Election time does strange things to politicians, provoking otherwise
dull and conservative people to the some of the strangest
things. This list looks back over some of the most amusing
and inventive political stunts from Australia and overseas. Send in
your great political stunt suggestions to [email protected]
Great Australian political stunts:
– in August 2002 the Telecommunications Minister arranged to announce
the appointment of Dick Estens to head up his rural telecommunications
inquiry by satellite phone from Moree, only to have his live interview with ABC
radio cut short when the line went dead halfway through his reply
on how great rural phone services were.
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Peter Beattie– the Queensland Premier swam around in a
shark tank in the lead up to the 2001 state election and in the lead up
to the 2004 state election the Premier and the opposition leader
Lawrence Springborg both took lie detector tests on Brisbane radio
station B104. The test found that Beattie fibbed about being
genuinely sorry when he apologised to Queenslanders, but Beattie claimed the test “was a lot of fun” and nothing more.
Susan Brown– the little known candidate in the 1994 Townsville City
Council elections, highlighted the issue of raw sewage turning up on
the beach on the Strand with an ingenious stunt. Brown and a few
friends built a massive 10 foot turd mafe of fencing wire and lumpy brown painted hessian and put it on a
dingy which floated up and down the beach to the delight of the local
John Brumby– the then Victorian opposition leader John Brumby, Neil
Cole (then MLA for Melbourne) and Carlo Carli did a benefit song for a
small recording studio in South Melbourne that was losing business
because of construction work on the $2 billion Crown Casino leading up to the 1996 election.
Bob Carr– Carr appeared dripping wet and topless in election
material distributed by Labor’s candidate for Coogee, Paul Pearce in
2003. How times have changes. When Carr first became Premier in 1995 he
used to pop down to Clovelly pool and swim in the darkness to avoid
prying eyes and constantly refused media requests for a photo. In the
photograph Carr appears paler, but fitter, than his Pearce. See the photo here.
Peter Costello– the Treasurer danced the
“Macarena” with Kerri-Anne Kennerley in the lead up to the 1996
election, sang the Abba song
“Money, Money, Money” on Brisbane radio in the lead up to the 2001
election and allowed a giant python to wrap itself around him on
Kerri-Anne’s show in the lead up to the 2004 election.
Barry Coulter– in the late eighties the Northern Territory Mines
and Energy Minister responded to claims about the safety of tailings
dam water at Ranger Uranium Mine by taking the media down there and
drinking a glass of the water. He’s still alive.
Simon Crean– the then Opposition Leader brought a prepared salad and
his kids pyjamas into parliament house in 1999 to demonstrate the anomalies of
Janice Crosio– a former champion swimmer the NSW minister went swimming at Sydney’s beaches to prove that
the surf was clean in the late 1980s. The photo in the SMH was a classic and is still
well remembered. It featured Janet emerging from the surf wearing what
appeared to be a rather ill fitting bathing suit. From the photo, the
suit looked like it was pre-lycra. Gaping top with Janice’s ample bosom
on partial display. That enhanced by Janice looking many pounds
overweight – and as though she had been battered by the surf.
The Democrats– during the 2002 SA state election, the Democrats (in
what would prove to be their last successful election campaign) were
desperate for attention, and resorted to staging a mud-wrestle on the
banks of the Torrens River in suburban Adelaide. Half a dozen
party volunteers and candidates donned cheap suits and anonymous
facemasks, and flung mud at each other for half and hour, to prove the
point that politics had become a dirty game of mudslinging.
Suitably, then state leader Mike Elliott hosed the wrestlers down to
prove that the Democrats would clean up politics. It was also the
campaign where the Democrats sports policy consisted of three words –
BRING BACK BOOF (recently dropped South Australian test player, Darren
Alexander Downer– in 1996 Downer and two Crows
footballers had shots of their feet taken in stockings and heels for a
“Guess the famous foot” competition for the Adelaide Advertiser
to raise money for charity. Somehow a clowning around shot of all of
Downer (not just his feet) in full colour wearing high heels and
pulling on fishnets wound up on page three of the country’s leading
tabloid the day the President of the United States was visiting the
nation’s capital. Whilst not a stunt as such, Downer’s debut in
fishnets still worthy of inclusion for entertainment value alone.
Don Dunstan– the 1970s South Australian Premier wore pink hot pants to
parliament to campaign for the decriminalisation of
homosexuality and in 1976 he also stood on the Glenelg
jetty to prove to South Australians that a tidal wave predicted by a
clairvoyant housepainter was a sham. Didn’t he also hold a press
conference in his PJs to prove how sick he was?
Bruce Goodluck– in 1987 the long serving Liberal MHR for Franklin
(before Harry Quick took it for Labor) turned up in Federal Parliament
dressed in a chicken suit. Everyone knew it was him, but he never
admitted it till he came on Annie Warburton’s Desert Island Discs show
years later, shortly after his retirement.
Pauline Hanson– the former One Nations leader famously
in the Australian flag for a photo. And another subscriber
writes, “I just about busted a gut laughing at ‘Perils o’ Pauline’s’
postmortem video stunt of a few years back.” Her 20-year-old daughter
Lee Hanson, a Gold Coast real estate property manager, also posed in
bikinis for Ralph Magazine in 2004.
Harold Holt– the Prime Minister was photographed striding out
of the surf in his snorkel gear and flippers with a modestly sized fish
dangling from a raised hand in what would become a well known, if not
prophetic image of the late PM. See the photo here
Rob Hulls– when he was Victorian Manufacturing Minister, he announced
Blundstone’s new gumboot manufacturing and distribution centre in
Laverton in June 2001 by disco dancing in gumboots with the Tony
Bartuccio dancers at the onsite press call. Hulls is still remembered
fondly by Victoria’s Office of Manufacturing for this and many other
times when he was not just willing but extremely enthusiastic to try
anything to get coverage for Victorian industry, even to the point of
being prepared to leap out of a hovering rescue helicopter into Port
Philip Bay to promote marine safety equipment. However his staff
pointed out that “Minister in freak boating accident” would not be a
good headline and he had to settle for water-skiing while waving a
– the NSW MLC campaigned for nudist beaches in 1993 wearing
nothing but a piece of sea kelp draped across his front doing a press
conference at Whale Beach at Manly.
Paul Keating– during the 1993 campaign the PM was led into a cake shop
to rail against John Hewson’s GST, only to discover he was in the lair
of a baker utterly opposed to his own stance on the matter. (a good
example of a stunt gone wrong).
Joan Kirner– the former Victorian Premier dressed up in a leather jacket on
the ABC program “The Late Show” in 1993 to do a rendition of the Joan Jett song “I Love Rock and
Roll”, accompanied by two of her former Ministers, David White on lead
guitar and Caroline Hogg.
Mark Latham– was photographed putting out the garbage bin, just like
an average Aussie, before flying to Canberra for the leadership
vote in December 2003. The only problem was, it wasn’t garbage night that night.
– the Shadow Minister for Employment, Education and
Training dispensed six figure invoices to government ministers for the
retrospective cost of their (mostly free) degrees under the new fee
system. System architect Brendan Nelson’s own bill was the highest
since as an economics drop-out he’d have to pay much more for spending
too long at uni.
Labor Premiers– Bob Carr, Pater Beattie, Mike Rann, Steve Bracks and
Geoff Gallop – the Premiers all donned their respective AFL teams’
jumpers and had their photo take at Parliament House in the lead up to
the 2003 finals (with each Premier taking turns in the middle for their
local newspaper) and making a commercial while they were at it.
Mike Rann– the SA Premier placed cardboard cut-outs of John Olsen and
Dean Brown in the seats of the House in order to demonstrate how great
the Liberal majority was in the 1997 election (and also highlighting the
division in the Liberal Party).
John Rossiter– (Susan Rossiter-Peacock-Sangster-Renouf’s
father) when he was the Victorian Minister for Health in the early
1970s. At the time there had just been a mercury-poisoning scare
in relation to fish being eaten by Melburnians. In response, and
to pooh-pooh the health risk, John Rossiter gave a press conference,
during which, seated at his desk, he promptly proceeded to open a
genuine newspaper-wrapped serving of fish’n’chips and hoed into a
steaming piece of flake!
Lawrence Springborg– the Queensland Opposition Leader appeared in a
photo in The Courier-Mail
in the lead up to the 2004 election, wearing nothing but a towel, his six-pack and
abs showing to the world. And to prove he is a country boy, there is
the v-neck open shirt tan. But what is he doing while baring his buffed
bod to the world? He is ironing a shirt! What a snag.
Natasha Stott-Despoja– the former Democrats leader worse a wet T-shirt
and bikini pants on the Barrier Reef before the 2001 Federal Election,
which may have ultimately helped cost her the leadership of the
Dems. Tash the Destroyer also wore a hijab (Muslim women’s
headscarf) to demonstrate solidarity with Muslim women, but she also
wore a very LOW-cut top! Somebody forgot to brief her on
Political Stunts from overseas:
George W. Bush– planned with the precision and panache of a
movie, who could forget Dubya landing on the aircraft carrier the USS
in May 2003 to announce the end of fighting in Iraq, below a
red, white and blue banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished”.
Then there was the surprise visit to Iraq in November 2003 to spend Thanksgiving
troops. Complete with a photo of Dubya in a grey army bomber
jacket, holding up the display roast turkey platter, surrounded by all
the troops. And when Bush landed in Australia the media published
photos of him waving to non-existent crowds, only security and the
media were at the airports to greet him.
John Gummer– Britain’s agriculture minister, fed his 4-year-old
daughter a hamburger on TV in 1990 to prove that British beef was safe,
following the outbreak of mad cow disease.
– the Thai Prime Minister, publicly ate chicken in January 2004 to
promote confidence in the industry and deny a cover-up of suspected
human cases of the deadly chicken flu.
The Sun– the London tabloid announced its support for the
return of the Blair government in 2005 by erecting a giant chimney at
their Wapping HQ. The chimney billowed black smoke to confirm
discussions were under way, then white smoke to indicate The Sun had reached its decision and finally red smoke to reveal The Sun
was endorsing Labour’s bid for a historic third term. The stunt
came just days after the Vatican signalled the election of new Pope
with a plume of white smoke.
Dick Tuck– An enterprising Democrat. During the 1968 US Presidential
campaign, the Nixon camp used the slogan “Nixon’s the One”. Tuck
(glorying in the name of Dick, no namby-pambying Richard for him!)
arranged groups of pregnant women to hold placards with the Republican
slogan at various airports when Nixon arrived. This rankled the
Nixonians so much that they sought to use it several years later as an
example of Democrats’ dirty tricks and some sort of moral equivalent of