Australian National Party member of parliament (MP) and the former agricultural minister David Littleproud has defended the new Liberal leader front runner Peter Dutton following Western Australian Labor premier Mark McGowan’s less than flattering comments about the former defence minister on Monday.
Littleproud called Dutton pragmatic and said he feels Dutton will provide the balance needed in Australia.
In the wake of Liberal’s election defeat on Saturday and former prime minister Scott Morrison’s subsequent resignation as leader of the party, McGowan criticised Dutton—the prime candidate to take over the Liberal Party leadership—0n his handling of Australia’s relationship with China when defence minister.
“Peter Dutton was the principal one out there talking about war and war footing and conflict and so forth. That’s absolutely crazy,” McGowan said.
“We’re a country of 25 million people. China is a country of 1.4 billion people with nuclear weapons. Why would a mainstream political party be talking about that?
“So all I’d say is let’s just have a sensible, strong relationship with China and continue our strong alliances with the United Sates and Britain,” he said.
When asked about the prospect of Dutton becoming the new Liberal leader, McGowan called Dutton an “extremist”, adding that his views don’t fit with modern Australia.
“And he doesn’t seem to listen, he’s extremely conservative. I actually don’t think he’s that smart,” he said.
“I’ve seen him present on things. I don’t really pick up there’s much there.”
Littleproud called McGowan’s comments “sad,” adding that such comments don’t have a place in Australian politics anymore.
He also defended Dutton, saying that he is not an extremist, although he’s been made out to be one.
“He actually is quite pragmatic, and that’s been on a number of social issues, but on economic and national security he’s quite hard, and I think that’s the balance Australians are looking for,” Littleproud told 9 News.
“I think he is more pragmatic on some of those social issues and the environment than what people think.”
“And I think if you ask anyone of the Labor Party in federal politics, they would say Peter Dutton is one of the smartest politicians there, both on a political level but on an intellectual level.”
As defence minister, Dutton had been vocal about the threat he saw in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), particularly now that they have signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands, providing the potential for Chinese military bases to be set up on Australia’s doorstep.
In April, Dutton also said that under current conditions in the Indo-Pacific region, Australia needed to be prepared for war.
“We’re in a period very similar to the 1930s now and I think there were a lot of people in the 1930s that wish they had spoken up much earlier in the decade than they had to at the end of the decade,” he said.
“And I think that’s the sobering reality of where we are, it’s the sobering reality of the intelligence that we receive, and we owe it to the men and women of the Australian defence force to provide them with every support that we can, and we’ve done that and we’ll continue to do that because they keep us safe.”