Malcolm Turnbull's interview on Lateline the other night got pretty snippy in parts, with the PM clearly annoyed with Snowcone Tone's line of questioning. Turnbull didn't lose his cool entirely, but those little moments of snark said a lot about his personality IMO.
Basically he went on the show with a whole bunch of stuff that he wanted to say, and he was indignant that Tony Jones wouldn't let him do that. It was quite revealing.
Of course all our elected representative see interactions with the meeja as opportunities to get their message out, so they will keep trying to go back to that. The journos are usually well prepared for this, and patiently try to get them to answer the bloody question.
But in almost all cases the pollies will at least pretend to respect the main convention of the political interview. That is that the journo gets to choose the subject discussed and ask the questions he wishes to. This is because one of the main functions of journalism is to shed light on political machinations. Needless to say, this is crucial for the health of democracy.
It's a ritual as much as anything else. In it, the interviewer represents the people. And in a democracy, the people have the power. So if you don't at least pretend to respect the one asking the questions you're showing an implicit disdain for the people. That's a big no no for obvious reasons.
This is why pollies will put up with such amazing crap in interviews -- and from broadcasters who don't even qualify as journalists, too! Take that notorious on air stoush between Barnaby Joyce and Kyle Sandilands. Sure, Joyce made an official complaint about it. But he still endured heaps of putrid abuse from the vile Kyle.
So, pollies will at least pay lip service to the interviewer's authority. They may be intransigent or evasive but they won't actually jump over that line and say: "I'm sick of this shit. I'm the boss of this little convo, mate. This is what we're gonna talk about, alright!"
Yet that's pretty much what Turnbull did the other night (in a much more genteel and restrained way, of course). And he's done it before, too.
Take this interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30 in December last year. Sales is obviously on his side. But he's still indignant that he has to respect the conventions of the interview. Look at the pitched battle that goes on because he wants to talk about his pet subject "innovation":
LEIGH SALES: OK. Let's whip through a few other things. Your minister, Mal Brough, ...
MALCOLM TURNBULL: You've lost interest in innovation, have you?
LEIGH SALES: (Laughs) I haven't lost interest, but there's a lotta things to get through and there's limited time.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Aunty ABC loses interest in innovation.
LEIGH SALES: I wish we had unlimited time.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Yes, well, there you go.
LEIGH SALES: Your minister Mal Brough misled the Parliament last week and he's also contradicted himself publicly about whether or not he asked staffer James Ashby to procure information from the diary of Peter Slipper, the former Speaker. Have you asked Mr Brough to clarify his position?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well Mr Brough certainly did clarify his remarks in the Parliament last week.
LEIGH SALES: What about the contradictory yes/no answer about did he try to get that information?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well he's - look, he set out his version of events and he's - and there is an investigation going on.
LEIGH SALES: I might be a bit obtuse, but - so do you understand that he did or he didn't ask James Ashby to do that?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well he says that he did not. He says that he did not ask James Ashby to copy the - to copy Mr Slipper's diary. That's what he says.
LEIGH SALES: He previously said that he did.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, Leigh, he has set out to explain that. I really don't want to go into the ins and outs of Mr Brough's remarks, but certainly it's an issue that we're all very keenly aware of, but there is an investigation under way and it will take its course.
LEIGH SALES: Has he offered to step down from the frontbench?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Look, I don't want to go, with great respect, into discussions between myself and ministers on this or any other matter.
LEIGH SALES: Is there a risk that this issue could turn into a running sore for you the way that, say, Craig Thomson turned into for Julia Gillard?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, Leigh, again, I'm sorry you've lost interest in innovation and it is ...
LEIGH SALES: There's lots of issues. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: But, no, well, the problem is we can't. You see, we can't chew gum at the same time because ...
LEIGH SALES: Well we can, actually, because if - look, I - look, if every guest on the program came on and they only got to talk about what they wanted to talk about, it would be a very different program. Now listen, ...
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Do you - let me ask you this question: how interested do you think your audience are ...
LEIGH SALES: I ask the questions on this program. I think they're very - I think they're very interested, frankly.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Do you think they're more interested in innovation and jobs?
LEIGH SALES: Let's - I'll tell you what I think they're interested in. One of your colleagues resigning from the Liberal Party to join the National Party, Ian Macfarlane. A number of your colleagues have criticised him, including the Attorney-General George Brandis, who says it's left a bad taste in people's mouth. How do you feel about it?
So he definitely has form on this. And it's confirmation of his strongly narcissistic personality IMHO.
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