In the midst of the turmoil, however, some Australians have found an unlikely source of hope: A 30-year-old American who lives in Texas who runs his own popcorn company and has never been to Australia.
His name? Peter Dutton.
A search for the Austin-based Dutton’s handle on Twitter — the simple, @PeterDutton5 — show that a number of people had mistaken him for the Australian Dutton. Some had sent insulting messages: One message called him and Turnbull “losers” who were making “stupid political moves."
In response, Dutton wrote a message Wednesday that begged Australian social media users to look at his photo before sending him messages.
But one Twitter user asked Dutton if would be interested in taking over the Australian government, to which he replied, “sign me up!”
This sparked a series of tweets, now shared and liked thousands of times, and made him a topic of discussion in Australian politics — with many Twitter users imploring him to come over and take over the prime minister’s office himself.
Packing my bags!— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton5) August 23, 2018
The Texas Dutton isn’t the only American to be mistaken for the man who is likely to be Australia’s next prime minister either (who uses the Twitter username @PeterDutton_MP).
Peter Dutton, director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College and @Peter_Dutton, was also accused of destroying Australian democracy in a series of messages this week.
I beg your pardon?!!!— Peter Dutton (@peter_dutton) August 21, 2018
Another American Twitter user with the name Peter Dutton even changed his display name on the website to “Peter From Queens, Not Queensland.” This Dutton has apparently been receiving insults intended for his Australian namesake for years.
In 2014, he even received an apology from the man himself (and the offer of a drink, next time he’s in Australia).
There’s a reason the Peter Duttons of social media are receiving angry messages. If the Australian Dutton succeeds in his leadership challenge to Turnbull, no Australian prime minister will have served out the full three-year term since John Howard in 2004 to 2007.
The high level of turnover in the country is unusual, given the relatively strong state of the Australian economy. Experts suggest that quirks of the country’s parliamentary political system, as well as the dominance of its right-wing media, has led to what the Financial Times describes as “Italian-style political instability."
Dutton — the Australian politician, rather than any of the American counterparts — is a figure from the Liberal Party’s right wing, as opposed to the more centrist Turnbull. As home affairs minister, he was a defender of Australia’s controversial offshore asylum-seeker facilities and also championed the idea of Canberra offering refugee status to white farmers from South Africa: an issue that President Trump brought up this week.
Many of the messages directed to the Austin-based Dutton asked him for his views on human rights.
you are all my brothers and sisters so I’ll treat you as such, unless you show otherwise!— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton5) August 23, 2018
Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Texan Dutton said that while he wasn’t an expert on Australian politics, he had been following U.S. politics closely. “A lot of things I thought I’d only ever see again in history books have awakened in our present day since the Trump transition,” he said.
After the outpouring of attention Wednesday evening from Australia, Dutton thanked his well-wishers for support, pledged to bring his popcorn to Australia but said he had to get back to his 20-week pregnant wife. In a message Thursday morning, however, he reaffirmed his hope of being Australia’s next prime minister.