Madonna King: The answers to the ‘gotcha’ questions that every politician should know

The lesson of John Hewson’s birthday cake interview is one Anthony Albanese is learning this week, writes Madonna King.

The lesson of John Hewson’s birthday cake interview is one Anthony Albanese is learning this week, writes Madonna King.

Who could forget John Hewson’s birthday cake interview? It might be almost 30 years old, but the lesson behind it is one Anthony Albanese is learning again this week.

Back then, the Liberal Party opposition leader – and prime ministerial hopeful – was unable to explain to voters how the GST would affect the cost of a birthday cake.

Two weeks later, in the aftermath of an election, that one big slip-up was considered instrumental in the Coalition losing what was widely considered an ‘unloseable’ election.

Fast forward to this week, and Anthony Albanese should be kicking himself still because there are some things – whether you are running for the top job or to represent voters in an electorate anywhere in Australia, you should simply know.


Here, courtesy of The New Daily, is a knowledge-reckoner for the campaign trail, able to be used by both sides.

  1. What is the minimum wage? Answer: $20.33 per hour.
  2. What is Australia’s unemployment rate? Answer: If any candidate doesn’t know that now, they should stay at home, or call Anthony Albanese. For the record, it is 4 per cent. (This could change at 11.30am on April 14 when the latest labour force data is released.)
  3. What is Australia’s GDP? Answer: About 1450 billion US dollars. This changes regularly, so answers along the line of ‘a figure with more zeros than you can imagine’ is probably acceptable to most voters.
  4. Who was Australia’s longest-serving prime minister? Answer: Seriously, if a Liberal got this wrong, you’d wonder. It was, of course, Robert Menzies, who served in office twice – and for a total of 18 years, five months and 12 days.
  5. How much does a loaf of bread cost? Answer: This should be answered specifically. In my supermarket, it’s about $2.73.
  6. How much will a dozen eggs set you back? Answer: Of course it depends on the brand, but $5 or thereabouts would get a tick.
  7. What is the average house price in Melbourne? Answer: Too high probably is acceptable, but $999,037 would be close to the mark.
  8. What is the age pension? Answer: The maximum fortnightly rate is $987.60 for a single person at the moment. Not enough would also be a good answer.
  9. How many judges on the High Court? Answer: Seven.
  10. Daylight saving is not observed in what jurisdictions? Answer: Queensland, Northern Territory and WA. Extra points for Christmas Island or the Cocos Islands.
  11. What is the cost of a rapid antigen test? Answer: The average price of tests in pharmacies can be as high as $21.
  12. What is the average cost of seeing a GP in Brisbane? Answer: Not much change from $45.
  13. What is the leading cause of death among Australians aged 15 to 24? Answer: Suicide. And that should prompt an almighty look at how it might be stemmed.
  14. Who is the captain of the Australian cricket team? Answer: Pat Cummins.
  15. How often does an Australian suffer a heart attack? Answer: Once every 10 minutes.
  16. Where will the 2022 Commonwealth Games be held? Answer: Birmingham.
  17. What is the top marginal tax rate? Answer: 47 per cent (including the 2 per cent Medicare Levy).
  18. How much does a plastic bag cost at Woolworths? Answer: 15 cents.
  19. What is the pension age from July next year? Answer: 67.
  20. Explain the Superannuation Guarantee Levy. Answer: It is the rate that a boss is required to pay into a superannuation account on behalf of a worker.
  21. What is the GST rate in Australia? Answer: 10 per cent.
  22. What is the cost of a university bachelor degree course in Australia? Answer: Between $15,000 and $30,000.
  23. Part A. How many Australians are killed on the road each year? Answer: Last year 1126 people lost their lives.
    Part B. What are you going to do about it?
  24. True or false. It can now take more than 12 months to get a psychologist’s appointment for a struggling teen. Answer: True.
  25. How much does a couple require to live comfortably in retirement each year? Answer: According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), $64,771.
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