Peter Dutton addresses the National Press Club in Canberra (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

As if on cue for Defence Minister Peter Dutton, China sent 27 jets into Taiwan's self-declared air defence zone yesterday, giving a little substance to Dutton's apocalyptic warnings on Friday that we were in a 1930s-style environment and China was on a quest to take not just Taiwan but other territories -- and control states like Australia.

All of that serves Dutton's interests: not merely to hype an existential threat to Australia -- Beijing's nuclear missiles could destroy every Australian city, he made a point of reminding us -- for the election but to paint himself as the hard man needed in these difficult times. Much harder than a prime minister best known these days for not being believable on any subject.

Normally it is incumbent on ministers to confirm what their prime minister says on an issue. But it was Morrison being asked to back Dutton after Friday's address, with the PM declaring Dutton was "spot on".