Day to Day Politics: Interviewing Malcolm Turnbull. – By John Lord

June 11 2016

1 The political interview is probably not the most pleasant task politicians perform. It requires, particularly if you are a leader, a quick mind, a broad knowledge of many subjects, an eye for detail and the ability to convey the fact that no matter how arduous the work is, you are doing it for pure reasons. That the nation and its people are the most important thing in your life.

There are exceptions of course like Christopher ‘the mouth that roared’ Pyne who seems to take great delight in being insulting and making a fool of himself. He wears the mantle of Australia’s most hated politician like a badge of honour.

The best politician Australia has ever had in terms of knowing policy detail was John Howard. Even on subjects, he was not directly responsible for.

I can recall the time of the introduction of the GST and remember thinking to myself that he was as much on top of the detail as was Costello and he wasn’t even running with the policy. Detail is important because the media can bring you down on the slightest thing. Julia Bishop for example on Superannuation this week.

Some are better than others at being interviewed. For example Paul Keating could give as much as he got. Bob Hawke could turn them into a chat in the saloon bar at the local pub.

Morrison, Dutton and Cormann are undoubtedly professional motor mouths ‘perceptionists’ who are adept at creating the illusion of truth. They adopt the tactic of over talk. The theory being that if you talk your way through an interview the less questions you can be asked.

Which brings me to Malcolm Turnbull.

Leigh Sales latest interview with the Prime Minister was excruciating. He looked nervously uncomfortable. Here we have one of the brightest minds in Australia seemingly terrified of the preying questions of Leigh Sales.

Goodness knows what he would have been like with Kerry O’Brien who could make knowledgeable minds squirm.

The problem for Turnbull is that over the years he has cultivated an unpolitical image. He placed himself above day-to-day politics.

Now in the cut and thrust of an election campaign in which he is required to be up front with journalists he presents quite the opposite to the image he created.

With Leigh Sales he looked as though he was appearing under sufferance. Why should a man of my brilliance be talking to you?

Three times she asked him why the polls revealed disappointment with him. He evaded the questions with the deftness of Mohamed Ali’s ring craft.

In the end he gave this answer that almost bordered on comedy:

LEIGH SALES: But I think people watching this also want to know that you’re listening to them and what those polls tell you is that there’s something that you’re doing which they don’t like.

MALCOLMTURNBULL: Well why don’t you ask me a question about it?

SALES: Well, I am asking you a question about it. What do you think – what do you think – what do you think has happened that you have lost that ginormous chunk of approval?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Leigh, I am not going to be drawn into that kind of introspection.

She asked him why that if the Governments record was so impressive, as he stated, why then was it necessary to topple Abbott. He gave all sorts of bullshit answers on the Governments remarkable record over the past three years but on Abbott’s removal he simple said “the political issue you raise is a separate matter”.

The imperative requiring Abbott’s removal in his mind was no longer an issue. A remarkable answer given that a few months back after 30 consecutive Newspoll losses and a lack of economic leadership, it was vitality important to be rid of him.

He looked like he was hating every minute of it. The tone of his voice was negative and defensive, even condescending. A politician wanting to say one thing but obliged to say another.

“Do you accept far from establishing a coherent message, your delay in announcing policy and your ‘wishy-washiness’, as one of your own backbenchers put it, has confused and disillusioned voters?” Sales asked.

Without any economic record to fall back on he went for the tired old political nonsense.

“We are seeing strong business confidence, strong levels of employment growth and that is because my Government’s economic plan is working. I need three more years to complete it. That is what I am seeking from the Australian people,” he said.

In playing the typical everyday politician it all just seemed very unnatural. He doesn’t speed talk like Morrison or Cormann and looks bewildered by it all. He needs twice as long to answer a question because he speaks normally. Speaking with political quick-wittedness doesn’t sit well with him. He is an explainer and you don’t get time in television interviews.

Interviewers like Sales and O’Brien can be very testing but a politician in leadership should be able to cope with it. In my view Turnbull is not one in the traditional sense. Whether he can grow into it, is up in the air. He has another interview with Sales before voting day. He would need to perform better in it.

At the time of the interview Mr Shorten was still mingling with his Queensland Town Hall audience. As the tally came through: 57 of the 100 people at the forum were more likely to vote for the Labor leader than when they had walked in.

An observation.

“Our lives have become controlled by the noise of the mass media. The sad thing is that we listen”.

2 I was looking through my 2013 election diaries and came across this. I was writing about the NBN.

“The internet has not even begun to evolve and theoretically may even be replaced some day with something more advanced.  Some technologies are yet to be discovered. This can only be achieved with a Rolls Royce ABN not a T model Ford system.

In Traralgon, where I live we are to be hooked up in November 2013 and personally I cannot wait. Morwell is to be connected at the same time. Moe misses out and the NATs federal member FOR Gippsland (Darren Chester) is outraged. He complains in the local newspaper every week.

I have a blue ray player with an entertainment hub which is an exceptional piece of equipment but half of it is useless even with ADSL plus.

Recently I visited the ABN caravan in Morwell and was demonstrated what the NBN will do. Simply astonishing. I suppose I have a close interest because before I retired the business I owned was involved with email marketing and R&D with new and evolving products. Had we had the broadband speeds being predicted I would be a very wealthy man.

I am highly optimistic about the future of the internet and the things it will do in education, medicine and the sciences”.

Now three years on and a couple of weeks ago I was walking my dog when I noticed some work being done at the end of our street. As I approached it was obvious to me that a node was being installed. A subsequent conversation with the technicians confirmed it so. When I enquired as to when we would be connected I was told November 2016. Ah, promises promises.

My thought for today.

“The way you think and feel about yourself affects every aspect of your life. When you love, accept, respect and approve of yourself, you validate your existence”.

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