Malcolm Turnbull is on 7.30 tonight — his first interview with the prime-time ABC show since emerging victorious from last week’s leadership spill.

On the latest Chat 10 Looks 3 podcast, a side project of 7.30 host Leigh Sales and fellow ABC journo Annabel Crabb, Sales ponders why it is that political leaders don’t go on her program when their victory is still warm.

“It’s always best to go out on a position of strength,” she said. “On the first day, no one will expect a detailed economic plan. You can get in on a sweeping, inspiring message.”

“Remember when [Simon] Crean tried to get [former PM Julia] Gillard rolled? Gillard acted in bold manner — she put up a spill. I, of course, rang the PM’s office and asked if she was available for that night. They said no. I was stunned. I said, ‘she’s just seen off a challenge, she’s in a position of strength, I’m mystified as to why you don’t want to put her up on prime time television tonight’.

“That was on a Thursday. The first thing she did was Kyle and Jackie O the next morning. That’s not a very good thing to look prime ministerial. Then [the PMO] rang and wanted to put her on Monday night — which they did.  By then, half a dozen cabinet ministers had held press conferences to resign, had given all these reasons why they thought Gillard was hopeless. I had all that material to put to her on the Monday. If she’d come on on the first day, she could have said, ‘if you don’t like it, you can resign,’ and then she’d have been on the front foot.”

After the Liberal leadership spill in February, Tony Abbott came straight on, Sales says. “I thought that was sensible. It was a bad day … but I think you get brownie points for turning up to a difficult interview. It neutralised it.”

Of course, Sales acknowledged, she had a different objective to political leaders — she wants people to come on her show whenever she asks. But she couldn’t fathom why it didn’t help politicians to get an interview with a flagship like 7.30 out of the way when they were riding high.

It’s a big night of politics on the ABC tonight. As well as Sales’ interview with Turnbull, Four Corners has teamed up with The Australian’s John Lyons to examine last week’s leadership spill. Later, Q&A will feature a single panellist — Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey