Tony Abbott on the backfoot in Leigh Sales interview

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was left dodging questions left, right and centre from Leigh Sales on 7:30.

Abbott tried to spin answers to her questions, frequently avoiding the question in favour of point-scoring against the government.

Whilst criticising the government’s carbon tax and how it had contributed to BHP abandoning the Olympic Dam, she quizzed Abbott on whether he had read the statements from BHP boss Marius Kloppers.

TONY ABBOTT: You’re not seriously – you’re not seriously telling me, Leigh, that the mining tax and the carbon tax have made Australia an easier place to invest in.

LEIGH SALES: I’m going on the facts that Marius Kloppers said today when he was directly asked if the decision on Olympic Dam was affected by Australia’s tax situation and I’m going on the facts that are outlined in their results statement that they’ve issued. Have you actually read BHP’s statements?

TONY ABBOTT: No, but I’ve also got again the statement of Jacques Nasser, who says, “While we’re still evaluating the impact of the carbon tax, but it just makes it more difficult.”

LEIGH SALES: But hang on, no, no, you haven’t read their statements today, but you’re commenting about what they’ve announced today and how the Federal Government’s to blame for that.

Later she asked him about asylum seekers.

LEIGH SALES: Do you – I’m asking you though, not about the Government. I’m asking: do you accept that it’s legal to come to Australia to seek asylum by any means – boat, plane – that it is actually legal to seek asylum?

TONY ABBOTT: I think that people should come to Australia through the front door, not through the back door. If people want a migration outcome, they should go through the migration channels.

LEIGH SALES: That’s an answer to the question if I asked you: how do you think people should seek asylum?, it’s not an answer to the question: is it legal to seek asylum?

TONY ABBOTT: And Leigh, it’s the answer I’m giving you because these people aren’t so much seeking asylum, they’re seeking permanent residency. If they were happy with temporary protection visas, then they might be able to argue better that they were asylum seekers, but obviously the people who are coming to Australia by boat, they want permanent residency.

He was also asked about an industrial relations policy and his questions on Julia Gillard’s history with Slater & Gordon.

LEIGH SALES: What are the questions you want to hear her answer in the Parliament?

TONY ABBOTT: And the point I’m making is that various reputable media bodies have put questions to her. I think the …

LEIGH SALES: I’m just asking what those questions are.

TONY ABBOTT: I think the circumstances of her departure from a previous employer are of public interest, but in the end it’s not whether she was an unethical lawyer that matters, it’s the fact that this is an untrustworthy prime minister that counts, and that’s the main game for us.

LEIGH SALES: But if you can’t put to me – if you can’t put to me specific questions that you want answered, then why are members of your frontbench running with it as an issue?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, look, don’t forget it was Robert McClelland, Leigh, who first raised this recently.

Leigh Sales was trending on Twitter as a result of the interview.

“There’s no way I can respond to or even get through the deluge of reaction to Tony Abbott on #abc730 tonight but thanks for engaging,” she tweeted.

You can watch the full interview here.

44 Comments:

  1. Leigh Sales. What a sad and disappointing attempt at doing a hard interview. My First Question: What journalism school did she go to to call an interviewee a Liar in the first exchange? Was it Bickerson University? oes she think bickering, belligerent behaviour works?Not for this American. We have much higher standards than let a person dictate what they deem is the view we take.

    In other words, the strident journalistic ethos put into every American journalist is that: No one cares about your opinion. Just report the facts. Ask questions, don’t use your desk, phone, email, whatever instrument you have as a Bully Pulpit. They are your guests. You can ask hard questions, but remember politeness.

    Another idiotic attempt at a hard interview was the journalist who was heralded with and award for interviewing Bush.Wow, Bush and me dropped our jaws at his incompetent attempt. (I didn’t vote for Bush)

    It just comes across as trying to shine above the guest. “Look at me”! otherwise known as Grandstanding. look it up. Definitely both of them would fail journalism in the US. I am inspired and forwarding these interviews to my Journalism school. (Columbia) and it will be good fodder for what not to do. I do not respect many things Tony does, and will not vote for him.

  2. I thought it was a great interview too. Sales had done her research and was to the point. Emma Alberici can also be spot on with her interviewing if she has researched the topic. I think that maybe the secret to a successful interview-thorough research by the interviewing team. When TV interviewers are on top of their brief they show how professional journalists can be and it’s appreciated by the audience. I hope her interview lifts the bar for journalists as it has been pretty low for some time.

  3. Well done Leigh.
    Makes you think that this is a rehearsal of a Clarke and Dawes interview in the same week Abbott supposely has a problem with strong women.
    But both sides of politics have this problem. A few months ago Bill Shorten agreed with a comment from Julia Gillard in a interview with David Spears regarding the Peter Slipper affair despite not having heard what Gillard had said on the matter.

  4. @Andy G – alas I have no idea why you think I would be substantive comparisons between a US political counterfactual and the Opposition leader’s interview on 7:30. Perhaps I should have said “*stylistically it reads* like the mock debate scene from The Newsroom.”

    (On the political content of The Newsroom, note that it’s Gingrich, Bachmann and Paul getting called out. However hamfisted it may be, they’re selected for a reason, and that reason Sorkin has been hammering since The West Wing)

  5. He should have told her that there are legal and illegal ways to seek asylum. It is good to see some stories about our future PM. Wonder when we’re going to get a story about our current PM being grilled?

  6. These days there are so much right winged bias in Australian media for example Sky News political shows (Full of right winged panelist and hosts with the odd Labor hack that holds a grudge against the Labor party) , 99% of talk back radio, The Australian, ch10 Andrew Bolt show. if a Journalist dares ask a tough Question to a Lib politician, the right come out and claim Left Wing Bias in the media. Where’s the Bias? Asking legitimate Questions these days is now being labelled bias? Abbott was caught out last night, Abbott is all about Slogans full stop. I would love our journalist to start asking the tough Questions to both the Left and Right Wing politicians.

  7. Re: the interview… Leigh was brilliant and I liked that she actually pushed Tone for an answer rather than just accept his crap as some reporters do. It is a shame that constrictions of time meant that she couldn’t get a straight answer from him.

    We need more journalists like this. Ones who are willing to ask the hard questions of all our lying pollies and push them to say what they honestly feel rather than what they think we (the voters) want to hear. Journalism on whole in this country (imo) has gone downhill fast (look at the recent articles you have here David about journos getting into strife) and, just as we deserve better pollies, we deserve better journos as well.

  8. Spot on David Knox, This was a genuine TV story and you were right to report on it. A lot of your readers let themseves get bogged down in all the politics of it. What you wrote would of been very similar to those other 1196 news articles.

  9. Maev....Sydney

    Am I missing something…I read nothing political in this article….it was about the TV interview …the questions and replies….
    Did people posting even see the interview or read the transcript…so as to make an informed statement…I did …and I think it was a good interview with a not so well informed or forthcoming subject.

    • Abbott’s 7:30 interview is referenced in 1196 News stories according to Google including News Ltd and Fairfax publications, albeit not necessarily with the same TV angle as mine. It’s not as damaging as the nodding one he did with Mark Riley, but I felt Sales cornered him pretty well so I blogged on it. That’s about the sum total….

  10. The culture and certain aspects of the ABC have been predominantly left-wing, and the questions are posed in a certain way. It’s no different to factoring in the bias displayed by equally untrustworthy right-wing media personalities, like Alan Jones when they talk about Julia Gillard. A good example of this bias is when Q&A seems to show mostly left-leaning Twitter posts on-screen.

  11. I think writing this article is fine. It is also a tv story not just a political one. This site is perfect to to look at political commentary. Politicians are all biased and the mainstream media cannot as they are also involved. Also on The Project last night Charlie Pickering said that Tony Abbot has been asked lately to appear and he has declined. Yes, they are a bit left leaning, like myself, but if you are a well rounded polititian you should be able to take on anyone. Paul Keating would of relished the opportunity to get stuck into a right wing commentator. If Tony Abbot and julia Gillard are any good they should both appear on any show. Would love to see Gillard on Bolt. It could be a game changer if she did well.

  12. estherhoffman

    Leigh Sales shouldn’t be blamed for Tony Abbott making a complete fool of himself again.The questions were fine,the problem was with the bozo who couldn’t answer them.

  13. But then again…an article like this David does make for interesting reading. Love all the comments – Who’s left. Who’s right. People can’t help them selves. Gotta smile!

    Do TV networks employ Flunkies to comment on sites like this? I wish they would give me a call…I could do with some extra cash to pay my GST Howard introduced and my more expensive electricity bill due to the carbon tax !

  14. Ahh David, this sort of article makes me very sad 🙁
    While I don’t agree with @oztvheritage that this site must be apolitical or evenly balanced (it’s your blog and can be whatever the hell you want) I do agree that people’s views are coloured by their allegiances and that all you’re doing with this sort of article is creating ill-feeling amongst your readers.
    Don’t get me wrong, I agree with your article’s tone. I enoyed the Mad Monk’s discomfort because he is clearly self-serving and manipulating and will be an utter bastard as PM, but I also think that the Labor government, while well-meaning, is often inept.
    So I can understand why Liberal/conservative voters would be peeved by this article.
    It’s your blog, but I visit it to see you & your readers discussing pointless and ultimately harmless TV issues, rather than seriously divisive issues like politics.
    You also know that if this sort of thing continues, your site will be ruined by Party functionaries assigned to make political comments in the same way that the TV networks already employ flunkies to do similar work here on their behalf.

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