Peter Garrett’s encounter with 2UE announcer Steve Price in Qantas’ Chairman’s Lounge at Melbourne airport on Friday led to all sorts of trouble for the Labor Party. Garrett says his comment that Labor would change everything once in power was a joke. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Price claims it was an unambiguous statement of intention:

Holding a copy of the Melbourne Herald Sun with a front-page treatment about Kevin Rudd playing ‘me too’ politics and copying the Coalition’s election promises, I said to Garrett that it was turning into the ‘me too’ election. With a straight face he replied that that would not matter because ‘once we get in we’ll just change it all’.

If we put aside Labor’s plans if it gets into government, isn’t the real issue here one of ethics? Shouldn’t what happens in the Chairman’s Lounge stay in the Chairman’s Lounge? What about that other meeting place of the powerful, the cab? We took the question to the Crikey Cabbie Panel.

Bruce Tootell, Melbourne. No, I don’t think it ever stays in the cab. Cabbies are blabbies. Also, never ever crack a joke to someone without a sense of humour. That’s the real issue here — Steve Price is humourless. I’ve had Steve Price in my cab. He doesn’t tip. He’s tight, even on a company cab charge. You don’t make jokes like that to men like Steve Price, or even in a cab. The smart ones whisper in the back seat. The ones that are noisy are gone. I wouldn’t ring up a guy’s wife if he was up to something in the back seat, but you want to be careful if you’re in business or politics. Steve Price is blunt and tight and humourless. And we haven’t even mentioned height. Bob Hawke would tower over him. He’s a little chumpy jockey type. But if there’s Peter Garrett should have known one thing I know about Steve it’s that you should never crack a joke in front of him. It’ll hit a wall.

Ross Nelson, Sydney. No, if I was Steve Price, who’s a blatant self-promoter, I would have done what he did. The fault is Peter Garrett’s in making a joke to a big mouth journo. Garrett shouldn’t have said anything to him. I think Price was dishonest in the way he promoted it, but he got himself onto the front page of every newspaper in the country knowing full well it was a joke, albeit a stupid joke. John Laws is leaving, so maybe Price has got his eye on that job. I don’t believe that Price took Garrett’s joke seriously, but that didn’t stop him talking about it. If it was me, I’d tell everyone about it, but my audience is a bit smaller than Steve’s. I wouldn’t have rung up a radio station, but I might have shared it amongst friend and passengers. But Abbott’s blunders last week were far more damaging.

Gerard Donaghy, Gold Coast. I suppose it shouldn’t stay in the cab if you’re talking about something that affects the nation. I don’t think it’s wrong. Pricey was on the money. What makes every joke funny is element of truth. I can’t see that Garrett has anything to whinge about. I’ve been on national TV telling people what happens in my cab, but if you’re not putting names to it, you can tell people a story without getting sued. It’s different with journalists and politicians. I think if PG said that in my cab I would share it. But I don’t know how many people actually believe anything in this election pantomime. People are sick of it. Seventy five percent of people who get into my cab don’t believe anything anyone’s saying, so I don’t think this is going to do much harm to anyone.

Con Vokalos, Adelaide. If it was one-on-one, I’d keep it to myself. Same as if I had asked the question. If there were others in the cab I’d be more likely to share it around. But if he said that to me as a journalist during an election campaign, I’d hang him out to dry. It’s like a bloke leaving a mic on on the TV or radio. You just don’t do say things like that to journalists or where other people can hear them. I think Steve Price was fair enough, but I also think it was fairly naive of Garrett. Stupid would be a better word. If somebody tells you something confidential as a cab driver you keep it to yourself. But if it was Peter Garrett in my taxi and he said something like that in conversation I’d repeat it, no problems.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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