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australia votes: most memorable 2016 federal election campaign gaffes

Image by Ben Matthews

Image by Ben Matthews

There is no space of time more intense for Australian party leaders than the weeks leading up to the day of the federal election. We know this, because there seems to be very little practical work going for the rest of the year. Though it seems that during this week of hand shaking and baby kissing, hopeful candidates are under a considerable amount of pressure – so much so that despite their earnest attempts at eloquence and coherence, we instead raise our eyebrows at the inevitable, garbled gaffes that make election season that much more bearable. As we head to the polls today, let’s take a stroll through each of these memorable moments to help us decide who really is the lesser of a few evils.

Having conducted a thorough investigation into political blunders for the very sake of writing this article (read: I googled ‘why is Malco a gronk lol’ and received some fairly satisfying search results), I have decided either a) this year has seen a particularly articulate ideological debate between the Prime Ministerial hopefuls, or (b) the more likely option that Kirribilli House also lodges a crack team of Google analysts, making the discovery of any public slip of the tongue nigh impossible to uncover. But despite the best efforts of concealment, here are a few of the blunders that slipped through the cracks.

Probably the most salient gaffe on record, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last month admitted to the truth behind the most long-running electoral joke in Australia – that politicians lie. ‘What political parties say they will support and oppose at one time is not necessarily ultimately what they will do,’ Turnbull said at a press conference in Banyo, Queensland late last month. Although I would prefer to not necessarily see this one as a gaffe, considering the likelihood of a Coalition government, I will be waiting with bated breath to hear the announcement that the Liberal Party will be closing down Nauru and immediately legislating for gay marriage.

Sticking with Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister’s oft-touted tagline, ‘jobs and growth’ has become a symbol of the meaningless buzzwords inserted into politician’s speeches in order to evoke a sense of consistency and veracity. In an Adelaide press conference a few weeks back, Turnbull managed to repeat the phrase ‘jobs and growth’ what must be a record-breaking 22 times in a 10 minute space.

However, despite my most ardent inclinations, it will not be the leader of the Coalition that will receive all of the gaffe limelight. Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition has received his own fair share of criticism for confusing two teams of one of Australia’s best-loved sports – Rugby League. Shorten, a Melbournian, unfortunately confused the Queensland Maroons with the Melbourne Storm, in front of the pack of journalists following his every move during the marathon election campaign. He said he’d be backing the Maroons because his wife was a Queenslander. The Labor leader, who was campaigning in Brisbane, said Melbourne Storm players such as Cameron Smith were well respected in the Maroons side. ‘I also have to say the Storm are the underdogs slightly under the bookies market and I am partial to backing the underdogs,’ he said.

And finally, although leader of the Greens Richard Di Natale is left out of the most important Australian political debate, he will be pleased to know that this article will be pulling no punches. Di Natale famously failed to declare his family farm in Victoria’s Otway Ranges for 15 months from 2015 to 2016, breaching parliamentary rules and potentially placing him in ‘serious contempt’ of the Senate.

However, Di Natale’s 2012 post on a backpacker job site, advertising an au pair job paying $150 a week, plus food and board, is potentially more embarrassing. The ad stated the family of four is ‘looking for an extra pair of hands around the place to entertain the lads [the couple have two boys] and help with cooking and general domestic duties’. It adds: ‘Will take couples but weekly wage remains the same.’ The $150 weekly wage was a quarter of the national minimum wage in 2012 of $606.40 per week, or $15.96 per hour. A couple working for $150 a week would be earning just $1.88 per hour. Considering the Greens leader’s focus on minimum wage pay and penalty rates is close to the center of his campaign policy, this ‘gaffe’ is most likely yet another thing he’ll want to keep off the books.

And there you have it – a roundup of political blunders cringe worthy enough to make that democracy sausage look that little bit less appealing. However, despite these demoralising actions taken by the men who plan to take a hold of Australia’s future, the most important message I could possibly impart today would be the importance of voting. We are lucky enough to live in a country that allows us to partake in the democratic process of handpicking our leaders (through confusing preference pacts and shady back-room dealings), and so we should keep in mind that no matter what, our vote counts for something. Because after all, we know the consequences of not realizing the significance of our vote in deciding the future of our country… #Brexit #embarrassing.

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