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London: Piers Morgan, the man who literally wrote the book on the so-called anti-woke backlash, was an interesting choice of interviewer by Anthony Albanese.
This is the man that Kevin Rudd, the prime minister’s close friend and recent appointment as ambassador to the US, dismissed as “a bully and a thug” working for Rupert Murdoch.
Many would be puzzled by why the Prime Minister thinks he needs to appear on controversial English journalist Piers Morgan’s show.Credit: Screengrab / Alex Ellinghausen
“Australians don’t like bullies, we don’t like thugs, so I suspect Australians won’t like you,” Rudd said of Morgan last year.
When the polarising provocateur’s international chat show, which airs in Australian on Sky News, launched last year he posted a picture of himself and Scott Morrison in Sydney on social media. It sent Twitter into meltdown. Labor MPs, including another of Albanese’s close allies, Stephen Jones, went on the attack.
So in a week when Albanese has been slammed by his own supporters for attending the wedding of Sydney shock jock Kyle Sandilands, the prime minister’s decision to appear on Morgan’s show seems even more curious.
Over almost an hour, Morgan and Albanese chewed the fat over a variety of subjects: the royals, the republican cause, Barry Humphries and cancel culture. Is Joe Biden too old? Is Donald Trump a crook? What is the definition of a woman? What about the cricket?
For most of the conversation, the pair were in furious agreement.
“What is a woman, prime minister?” Morgan asked.
“An adult female,” Albanese replied.
“How difficult was that to answer?” Morgan responded.
“Not too hard,” he said.
What about comedian Barry Humphries?
“I think that we’ve got to be able to laugh at ourselves,” Albanese said, adding his favourite show, Fawlty Towers, wouldn’t make it to air these days.
Don’t be rewriting children’s books either, the prime minister went on: “It is what it is at the time. That’s the context and I think that the idea of cancel culture is in my view, a sad development.”
Is Biden too old? He’s doing great. Would you deal with Trump? I’ll deal with whomever the US people elect.
You don’t believe in the monarchy, do you?
“No I’m a republican, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect the institution,” Albanese replies before confirming he will swear allegiance to King Charles at Saturday’s coronation ceremony.
They’re a bunch of answers which should have enraged those who drink Albo Pale Ales with pride in Sydney’s inner west or Melbourne’s inner north.
To many it would be puzzling to work out why the prime minister thinks he needs to do appear on such a show. But it was a deliberate choice from a leader who appears supremely confident in his own skin, in his own job and of his electoral position.
Albanese did all this knowing it could send some of his left flank into a frenzy. But he decided he could afford to do it. Whether strategic or not, the prime minister is sending a message to his political opponents on the right that he is not conceding one inch of the centre ground and that he is determined to woo middle Australia.
Or maybe he just fell for the mysterious celebrity pull that Morgan appears to have: an interviewer who has boasted guests such as Donald Trump, Kanye West, Andrew Tate, Stormy Daniels and Christiano Ronaldo in the past 12 months.
Albanese’s political strength has always his authenticity. And it’s giving him plenty of latitude from voters right now. Such appearances by others could be viewed as desperate.
But this is a man who does not doubt his own judgement. No matter who he upsets.
Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.
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