When does a blunder make headlines? When it’s the first day of a six-week election campaign and nothing else has seemingly happened.
As we cover elsewhere in Crikey Today, yesterday, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was asked about the current level of interest rates and the level of unemployment and he answered empty-handed about the numbers.
He drew comparisons to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s early-year cerebral fart when he couldn’t tell reporters the price of bread, petrol or RATs. But are these mistakes cut from the same cloth? Public reaction to them suggests not.
Get the election coverage you deserve.
Choose what you pay and your level of coverage.
Let’s go back in time to February 1st. Omicron is on the rise, people’s Christmas and New Year’s have just been destroyed by the evil strain with the name Digimon, and Morrison once told reporters a pig about this Aussie guy (him) swinging casually by a pharmacy in Terrigal to pick up a RAT. (It turns out that Morrison gets all his RATs for free, and the Terrigal Pharmacy stop happened in a chauffeured car, without the PM actually setting foot inside said pharmacy. Whoops!)
People are pissed and Morrison’s “everyday guy” schtick is running out. Then he’s completely destroyed when he can’t put a price on a loaf of bread. How un-Australian is this?
Former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, reporters were quick to point out, used to keep an up-to-date list of cost-of-living prices on file for such a period.
The general consensus (online at least) was, yes, it was a bit of a trick question, but Morrison couldn’t have done a better job of illustrating how out of touch he was with voters if he had told them to eat cake.
So what was different about what happened yesterday with Albanese? Oddly, he had a few tricks that worked, if not exactly for him, at least not against him.
First, as Bernard Keane writes elsewhere in Crikey today, yes, it is a question to which he absolutely should have known the answer. But not being able to shake the stats and numbers off the top of your head is (somewhat unfortunately) quite relatable. Almost like Kevin Rudd’s trip to a strip club in New York, it kind of makes him seem normal. Additionally, Albanese apologized later the same day (on the same day Morrison could not name the milk price, he also declined to apologize for not doing more about the COVID- 19).
Second, Howard (hello again!) told reporters that he didn’t think it mattered that Albanese didn’t know the unemployment rate – nothing like a little support from the other side of the driveway.
Third, if you look at the leader stats “share of voice” yesterday, Albanese was in the lead. Not bad for a man who we’re constantly told is a cardboard cutout with no vision or personality.
Albanese dominated the headlines yesterday and although all was not well (David Crowe in the SMH made huge claims about the seriousness of the situation for Albanese), it wasn’t all bad. In fact, the mere fact that the Labor leader’s gaffe brought back memories of Morrison and the price of bread shows that not all gaffes are created equal, but in an election campaign they are all on the table.
As Christopher Warren wrote in Crikey, for the media, the electoral campaign began yesterday. But pollies have been preparing for it for six months – and so have voters.