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Peter Dutton is the new leader of the Libs – but is he all that he seems?

Peter Dutton has taken the job nobody else wanted, leader of the Liberal Party. But can he rejuvenate his image?

Peter Dutton has stepped onto the political stage as the new leader of the Liberal Party, with former environment minister Sussan Ley elected as deputy.

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison thinks the pair, who were elected unopposed, will do an “outstanding” job. Okay, Scomo, what’s your measure of outstanding, though? Ghosting the nation during a national catastrophe?

Peter Dutton NSW Liberal Party Australia
Credit: Nick Haggarty.

Mr Dutton gave his party the assurance that the Libs would remain true to their values, adding, “our policies will be squarely aimed at the forgotten Australians in the suburbs across Australia.

“I want our country to support aspiration and reward hard work, take proper care of those Australian who, short-term or long-term, can’t take care of themselves.”

Now in the crosshairs, Mr Dutton has admitted folly for his boycott of Kevin Rudd and the Labor party’s apology for the Stolen Generation in 2008.

Mr Dutton explained: “Largely that was because of my own background and experience… I worked in Townsville; I remember going to many domestic violence instances particularly in Indigenous communities.

“At the time I believe the apology should be given when the problems were resolved, and the problems weren’t resolved.”

For the longest time, Mr Dutton has been known, unmistakably, as a hard-line conservative, but now seeks to recast his image, aiming to adopt the adage, “there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story”.

Mr Dutton has said he wants people to see the “entire person” he is, asserting that his image to date has been sculpted by the portfolios he has held, which include Home Affairs and Defence.

He outlined that making announcements, such as cancelling the visas of “just over 6,000 criminals” including people found guilty of sexual offences against women and children, makes it “pretty hard to break into a smile when you are making that announcement… to show a softer side or a different side to your character.

“All I would say is I’m not going to change, but I want people to see the entire person I am and reserve and make their own judgements when they meet me.”

But it isn’t just the positions he has held regarding the hard-lined portfolio’s he has spearheaded in his tenure with the Liberal Party.

It’s his comments made “off-camera”, such as in 2015, when he joked about “water lapping at the door” of Pacific Island nations because of climate change.

It’s choosing to vote no against same sex marriage and encouraging “others to do the same”.

Although, he voted yes in parliament after the extraneously costly postal vote revealed a national majority support – so at least he can be cajoled towards the moral and ethical good.

But heck, if the majority voted no, and was the leader of the nation, the moral and ethical good may’ve been left in the dust. Time will tell if a fresh PR strategy can secure a path to the top.