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The art of listening and the art of shutting up

13/11/2013

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I like many sat and watched the masterful Kerry’O’Brien interview Paul John Keating last night. I had never any doubt that Kerry would allow his subject to speak because the man has the one interview skill that is essential. Listening.

Listening is something that does not happen so much any more in political interviews. Interviewers are compromised today by the constraints of time and the ever needing search to catch their subject out. A gotcha gets ya a Walkley these days. Or it can if the trap set catches their subject out. And so the person being interviewed is often wary of these moments and as a result, they hold back. The person interviewing then gets a few sharp rebukes in their ear piece asking them to get the so and so and the whole thing can turn into a confrontation.

Kerry is different. Has been for years. Even when he was constrained by the time formats of the 7.30 report, he could still manage to turn an interview into a conversation.

He does his research, and when he sits down with someone he LISTENS. By so doing, he focuses the interview on his subject and not himself. This puts the interviewee at their ease and they end up being far more forward than they intended.

So when I heard that Kerry was interviewing Paul, I was interested straight away. And when I heard that the interview is in four one hour parts, I got very excited indeed.

In part one of the interview, Kerry coaxes Paul (well lets be serious: you dont need to coax Paul all that much) to reveal more about him than I for one had know about him. What was a brilliant touch was the family photos that Paul supplied for the interview. Paul talked about his childhood and in particular the love of both his mother and his grandmother. He talked about the death of his Uncle in a WWII; an extension of WWI, and his despair at how world leaders of the day allowed it to happen. He talked about the loss of his father. And he talked about his love of politics and music.

I cant not wait for the next three episodes.

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Meanwhile, at a welcome to country ceremony to mark the opening of the 44th parliament, Tony Abbott talked about securing borders. Take a second to digest this. Welcome to country. Securing boarders. I assume he didn’t realise the great irony of the moment as he seemed to be reciting his three year election campaign notes.

Later while nominating Bronwyn Bishop for the speakers chair, he made another funny. Looking at the footage (starting 46 seconds in), even he knew what he was about to say next was the joke of the day. And just after making the comment, Christopher Pyne had something in his eye.

“This chamber”, he declared, “should always be a place of spirited debate. But it should never be a place where motives are impugned and characters are assassinated”. Yes. He actually said that and even Pyne almost broke out laughing.

But his biggest foot in mouth moment came later. Only this time he placed his foot in someone elses mouth. There was Quentin Bryce, reading Abbott’s hand written speech for her. The speech was nothing more than a all about me moment from Abbott. My government this and my government that. And quit frankly, its bad enough hearing Abbott’s bigotry come out of his own mouth. But there was our governor general and a woman and a person who would NEVER use the term illegals when talking about human beings, saying that word. A camera cross to Scott Morrison showed him with a big fat smug snicker on his face.

I tried to warn you all. I really did. Now this man will continue to impugn and character assassinate and all you want him to do is shut the fuck up.

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A. Ghebranious (November 2013)

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