Joining in on The Age’s micro-jihad against the Labor machine over residual whining over the Kororoit by-election probably seemed like a no-brainer for Liberal upper house leader David “D-squared” Davis.
In that campaign Labor had said “a vote for Les Twentyman (an independent candidate) is a vote for the Liberals.” The candidate complained this was a breach of electoral law. The Victorian Electoral Commission said it wasn’t going to take any action but they did think the statement ‘misleading.’
Davis thought he’d help Ted Baillieu’s favourite scribe out by giving Paul Austin a couple of lines about how he’d propose an inquiry into claims that Labor had conned voters in Kororoit where its candidate patriot Marlene Kairouz received 15000 votes to her nearest rival’s 6000. It wasn’t even close after her rival – Les Twentyman – received the benefit of thousands of Liberal preferences.
But this morning it appears to have massively backfired with country Independent Craig Ingram now saying he had been called a Labor stooge by Nats and Liberals in his Gippsland seat for years and years.
He wants an inquiry into that too.
Of course he does. If we had a parliamentary inquiry into hurt feelings, there’d certainly be plenty of them.
And so do the Queensland Liberals who for years were the victim of an ALP slogan ‘a vote for the Liberals is a vote for the Nationals.’ They eventually merged, it got so irritating.
Is that kind of line, like John Howard’s claim that a vote for Labor is a vote for higher interest rates, misleading?
Of course it’s not.
Are they literally true? No. They’re puffery, designed to make a point about the attributes of an opponent.
In the case of Kororoit, there was no claim the independent left candidate was a Liberal, it was merely a demonstrably true claim that a vote for him would have given the Liberals a real sense of victory, as they had given him preferences and were certainly hoping he would win.
In Brisbane campaigns, it was certainly effective to link the Libs and the Nats as the Nats were once and still very much on the nose in parts of Brisbane. Was it literally true though? No, it was hyperbole but Queensland Labor would say it was a way of pointing to their coalition. A rhetorical device, not a deception.
In John Howard’s case, a vote for Labor was of course no vote for higher interest rates. He was merely trying to remind voters of the very high interest rates that prevailed under the Keating government.
The Victorian Electoral Commission isn’t taken very seriously. Its pronouncement on this issue is regarded by most serious campaigners and lawyers as a joke that has only further undermined their standing.
If there was a serious case to make of voters being misled it would have been made by the well-funded Kororoit candidate in the courts. Indeed he said he was going to do so. He never did.
And that single fact speaks a lot louder than David Davis’s latest clumsy own goal.
With friends like that, current state Liberal leader Ted Baillieu has every reason to think he doesn’t need enemies.
And he’s got plenty of those.