GASP: Abbott’s teenage nightmare

The pop culture powder keg is ripe for explosion as politicians pursue the nation's tabloid hearts.

Gasp is a wry take on the week's events, every week.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott must think the world of politicians.

Not content with brow-beating each other over the economy and delivering a joint press conference in place of a debate, the dubious duo and their lacklustre legions found a new straw at which to clutch this week in the search for relevance.

At last conceding what those of us with televisions and ears have known for some time – that neither party is capable of delivering a message that resonates with the electorate – our fearless leaders began their pursuit for our tabloid hearts.

In an appeal to our fickle and fleeting obsession with all that glitters, unceremonious pop culture references have now become the tactic du jour for voter engagement.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has for weeks been fighting off a self-satisfied grin when delivering, time and again, the only zinger in his arsenal: “Kevin Kardashian”.

But as the race to the Lodge intensified, the pop culture powder keg powered to the precipice of explosion.

While Rudd went on a ‘selfie’ rampage (for more on “the cut that stopped the nation”, read Will social media really decide the election?, August 14), Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury expanded on the government’s substantial “slash and burn” fear campaign against the Coalition’s reported spending cuts.

"These are not going to be surgical, measured, targeted cuts," he said. "This is going to be something that resembles The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

Horror movie. Blood. Fear. Get it?

Sounds like someone’s missing Craig Emerson and his signature Whyalla Wipeout doesn’t it?

And then of course there is Tony Abbott. The one, the only, the king of the campaign gaffe.

Not content with cracking a self-confessed “dad joke” when referring to a Liberal candidate as possessing sex appeal, Abbott lined up with a slew of other “celebrities” to pose questions to US pop star Katy Perry on a popular breakfast radio show.

As Abbott poured adulation on the singer, referencing his daughters at a rate that might cause those medically inclined among us to wonder if he was in fact having a stroke, Perry wanted only to question the opposition leader on his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Despite her confession that she would not vote for him, Abbott still nominated Perry’s hit Hot N Cold as potential campaign anthem (despite other, more appropriate choices such as One Of The Boys and Self Inflicted).

It was a gaffe only matched by Labor’s failure to seize on it.

If there were any clear-thinking heads left in government ranks, they would have pulled the ‘boat people’ ads off television immediately and replaced them with Abbott’s cringe-worthy exchange, in all its horrifying glory.

The ads could have exposed Abbott on virtually all fronts.

On the economy: “You’re yes, then you’re no.”

On the GST: “Always speak cryptically.”

On preferences for the Greens: “You’re in then you’re out.”

And here’s the kicker: how can Abbott have any credibility as a crusader for Australian jobs, when he’d happily outsource his own campaign song to a yankee?

Of course, I’m being facetious here. Labor is far too busy delivering a campaign fuelled with policy and positivity and none of this tit-for-tat poppy-cock.

Right, Penny Wong?

"I wasn't altogether surprised and nor were many Australian women, I suspect,” a positively radiant finance minister said in response to the sex appeal gaffe.

“This is consistent with some of the views Mr Abbott has expressed over many, many years.”

Regardless, Abbott can take solace in the fact that if Rudd triumphs on September 7, Katy Perry will be right there to comfort him with her all-too-familiar tune, The One That Got Away.

Dick and David

It’s the age-old story of an uptown retailer and neglected battler from the wrong side of the financial tracks, yet David Jones is convinced it has solved its electronics equation through a partnership with Dick Smith.

The high-end retailer will hand over the operation of its electronics business to Dick Smith starting in October, in a partnership the retailers have branded as an “Australian department store first”.

DJs chief executive officer Paul Zahra said the deal – set to cost the company a one-off charge of up to $10 million – would deliver more competitive prices for customers, while maintaining the “David Jones shopping experience”.

David Jones has long been weighed down by its underperforming electronic division in a market defined by deflation and aggressive discounting (see Stephen Bartholomeusz’ JB Hi-Fi turns up the amp and enjoys the music, August 14, for some good background).

But in outsourcing its operations, is the retailer overlooking the cultural clash likely to ensue between both staff and customers of each business?

Will Dick Smith customers dodge the Chanel spritzer, ignore the eyes of judgment from disapproving staff and slip right by the distracting Country Road merchandising to get to the sacred land of electronics – so often tucked away in a darkened back corner?

And what becomes of the David Jones staff room, previously a den of high culture, imported tea and crustless cucumber sandwiches, when the Tolkien-quoting, headphone-clad upstarts from Dick Smith crash the party?

They say opposite attract, but will the socio-economic divide between the patrons of DJs and the people of Dick Smith prove too high a mountain to climb?

David Jones is betting that it isn’t. And if nothing else, they’ve hooked themselves a new brand ambassador for the “sophisticated” demographic.

Can’t you just see Dick Smith spruiking OzEmite in Ralph Lauren?

Jessica Gomes, you have been warned.

Tweet of the week

Graph for GASP: Abbott’s teenage nightmare

Just quickly

  • Fear not, keepers of political correctness and all things good and holy – what was shaping up as a potentially quiet term of government for you looks set to be anything but, with news that former Speaker Peter Slipper will recontest his seat of Fisher as an independent. Cue moral indignation.
  • Gum trees, whales and hacky sack manufacturers wept as Tony Abbott declared the Liberals would be preferencing the Greens last at the federal election. In his defense, Abbott makes a valid point that Canberra does function best when a single party is granted unconditional power and left unchecked by pestering communists on the fringes.

One-line wonders

“I actually have to sit down and think which of my staff are female and male.” – Prime Minister Kevin Rudd explains to Mia Freedman why he will have to find room in the budget to hire fewer androgynous employees if re-elected.

“I wish people would describe me as having sex appeal, but they don’t.” – The Coalition’s Christopher Pyne coming to terms with the fact that Tony Abbott, and indeed all people, don’t have eyes for him.

“No one, however smart, however well educated, however experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom.” – Tony Abbott. No punchline required.

The last gasp

What was the best thing about the first election debate? The fact that there’s now one less debate for us to endure. The only worm of interest on Sunday night was the one at the bottom of the tequila bottle, and even with the benefit of some Mexican Dutch courage, Abbott and Rudd failed to fire.

What should have been a platform for the leaders to flesh out their tireless sloganeering was merely an indictment of the fact that that is all we are going to get in the run up to the ballot.

What made you gasp this week? Let us know below or via @BusinessSpec and @mitchneems.

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