Scott Morrison saying “we don’t trust in governments” line is among the most perplexing things said by anyone who’s ever held - or was about to hold - the office of PM. In terms of nutbaggery, it’s right up there with Tony Abbott’s “shit happens” comment – when the then opposition leader was discussing the events surrounding the death of a digger in Afghanistan.
Or Tony Abbott’s 28 second nodding fit when asked about his “shit happens” line.
Or Tony Abbott winking at broadcaster Jon Faine when a sex worker called-in to ABC Radio.
Or Tony Abbott eating the raw onion.
Morrison and Abbott aside, it made me wonder what were the most embarrassing gaffes and blunders made by future, present and former Australian Prime Ministers? Here are mine, please feel free to add or subtract:
#1: MALCOLM FRASER
Malcolm Fraser was famously discovered without his trousers in the foyer of a seedy Memphis, Tennessee, hotel during a conference in 1986. The former PM appeared at 7am wearing only a towel, after losing his $10,000 Rolex watch, passport, wallet and $600 cash.
He maintained he was drugged and not drunk, a story backed by his wife, Tamie.
#2: JOHN GORTON
It was no secret that John Gorton was fond of a tipple. The former PM boarded a VIP jet in Melbourne after a boozy official dinner, and immediately fell asleep. Veteran journalist Laurie Oakes said Gorton was woken a while later by the noise of the plane’s engines, and vomited. As a flight attendant cleaned up, the apologetic PM asked if she was surprised an old fighter pilot like him would still get airsick.
“Yes,” she said. “Particularly since the plane had not yet taken off.”
More famously, in 1969, while he was PM, Gorton paid a visit to Liza Minnelli's dressing room at the Chequers nightclub in Sydney, sparking innuendo. Publicist Harry M Miller, who was there on the night, would later write in his biography: "Let's not beat around the bush here – they did it." But Minnelli dismissed the rumours as "vicious lies", "untrue" and "ridiculous".
#3: JOHN HOWARD
Being caught pantless, throwing up on a plane and nodding for 28 seconds straight hasn’t caused Australians as much heart-ache as John Howard bowling during a visit to Australian troops in Pakistan in 2005. We’ve all seen the footage too many times, so I’m not showing you again. Oh OK.
#4: KEVIN RUDD
Kevin Rudd was still a few years off being PM when he visited Scores, a Manhattan strip club, in 2003. He claimed to have been too drunk to remember the details of the night, spent with Labor MP Warren Snowdon and the editor of the New York Post, the Australian Col Allan. (AZ: Col was a former boss of mine.)
“I have never tried to present myself as Captain Perfect,” Rudd said in 2007, when the story broke.
#5: PAUL KEATING
TBH, I’m not sure if this is “embarrassing”, but I guess it was a protocol blunder. Paul Keating was accused of improper conduct when he placed his hand on the Queen’s back as she visited Parliament House in 1992. The UK press lost its mind, with The Sun branding him the “LIZARD OF OZ.”
“Hands orf, cobber”, screamed the ‘Star’ on its front page. The ‘Daily Mirror’ thundered that “Aussies don’t give a XXXX about manhandling the Queen.”
The ‘Daily Express’ told its readers that Buckingham Palace sources said the Queen was privately “saddened” by what the paper termed the “discourteous treatment she had received.”