West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has labelled Peter Dutton an “extremist” and not “that smart”, saying he is unfit for the Liberal Party leadership.
During the same press conference, Mr McGowan also launched a blistering attack on Clive Palmer supporters, whom he dubbed “misfits and losers”, and the national press gallery for “bullying” new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Asked about Mr Dutton potentially becoming the new leader of the Liberal Party, Mr McGowan said he was not fit to be the Prime Minister someday.
“He’s an extremist and I don’t think he fits with modern Australia at all,” the Premier told reporters on Monday.
“He doesn’t seem to listen, he’s extremely conservative. I actually don’t think he’s that smart.
“I’ve seen him present on things. I don’t really pick up there’s much there, as opposed to Scott Morrison.”
Mr McGowan said it was important for the new Labor government to improve Australia’s relationship with China.
“These things are difficult but it is an opportunity to get back onto a surer footing with our major trading partner,” he said.
“We, as a state, export half of the nation’s exports and the vast majority of that goes to China because it’s the biggest market.
“Iron ore, gas, lots of other mineral products, lots of agricultural products go to China.
“So having a good relationship with your biggest customer is kind of important.”
Security was the other major factor in having a diplomatic relationship with China, he added.
“The biggest power in our region is China,” he said.
“Our strongest ally is and will remain the United States, but that doesn’t mean you have a hostile relationship with China.
“What we saw over the federal election campaign was the Liberal Party tried to weaponise these things for political purposes … that’s what used to happen back in the Cold War.
“I just urge a reset on the relationship.”
Mr Albanese told reporters on Monday that Australia’s relationship with China would remain “difficult”.
“It is China that has changed – not Australia,” he said.
“What we should do is put Australia’s national interest first and not attempt to play politics with national security issues.”
Mr McGowan said he believed a major factor for WA voters in the election was the Liberal Party’s opposition to the hard border, which kept the state safe during the height of the pandemic.
He said the Liberals essentially supported Mr Palmer’s fight to bring down the border for about two months before backing down.
The Premier recalled he even received a phone call from Mr Morrison telling him the state would lose the court battle and should give up.
“Hopefully, they’ve learned a lesson that Clive Palmer is a bit like kryptonite – you don’t want to touch him because inevitably with these things, particularly political things, it goes bad,” Mr McGowan said.
“It was a terrible look and actually, not just a terrible look. It was just the wrong decision.”
Mr McGowan said it was good that no one from the United Australia Party was elected.
“I saw their actions on the polling booths. I saw how the Palmer people behave,” he said.
“They’re misfits and losers and they scream and yell at voters. They shove things in people’s faces.
“They are offensive and rude people, and I’m glad that Australians haven’t supported them.”
Mr McGowan said to a lesser a degree the same could be said about One Nation supporters.
“People screaming, yelling, bustling, harassing. They’re just misfits and losers,” he said.
During the election campaign, both Mr Albanese and Mr Morrison talked up their relationship with Mr McGowan, knowing he was hugely popular in WA.
But the Premier said he could not take credit for Labor’s victory.
“I’m not claiming any credit for their victory. It’s their victory they achieved and they deserve all the credit,” he said.
“I think the Australian public is very mainstream … they just want to have good jobs, good social services, a protected environment.
“They want to make sure no one’s left behind, make sure that we have law reforms that protect the rights and interests of people, particularly those most vulnerable.
“(They want to) lift up the hopes and aspirations of everyone – and if you get the balance right, both economically and socially, I think people will respect that.”
Mr McGowan said it was a positive for WA to have strong representation in the new government because it meant the state’s interests would be heard.
Meanwhile, he said the Liberal Party was controlled by “extremists factional powerbrokers” and did not have very talented people in the parliament, both at a state and federal level.
“They don’t appeal to the mainstream. They’re out on the fringe,” he said.
“They’re more inclined to pursue their own hobbyhorses rather than listen to what the public wants. And I think that reflects in the voting.
“I actually don’t think they’re fit for government, certainly at a state level, for a long time to come.”
Mr McGowan also lashed out at the federal press gallery following Mr Albanese during the campaign, saying he witnessed intimidating behaviour from reporters at the four or five press conferences he attended.
“The press conferences I went to, they were screaming and interrupting, and rude and insulting, intimidating and bullying – sort of stuff that in a workplace, you get sacked for,” he said.
“They need to reflect on their behaviour. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“Anthony’s trying to answer a question, and they’re basically talking over him and being rude, and then muttering and insulting.
“Journalists would run at him and surround him as he walked towards the exit after concluding his press conference, and then the reporting would be he fled the press conference. It’s just lies.
“I was shocked and appalled.”