The PM seemed to briefly channel Eric Idle from Monty Python on John Faine this week. He gave a little smirk and a wink when a seriously ill grandma told him she made ends meet (snort!) by working a telephone sex line (splurf!). I confess I also smiled at the thought of Wayne from Wangaratta beating off to the heavy breathing of a pensioner with emphysema in a flannelette nightie.
But the wink? What’s with the wink? Was it one of those ‘all boys together down the rugger club’ winks? Did he think she was joking? It seemed such a very small thing, but it immediately went around the world, while more substantive stuff went missing in action. Plus, a lot of the reaction was distinctly overwrought (and, incidentally, extremely patronising to the woman in question, a true battler if ever there was one).
For me the real story was of a Prime Minister having a horror week and trying to recover a shred of credibility, who didn’t seem to be across his brief. He got several things wrong, appearing nervous, tentative, and ill-informed. All week he’s been behaving like this, like someone whose boss has just chewed him out and told him to fix up this mess, pronto. Like a frightened man putting up a front – and stuffing that up too.
I wonder if he has worked out – or had it pointed out to him – that all the backflips, broken promises, weasel excuses and so forth that he and his team have been spewing all week could see him in court?
Section 329 of the Australian Electoral Act states:
“A person shall not, during the relevant period in relation to an election under this Act, print, publish or distribute, or cause, permit or authorize to be printed, published or distributed, any matter or thing that is likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of a vote … Publish includes publish by radio, television, internet or telephone.”
It wouldn’t take a great deal of work to gather up a hay bale of leaflets, articles, interviews, podcasts and videos amply demonstrating misleading and deceptive conduct, and submit a formal complaint to the Australian Electoral Commission. Perhaps backed up by one of those online petitions. And since the AEC is already on the nose with Clive Palmer, they would hardly dare try to sweep it under the carpet.
The penalties for such behaviour are small –
(4) A person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence punishable on conviction:
(a) if the offender is a natural person–by a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 6 months, or both; or
(b) if the offender is a body corporate–by a fine not exceeding $5,000.
– but a conviction would really sting. Hell, even the petition would have Pyne and company foaming at the nostrils like a rabid mongoose.
Let’s do it!