By MAMAMIA TEAM
When you’re the Prime Minister of Australia, everyone wants a piece of you, a piece of your time.
Every day, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) fields dozens of requests from journalists and media organisations, who want to interview the Prime Minister.
Add in all the requests from cabinet ministers, backbenchers, party heavyweights, public servants, stakeholders, businesses, interest groups and unions and those dozens of daily calls to PMO asking for a chunk of the PM’s time quickly turns into hundreds. A day.
Everyone wants a piece of you, everyone wants your ear, everyone wants to get close. The decision making process about who gets time for what – while ultimately controlled by the Prime Minister herself – is something that Julia Gillard receives endless advice about.
When it comes to accepting media requests, these are carefully considered, deliberately planned, strategic moves. No media interview is an accident for the Prime Minister. And Gillard’s chief adviser on these matters, the man who advises which TV show to appear on, which radio show to call in to and which newspaper to chat with, is Communications Director John McTernan.
This week, the Prime Minister (and through her, Mr McTernan) copped criticism from the News Limited press over accepting an in-studio interview with popular Sydney radio show Kyle and Jackie O.
And it’s not the first time. The PM is a regular on the show – which is the #1 breakfast show in Sydney. They landed the first and only interview she did after the most recent spill when Kevin Rudd decided not to put up his hand and effectively imploded his tilt at the leadership.
The whole Kyle Sandilands engagement tactic raised eyebrows big time at Easter, when Gillard invited Kyle and his co-host Jackie O to her Kirribilli residence for an easter egg hunt, as part of a fundraiser for kids with profound disabilities and who are terminally ill.
Many were dismayed and confused that the Prime Minister – fresh from her outstanding misogyny speech in parliament – would choose to associate herself so closely and so publicly with this particularly broadcaster.
Kyle’s is a name that rarely appears in print without being followed by the word ‘scandal’ or ‘controversy’. And interestingly for the Prime Minister who once boldly delivered a speech in which she said “sexism should always be unacceptable,” – Sandilands name is often coupled together with terms like ‘sexism’ and ‘misogyny’ too.
Sandilands once called a female journalist a “piece of shit” and a “fat bitter thing”. He asked a 14-year-old rape victim – live on air – whether she’d “had sex with older boys” before putting her through a lie detector test. He reportedly taunted and teased a woman refugee who had suffered extreme cruelty under Pol Pot’s monstrous regime in Cambodia, on his radio show. And the program regularly broadcasts sexist, demeaning stunts that involve women taking off their clothes.
And suddenly this is the bloke who the Prime Minister is choosing to give her time to?
Unhappy with yesterday’s criticism of the Prime Minister yet again associating herself so closely with Kyle Sandilands, McTernan quickly shot off an angry email to News Limited, defending both the interview and the Prime Minister’s earlier decision to host of Kyle and Jackie O as party of a charity event at her Sydney home. He said:
”I have no idea why you – and it appears your paper – have a vendetta against Kyle. He is a popular and talented broadcaster and is listened to by more than a million people every morning.
”His work with charity is well known but it apparently disturbs you that the Prime Minister hosted Kyle and Jackie O and kids from Bear Cottage at Kirribilli House. Well I will never apologise for arranging that.”