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Just answer the question!

By Ad astra

This piece is short and snappy. I know that, like me, you fume when politicians steadfastly refuse to answer a question directly, preferring to prevaricate by evading an answer altogether, giving an answer to a question they would prefer to answer, or wandering off into a boring recital of the dot points with which their minders have briefed them. You don’t need me to obsessively remind you of their behaviour.

Judging from talkback radio, you are one of countless others, commentators and listeners alike, who feel the same.

All but a few politicians seem to be weighed down by the curse of evasiveness and habitual mendaciousness. Sometimes they blatantly set out deliberately to deceive. They seem not to care that their reputation is sullied day after day by dishonesty, duplicity and deceitfulness. Will they ever learn how objectionable their behaviour is to the voting public?

Let’s look at just a few examples.

On May 9, as part of a series, there was a special episode of ABC TV’s The Drum: Do you think Australia’s heath care system is accessible enough for everyone?. A panel of renowned health experts discussed how to promote equitable outcomes in our health system. Following this, Leigh Sales interviewed Health Minister Greg Hunt on 7.30. Here’s some excerpts from that interview:

There are so many challenges facing the health system as our series is showing, but I’d like to start with some of what we’ve watched tonight just while it’s fresh in the viewers’ minds. Take Grant Williams, the bloke who’s been told that he’d maybe have to wait 12 to 15 months to have his painful teeth fixed. There’s something seriously wrong, isn’t there, if the best that the health system can do for somebody with brain cancer and a pregnant wife is that.

An honest answer would have been: “That is an appalling situation. It ought not to happen. It is up to me as Health Minister to ensure that such situations do not arise. I will personally examine Grant’s case.

Instead we heard Hunt recite his dot points, tell us how much money has been poured into the system, and then top up his recital with a generous dose of his ‘passion’:

Well, I think it’s absolutely important that we focus on patients such as Grant, and do everything we can. In terms of his cancer treatment, I would hope that he has access to medicines, which in some cases might have cost well over $100,000 on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, for treatment in hospital.

In terms of his dental – dental care is immensely important. It’s a deep personal passion. One of the first decisions I made on coming to office was to increase by $150 million the funding for the Child Dental Benefit Scheme. We’ve recently added a billion to that, and we’ve recently added another $100 million to our support for the states’ public dental scheme.

So the way it works in Australia is we have historically, at the national level, taken responsibility for the private scheme that delivers over $42 million different services, and the states have taken responsibility for the public. But we’ve injected that billion dollars into the scheme. And $350 million, in particular, for the adult public dental scheme. So we’ll keep working with them.

Not prepared to be fobbed off, Sales persists:

When would you expect to see that flow in through in terms of results?

Finally Hunt gets the message that he ought to do something for Grant.

Well, I would like to see those waiting times come down. That funding has been allocated and we want to work with the states to do that. But in particular, the fact that we have both public and private working together is immensely important. But I hear something such as that story, and I’d like to get the details after the program from your producer and to see what we can do to assist.

Enough of Hunt! Let’s look now at the master of obfuscation, our very own PM. Here’s some excerpts from an interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30 earlier this year, prior to the election.

When the Coalition was elected in 2013 it was on the back of promises to end Labor’s debt and deficit nightmare and to rein in what you said was Labor’s out-of-control spending.

When we’ve look at your record of six years in office, you’ve had deficits every year you’ve been in power, net debt when you were elected was 13.1 per cent of GDP and today it’s grown to 18.5 per cent, and Labor’s spending during its term was on average just under 25 per cent of GDP. Yours is just over 25 per cent of GDP. Therefore, on your own yard stick, haven’t you failed to deliver what you promised?

There was no way Morrison was going to concede that Sales was right, although she was quoting verifiable figures. So he set out to bewilder – not Sales, because she’s too smart – but the viewing public which is more persuadable by Morrison B.S. So here’s his response:

No, Leigh. I mean, we’re bridging out (whatever that means) on the first budget surplus for next year, and it’s taken 12 years to get there. We’ve reined in —


That’s what the budget surplus is next year, that’s what the forecast budget surplus is. Budgets are done a year in advance, and that’s the first budget surplus that has been announced in 12 years.

But allow me to answer the question. We’ve actually got expenditure under control, at the lowest rate of growth that we’ve seen of any government in more than 50 years. We’ve got taxes under control. We’ve got people off welfare and into work, and that in turn has restored the budget and we’re now in a position to take the budget into surplus.

And now, that is a significant achievement, but it’s been done by the hard work of Australians, because our policy settings have been designed to support Australians to invest, to employ people, to work hard, and when that happens, your economy strengthens and you’re able to bring the budget back into a surplus position, which is what we were able to announce last night. So no, I wouldn’t…

No mention of wage growth though!

Sales was not ready to be fobbed off.

What about my point that debt has grown?

…I wouldn’t agree with your rather negative view of our performance.

What about my point about the size of net debt?

Well, when you’re running deficits then obviously your debt continues to increase, Leigh. (An archetypal piece of gratuitous nonsense.) That’s why it’s so important to get the budget back into surplus, and that’s what we’ve been working hard to do for the last six years.

I mean, we’ve got expenditure growth down to less than 2 per cent a year. I mean, that is significantly lower than where we inherited it and it was more than double that when we came to government. Gross debt was running at 33 per cent increases every year under the previous government. And so, you know, to turn this ship around has been an extraordinarily difficult task, but we’ve done that. And having achieved step one of getting us back to a budget surplus, we now have to pay down that debt and we’ll pay down that net debt by around just almost $50 billion over the next four years. And we’ll eliminate it over the next 10 years, which is what the Howard-Costello government were able to do. Our side of politics gets rid of debt. That’s what we do.

