Australian election campaign: Gaffes, giggles and groans

Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott poses with a mango and one of his "not bad looking daughters." What will he say next?

Story highlights

  • Five-week election campaign filled with colorful quotes, unfortunate gaffes
  • Potential leader Tony Abbott takes the prize for most prolific contributor
  • Classic quotes also come from the candidate described as having "sex appeal"
  • Others have quit after making poorly-received comments, others are lying low

Forget policies. One thing guaranteed to get the electorate talking ahead of any vote is a steady stream of cringe-inducing moments, and on that front Australia's federal election campaign hasn't disappointed.

Tony Abbott, the man who looks set to become the country's next prime minister, won international headlines for all the wrong reasons with his misguided reference to suppositories.

But he's not the only one leaving voters squirming in their seats. Here are our top 10 moments of the Australian campaign trail, in no particular order.

1. Abbott: Vote for me because my daughters are hot

Okay, he didn't actually say that but that's what Coalition leader Abbott implied when he and current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appeared on Australia's version of reality hit "Big Brother." (Yes, Big Brother still airs there and presumably has enough of an audience to convince both politicians that it was worth a shot at the youth vote.)

Economy dominates Australian election
Economy dominates Australian election


    Economy dominates Australian election


Economy dominates Australian election 02:12
Assange runs for Australian senate
Assange runs for Australian senate


    Assange runs for Australian senate


Assange runs for Australian senate 02:01
Little boy photobombs politician
Little boy photobombs politician


    Little boy photobombs politician


Little boy photobombs politician 01:15

While Rudd reduced more than one housemate to tears with talk of love and gay marriage, Abbott shot from the hip with a comment (presumably aimed at the nation's blokes given his views on gay marriage): "If you want to know who to vote for, I'm the guy with the not bad looking daughters."

As commentator Nick Galvin noted: "Adrift uneasily in the no man's land between daggy and plain weird, Abbott looked strangely like Robert Palmer from the era when the late British singer surrounded himself with Amazonian beauties, because . . . well . . . he could."

(For the uninitiated, "daggy" means uncool, unfashionable, etc.)

READ MORE: Could political brawler be next PM?

2. Getting hot and sweaty

They may not have been "Amazonian beauties," but when Abbott found himself surrounded by a high school netball team it seemed he couldn't help himself.

"A little body contact" never hurt anyone, he told them after the girls apologized for being sweaty and crushing his suit during a photo call, according to national broadcaster the ABC.

It followed some effusive but what many considered inappropriate praise for a Liberal candidate's "sex appeal."

The cack-handed "compliment" was aimed at Fiona Scott, who days later offered a comment of her own crowned by the country's immigration minister as "the silliest of the campaign." Read on.

3. Asylum seekers? Clogging up traffic

Liberal candidate Fiona Scott. Tired of traffic.

Anyone with half an eye on the Australian election will have noticed a lot of debate and angst about what to do about asylum seekers who arrive in the country's waters by boat.

When prompted to talk about the "hot topic" of asylum seekers, Scott said, "Yes it's a hot topic here because our traffic is overcrowded. How much fun is the M4 in peak hour? It's not fun, at all."

The M4 connects the inner-west with the outer suburbs of Sydney. Scott's comment prompted a stream of tweets, including one which asked whether jams were caused by "all those refugees towing their boats down the motorway." After the furor, Scott claimed her quotes had been taken out of context.

4. Things that make you go 'ummmm'

While we're on asylum seekers and Liberal candidates, Jaymes Diaz deserves a mention. When asked about the party's six-point plan to "stop the boats," the election candidate failed to name the other five.

In the days following, it seemed to become a sport for Australian journalists to track Diaz down and pitch the question to him again to see whether he'd managed to commit them to memory. However, he was nowhere to be found.

In a six-minute video attached to an article headlined "Where are Abbott's wallies?" reporter Lucy Carroll tried to find him. After two days of phone calls and attempted doorstops she only managed to locate his mother.

5. Islam. A new one for the map

Diaz may be hard to find, but at least he's hanging in there for the vote, unlike Stephanie Banister who withdrew her candidacy after making a series of jaw-dropping comments, all within one interview.

"I don't oppose Islam as a country, but I do feel that their laws should not be welcome here in Australia," Banister told Seven News. She went on to confuse "haram" with the Quran and said Jews followed Jesus Christ.

A candidate for the fringe One Nation Party, 27-year-old Banister quit just 48 hours into her campaign. In a statement to the ABC, party leader Jim Savage said she'd withdrawn "following the disgraceful way she has been portrayed by recent media [and] ridicule over a minor gaffe."

6. See ya. Candidates shown the door.

While Banister quit of her own accord, the ruling Labor party made sure candidate Geoff Lake made it nowhere near the polling booths. He was dumped after admitting to verbally abusing a disabled female councilor in 2002.

"I was a young mayor and I got angry one night and I spoke to her in angry way, which I acknowledged then and I acknowledge now," Lake told local media.

Another nudged out of the race was North Queensland candidate Ken Robertson who called Abbott "racist" and "a very, very bigoted person." It came days after Rudd called for a "positive campaign."

7. 'Be careful of Rupert'

Founder of the Palmer United Party, Clive Palmer.

Allegations of racism weren't the only ones flying around.

Mining magnate Clive Palmer, perhaps better known outside Australia for his ambitious plans to build a replica Titanic, shocked morning viewers by making some stunning accusations on live TV .

"Rupert Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng is a Chinese spy," Palmer said. "She's been spying on Rupert for years, giving money back to Chinese intelligence."

