Bill and Scott were in very serious moods when they rolled up to last night’s debate. They both knew they needed to nail it.
This wasn’t some low-budget, slapped-together production being broadcast on 7TWO. It was a low-budget, slapped-together production being broadcast on ABC. And, unlike Friday’s debate where we were at the Gabba in Brisbane — the most relaxed venue in the most relaxed city — last night we were at the National Press Club in Canberra. Indeed, the most uptight venue in the most uptight city.
Of course, this meant Bill and Scott had to be on their best behaviour. They were two private school boys on stage at assembly. Bill couldn’t call Scott a “space invader” and Scott couldn’t dack Bill and give him a wet willy. However, they could sledge each other the way rich people do — where they just keep insulting each other but they say it softly while smiling.
Anyway, these little swipes soon turned into snipes and suddenly the two private school boys became two private school girls. Bill hurt Scott’s feelings and almost made him cry. What bitchy schoolgirl joke did Bill make about Scott? If it were us we would’ve made fun of Scott’s side braid and then spread a rumour that he’s frigid. More on that later.
Obviously there were no stools last night. The National Press Club is a classy joint and everyone gets their own personal lectern. While we appreciated the luxurious touch, we were disappointed because the lecterns acted as barricades between Bill and Scott so they couldn’t peacock around the stage and get up in each other’s business like on Friday.
What’s great about the ABC is it really thinks it knows how to have a good time but its version of fun is the equivalent of your Year 7 teacher letting you watch movies during the final week of the school year except they’re super old Jesus movies.
Still, ABC host Sabra Lane promised a rollicking evening.
“Tonight we’re shaking things up,” she smirked. Ooh. Maybe she’s gonna make Scott and Bill read out mean tweets about themselves like that Jimmy Kimmel segment.
“You get to ask two questions of each other!” she exclaimed before turning to the nerds in the audience. “We’re hoping they don’t get too rowdy tonight.”
Oh Sabra, it would take a lot to get anyone in that room to do anything exciting. But we rolled our eyes too soon because the crowd did end up getting rowdy when they openly laughed the prime minister out of the press club.
Scott was asked a question about the budget and at first we cringed because we thought he was going to repeat the phrase “back in black” over and over and then dad-splain the AC/DC reference. But he didn’t even need an Angus Young impression to humiliate himself.
“We have brought our budget back to surplus. We’re the party, we are the party that has done that. And I think Australians can trust us to keep it in surplus,” he said.
But Sabra was looking for a challenge.
“It’s not in surplus now,” she stated.
“I said next year. I said we brought the budget back to surplus next year,” Scott asserted even though he totally didn’t say next year.
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The audience roared with laughter. Well, “roared” might be overselling it, but it was the heartiest bout of laughter to ever fill the National Press Club. The room chortled in ScoMo’s face.
Scott was genuinely caught off guard as he stared out at all the faces laughing at him. He was humiliated.
Now, because it’s the ABC, there’s an obligation to maintain balance — particularly in politics. So after ScoMo got laughed at by a room full of nerds, Bill also had to get laughed at by a room full of nerds in order to meet the standards set out in the ABC charter.
So Sabra set Bill up. She asked what he’d do given the limits on monetary policy and he rattled something off about “infrastructure!” and “building stuff!” and then Sabra was like, “lol that costs money” and Bill was like “oh that’s … true” and the room roared with laughter at Bill.
Again, “roared” is probably overselling it, but we’ll take what we can get.
Bill’s still got that confidence he found last week, but he wobbled a bit last night. Mainly when it came to his understanding of what a meme is.
To be fair, it was all Sabra’s fault. She was meant to be moderating the whole shebang and, out of nowhere, she basically asks them, “How hectic’s Twitter?”
Scott actually wasn’t paying attention and just shrugged. But Bill had an anecdote. He launched many responses last night without really knowing where he’d land them. And he did it with Sabra’s weirdly casual Twitter question.
“I don’t always read my Twitter feed. I saw a very funny … cartoon? A … a meme?” he stumbled, clearly uncertain about what exactly he had seen. “…Of Michelle Obama. Barack Obama’s looking at a computer screen and Michelle is saying, ‘Don’t read that. Just go to bed.’ Good advice there, I suspect.”
Riveting tale. About as interesting as his earlier explanation of how tax principles have evolved in the years since the Romans. The only clear takeaway from this is that Bill isn’t really sure what the difference is between a cartoon and a meme and just a regular photo on the internet and also possibly an oil painting. This is just speculation, but he sounded unsure. We need more answers from Bill — it’s obviously a matter for Leigh Sales. None of us can cast a vote next Saturday without knowing for sure the man that becomes our prime minister knows what a meme is.
Anyway, the highbrow world of memes aside, Bill also lost his footing when he became too focused on sneaking in sly shots past the Sco. His “space invader” quip dominated the headlines over the weekend following Friday’s debate and, like any politician, Bill knows you’re only as good as your last gag. Again, because it’s the press club, the insults couldn’t be as out-there as “space invader” so his jabs had to be a bit more sophisticated. So he declared the PM was a charlatan. And he said it several times. Charlatan!
It’s a classy insult — one that can take you from the National Press Club to the turret of a castle in the Renaissance era while the town jester prances on the piazza below. The Charlatan Formerly Known As Space Invader was positively miffed.
But any points Bill scored with the jab were quickly lost. This is his problem: he gets so caught up in the adrenaline rush of nailing his insult that he then forgets what he was talking about in the first place and he’s just left stuttering.
We saw it earlier in the night when the leaders were arguing about the upbeat topic of Medicare and cancer treatment. They were both focused on getting shots in and, in the endless game of point scoring, Scott arced up when Bill gave a simple response.
“Don’t look so disappointed I answered your question,” Bill quipped, looking very pleased with himself. He went to continue his argument, but he got so swept up in the glory of the zing that he forgot the actual point he needed to make.
“ … What … ah… what was the second part of your question, Scott?” Bill had to whisper to his opponent.
Mortifying. He had to make up for it by taking another dig later on. This is where things got super catty and high school. He didn’t make fun of ScoMo’s sidebraid but he did joke about the PM’s environment minister. Brutal stuff.
To be fair, Scott started it.
“Who is your home affairs minister going to be?” he jabbed at Bill, in the same tone a bratty girl might say, “Who’s your best friend because Lily’s mine”.
“We will pick after the election,” Bill replied to his smirking opponent before hitting back. “Will you keep the same environment minister?”
Scott gave a simple “yes” but Bill powered on.
“Where is she? If you win you’ll have more people to promote because so many of your current ministry is leaving,” he spat.
“No need to get nasty,” Scott swiped back while on the verge of tears about that big meanie. “I was only joking, I’m telling mum!”
And it was a terrific joke, Scott. Almost as funny as that Obama cartoon-meme-internet-painting that Bill enjoys.
There’s just over a week left to decide, Australia. You can either vote for The Charlatan Formerly Known As Space Invader or the guy who doesn’t understand what a meme is.
It’s up to you.
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