With the election well and truly under way, we were starting to think the whole process could play out according to script. In 4 weeks of campaigning, what could possibly go wrong?

Then we were all starkly reminded that Tony Abbott is still leading the Liberals. Together with his affinity for speedos, Mr Abbott doesn’t mind the odd gaffe.

Mr Abbott was campaigning in the Western Sydney seat of Lindsay this week when he was asked what the Liberal candidate Fiona Scott had in common with her predecessor Jackie Kelly. His response?

“They’re young, feisty, I think I can probably say have a bit of sex appeal and they’re just very connected with the local area”. And just like that, in one short sentence, workplace lawyers around the country drew in a collective breath and shuddered.

The timing is unfortunate for the Liberal party as they push marginally ahead in the polls. In his defence, Mr Abbott was just being “exuberant” (his words, not ours) about a candidate whom he is “proud to be associated with”. But we doubt that anyone would be pleased about their employer referring to their “sex appeal” as a reason why they’re the top person for the job. In fact, a comment like that can easily fall foul of sexual harassment laws.

It’s a timely reminder for employers and employees that banter of this nature, even with the best of intentions, can make headlines for all the wrong reasons. As for politicians, maybe they should just stick to the script.