Ben Cousins has rescued a side many times and yesterday he came to the aid of Labor, pushing the talk of tax cuts right down the news agenda.
The Prime Minister being hugged by a youth with body piercings could not compete with the tattooed torso of a drug using football hero.
While SBS television nationally and the ABC in Sydney pretended their viewers were more interested in serious things and led last night’s main bulletin with John Howard and his Treasurer Peter Costello spruiking their $34 billion, the story was down to seventh on the ABC news in Melbourne.
In the southern states the arrest of Ben Cousins dominated the news with another football story – Richard Pratt, after all, is president of AFL club Carlton – with links to the law close behind. The Nine news in Melbourne illustrates perfectly just how short the attention span of the media can be during an election campaign. After Cousins and Pratt we had striking nurses, trams in an accident, juvenile rock throwers and colliding jet planes before politics got a look in after the first ad break.
That the balance for the day ended up in Labor’s favour owed much to the Prime Ministerial stumble the night before over the Reserve Bank’s prime interest rate. Journalists love anything that they can call a gaffe and showing it took the gloss off the image of great economic managers that Messrs Howard and Costello were trying to portray.
Perhaps the most significant television story of the day was again on A Current Affair . They had the previous night’s gaffe which everyone else followed with such glee and last night quite a serious look at the great contacts which the Exclusive Brethren has with Mr Howard and other ministers.
I suspect that now ACA has joined Four Corners in questioning the propriety of Mr Howard’s association with this secretive religious sect that we will hear a lot more on this subject before 24 November.
And the Verdict? Hardly a significant day in the life of the campaign but a clear win on the day for Labor.