I’ll leave it to you to judge the authenticity of Morrison’s response.

I could go on and on giving examples of how politicians don’t answer the question, and reiterate how much we yearn for those that would just answer the question they were asked. But you don’t need to be reminded any further of how they try to confuse, bewilder, hoodwink, bamboozle, and con the voters into believing their confected rhetoric.

We do hope though that they don’t believe their own words; that would be the epitome of stupidity. But then!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. New England Cocky

    No motion of Newstart growth nor NDIS increased funding nor …..

    Never expect the Liarbral Notional$ to do anything of the Australian voters ….. and you will rarely be disappointed

  2. whatever

    The LNP have even invented a new form of FakeNews. You just send out a minister, as they did with Ken Wyatt, to make some noble policy announcement that will never actually occur.
    It gets reported all over the world as if it was a real ambition of the Federal Govt.

  3. Keitha Granville

    I vote for a new rule for MPs – when a question is asked anywhere is in parliament, in the press, on tv, they MUST answer or be cut off immediately. Stop, you are not answering, it’s a yes or no question.

    Question time is a joke, a total waste of time. Dorothy Dixers must be eliminated.

    Parliament is a joke actually, all of it.

  4. MikeW

    Notice how all these interviews are old ones, watching 7.30 report now it is a diluted version of what it once was.
    Seems to be more like ACA with Tracey Grimshaw.

    Our rightwing government is slowly winning in it’s determination to destroy the ABC, helped along by it’s propaganda machine News Corp.

  5. Freethinker

    I cannot watch these interviews anymore, one because of the dishonesty of the politicians and second because of the lack of effort (guts) from the journalists to ask to answer the question or finishing the interview.
    Politicians are treating the media like they behave during question time and that is appalling.
    Mathias Cormann is one of the worse IMO.

  6. Kaye Lee

    Matthias Cormann has always reminded me of those dolls we had as kids where you would pull the string in their back and they would repeat a set stock of phrases. His eyebrows never move, just like the doll, but his eyes are duller than hers were.

  7. Freethinker

    I agree with you Kaye, he is a parrot seating in a political perch..

  8. Aortic

    But his continuous referral to the Lieber Party should refer to his own mob and not the Opposition.

  9. Phil

    I love the throw away line from most politicians say when being interviewed.

    ” We are working hard ” I always think to myself what work can they be referring to? Is it the work involved, digesting a nice Crayfish, some French cheese and caviar washed down with a bucket of top notch chardonnay? It must I guess take it’s toll on the body, and sitting on the dunny evacuating that kind of up market tucker must make the old date pucker up into a most painful state.

    Or could it be hard work going overseas on of those fact finding junkets that they think is hard work? I mean, sitting in a Gondola being serenaded by some swarthy looking boatman singing ‘ Ol sole Mio ‘ whilst you’re checking out the out flow pipes of the sewage system in Venice must be back breaking.

    Work….. None of these bastards could work in an iron lung or a barrel of yeast. if half these toe rags haven’t got diabetes from sitting on their fat arses all day every day doing five fifths of F.A. I’ll eat shit. Work; yea that would be a fine thing.

  10. wam

    A pleasant read, ad astra. But who gives a rat’s arse about leigh sales? How many people don’t watch the abc, about 83% every morning? I wonder if Albo were to ask silly sunrise sam or ‘today’ show’s autocuists to recall the labor’s debt that saved us from the GFC and made us one of the top economic nations of the world? Then get them to guess what the debt was them and now???
    He would have to engineer a situation and set a controversy for the morning twits.
    Nah!!Might be too hard for labor?
    He could practise it with sales whom, if she knew them could have put them to morrison and asked what he has done with the cash????
    Better still he could put it to hanson she needs a boost she could asks sam???

    ps Spot on phil I have long asked the politicuians to publish their diary to show where, when and how long their meetings are and who with. This would prove how much they are away from family and how hard they work.

  11. Phil

    ‘ ps Spot on phil I have long asked the politicuians to publish their diary to show where, when and how long their meetings are and who with. This would prove how much they are away from family and how hard they work.’

    They do nothing. What’s more, they don’t care we know, they do nothing.

    Years ago the dude that ran the plumbers union went out with Senator Baume on a three day information gathering experience on what politicians actually do. His conclusion. Nothing.

    They have had the public fooled for years.

  12. Ad Astra


    I thank you for your contributions to this piece. It is apparent that we are of the one mind – politicians rarely answer the question, and the MSM do little to nail them.

    It’s a pathetic charade we see played out monotonously day after day and we feel powerless to change it.

    Is there any counter? Can we, as voters, bring about change?

    Have you any suggestions?

  13. Matters Not


    politicians rarely answer the question

    Indeed! And if they do it’s seen as a mistake. A failing. An error. Politicians and others who are constantly in the Media (or those who might have to deal with a crisis) are trained to get their message across and not let the inquisitor set the agenda. Media events are seen as a contest and there’s a whole industry dedicated to this media management so those who are under the pump become the winner(s).

    In such courses, reference is/was made to the master of the interview – Bob Hawke – who when faced with a difficult question would say something like: That’s an excellent question (and deserves a response) but before I answer it, your viewers are entitled to know that …. … He then would proceed to deliver the (maximum) three points he really wanted to make. A type of bait-and-switch. If he was successful, most viewers (who have very short attention spans) would have forgotten about the original question and become more interested in the points he made.

    While readers on this site might be interested in answers that are rational etc – most viewers aren’t. They only remember the ‘sound bites’. There’s a whole body of research that backs that up. Sad but true!

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