Malcolm Turnbull gets told off on TV – did he deserve it?

It was pretty clear from the get-go that this was not going to be an easy interview for the prime

It was pretty clear from the get-go that this was not going to be an easy interview for the prime minister when he appeared on ABC’s 7.30 last night, ostensibly to discuss his $1.1 billion innovation package.

Leigh Sales asked Malcolm Turnbull repeatedly to elaborate on the portion of the money that would be dedicated to women and girls, and the PM floundered, rattling off things like role models, education, mentoring, which was clearly not a satisfactory answer for the journalist.

When Sales questioned Turnbull about the broadband internet policy, the prime minister tried to steer the conversation back onto safer grounds by half-joking that he was “sorry” Sales had “lost interest in innovation”, she was having none of it.

Sales questioned the NBN scheme, saying, “There’s a leak of internal NBN documents to The Australian newspaper showing that the copper network is in such poor shape that the company has to spend 10-fold what it had planned to spend to whip it into shape.

“Well that’s simply not true,” replied Turnbull.

“OK. Let’s whip through a few other things. Your minister, Mal Brough, …

“You’ve lost interest in innovation, have you?” said Mr Turnbull.

“I haven’t lost interest, but there’s a lotta things to get through and there’s limited time,” replied Sales.

“Aunty ABC loses interest in innovation,” quipped the PM.

Sales swiftly moved on to MP Mal Brough and his part in the Peter Slipper affair, and as soon as Sales reached a sore point, Turnbull again expressed his dismay she wasn’t interested in innovation.

In the end, Sales told her guest, “I ask the questions on this show”. Here’s the exchange that led up to that moment

“Well, Leigh, again, I’m sorry you’ve lost interest in innovation and it is …”

“There’s lots of issues,” said Sales. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

“But, no, well, the problem is we can’t. You see, we can’t chew gum at the same time because …”

“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,” said Sales.

Turnbull interjected: “Let me ask you this question: how interested do you think your audience are …”

Sales also cut in: “I ask the questions on this program. I think they’re very interested, frankly.”

She finished with questions on Ian MacFarlane and Joe Hockey, before returning to innovation – a “gift” for the PM as she described it.

“How very kind of you!” laughed Turnbull before fielding a question about whether his “political honeymoon” could be over due to tough decisions on spending.

“Well, Leigh, whether it’s fair or unfair, it’s something for you to comment on, not for me. You often invite me to comment on myself, but that’s your job and I don’t want to do a work-to-rule here, but I think it’s very much your responsibility,” he replied.

Did you catch the interview last night? Do you think Malcolm Turnbull should have been allowed to have his say, or was Leigh Sales right in trying to draw him on other topics?


  1. Watched it. MT talked a lot but actually said very little. Good on Leigh Sales for sticking to her guns.

  2. Vote out ALP and LNP at the next election, Put them last on the ballot paper, I’m sick to death of giving the two political party preferential voting system turns at the tax payers feeding trough.

      • joan quill  

        That’s the whole problem, who do you vote for when all we get offered are a load of self serving ratbags. At every election I could pick points from many different party’s that I agree with, but then they are also standing for something else that I totally oppose. I feel so strongly about many of these issues that my conscience dictates that I don’t vote for any of them.

  3. I saw the interview, Turnbull waffled, he said a lot.. of mainly nothing. He wanted to control Leigh Sales, she had other ideas 🙂

    • I thought the same Libbi, he is full of wind and not prepared to answer questions. His so called innovation is bull as all he’s doing is giving back some of the budget Abbott and Hockey stole and some people a stupid enough to swallow it.

    • Like being rude and mumbling under her breathe interrupting this is an important issue that needs to be discussed not trying be the tough blowie !

    • Scott Taylor I watched the interview and she was not rude, she was trying to do her job and ask what Australian’s want to know, like McFarlanes defection, what will that mean? and what is he doing about Brough..taxpayers pay Brough’s wages .. to much secrecy and incompetence with this LNP Government

    • I agree with Rosalind and Fred, he was trying to hide answers to real questions Australian’s are asking and it was obvious

    • Agree Libbi, I think she is always on the ball and she got under his skin, she is one tough cookie,

    • Dam Iam sorry I missed last nightI caught a bit of this on the morning show , , she did not sound rude to me I think we need more journalists like her instead of sucking up to all politicians (before I get told I am one eyed) , we should make them squirm and get answers they are working for us or are suppose to

  4. He just kept repeating himself on script that we have heard over & over. Leigh tried to ask him some questions that were important, but he ducked & weaved avoiding the truth. He is our PM & paid by the public purse, but his arrogance is showing.

    • She’s paid by the public purse, and her arrogance always shines through. Full on left wing, can be annoying at times.

    • What Leigh does Wayne is to ask relevant questions of any current government as the hoi polloi expect her to….and also for her to get the answers instead of a load of waffle. She is not arrogant, merely trying to do her job and get the truth out of politicians. Malcolm was just trying to avoid answering them so as not to look bad. Behind that smile of MT’s is a ruthless man….his ousting of Tony Abbot proves this….and if he/Libs wins the next election, he will prove how ruthless he can be.

    • Christa Caldecott I dont agree with you Christa. MT is the best thing thats happened to us for a long long time. Name me one politician that answers questions directly? ONE!!

    • Dont mind him being ruthless providing he’s ruthless about the right stuff. Sales was trying to find out what that stuff is.

    • Sally Ann Westcott – It is not her job to be downright rude to the Prime Minister of the country. There are polite ways to ask questions and the sooner she learns that, the better.

