How have you disappointed me, Malcolm Turnbull?

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Cartoon by Mark David @mdavidcartoons.

It's best not to ask how you have disappointed Australia, Prime Minister, writes deputy editor Michelle Pini.

“HOW HAVE I DISAPPOINTED YOU?” Turnbull asks of a Q&A audience member, brave enough to admit on national television that she’d voted for him but was now regretting her decision.

Did Prime Minister Turnbull actually want to know the answer to this question, or did he ask it in order to honour a bet he’d made on how many ways he has disappointed Australians since becoming PM?

Turnbull's comments on Q&A on Monday (11 December), alone, inspired more responses than it is possible to detail here, but if there were only one permitted answer to this question, it would have to be his inability to give even one straight answer in an hour-long program dedicated to his favourite topic: himself.

The PM condescended, offended and self-congratulated his way through the entire, excruciating show, stopping only to obfuscate when host Virginia Trioli insisted on an answer to some hapless question. But however hard he tried to appear composed, sympathetic or even interested in the problems of his constituents, Malcolm really just couldn’t help himself and his true feelings (or lack of them) were as blatant as the absence of his leather jacket.

There was a question about whether information regarding Sam Dastyari had come from ASIO and if Turnbull was concerned about leaked surveillance material concerning members of parliament.

Turnbull attacked:

“Are you making an allegation there?” 

"There’s been some strong suggestions ... this has come from somewhere hasn’t it?” asked Trioli.

The PM's response was swift:

“Unless you’re a ventriloquist, it clearly came from you."

According to news.com:

'Mr Turnbull later clarified leaked information given to the media did not come from ASIO, but his “smartarse” reaction set the tone for the rest of the evening.'

Indeed, it was exactly 13 minutes into the program and a question about the conservative rump in his party before Turnbull threw composure out the window and, turning, visibly sneered at Trioli:

“You know, if I’d lost attention there for a minute and forgotten I was at the ABC that question would have brought me right back.”

Well, top marks for not forgetting you were appearing on the national broadcaster to answer questions from voters about your own policies, Prime Minister.

It was mainly (though not exclusively) with the females in the room that the PM seemed the most impatient and irritable. Indeed, his confected conviviality was often laced with ridicule, particularly towards Trioli, who remained composed and attempted to guide Turnbull back to the questions.

Countered Trioli:

"I don't think the conservatives in your party are a figment of the imagination of the ABC. The question was about your legacy — 

"My legacy?" Turnbull spat, interrupting. "It's a subject I'll turn my mind to when I start writing my memoirs." 

So we probably shouldn't get too excited or expect ground-breaking initiatives anytime soon.

On the subject of his Government's dismissal of the Uluru Statement and its call for an Indigenous voice to Parliament, Wiradjuri and Wailwan lawyer Teela Reid asked why the PM refused to take the issue to the people, over 60 per cent of whom were in favour of the proposal.

Turnbull could hardly maintain civility towards Ms Reid. "Let me tell you", he said, speaking ever so slowly in case she was incapable of comprehension. "Let me explain … Do you know what that means?" 

No, Malcolm, can you "Malsplain" it again?

Dripping condescension and running out of plausible arguments, the PM repeated the absurd "third chamber of Parliament" claim and his belief that a referendum would have "no prospect of success", before feigning offence and suggesting Ms Reid had been disrespectful of existing Indigenous Parliamentarians.

For a man who, just a week earlier, was jubilantly claiming the New England by-election and marriage equality as his own personal achievements, Turnbull seemed to run out of positive topics for self-congratulation. Searching for a safe topic and finding none, he managed to include the statement “Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world” in his reply to almost every question — as though he himself had also engineered this.

Let's see, the (by no means, exhaustive) list of disappointments:

Best not to ask how you have disappointed Australia, Malcolm.

You can follow deputy editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9

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