“Suppository?” mouthed the Liberal candidate for Deakin questioningly to a room of the forgiving party faithful, bemused journalists, and campaign workers already implementing their damage management strategy.

Seconds prior, in arguably the most memorable moment of the Australian election so far, Liberal leader Tony Abbott had claimed in a speech that “No man is the suppository of all wisdom.” Quite the mental image.  

It was a buttock-clenching moment of political theatre, but by no means the only pratfall to grace this campaign. Despite its brevity, the lead-up to this Australian election has been full of glorious gaffes from all corners of the political spectrum. Here are the most toe-curling.

 

The viral star

Every election has its overnight sensation and 2013 is no exception. One Nation candidate Stephanie Banister’s interview with Channel Seven turned her from a suburban housewife (albeit one facing criminal charges for allegedly plastering anti-Islamic stickers on supermarket food) to a viral superstar. In a broad-ranging chat the mother of two claimed variously that Jews follow Jesus Christ, the government’s Disability Insurance Scheme was “working well” despite it not coming into effect until 2016 and that she didn’t know the names of any of the candidates she was running against.However, it was Banister’s comments about Islam that really got the world’s attention.

She was frank about her position from the outset: “I don’t oppose Islam as a country, but I don’t think their laws should be welcome here in Australia.”Christened, perhaps unfairly, Australia’s Sarah Palin (unfair to Australia, because she isn’t a mainstream party candidate, and unfair to Palin, because even she isn’t that thick), Banister responded by claiming that, despite the interview being videotaped, the journalist had “twisted all my words” and made her out to look like a “stupid moron”.

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The sex scandal

Sexting politicians have been all the rage in the news pages recently and Australia, as ever on trend, served up one of their own. Married Peter Dowling, Liberal Party member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly and head of the Ethics Committee, was caught sending lewd messages to his lover.

Among the array of saucy snaps Dowling sent was one of his penis in a glass of red wine. Dowling has since stepped down from his role on the Ethics Committee and said: “I owe my family an apology. I am sorry for the pain and embarrassment I caused you.”

 

 

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The bungling potential PM

It was probably always Labor’s plan to put the Liberal leader front and centre during this election, and Abbott has done exactly what they must have expected, obliging with an impressively varied string of gaffes. In the creepiest moment of the campaign, Abbott, indulging in that most unnerving of political sports, baby kissing, attempted to plonk his lips on a child in Adelaide.

However, the mother turned away and Abbott, whose lips were set to kiss and were determined to kiss something come hell or high water, ended up imparting a peck on the back of the woman’s head. That was shuddersome enough, but it was Abbott’s comments about Liberal candidate Fiona Scott that sparked the most controversy. 

Describing the new female candidate for Lindsay and a neighbouring seat, Abbot said: “They’re young, they’re fiesty, I think I can probably say, have a bit of sex appeal.” Abbott later conceded it was a “daggy dad” moment. However, Kevin Rudd was less forgiving, suggesting that if any employer in Australia had made those comments about a member of their staff, “they’d be in serious strife”.


The brain fade

Liberal candidate for Greenway in NSW Jaymes Diaz is hailed as a rising star of his party, but on the evidence of an interview he gave to Channel Ten it’s hard to see why. Talking about immigration controls, Diaz said: “We have a six-point plan to stop the boats,” but when asked to run through those points Diaz was less than forthcoming. “Well, I can run through all the details of the points, but look,” he stutters, “the main thing is…”.

But the reporter cuts him off, insisting on the points, to which Diaz spectacularly replies: “Well, one of the points would be, the key point would be, stop the boats.”The reporter pushes Diaz to give the other five points. Diaz, eyes glazed, voice dimmed, says: “I’ve answered your question.” The reporter, now towering over the diminutive politician, points out he’s only actually given one, to which Diaz can only meekly repeat: “I’ve answered your question.”

 

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The unhelpful party grandee

Rather magnificently missing the point, former Labor leader Mark Latham slammed Abbott’s above faux pas, saying: “It showed very bad judgement” – then, in the very same sentence, showed his own limited judgement by adding, “and that he has very low standards.”

Latham went on to claim Abbott must have had “beer goggles” on when he made the comments. “I had a good look at Fiona Scott … and she doesn’t have sex appeal at all,” Latham said during a radio interview, not only judging her on her looks, but suggesting her looks weren’t up to scratch. Nice work.

» Are these gaffes embarrassing Oz? letters@tntmagazine.com

 

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