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Leigh Sales asks Tony Abbott why he's not an effective Prime Minister.

The interview everybody’s talking about today.

Veteran ABC journalist Leigh Sales interviewed Prime Minister Tony Abbott on 7.30 tonight — and if you missed it, chances are you’ll be hearing about it all morning.

Sales was at her straight-shooting best in the gripping segment, at one point even asking Abbott directly why he wasn’t a very effective Prime Minister.

Leigh Sales Tony Abbott interview
Leigh Sales didn’t hold back in the hard-hitting interview. (Screenshot: ABC/7:30)

Abbott responded to her tough questions by “hyperventilating on slogans,” according to one of many viewers who took to Twitter to air their less-than-impressed takes on his appearance.

Here are the key moments you need to know about from the hard-hitting interview:

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Abbott said he wouldn’t accept Syrian refugees from Australia-run detention centres.

The interview began with a discussion on Australia’s newly announced decision to take in 12,000 Syrian refugees. (Read more about that decision here.)

Leigh asked how the lucky 12,000 would be chosen, and Abbott clarified that the government would be focusing on “persecuted minorities, on women, children and families who are in refuges on the borders of Syria”.

He added that he would not take Syrian refugees already waiting in Australia-run detention centres on Manus Island.

When Sales pressed him on why, Abbott emphasised — rather heavily — that the government didn’t want to encourage people smugglers or those who’d used them.

“We don’t want to reward people smugglers and we don’t want to reward people smuggling. So, we are very much going to go to people who have sought asylum, sought refuge on the borders of Syria, in Turkey, in Lebanon, in Jordan,” he said.

Then, as if he hadn’t said the phrase “people smugglers” enough, he added:

“We’re not particularly going to go and look for people who have used the services of people smugglers to get into Europe, because the last thing we want is to add to the problem of people smuggling, the last thing we want is to reward people smugglers and their clients.”

Leigh Sales Tony Abbott interview
“I refuse to talk our country down and I hope the national broadcaster might join me in looking for the good and boosting our country, which has so much potential,” Abbott said. (Screenshot: ABC/7:30)

Abbott took a swipe at the ABC.

When Sales questioned Abbott about the economy, pointing out that unemployment and budget deficit figures had risen since Labor left office, Abbott went on the defence.

“Bankruptcies at record lows, company registrations at record highs, car sales and housing approvals at near-record highs. So, a lot of very good things are happening in our economy, and Leigh, I refuse to talk our country down,” Abbott responded.

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Related content: Two years in, here’s what Tony Abbott has done as Minister for Women.

He then took a swipe at the ABC, criticising it for not “looking for the good” in the economy.

“I refuse to talk our country down and I hope the national broadcaster might join me in looking for the good and boosting our country, which has so much potential.”

Sales quipped back: “I wonder what you would’ve done if I’d helped Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard look for the good [when Labor was in office].”

Abbott’s response to the economy question (post continues after video):

Tony Abbott denied he’s interested in what the polls say.

When Sales brought up Abbott’s lack of popularity in the polls, Abbott responded: “Well I’m not obsessive about polls. Obviously people in the press gallery like to hyperventilate about polls.”

Sales didn’t let him get away with that.

“But do you think really – Prime Minister, sorry to interrupt, but do you really think that any viewers think that politicians don’t care about polls?”

Abbott responded by diverting the conversation to other, not exactly related, topics… like the China Free Trade Agreement.

Leigh Sales asked why Tony Abbott wasn’t a very effective Prime Minister.

Just as the interview was about to wrap up, Sales threw in one last to-the-point question, asking Abbott why he wasn’t an effective Prime Minister.

“Prime Minister, you were considered one of the most effective opposition leaders in Australian history,” she began. “Do you ever stop to wonder why that hasn’t translated into being one of the most effective prime ministers?”

Related: Let’s celebrate all that Abbott has done as Minister for Women.

Abbott responded with a forced smile and an insistence that his government was “very, very effective”.

“I think this has been a very, very effective government, Leigh, a very, very effective government. And I even had a Labor person say the other day that if they in government had done half the things that we have achieved in government, they would be patting themselves on the back every night,” he said.

He went on to list ‘stopping the boats’ and repealing the carbon tax as some of his proudest achievements.

“The roads are building – yes, and I’m gonna keep making them,” he continued as Sales attempted to interject.

“The roads are building, and the budget is coming back under control.”

Right, then.

Social media reactions to the interview (post continues after gallery):

What did you think of the interview?

Related content:

Leigh Sales shows the world why you should never piss her off.

Two years in, Tony Abbott’s greatest achievements as Minister for Women are, well, uninspiring.

Leigh Sales: “Juggling work and motherhood is exhausting.”

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