Leigh Sales Corners Malcolm Turnbull Over Tony Abbott’s Q&A Ban

Malcolm Turnbull continues to be entirely his own entity in the Abbott vs Q&A fiasco, throwing shade at the ABC one minute and following Abbott’s lead the next.

Last night, he was 100% on the side of ABC. Despite acceding to Tony Abbott’s decision to ban frontbenchers from Q&A until ABC moves the program to the news division, he appeared on 7:30 to subtly lambast the ban with all the tact a career in politics has bestowed upon him.

And hot diggity damn, was he ready to lambast:

Leigh Sales is a gun of an interviewer, cornering Turnbull to straight up declare if he supported Abbott’s boycott of Q&A, or not.

And it would appear: not.

After snaking around the issue as much as humanly possible when facing Sales head on, he finally let this out:

“Well, look, that’s the decision the Prime Minister’s taken. It is, you know, my – I mean, I’ve been on the record on this in the past. I take the view that where there’s an open microphone, I’m happy to get on the other side of it and express my views.”

“But the Zaky Mallah incident was a shocking error of judgement. The ABC’s acknowledged that. I think we all know the facts surrounding it. They’ve issued a warning under the industrial agreement to the executive producer and there’ve been other changes made as well. So I think the board has responded and is responding, and when its response is complete, that’s the point the Prime Minister has decided – and he’s the boss, he’s the CEO – that’s the point he’s decided the ban will end.”

As Michael Ware said later that night on Q&A: “The first law of digging holes is when you get to the bottom, you stop digging.” And Abbott is still digging his way to China.

It looked like Turnbull was having a hell of a lot of fun last night, managing to express incredulity at the ban while appearing to support the PM, and gently reminding the public that he’s a viable alternative for the leadership.

Sales asked if the ban was a “captain’s call”. Turnbull replied in the negative. Sales asked if he was consulted on the ban. Turnbull replied that they’d “discussed that on several occasions”, which, without clutching at too many straws here, we’d estimate went along the lines of “TONY STAHP WHAT ARE YOU DOING” and Abbott saying “shut up Malcolm I do what I want.”

*pulls out onion*

“Q&A is a long, long way from being the most important issue affecting Australians,” Turnbull said, speaking for damn near everybody. Yet it’s his government continuing to wage this war, long after the federal inquiry was completed, so 

“[Abbott] isn’t directing the ABC,” he said. “He’s putting pressure on the ABC, I suppose.”

When Sales suggested that this was a slippery slope to controlling putting pressure on other media programs – like 7:30 – Turnbull agreed.

“Yeah, no, I do understand your point. I think that’s a very, very fair point. And I’m hopeful that the circumstances that caused this ban to arise will never occur again. So I hope that this will just be – just a little bump in the road out of which everybody will take something away to their benefit.”

The full ten minute segment is available on the ABC, but perhaps the best thing to come out of last night was ABC managing director Mark Scott tweeting the pure confusion over Malcolm both supporting, and not supporting, the Q&A ban: