I'm going to swim against the tide and declare that gotcha media questions are legitimate forays in an election campaign.
Otherwise, all voters have to go by is set piece announcements and highly scripted policy statements.
Behind the scenes in election campaigns, what a leader tells a media conference each day is at the very end of a long vetting process.
It is very carefully scripted, based on focus groups and tracking polls, where legions of campaign workers each night run random or targeted telephone polls of voters, nationally and within electorates.
The information is fed into campaign strategy teams, who use it to set the day's agenda, based on the raw results from the previous night's tracking polls.
What a leader says at morning media conferences is never spontaneous.
Campaign HQ in Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney has carefully crafted the impression of spontaneity.
So, if you want to see what a leader is really like, or how a leader might behave as PM, one of the few insights available are the media questions out of left field, arising from latest wage figures, interest rates or maybe some new scandal in a hospital or nursing home.
Remember, the major party leaders are competing for the top job in the land.
They should at least be across the basic details.
Still, I was never offended by Anthony Albanese not knowing the unemployment rate or the cash rate.
I was offended by his porky about being an economics adviser to the Hawke government, when he was actually a junior staffer.
He drew admiration for owning his memory fails, but I don't like being lied to.
That told me a lot more about him than some momentary brain fade.
Scott Morrison has similarly floundered over questions about the price of break, milk etc.
The value of Gotcha question is that it gives leaders a chance to either impress me with the way they handled it, or un-impress me with the way they didn't handle it.
So, I'm actually revelling in the gotcha exchanges because everything else is determined by the backroom machines.
There is absolutely no insight.
If, as election analysts keeps telling us, the election campaign is all about cost-of-living pressures, then these "Gotcha questions" are about as close as you will get to the real story.
As I've written before, Labor has groomed Albanese with a physical and personality makeover, to portray him as prime ministerial material.
He has slimmed down, speaks slower to get rid of the shriek in his voice, wears trendy glasses and promotes a blokey persona.
Will the real Mr Albo please stand up?
I have no way of knowing, judging by the thoroughly massaged media statements and interviews.
Will he retain defence expenditure?
Will he cave into the climate change independents or the Greens?
Will he increase overall expenditure, and most importantly, will he pull the old post-election trick of saying: "Oh my goodness! The other mob left such a budget mess we'll have to increase taxes?"
I don't think he would be a pushover as PM, but still, I don't know, because of his small-target strategy.
Same with Morrison.
Is he fatigued as PM, as I suspect he is?
Is he as out of touch, as I suspect he is?
Because, let's face it, prime ministers live in a bubble, with a big salary ($A550,000), their own jet, two large houses with views and the capacity to say what they like, and we all listen.
In a way, I think Scomo's big problem is that he has never got enough of those gotcha questions to show the real Scomo, but now it's almost too late.
Campaigning in Launceston in the 2001 election, John Howard was asked by a junior reporter whether he was paying for his kids to live at his official residences, the Lodge and Kirribilli House.
"Do you really want to go down that track?" a furious PM said repeatedly, as the red-faced reporter kept asking.
The poor scribe later told me his senior colleagues in Canberra made him ask the question.
Apparently, a PM has to pay a nominal rent for off-spring to live at official residences and fly on VIP jets, a rent Howard said he always paid for.
I was surprised that a PM had to pay rent in the first place.
The tense exchange told me a whole lot more about Howard than a scripted statement ever could.
Election campaigns are a lot like those useless Dorothy Dixer questions in Parliament, where the parties only want you to focus on what they say and not what they do.
The next time you hear the political class scoffing at the gotcha moments, just reflect on why, who benefits, and who doesn't.
In a world of rehearsed, scripted lines, flowing smoothly from velvet voices, the gotcha question is all we've got.
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