Peter Dutton: Staunch conservative named Australia’s opposition leader

Peter Dutton: Staunch conservative named Australia's opposition leader- BPN TODAY

Australia’s main opposition party has named prominent conservative Peter Dutton to succeed Scott Morrison as leader, after a bruising election loss.

Mr Dutton – the former defence minister – was elected unopposed by Liberal MPs.

The Liberal-National coalition had governed for almost a decade when it lost to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Labor on 21 May.

Some MPs have blamed the defeat on the coalition’s polarising leaders and its stance on climate change.

It lost almost 20 seats, including in areas usually considered to be Liberal Party strongholds.

Mr Dutton – from the party’s right – has been a controversial figure at times and some question whether he could rebuild Liberal support in more progressive, metropolitan areas.

He is best known for overseeing Australia’s controversial policies on asylum seekers, and his role in the downfall of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

But Mr Dutton has said many Australians have only seen the tough side of him.

“I hope now, in moving from such tough portfolios, the Australian public can see the rest of my character,” he wrote last week, in a pitch for the party leadership.

Tough stances

The former policeman entered parliament in 2001 and has held an array of ministerial portfolios.

In 2018, Mr Dutton challenged Mr Turnbull for the party leadership but didn’t have enough support to replace him. Mr Morrison instead became party leader and prime minister.

In 2015 Mr Dutton was widely criticised for making light of rising sea levels affecting Pacific Island nations, after he was caught on camera joking about “water lapping at your door”.

He boycotted Australia’s 2008 national apology to the Stolen Generations – a name given to tens of thousands of Aboriginal children who were forcibly taken from their families under infamous government policies until 1970. However, he later said he had overlooked the apology’s significance.

But many colleagues have defended Mr Dutton as the right leader to unite the party’s moderate and conservative wings.

One senior colleague, Stuart Robert, described him as “a warm-hearted, very decent, competent individual”.

Former Environment Minister Sussan Ley became deputy leader of the Liberal Party.

The Nationals – the junior coalition partner – also replaced their leader, Barnaby Joyce. He will be succeeded by Queensland MP David Littleproud

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