(Image: Mitchell Squire/Private Media)

Suppose they gave a national security scare and nobody came? That seems to be the latest fine mess the federal government has got itself into with its attempted takedown of the opposition by way of the atavistic “Manchurian candidate” meme.

By week’s end, the media commentariat reaction to the scare was near universal -- and near universally critical: “Morrison weaponised national security,” wrote Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy. For the ABC’s Laura Tingle, it was “a grubby descent into public policy madness”. Even Paul Kelly in The Australian was displeased: “Such language has no place and no justification.”

The media reaction was bolstered by the horror of the national security establishment that -- gasp! -- its briefings were being engineered for party political gain (apparently this has never happened before).