Ah, what fertile ground for our inaugural Top 5 – it could have been a top 555, but yeah, we know it’s a Friday and you probably want to just have a quick snigger on the way to work at our elected representatives doing what they do best – put their foot, half their leg, or, ok, most of their body into their mouths with the ridiculous stuff they say…
So – our Top 5 “Political Foot in Mouth Moments”…(drum roll please…)
No 5: “Go for growth” – John Howard (2007)
Opposition leader Kevin Rudd’s case was simple – 11 years in office was too long for Prime Minister John Howard to be in power and a change of leadership was necessary for policy reform.
Howard and his Liberal-National Party countered with what seemed like an equally simple proposition, claiming economic strength was unachievable with a less-experienced government; a notion summed up in the slogan, “Go for growth.” But by a twist of fate the slogan’s introduction coincided with a timely rise in inflation, interest rates and oil prices. Suddenly, voters were left wondering why all the wrong things were growing.
The result: Howard was unable to prove financial certainty under his watch, responding to the interest rate rises by saying, “I’m sorry about that and I regret the additional burden.” His party’s defeat followed not long after.
Trivia: Not only did he lose the nation’s leadership, but, after Stanley Bruce in 1929, Howard became the second sitting Australian Prime Minister to lose his seat in parliament, and even more humiliatingly so to a first-time opposition candidate in the shape of ex-ABC reporter Maxine McKew.
No 4: John Hewson’s ‘Birthday cake interview’ (1993)
Marie Antoinette might have found herself headless after her famous proclamation, “Let them eat cake”, but John Hewson did not escape a political knee-capping due to his words around baked goods.
Ten days out from what had been described as an “un-losable election,” Hewson’s proposed economic policy came under fire. When a reporter asked if a child’s birthday cake would become cheaper or more expensive under his taxes, Hewson replied, “To give you an accurate answer, I need to know exactly what type of cake.”
He then went on to question the hypothetical cake’s decoration, candles and bakery of origin. Eventually, the reporter gave up on getting a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
The result: The public decided the economic policy was too complex and Hewson lost the supposedly un-losable election, and with it, leadership of the Australian Liberal Party.
Trivia: In 2006, Hewson revealed a clearer answer: “I should have told to get stuffed.”
No 3: “If you are seeing me now, it means I have been murdered” – Pauline Hanson (1997)
Blaming Pauline Hanson’s fall from Parliament on a single mishap would strip her of some well-deserved credit for a litany of woes, but if there’s a crowd favourite, it’s certainly her infamous ‘death video.’
Convinced she might soon become the victim of a political assassination, she recorded a video instructing her followers to carry on in case of her passing. Hanson, however, didn’t expect the video to fall into the hands of the Australian media.
Result: Though not the sole cause of Hanson’s 1998 election loss, the video followed her trend of ignorant remarks that suggested a lack of self-awareness, or perhaps, any awareness at all. Her popularity waned during her time in Parliament because of a failure to understand issues in the context of contemporary society.
Trivia: In 2004, Hanson claimed the video wasn’t her idea, similar to the 1997 book The Truth that she claims was released falsely under her name…even though she personally launched it. Oh Pauline.
(Not to be outdone, Ms. Hanson popped back for a tilt at a Senate seat in the 2013 Australian election…but, sadly, at least for our political satirists, she was unsuccessful…)
No 2: “There will be no Carbon Tax under the government I lead” – Julia Gillard (2010)
Where do you honestly begin with this one? Has there ever been a statement that has led to more trouble for a politician in Australian politics than this one?
Battles have been waged in every possible forum known to humankind over the statement made by PM Julia Gillard in terms of whether or not her words resulted in a broken promise when she went on to introduce a fixed carbon price during her period as PM of a minority government.
The result: The untimely end of our first Female PM (with a little help from some “dissension” from the backbench *cough cough*) and a severely damaged Labor Party (with its head stuck so far up its own political backside it had endangered ever seeing the “light on the hill” ever again) losing the 2013 Federal Election because it had no power to escape an attack-dog Opposition that used the apparent “broken promise” to instil a deep sense of distrust in both Gillard (and later Kevin “Resurrection” Rudd) and the sitting Labor government.
(for the record, take a listen to what Gillard actually said…)
Trivia: The loudest voice amongst the Opposition, now PM Tony Abbott, also had something to say on radio about a Carbon Tax in 2011…
No 1: Almost anything he says – Cory Bernardi (all the time)
Whether it’s comparing homosexuality to bestiality, denigrating non-nuclear family arrangements, calling those who choose to have an abortion “pro-death”, or just being generally offensive to anyone who doesn’t share his beliefs, Cory Bernardi seems unable to open his mouth without his foot going straight into it.
Of course it’s a free country and he is entitled to his opinions, but seriously…
The question that must be posed is, of course, “Does this mean the man has a metaphorical foot fetish of some kind?”
Not an allegation, just an observation.
The result: An albatross around the Abbott Government’s neck but one the PM seems unable (and unwilling) to offload. Read that as you will.
Trivia: That should read “trivial”. Say no more.