is now the fuel that drives any election campaign.

Barack Obama may have pulled the "hope" trick a decade ago, but no one believes in that nonsense anymore.

The early indications are this federal election will be among the dirtiest, sneakiest and most dishonest in history. And given recent history, that is no mean feat.

It's been brewing for a while, but Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton kicked it off in earnest last week when he declared the arrival of "hundreds and hundreds'' of asylum seekers from Manus and Nauru after the passage of the medevac bill would see good old Aussies miss out on health care and public housing.

It's hard to know where to start with such a level of stupidity.

Although, stupid is probably the wrong word. Vicious and unpleasant is closer to the truth.

Not that facts matter anymore, but there are almost 100,000 public and private hospital beds in Australia.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton has stoked fear by claiming the medevac bill will lead to Australians kicked out of our healthcare system and public housing. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas
Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton has stoked fear by claiming the medevac bill will lead to Australians kicked out of our healthcare system and public housing. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas

It is estimated about 70 asylum seekers may need treatment.

It doesn't say a lot for how well state and federal governments have been running the health system if fewer than 100 refugees can suddenly plunge the system into chaos.

Resorting to such obvious low-grade nonsense so early in the campaign makes you wonder how much lower Dutton will go in his attempts to whip up hysteria and fear in the run-up to the election.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison rolled out a more predictable line that electing a Labor government would wreck the economy.

Of course, Morrison is perfectly entitled to run the argument that the Liberals are better at running the economy than Labor, but this tendency to overreach to make a (cheap) political point is what is undermining whatever faith is left in the political system.

Yesterday, Energy Minister Angus Taylor was using words such as "apocalyptic'' to describe Labor's plans to cut emissions.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor claims Labor’s emissions cuts will be disastrous, but has not offered proof. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch
Energy Minister Angus Taylor claims Labor’s emissions cuts will be disastrous, but has not offered proof. Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch

He offered no proof but it was redolent of Barnaby Joyce's claim in 2012 that a carbon tax would result in $100 legs of lamb.

Of course, Labor is part of the problem as well.

Leader Bill Shorten may have the charisma of a dropped cauliflower and the aura of an ageing hit man struggling to get through one more job before retirement, but he too loves to inject a good dose of fear into any campaign.

Shorten's "mediscare'' campaign at the 2016 election was a masterclass in baseless fear.

Presumably, he will have another crack this time around as it worked so well.

It all feels like we are spinning at ever-increasing speed down the plughole.

The increased polarisation of politics and ideology is pushing people further apart forcing people to choose sides and then to support increasingly ludicrous statements.

Labor leader Bill Shorten is not above using fear as a campaigning tactic. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas
Labor leader Bill Shorten is not above using fear as a campaigning tactic. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas

It's become like the one-eyed footy supporter who is convinced a free kick should never be awarded against their team.

Last week, we had the bizarre spectacle of people choosing to back a convicted paedophile in George Pell rather than admit that someone who shared their world view may be a child abuser.

The argument appeared to be: "He can't be a paedophile, he doesn't believe in climate change."

And to do so required some remarkable intellectual gymnastics.

Plus a willingness to tear down one of the basic tenets of Australian society.

Pell was found guilty by a jury of his peers. A process codified in the Magna Carta in 1215.

Pell is appealing the verdict but he no longer falls into the category of "innocent until proven guilty''. Pell is the guilty party.

The result of Morrison versus Shorten will probably be known sometime in May.

It's not going to be edifying to watch. There will claims and counterclaims, lies and bigger lies.

It's going to be a long few months.

Michael McGuire is a journalist for The Adelaide Advertiser.

@mcguiremi