Waleed Aly has ambushed the Prime Minister with tricky questions about the NBN rollout, and attempted to strong-arm him into appearing on Aly’s TV show.
Speaking to Mr Turnbull live from Kirribilli House on Thursday night, Aly took his chance to dish out a few jibes about the PM’s Point Piper mansion – and pressure him to appear on The Project.
The interview was arranged to publicise the fact that Mr Turnbull was the first Australian PM to host Iftar, the traditional Islamic breaking of the Ramadan fast. But Aly chose a more controversial line of questioning.
He first took a jab at one of Mr Turnbull’s weaknesses – his famously expensive harbour-side mansion.
“You do have another house which is kind of better than this one. Why couldn’t we go there?” Aly asked.
“This is the official resident of the PM in Sydney … it is great for a big function,” responded Mr Turnbull, clearly not keen on taking the bait.
Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff, Peta Credlin, famously said on Sky News recently that Mr Turnbull must do more to break the “Mr Harbourside Mansion” stereotype.
The Project host also took a swipe at the delayed NBN rollout, another issue that’s plagued the PM, who formerly served under Mr Abbott as Communications Minister.
“Does Kirribilli – this wonderful place – is it hooked up to the NBN?” Aly asked.
“It is very well connected to broadband,” replied Mr Turnbull, who was unable to tell Aly if Kirribilli House was in line to be connected soon.
“I’m not sure where Kirribilli is on that roll-out schedule.”
Guests at the dinner hosted by Mr Turnbull included AFL player Bachar Houli, head of the Australian Multicultural Foundation Hass Dellal, Muslim community leader Dr Jamal Rifi, author and mechanical engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Archbishop of Sydney, Reverend Glenn Davies.
Asked if he had fasted – as per tradition – before the feast or “simply turned up to enjoy the spoils”, the Prime Minister said he had eaten.
“That’s like just turning up to the election!” Aly exclaimed.
‘You can’t give me a polite no’
Aly also tried to pressure Mr Turnbull into agreeing to appear on The Project.
“Will you come and play with us before the election arrives?” he asked the nervous-looking PM.
“If we can fit in, we will … we will … we have a lot of commitments … but, Waleed, it’s been fantastic having you here tonight,” said Mr Turnbull, who constantly seemed on the lookout for a ‘gotcha’ moment.
But Aly persisted.
“Hang on! You can’t give me a polite no and then fob me off like that,” he replied.
“Well, we will see. I can tell you I love The Project,” Mr Turnbull said.
“If we can fit it in, we will. It is wonderful to be with you tonight.”
If the move works, it won’t be the first time the PM has been pressured into taking part in a live interview, after lengthy discussions – and Bill Shorten’s own appearance this week – convinced the PM to do a solo Q&A appearance next week.
Adding some lightheartedness to the at-times awkward conversation, The Project panel member Pete Helliar jumped in, asking Mr Turnbull what his favourite dish from the feast had been.
Mr Turnbull said he enjoyed the tabouli. Aly joked that that was tantamount to saying his favourite dish was the salad.