    • Wayne I cannot name you one politician because, like I said before, it is her job to TRY and get politicians to truthfully answer questions. They all duck and weave when faced with hard questions. I was in politics at branch level (Liberal Party) and it was bad enough there, so I know the political game play!

    • Judy Green If MT is being evasive and not answering the questions that all Australians have the right to know the answers to, well, yes, she does have the right to be insistent! If she gave him a free ride and let him get away with that evasiveness she would have been labelled weak! What that means is that Leigh Sales was doing her job and doing it well!

    • Look up the definition of “rude”. I don’t think you could apply these to Leigh Sales last night. Then again, it’s one’s own interpretation of it. I agree with Sally’s comments entirely.

    • Wayne, I think you will find Nick Xenophon answers questions directly, so that is one pollie who does

    • Actually, I think Bernardi is another who answers questions directly, but I haven’t seen an interview between him and Leigh Sales so can’t fully answer Wayne’s question.

    • Sally Ann Westcott – There’s a big difference between insistent and aggressive/rude. I can cope with an interviewer being insistent when trying to get an answer but there are two ways to do it, politely and rudely. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I strongly believe in good manners, as my parents taught me.

    • Jury I agree with you and I believe Leigh doesn’t know this difference and maybe needs to learn it.

  5. Yes he did I think he will be a little more aware next time if there is a next time.

  6. She was a very RUDE interviewer….anyone else would have been dragged over the coals for being so RUDE to our P.M. She would not let him answer, can not stand people that ask a question then when the person starts to answer they talk over them and do not let them speak….very RUDE…

    • She did her job, that is what she is paid to do. She asks the questions , she is the interviewer

    • Rubbish if she asked then shut up and waited for an answer, she’d get one but no rude, very rude, if that is what she is paid for it is wrong, over talking people is very RUDE.

    • Would you like that sort of treatment, I will bet no you would not, I do not care who it is it is rude and wrong.

    • Judith, if he had answered the questions properly then she would have backed off. I think she is an excellent interviewer and personally I don’t think she was RUDE. Firm, yes, but not rude. Most politicians are not prepared to be honest, or answer any difficult questions, and just waffle on, so she has to be very firm in order to get a straight answer. As for his “innovation”….very good word and that’s about all it is.

    • Judith Forbes Turnbull is the one who was rude. Why he simply couldn’t answer the questions is beyond me. You obviously think women should be quiet and submissive. Would you have objected if it had been a male interviewer.

    • Christa Caldecott – If she had stopped interrupting and talking over the top of him, maybe he would have been able to answer the questions. How do you think she would have reacted if a guest spoke back to her as she speaks to her guests? I just wish somebody would do it one day, just to see the look on her face!

    • Exactly Judy Green, he couldn’t answer her as she wouldn’t allow him. Also an interviewer can ask any question but Mr. Turnbull does not have to answer any question if he sees fit not too, it does mean anything else other than the question did not warrant an answer it is his prerogative not to do so. How ever when someone will not let him answer a question then serves them right for being so rude….

    • Judy and Judith he was not prepared to answer her questions simply because he knew that if he answered honestly it would look bad for him and the government. She is always hard core with everyone…..and she merely keeps trying to get answers to her question(s). She has to interrupt her interviewees in order to try and get them to answer her questions because the public want to hear the answer(s). All he wanted to do was to promote his innovation package.

    • Oh and you know that do you, you are a person he tells all too. Rubbish rude arrogant that is all anything to make the government look bad.

  7. he is a great interviewer and a great host…but watch out ABC he will probly cut some more funding given the chance

  8. It was quite an amusing interview. She is a good interviewer and tries to get answers beyond the scripted message the politicians are trying to promote. He had his say on his topic and then she tried to get answers on other things of interest to many.

  9. all he wanted to talk about was his new plan for innovation..but no mention as where the money is coming from.. If it is old money, they are to take if from someone else, if it is new money it will be more added to the National credit card and he admitted himself it might fail !!

  10. Why is anybody expressing surprise about this backstabbing turncoat? The sooner the country gets rid of compulsory, preferential voting, the better off we’ll be.

    • we live in hope that one day we may have a system where people that want to vote will vote. This current compulsory system, Id be surprised if there’d be 20% that actually take it seriously.

    • Wayne, my understanding is that, in every election be it Local, State or Federal, the result is determined by about 15% of eligible voters because the other 85% always vote either Coalition or Labor. Doesn’t that thought fill you with joy and happiness? I’ve been a admittedly fairly silent advocate for the noncompulsory, non-preferential system for probably 40yrs.

    • Sorry Wayne, I disagree with you. Everyone should vote. In the UK it is not mandatory but everyone whinges. In my opinion if you don’t vote then shut up. I told my friends too who constantly moaned but who did not bother to vote.
      I remember Ken Livingstone (Red Ken) being interviewed and him saying that he got into power because “people were too lazy or disinterested to vote”. At least here in Australia we do all vote and thus have every right to whinge since we put “whoever” in government.

    • Christa, if approx 85% of people at every election either vote Coalition or Labor, that means ALL our results are determined by the other 15% who care, and are interested enough, two actually freely think about who they are going to vote for. If the UK, or anywhere else that has noncompulsory voting (that is 97% of democracies), has a voter turnout of a low 30%, their result is determined by double that if ours. It’s a spurious and frankly demeaning argument that says you only have the right to complain about how the country is governed if you vote.

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