Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd may have felt like Julius Ceasar when he was stabbed in the back by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, but for another of her ministers, Anthony Albanese, Hollywood seems more of an inspiration than Shakespeare.
Albanese, a senior frontbencher and leader of the House of Representatives, yesterday laughed off revelations that he plagiarised lines delivered by Michael Douglas in the 1995 romcom The American President.
But Opposition politicians poked fun at him, with a gleeful Coalition leader Tony Abbott claiming the Government was so bereft of ideas it was relying on "clapped-out scripts from Hollywood".
The gaffe came to light after the Liberal Party's federal director, Brian Loughnane, released a video containing footage from a speech Albanese gave to the National Press Club on Wednesday and from the movie, in which Douglas - playing President Andrew Shepherd - delivered uncannily similar lines to the White House press corps.
The Transport and Infrastructure Minister told Australian radio yesterday that a "third hand" - meaning one of his staffers - had inserted the words into his speech. However, he insisted he took full responsibility for the "stuff- up", and questioned whether it was really a big deal.
The much-watched video led to Albanese being lampooned on Twitter, and to Opposition MPs twisting the knife. "I can only hope this humiliating blunder doesn't lead to Mr Albanese being the subject of immense ridicule," said the Opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne, in a statement brimming with insincerity.
Albanese, who spent Australia Day greeting new citizens at ceremonies in his Sydney electorate, said the lines were just a small portion of a 13-page speech.
"It was unfortunate, but was it a big deal?" asked the minister, who had already apologised on Twitter with a line he was quick to admit was borrowed from Homer Simpson: "D'oh!"
Gillard used the same social networking site to spring to his defence, tweeting that she loved Douglas "because he's married to a Welsh woman" and adding that "Albo's not bad either". (The Australian Prime Minister was born in Wales, as was Douglas' wife, Catherine Zeta Jones.)
Although the video had received nearly 27,000 hits by yesterday afternoon, Albanese's most watched YouTube appearance remains a speech he gave in Parliament in 2007.
Not because of its content, but because in the background Rudd can be seen digging out and eating his own ear wax. More than 825,000 people have watched the clip.
LIFE IMITATES ART
"We have serious problems to solve and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: Making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it."
Michael Douglas in The American President (1995)
"In Australia we have serious challenges to solve and we need serious people to solve them. Unfortunately Tony Abbott is not the least bit interested in fixing any of them. He's only interested in two things, making Australians afraid of it and telling them who's to blame for it."
Australian Transport Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday in Canberra
Check out video footage of the incident: