Advance Australia's Captain GetUp.

In an election campaign that has brought us Captain GetUp, stupidity is always likely to be well to the fore. But while big-ticket items like Advance Australia’s bafflingly offensive superhero get all the attention, there’s plenty of idiocy on the bubble at the fringes too. In fact, all in all, this might turn out to be the stupidest election Australia has ever had, and that’s saying something.

Competing with Captain GetUp in the stupidity stakes this week was the actual “captain” of GetUp, Paul Oosting. As national director of GetUp — a position that might inspire us to give him a fun nickname if only we could think of one — Oosting embarrassed himself by defending an instruction manual for GetUp volunteers that advised telling voters that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was “part of the coup that removed Malcolm Turnbull”.

When it was pointed out to Oosting that there was no evidence Frydenberg played any part in the coup, the valiantly outmatched activist chief tried Logic 101, pointing out that we couldn’t “rule out” Frydenberg playing a part in Turnbull’s demise. He also referred to the Treasurer as first the deputy prime minister, and then the finance minister.

Oosting’s siblings in stupidity this week were ex-Olympic rower David Cameron and his wife, Sydney barrister Bridie Nolan, who have entangled themselves in a web of their own spinning due to intense confusion over whether they support Zali Steggall’s campaign for Warringah, or vehemently oppose it. Steggall happens to be Cameron’s ex-wife, and there may have been shadows of the past lurking when he attacked the former skiing champ on Twitter, calling her tweet about the Christchurch shootings “opportunistic” because of the political hashtags attached.

Nolan joined the tag team when she also threw a jab Steggall’s way, tweeting, “You are showing you do not have what it takes. Withdraw now before you embarrass your family further”. This is fairly harsh tweetage, and if we didn’t know better we might have said Nolan was motivated to some extent by bitterness.

Luckily that can’t have been the case, because when The Daily Telegraph this week unearthed Cameron and Nolan’s broadsides, the couple made it clear that Zali Steggall could have no more loyal supporters than them. Well, they made it clear eventually, anyway. Before that Nolan pretty much doubled down, telling the Tele that Steggall was “personally opportunistic” and that she was “appalled” by the disgraceful antics of her hubby’s ex.

It was only after the paper ran the story of the couple’s animosity for Steggall — in typical tabloid style, based on nothing more than their own on-the-record public statements — that they slammed their engines into full-speed reverse, with Cameron tweeting, “Today’s article in The Daily Telegraph does not reflect how my wife and I feel. It is a story about tweets made a month ago in disgust and does not reflect our support for Zali’s campaign.”

Perfectly understandable: after all, who among us would not be appalled by some of the foolish things we did way back in the dim distant days of March? For her part, Nolan claimed that she “tried to convince the Telegraph to leave this alone”, so it’s a mystery why they ran with the story. As a rule, News Corp outlets are pretty conscientious about abiding by their subjects’ wishes, and you’d have thought that Nolan telling them there was no story would’ve been the end of it.

Still, on they ploughed and the result was severe embarrassment for the rowing/law power couple, who are at pains to emphasise that OF COURSE they support Zali Steggall’s campaign fully and without reservation, and if they’ve ever said any different it’s not their fault, but that of scurrilous media muckrakers. It’s hard to tell what’s stupider: writing the original tweets, talking to the Tele, or thinking anyone would buy an abrupt about-face. But what is certain is that Zali Steggall — who chose not to comment on the whole affair — has come out looking like the smartest person involved in the story by far.

Obviously, any reflection on the stupidest corners of an election campaign would be incomplete without a trip to Queensland, and specifically to the inner workings of Katter’s Australian Party. The party is standing a candidate whose closet contains one of the more unexpected skeletons of 2019: seven years ago he was banned from playing rugby for the Townsville Brolgas when caught importing human growth hormone through Australia Post. Makes a refreshing change from section 44…

Brendan Bunyan says he now views the incident as a learning experience, which you’d have thought would’ve disqualified him from preselection: learning is generally frowned upon in Katter’s Party. It seems wildly unlikely that a man with a history of hormone-importation could possibly win over honest Australian voters, but as it happens Bunyan is running against George Christensen, so it’s not like high standards are an obstacle for him. Keep your eye on the seat of Dawson. Something tells me things are going to get a lot stupider before this election is over.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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