Life Lessons From the Best of Political Stuff-Ups

We all make mistakes, but we don’t always learn from them. Luckily, most of us aren’t in the public eye and our goofs don’t make headlines. The same can’t always be said for those in the political domain.

Sure, it’s easy to rip on them for publicly embarrassing themselves, but here at The Hip Pocket, we’re going to take the high road and learn from their mistakes…whilst ripping on them.

Peter Dutton – Is this thing on?

Bearing an eery resemblance to the robot protagonist Sonny from the film I, Robot, Peter Dutton received widespread backlash after his humour-setting malfunctioned within range of an overhead microphone.




In an attempt to pal around with Prime Minister Tony Abbott who had just returned from climate change talks with Pacific Island leaders, Mr Dutton dropped this knee slapper; “Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door.” Cue Curb Your Enthusiasm theme.

Caught red handed and desperately seeking bacon to accompany the egg on his face, Peter was rather embarrassed… I think… seriously, the guy has the emotional range of an Elliot Goblet routine.

Now it’s easy to point and laugh at Dutton’s gaffe, but who of us can honestly say we’ve never done something similar? You’re hanging with your mates, you’re feeling overly confident and you make a tasteless joke at the wrong time and get called out on it. It happens.

We would, however, be remiss to not take away a valuable lesson from the parable of Peter Dutton – CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF! Particularly in this day and age where most snide remarks and tacky jokes have found new real estate on social media, this lesson is well worth remembering.

If you’re going to say something incendiary, take a moment to feel the room. Consider what you’re saying and who you’re saying it about. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of perspective to realise that what you’re about to say is either incredibly stupid or offensive or both.

And, hey, if you do end up doing it and being called out, own up to it. Learn a lesson, apologise and move on…but make sure you mean it; unlike the perfunctory apology issued by P-Dutty.

Tony Abbott – Holocaust of Jobs

To most, referencing the Holocaust to describe basically anything other than the Holocaust is generally considered a big nein nein.

Enter Tony Abbott. During his tenure as PM, Abbott chalked up a gaffe tally rivalled only by that of Lt Frank Drebin.

Even fictional characters hate the comparisons.

Under pressure over the future of a multi billion dollar submarine contract, Abbott responded during Question Time by accusing the opposition of causing “a holocaust of jobs in Defence industries”.  Call me crazy but at best, ‘Holocaust of Jobs’ is acceptable as an excellent doom metal band name only. It is not, however, a witty criticism of your opponent.


As you’d expect, such phrasing drew the ire of not only the opposition, but the public at large. Tony later apologised and withdrew the comment, updating his description to a “decimation of jobs”, upping the syllable ante in the process.

Such a sensationalist retort can only be attributed to a brain explosion. In this case, Abbott pushed the envelope too far. Referencing the Holocaust for the sake of a garish attack on his opposition was cheap.

So let me break it down for you: if you’re going to reference the Holocaust, use it in the right context. And for clarity’s sake, the right context is the Holocaust itself. Otherwise, save the hyperbolic riffing for your late night improv classes.

Christopher Pyne – The Fixer

Despite sounding more like a mediocre action flick starring Jason Statham, The Fixer is Christopher Pynes’ self assigned nickname.

The Fixer earned his stripes after finding $150 million to fund the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). The revelation came during an interview with Sky News host David Speers, who pressed Pyne several times for an explanation as to how he’d located such a vast sum of money.

But despite repeated attempts to get a straight answer, Pyne’s only response was that he’d “fixed it”.  For those who haven’t seen the footage of the interview, it is utterly bizarre.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a prank. But as far as we know, Christopher Pyne isn’t the Andy Kaufman of Australian politics, and as for his cryptic responses to Speers’ questions, well, maybe it’s possible that Pyne really doesn’t know where the money came from… but it’s fixed.

As odd as it may seem, we can learn something about trust here. I’m going to forget for a moment that I’m still not entirely convinced that Christopher Pyne isn’t an alien or two children on each others shoulders taking the public for a ride.

Regardless of whether you like him or not, it’s hard to gain anyone’s trust when you’re smugly evasive. It’s even harder when you sound like a broken record. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of working in customer service, it’s this: if you screw up, own up.

And if I may dip into the platitudes, honestly really is the best policy. Pyne expected to get his own way with no explanation and no love lost, and maybe he could’ve if he didn’t restrict his verbal responses to the 140 character limit afforded by Twitter.

Sure, had he been open and honest, many probably wouldn’t have liked what he had to say anyway, but at least we’d have known that there was nothing to hide and he would’ve gained some respect for that.  But if you don’t believe me, let me ask you this: would you trust this man?


Feature image: Wikipedia