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Campaign Diary: gaffes, what ifs and mates

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Political reporters love a gaffe – another person’s gaffe that is.

In an occupation where some questions make no sense and several takes are required before the TV reporter gets their “piece-to-camera” correct, there is a heaving bias towards the sensationalising of a political misstep.

Yesterday’s TV news services highlighted Jay Weatherill’s “meaningful” when he meant meaningless and Steven Marshall’s “landowners” when he meant landlord.

In both cases, we know what they meant; which is why the TV reporter’s assumption that it’s a gaffe is itself wrong.

In politics, the gaffe came to prominence in the early 1980s when CNN’s Crossfire interviewer, Michael Kinsley, regularly tripped up politicians.

Writing for Time Magazine in 1988, Kinsley described the gaffe thus: “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.”

A word stumble is therefore not a gaffe; nor is it of any importance in the context of political campaigning. It’s just an easy TV shot.

Political leaders are far more forgiving of reporter’s gaffes; the inane questions, wrong assumptions, an incorrect chronology of key events.

FIVEaa brekkie presenter David Penberthy put a question to Steven Marshall this morning where he claimed the Premier had attacked the Liberal leader’s credibility AFTER the “landowner” word stumble.

Marshall politely pointed out that the order of events was, in fact, the reverse.

Penbo happily moved on.

He did, however, turn to a hypothetical question, that of how the respective leaders would handle a hung parliament.

The question also arose yesterday when one TV reporter chased Marshall out of a building to get an answer to the hypothetical.

ABC Radio’s Matt and Dave dived into the same pond this morning.

Both leaders gave the expected response – they want to win outright.

The hypothetical is a nonsense.

With three incumbent independents – Bob Such, Geoff Brock and Don Pegler – along with solidly rated independent candidates Gary Johanson and Kris Hanna, there are more than 100 hypothetical outcomes.

It only becomes relevant if either leader can’t form a majority government and that can’t happen until after March 15.

Back to matters of substance, however, and the various radio appearances by both leaders show a clear ideological difference for voters to choose between.

“The state’s performance has always involved government stepping up,” Jay Weatherill said today.

Steven Marshall’s campaign constantly refers to a “business-led recovery”.

It’s a choice the voters can make – and they won’t be considering any minor verbal slip ups.

Finally, the Premier may have lost a few votes among his own supporters yesterday when he called a second press conference to lash out at Marshall’s proposed cuts to land tax.

“He’s just looking after his mates, the big end of town,” Weatherill said.

The cuts will benefit people who themselves or through their partner, own a property other than their residence.

Parliament’s 2013 Register of Member’s Interests shows the list of “Marshall’s mates” includes these sitting Labor MPs: Zoe Bettison, Leon Bignell, Lyn Breuer, Susan Close, Pat Conlon, Robyn Geraghty, John Hill, Tom Koutsantonis, Michael O’Brien, Grace Portolesi, Gay Thompson and Leesa Vlahos.

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