Bad Cop: Peter Dutton’s Strongman Politics

The latest Quarterly Essay by Lech Blaine is Australia’s Biggest Book Club book for April 2024, presented by the Australia Institute.

Who is Peter Dutton, and what happened to the Liberal Party? In Bad Cop, Lech Blaine traces the making of a hardman – from Queensland detective to leader of the Opposition, from property investor to minister for Home Affairs. This is a story of ambition, race and power, and a politician with a plan.

Dutton became Liberal leader with a strategy to win outer-suburban and regional seats from Labor. Since then we have seen his demolition of the Voice and a rolling campaign of culture wars. What does Peter Dutton know about the Australian electorate? Has he updated Menzies’ Forgotten People pitch for the age of anxiety, or will he collapse the Liberals’ broad church? This revelatory portrait is sardonic, perceptive and altogether compelling.

Join Lech Blaine for an in-depth discussion with Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director of the Australia Institute.

Dutton doesn’t need to become prime minister to redraw the battle lines of Australian politics. His fight with Albanese over the suburbs and regions was always going to drag the political conversation rightwards: on race, immigration, gender and the pace of a transition away from fossil fuels … Dutton’s raison d’être? Make Australia Afraid Again. Then he will offer himself as the lesser of two evils. A serious strongman for the age of anxiety.“—Bad Cop, Lech Blaine


Buy the book and read along with Australia’s Biggest Book Club.

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Guest Author: Lech Blaine

Lech Blaine is the author of the latest Quarterly Essay on Peter Dutton, Quarterly Essay 83 Top Blokes as well as the acclaimed memoir Car Crash. His writing has appeared in The Monthly, Guardian Australia, The Best Australian Essays, Griffith Review, Kill Your Darlings and Meanjin. He was an inaugural recipient of a Griffith Review Queensland Writing Fellowship and is the 2023 Judy Harris Writer in Residence at the Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney.

Host: Ebony Bennett

Ebony Bennett is deputy director of the Australia Institute and host of its popular webinar series and Follow the Money podcast. Beginning her career as a journalist in the Canberra press gallery for the Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review, Ebony has worked in federal politics in a variety of roles for almost 20 years and has published research on climate change and energy, gender and street harassment. Ebony contributed book chapters to Morrison’s Miracle: The 2019 Australian Federal Election (ANU Press 2020) and The Nordic Edge: Policy Possibilities for Australia (MUP 2021). Ebony is a regular commentator and contributor across broadcast and print media, she appears regularly as a commentator on ABC and Sky News and has a fortnightly column in The Canberra Times.


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