The producers of Newsnight enjoyed this clip from Australian TV so much that they re-broadcast it, even though the issues and the politicians involved meant little or nothing to a UK audience. It’s a lovely example of what happens when a politician is on-message to the point of absurdity. A government minister, Bill Shorten, is asked if the Australian parliamentary Speaker should be allowed his job back after being accused of sexual harassment, and misuse of funds. He said, repeatedly, that he agreed with the stance of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, despite admitting he didn’t know what she’d said on the matter.
you need to make sure your line is watertight, and makes sense..So what are the lessons? In our media training courses we tell people that if you’ve given the right answer to a question, you should indeed stick to it, even under aggressive questioning from an interviewer who is trying to make you go further than you want to. But you need to make sure your line is watertight, and makes sense – and Mr Shorter didn’t. If the Prime Minister hadn’t yet spoken and he didn’t want to pre-empt the statement, he should have prepared a response such as: ‘clearly the allegations are a matter of concern, but I think we should wait and see what the Prime Minister has to say on the matter, then make our judgement.’ That is the sort of line he could have stuck to under repeated questioning, if he really didn’t want to commit himself to a stronger view. Alternatively, if the Prime Minister had already spoken, he shouldn’t have agreed to do the interview without ensuring he was up to date with the latest on what was clearly a hot topic. Enjoy the clip, currently on YouTube.