Q&A: Christopher Pyne responds to shock poll
On ABC’s Q and A on Monday night, Christopher Pyne responded to the shock announcement that Labor is leading in the two-party-preferred polls. Vision courtesy ABC.
April 4, 2016 – 11:10PM
Christopher Pyne – bomb-thrower, brat, bon vivant and ABBA fan, take your pick – is so many different things to different people that he is in a way Q&A‘s perfect guest, even if some viewers are only there to hate-watch. You can bet they were hissing at the screen again on Monday night. Let them hiss. Like Pyne cares. He always seems to have a fine time. It drives some people nuts, and he surely loves it.
On one of his two appearances last year, for instance, he found himself sharing the panel with American sass machine Ruby Wax, who knew not of Pyne’s eccentric charms and who by the end was wondering if he were a creature from another planet. If so, Wax assured him and us: “I’d go.” Pyne, a reputable sass-merchant himself and possessed of an almost vaudevillian instinct for a theatrical moment, latched on and ran. “We could go together!”
Christopher Pyne responds to questions from his constituents. Photo: ABC
It was a very weird love-in, and Pyne was left beaming, as Pyne is wont to do. His full-wattage performance was perhaps a tad dimmer on Monday night – in keeping with an oddly flat show, broadcast from the minister’s hometown of Adelaide – but this was never going to be the easiest of nights as government standard-bearer. After two years in the trenches polishing turds sprayed hither and yon during the Abbott implosion, Pyne now finds himself cleaning deposits off the fan blades for Malcolm Turnbull, who appears to have wandered off into another show from the one we thought we were going to see.
Turnbull sold us The West Wing; he’s governing like its Gilligan’s Island. How to spin it? No problem for Pyne, who assured us the real farce was the comedy troupe known as the state premiers and their long-running caper of robbing the federal treasury blind. Some important points had been lost in the “general cacophony”, he lamented. Be assured, no one can faux-lament a general cacophony like Christopher.
He soldiers ever forward, waving away the concerns of conservative columnist and Abbott loyalist Greg Sheridan, who referenced Dame Edna in asserting: “It was a pretty spooky week last week … we had the greatest reform of Federation, didn’t last 60 hours. I thought it was a very sloppy week.”
Cast of Adelaide edition Q&A. Photo: ABC
This didn’t knock Pyne off his stride, and nor did Tony Jones’ attempt to curtail an answer that, as the host noted, made a “perfectly coherent argument” for a policy proposal the PM had just abandoned. The minister got his dander up.
Jones: “The other part was about Gonski funding.”
Pyne: “I’m getting to that point.”
Jones: “I’m trying to hurry you along.”
Pyne: “They asked me a serious question. Do you want me to answer it seriously or be flippant? I think the answer is you want me to be serious about it.”
Jones: “I do but within time limits.”
Pyne, to his questioner: “I’m sorry I’m being cut off…”
And so on. But Pyne is adept at slipping his crankypants on and off quite effortlessly as the occasion demands, and the costume change is, of course, all part of the show, along with spurts of brash bravado, bursts of brazen spin, and the bold assertion of his proud progressive streak. And, as always with Pyne, there lingers that indestructible hint of a permanent inner … something. It’s almost a smile, but a smile faint enough to qualify as a smirk if you’re so inclined. Some see smug, some see silly, some see scheming. And some see a certain wry serenity that comes from him having seen it all, spun it all and survived it all.
God only knows what’s really going on, and perhaps even The Almighty is driven dotty interpreting the minister’s disconcerting visage. We can suggest one simple therapy: if looking at Christopher Pyne is driving you to distraction, just let it go. Instead imagine him in repose as doing nothing more than singing along to a favourite ABBA song in his head. “Chiquitita”, let’s say.
That’s why this man is smirk-smiling, so relax. Pretend it’s Resting ABBA Face and the experience of watching Christopher Pyne becomes instantly 50 percent less stressful. Of course, when he starts talking you may want to sing along to your own favourite ABBA song, depending on your inclination.
Just don’t miss the best bits, such as popped up towards the end of Monday’s program when Jones announced that the latest Newspoll showed Labor taking a lead over the Turnbull government. The camera captured the barest hint of a Pyne flinch (ABBA song: “Fernando”?) but he dived in bravely when asked if Australians should prepare for the return of Tony Abbott.
Pish-posh, he kiboshed.
“The commentators are very hyperventilating, a word Tony Abbott used to use a lot, about changes in polls but actually if you look at the poll between who people want, Malcolm Turnbull or Bill Shorten, Malcolm leads Bill Shorten at least two to one. Polls come and go and today’s Newspoll is a reflex – reflection of the messy week Greg Sheridan helpfully talked about…
Tony Jones: “I thought you said it was a triumph.”
Pyne: “A lot of people had his perception. I have explained and clarified what happened last Friday.”
Jones: “It sounds like you clarified it again.”
Pyne: “If only I had the chance on Friday to explain it, the poll perhaps wouldn’t be the same as it is now. Polls come and go.”
Yes they do. It’s that same old song. No need to worry until we hear him humming Waterloo.