Anatomy of an interview

Comment by Barry Tucker          December 29, 2012

Here is something you will not see very often: A post-mortem of the surgical dissection on live TV of a pathologically mendacious obfuscator. The surgeon  is Kerry O’Brien, then anchorman of ABC TV’s 7.30 report. The “patient” is the now Leader of the Opposition in Australia’s federal Parliament, Tony Abbott. The commentator is Jack Robertson, columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald *Webdiary’s “Meeja Watch”.

The two are discussing a “slush fund” Mr Abbott set up apparently to underwrite in some way a legal challenge to the legality of One Nation — a new and struggling political party that was making big waves because of the hard line taken on immigration by its founder, Ms Pauline Hanson. To this day the details of the fund and its real purpose are not clear, due to Mr Abbott’s classic obfuscation.

Here’s a sample:

“KERRY O’BRIEN: But it’s not the first time you talked about money with Terry Sharples?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I promised that Terry Sharples would not be out of pocket.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Hmm. Well, just on this issue, let’s briefly flash back to the interview you did with Tony Jones on Four Corners, which went to air on August 10. You did that interview, I’m told, on July 31, ’98, where you denied any knowledge of any sort of fund for Terry Sharples. We’ll just have a quick look.”

At this point, Jack Robertson inserts his commentary:

In a small stroke of production genius – 7.30 Report supervising producers are Clay Hichens and Phil Kwok – we’re treated to an inset box monitoring Abbott’s death-roll expression, as he is hoist slowly on the petard of his own rank historical lies. A grand use of real-time technology to help give us, the Public, a better chance of grasping the Public Truth. Pictures tell a lot of stories, and for us to be able to watch Abbott’s facial contortions in the next few seconds, which represent a veritable War and Peace of duplicity and deceit, is fabulously civically-inclusive [sic ?]. Abbott’s discomfort? Well, it’s as if we’re rubbernecking on a younger Tony being caught red-handed behind the bike-shed with a dirty magazine by some bruiser Jesuit Brother.

In the transcript, Robertson’s comments appear in bold type.

This link will take you to the transcript. When I can find them, I will insert the relevant videos, or links to them, here.

*Webdiary was shut down on August 22, 2005. Its originator, Margo Kingston, began revisiting Mr Abbott’s slush fund (Australians for Honest Politics) around the time of the last sitting week of federal Parliament this year. During that week the Opposition’s smear campaign regarding Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s role in setting up the AWU Workplace Reform Association’s slush fund ran out of steam when Mr Abbott and his deputy, Julie Bishop, were caught out being careless in the handling of the facts. They have not apologised to the Prime Minister. Numerous journalists and commentators then began reconsidering  Mr Abbott’s old slush fund.