At least Premier Rann will be able to say he is not avoiding shopping centres because he is concerned about a confrontation with Chantelois or anyone else but merely respecting the wishes of centre owners who have grown tired of providing politicians with a backdrop before which they can show their popularity and people skills.
The Melbourne Herald Sun reported this morning that some owners plan to ban politicians campaigning in their shopping centres because their hunt for votes causes too much disruption. “Politicians don’t understand that shopping centres don’t exist for their benefit,” said Milton Cockburn, the executive director of the Shopping Centre Council of Australia.
Being savvy businessmen some owners are prepared to allow their customers to put up with a little political discomfort if there is a dollar involved. Former Labor Party federal secretary Gary Gray, now a Perth MP, told the paper he was charged $460 to set up his card table at one centre during the last election. Maybe this year he should just set up on the footpath outside and save himself the fee.
Certainly Rann should not be the only party leader to avoid meeting and greeting in shopping centres this election year whatever the owners’ say. The practice has become increasingly dangerous as a bored media strive to find every little incident that reflects badly on a campaign and the demonstrators cotton on to the knowledge that they can easily provide just those incidents.