As part of our series on the art of the political interview, we’ve been looking at some of the most famous (and infamous) interviews over the years. Some are more memorable than others — whether that’s for the skill of the interviewer or interviewee, or the lack thereof of either.
We’ve scoured back through our memories and the archives to hand out some overdue awards to the political interviews that distinguish themselves from the norm.
The quickest backfire
Margaret Thatcher and George Negus, 1981
It’s the interview that will never leave George Negus. This 1981 footage is used in journalism courses around the country as an example of how not to do an interview and, as Negus told ABC News Breakfast in 2013 there hadn’t been a month in the past 30 years he hadn’t been asked about it. When Negus interviewed then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and asked her about her pig-headedness, the tables turned. Thatcher repeatedly demanded that Negus name names on exactly who had said she was “pig-headed”. “The way she performed in that interview is an indication of the woman, and she is tough, she was inflexible, and she was very strong and she probably was pig-headed,” Negus said.
The best broken record
Mark Colvin and Peter Dutton, 2016
The late Mark Colvin’s last interview on PM with then-Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was a masterclass in keeping your interviewee on topic and holding them to the questions asked. For several minutes of the extended interview, Colvin pressed Dutton on whether children had been involved in a disturbance on Manus Island.
The Bob Hawke award for lecturing the interviewer
Richard Carlton and Bob Hawke
When the late Richard Carlton used his ABC program to ask the then-opposition leader Bob Hawke if he was embarrassed about the blood on his hands the night Hawke took the top job, he reacted angrily with the lecture to end all lectures. Hawke repeatedly called Carlton impertinent as he denied any knowledge of meetings to topple Bill Hayden as party leader. “You can sit there with your silly quizzical face, you’ve got a reputation for your impertinence, your refusal to accept people at their face value, to try and ridicule the integrity of people. Now I don’t mind my integrity being on the line against yours.”
The lifetime achievement award for political gaffes and blunders
Former prime minister Tony Abbott
There’s no politician to have contributed as much to the canon of blunders and missteps than former prime minister Tony Abbott. Whether it’s a non-response to Seven’s Mark Riley’s questions about his “shit happens” comment in Afghanistan, his wink to Jon Faine captured on camera, or his describing the Syrian conflict as “baddies versus baddies”, Abbott’s contribution as a political interviewee provided more content from his missteps than any other.
It was Kerry O’Brien on 7.30 that provoked the comment that “the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared, scripted remarks”. And on Q&A with Tony Jones, Abbott talked about asylum seekers: “Jesus knew there was a place for everything and it is not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.” As for his position on homosexuality, Liz Hayes on 60 Minutes elicited the response, “I probably feel a bit threatened”.
Did we miss any? Send your nominations or comments to [email protected].