Tony Abbott was accosted by a bloke in a pair of red Speedos when he visited a Melbourne shopping centre on Monday:
Initially it was reported like a light hearted bit of protest boof-headery by someone with an axe to grind who was missing the days of the giant rodent suits from the last election:
But it emerged yesterday that there was something sinister - and I don't mean left handed - going on with this guy.
The Budgie Smuggler Protestor was one Conrad French, who it was later revealed was a paid employee of the Labor Party, working out of the Victorian Campaign office. The ALP would immediately distance themselves from the incident, with the PM stating that it was 'silly' and that anyone with a point to prove would be better off keeping their clothes on. And that may very well have been it, a fairly forgettable piece of background noise in a five week campaign, if it weren't for the fact that it came to light who was paying Conrad to get his clothes off.
And that is... none other than you and I. By which I mean, us! Well, most of us anyway. My apologies to my friends who are still suckling on the tax payers teat themselves. Go back to bed guys, there's nothing for you to see here.
So, Conrad French works for the Victorian State campaign office. That being the case, you'd think that the ALP were paying his wage. And you'd be dead wrong. His wages are, at least partly, funded by tax payers.
Here's how it works. Members of Victoria's state Parliament get a taxpayer funded stipend to pay for a couple of people to staff their electoral office. You know, the grim, run down looking shopfront you've probably passed by a thousand times on your local main street with '(Insert name here), State Member for (Wherever)' painted on the window. These staffers are meant to do the filing, answer the mail and tell any constituents who actually rock up that their local member is in Sweden on a study trip and they won't be back till the next election.
What the ALP in Victoria do is they require all of their state MP's to pay a percentage of this taxpayer funded staff money back to State Labor HQ so they can use on... well, whatever. Leaflets or TV ads or a bloke or lunch at 'Nobu.' Even a man in red budgie smugglers trying to ruin the Opposition Leaders press coverage.
And look, part of me thinks I'm not even opposed to this kind of thing. Public funding for nutty election stunts. Labor people dressing up in costumes and heckling Tony Abbott. Liberal people putting glue on Julia Gillard's head and sticking a neon wig to her scalp. Might be a lot more edifying than five weeks of 'Moving Forward' and 'Stop the Boats.'
But another part of me thinks that this is just stealing under a different and more confusing name. That if the major political party's want to spend money on TV ads and leaflets and blokes in budgie smugglers than they should fucking well pay for it themselves and spend our money on what we all assume it's being spent on.
Start a political party like that and you've got my vote. But I wouldn't bet on it, anytime soon...