"Clive, have you lost the plot?" asked the visibly shocked presenter.

Palmer is standing for a Senate seat as leader of his own party, the Palmer United Party. Polls show the party could possibly win one seat.

8. 'You're the voice'

Julian Assange as "Farnsie."

It must be hard to entertain oneself while hiding from authorities in a foreign embassy for months on end.

That's the only reason we can think why WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange thought it was a good idea to don a fake mullet and sing his own version of John Farnham's classic Aussie hit "You're the voice." (For those unfamiliar with the terminology, "mullet" refers to a type of hairstyle, not the fish).

Assange is attempting to win an Australian Senate seat for his WikiLeaks Party, despite the surprise resignation of his running mate Leslie Cannold -- who quit due to a lack of transparency and accountability, of all things.

It's not clear whether Assange will be able to take up his seat if he wins. It is clear that singing will NOT be a viable career option.

9. Slipper recycles

Another candidate relying on blasts from the past is former federal speaker Peter Slipper, who has defended his use of old campaign signs in his bid for re-election.

It's clear from the posters that they don't feature a recent image. They're black and white. Oh, and Slipper is now running as an independent candidate, so he's had to cut off any Liberal Party logos. Not obvious at all.

The former speaker could be forgiven for wanting to avoid any more cameras. He was hauled over the coals and through the courts after being accused of sexually harassing a male colleague.

A federal court judge eventually threw out the case last December, saying that he'd come to the conclusion the claims were made to cause Slipper "significant, public, reputational and political damage."

10. Will it end after the election? Probably not...

It seems appropriate to end this list with Abbott, as the likely next prime minister and the country's most prolific provider of head-slapping gaffes.

Abbott hasn't won yet, but if he does then writer Alan Stokes has imagined the contents of his election speech.

It starts with "My drear men and women of Australia. I stand here tonight, on this maleficent evening, as your prime minister, to spank you very much and say how bumbled I have been to receive your thrust."

To read the whole "screech," click here.

      Australian leadership

    • An Indonesian police man carries an exhausted young boy following more rescue by search and rescue team in Cidaun, West Java on July 24, 2013. Rescuers searched the seas off Indonesia's Java island on July 24 for possibly dozens of asylum-seekers missing after their Australia-bound boat sank, leaving at least three dead, with 157 saved, an official said. Local rescue officials estimated there could have been 'up to 200' passengers on the boat which was bound for Australia, while a survivor said some 250 had boarded the vessel. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

      Parties in 'race to bottom' on asylum

      It might be surprising that in a country as wealthy, multicultural and big as Australia, one of the key election battles is about asylum seekers, writes Jane McAdam.
    • An image taken on Ranjini and Ganesh's wedding day on April 8, 2012.

      Refugee seeks freedom in High Court

      A refugee and mother of three young boys who is being held in indefinite detention in Australia is taking her bid for freedom to the country's highest court.
    • Prime Minister Julia Gillard (R) listens as opposition leader Tony Abbott (L) sworn in in the House of Representatives chamber at Parliament House Canberra on Sept. 28, 2010 Canberra, Australia. The opening comes five weeks after the federal election resulted in a hung parliament and left the country waiting while Independent MPs deliberated to ultimately form a minority government.

      Has 'sexist' Abbott sunk 'gender war'?

      Tony Abbott is an unreconstructed male who loves sport, likes a beer and bravely tries to don the garb of man who cares about women, writes Amanda Wilson.
    • An Australian flag waves in the wind.

      Candidate quits after Islam gaffe

      A candidate in Australia's parliamentary elections referred to Islam as a country. As a result, she's now referred to as a former candidate.
    • Tony Abbott (left) and Kevin Rudd are due to face off in election scheduled for September 7

      Issue: Asylum, Internet, economy

      Australians go to the polls to vote on policies as diverse as how the country polices its borders and plans to connect every part of the vast continent to the Internet.
    •   This picture taken on September 26, 2012 shows workers on a scaffold at a construction site in Hefei, central China's Anhui province. China has approved a massive infrastructure package worth more than 158 billion USD, state media said on September 7, as the government seeks to boost the flagging economy.

      How political rivals view China

      The two leading political rivals offer contrasting views on China, the country that looms largest on Australia's economic and strategic horizon.
    • pkg kid photobombs politician australia _00000707.jpg

      Little boy photobombs PM Rudd

      A young boy in Australia makes some funny faces behind Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and the photographs have gone viral.
    • Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd addresses the media after calling a general election in Canberra on August 4, 2013. Rudd on August 4 named September 7 as election day, hoping to complete a stunning political comeback by keeping the centre-left Labor Party in power three years after it ousted him.

      Rudd calls September 7 vote

      Australia's prime minister Kevin Rudd kicks off a five-week campaign as polls show his ruling Labor party has closed the gap.
    • Suspected asylum seekers arrive at Christmas Island, after receiving assistance by Australian Navy, on October 13, 2012.

      Why asylum plan won't work

      Rudd only needs the PNG Solution to "stop the boats" for a few weeks in order to somewhat cynically portray the initiative as an ingenious plan.
    • PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 13: Prime Minister Julia Gillard looks on during a visit to the worksite of Perth City Link at Perth Station on June 13, 2013 in Perth, Australia. The Prime Minister is in Perth for a range of engagements, meeting earlier today with former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and to visit the worksite of the Perth City Rail Link. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

      Gillard: Admired and vilified

      Prime Minister Julia Gillard was very much a leader under siege from within her own ranks when she called for a leadership ballot.