“I’m Surprised You’re Challenging This”: The PM Was Very Weird With Leigh Sales Last Night

It was very uncomfortable.

Yesterday Malcolm Turnbull announced a pretty big shake-up to the Australian citizenship process. Under the government’s proposed new plans migrants will be required to pass an English language test and answer questions on “Australian values” before they can become fair dinkum Aussie citizens.

The proposal has already attracted pretty broad criticism, including from the Refugee Council of Australia who have argued it would impact older refugees and those from conflict zones the hardest.

Last night Turnbull sat down for an interview with 7.30‘s Leigh Sales in which he tried to defend his citizenship plans. But things didn’t quite go to plan. Or if they did, it demonstrates that Turnbull has very bad plans.

Sales kicked things off by asking what the “actual problem was” that Turnbull was attempting to fix. Solid question considering these new plans have come out of the blue. Turnbull, of course, straight up just didn’t answer the question, which is an annoying habit politicians have.

Leigh Sales

lalalalala I’m not listening

Instead he talked about how “successful” Australia was as a multicultural nation, which led Sales to ask again, “If it’s so successful, what’s the problem?”.

“We want to be more successful!” Turnbull replied, grinning wildly, apparently oblivious to the fact that nothing he was saying made any sense.

Later on in the interview he said to Sales “I’m disappointed you’re so cynical” which is an extremely odd thing for a politician to say to a political journalist whose job it is to be cynical, ask probing questions and point out hypocrisy.

He ramped up his attack on Sales’ line of questioning, saying “I’m surprised you’re challenging this on the ABC. I don’t think your heart’s in it actually, Leigh. I think you agree with me.”

Which, as some people have pointed out, is something the PM probably wouldn’t have said to a male interviewer.

Why would he be surprised that a current affairs news anchor is challenging his statements? That’s literally their job. And even if Sales did personally agree with the changes (not that there’s any evidence of that) it’s not really relevant to how she conducted this interview.

Junkee’s Entertainment Editor, Sinead Stubbins, has written about this weird gender dynamic in the past. “One of the most effective ways of demeaning a woman is to make her seem trivial,” she wrote. “For many people, when it comes to critiquing female professionals they want to take down a peg, they have a choice of a two moves: 1. make fun of the way she looks, and 2. point out her ‘weak’ female impulses (like being too emotional). Looks like they chose the second one this time.”

Why else would Turnbull resort to using such a weird line like “I don’t think your heart’s in it”?

The fact that he handled the interview this way is a pretty strong indication that he doesn’t feel particularly confident about his proposal, which is kinda worrying for all the migrants it will impact.