Tanner wins the week, Joyce wins the day
This morning’s Channel 10 news debate between Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner and his Opposition counterpart Barnaby Joyce was the first time the two have gone head to head since Joyce took up the job.
The clash was a good example of how a political debate can appear one way in Canberra and unfold in another when it comes time for people to actually tune in.
To give a cricketing analogy, Tanner has won the test match of a parliamentary sitting fortnight but Joyce just won the higher rating Twenty 20.
If you didn’t catch it was worth watching, if only for the wall of sound Yoko Ono art installation the two talking over each other combined to create.
Tanner was on the back foot from the outset because rather than it being about Joyce’s stuff up on Australia’s debt payments and numbers, half the interview was taken up with what should be done with Peter Garrett.
Joyce promptly took up the ball ran with it, managing to turn the whole thing on Tanner by quoting him on the fact that the Government “didn’t have time to dot the Is and cross the Ts” in settling up the program.
“It’s not just Mr Garrett’s department, it’s a reflection of the whole Labor Party process on not dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”
Characterising Joyce’s comments as “stream of consciousness jibberish”, Tanner was never really able to communicate during the interview as to why Joyce’s comments on debt were so misguided.
Joyce described, somewhat unconvincingly, his chat to Abbott as just a friendly conversation, but then managed to get in the only good head shot of the whole exchange:
Joyce: “Mr Tanner did you do a cost benefit analysis on the largest infrastructure project in the history of our nation”.
Tanner: “There is a business analysis occurring at the moment, there is an implementation study being done.”
Joyce: “Oh, so you’re doing it now”
It was the most effective point made in the interview that to an outsider would have otherwise looked like a predictable trading of political insults from that week’s playbook.
By the end of the debate the only one smiling was Joyce and Tanner looked very agitated and frankly a bit frightening.
While one interview on Channel 10 on a Friday morning may not mean a lot, the first debate between the two was good example of the point Punch deputy editor Tory Maguire made earlier in the week and one that the Government will have to watch in the election year.
No matter how good Tanner’s arguments might be (and they were right about Joyce’s comments being ridiculous) in Parliament, the Minister’s manner risks coming off smug and ultimately ineffective when he comes up against the “well I don’t know too much about big city finance but I do know this” stuff from Joyce (Senator Joyce never said this, but imagine it wheat in mouth while stopping to spit on the ground).
The two come up against each other again in what we can call the one day international format of the ABC’s Q & A, a format that would likely favour Tanner.
Still Joyce has won the first Twenty 20, and it’s going to be a popular game in an election year.
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