The cigar photograph triggered an avalanche of highly-amused tweets and memes. Footage: Nine News
It is one of the interesting social contradictions of Australia that a nation with such a laconic and carefree cultural brand is one that also demands a rarified precision in political image management. Perhaps it’s because our custom of compulsory voting means that our politicians must not merely “get out” their own vote, but also be careful to snatch a larger percentage of other people’s.
Presenting as an “everyman” is not entirely necessary for success in Australian politics, but where political reputation thrives and prospers is certainly in a consistent portrayal of virtuous character assuaging any kind of suspicions the electorate might have.
Within my own lifetime, Gough Whitlam’s epoch-making, culture-shaking prime ministership may have struck forth for social equality – legislating women’s rights, mocking the hoary knights and dames buffoonery and boldly fighting racial discrimination – but Gough was always careful to present himself in the tradition of a well-dressed, well-spoken and well-mannered statesman, rather than a filthy red.