"Go into politics," they said. "It'll be easy."
But now all eyes are on you, and your RMs are filling with sweat. You were announcing some medium amount of funding stretched over an obscenely long period of time, and one of those foul, nasty, loathsome, repugnant members of the press gallery has had the unbridled gall to ask you a question.
But don't worry, this is politics. It's not what you say that matters, it's how you say it. And there's plenty of precedent to lean upon.
Whether it's "Does the honourable member know the going price of a Wayne Gretzky mint condition rookie card?" or "Would the acting assistant minister like to speculate what weighs more: all the trains that pass through Grand Central Station in a year, or the trees cut down to print all US currency in circulation?"
You need only look to your contemporaries for a step-by-step guide in tactful evasion.
Step One: Say "Mr Speaker" a lot. Even if you're not in the House of Representatives. It makes you sound official.
It definitely doesn't make you sound like a primary school debater hiding behind the pantleg of Andrew Wallace, and to a lesser extent Tony Smith.
Step Two: Well, it's actually already too late for step two. Step two was to never let the journalist ask you the question in the first place.
Sure, you've got to take some questions. You've just waxed lyrical for 40 minutes about how great you are. It would be selfish not to take at least seven minutes of questions.
But to keep it safe, only ask the journalists who've agreed to read from the pre-arranged list.
And if you spy the precocious blue-haired girl from Junkee starting to open her mouth, just jump in with the old "How good is Australia? How good is the cricket? How good are big trucks? Sorry, gotta duck off, I have an international phone call to make."
The Katter is one of the bolder plays in the #auspol zeitgeist. But its efficiency is in its simplicity.
Step One: No matter what you are asked, refuse to answer until something is done about the fact that every three months a person is torn to pieces by a crocodile in north Queensland.
"Mr Katter, as a sitting member on the crossbench, do you support the implementation of a federal integrity commission?"
"It's an important issue, sure. But it's one I'll only address once we acknowledge that every three months, a person is torn to pieces by a crocodile in north Queensland."
"Mr Katter, how do you respond to allegations your Akubra is made from human flesh?"
"I could tell you that. But I won't. Not until we address all those crocs in north Queensland."
"Mr Katter, is that a recently deceased person in the boot of your government car?"
"Three months. Crocodile. North Queensland."
Step One: Stuff up.
Step Two. Say sorry.
The Joyce is less of a step-by-step approach, and more of a state of mind. Here's a case study.
In early 2020 an exchange took place between Barnaby Joyce and a relatively junior journalist.
"But shouldn't the minister be across key briefs like that which come through each day? ... Across the numbers, and the gravity of this situation?"
"Sure" replied Barnaby, in a manner so dismissive it bordered on Mozartesque.
"You're an Australian and proud of it, aren't ya? How many Australians are out at the War Memorial, that have died for our nation?"
The journalist, to his enormous credit, responded "I believe it's around ... more than ... around 120,000".
Barnaby, ever the leading authority: "No. Wrong. About 103,000. So, look, we all make mistakes don't we?"
The Joyce involves googling an obscure fact, and then, when you're being asked about something you should know, instead asking them if they know your obscure fact. When they don't, you can agree that you're not so different, you and them.
Surprisingly, this is a variation on the Joyce. In fact, it's probably the only shared trait the two men have. Just outsource the googling.
Step One: Tell the journalist to "Google it."
Step One: Just tell the journalist to "Ask Jeeves."
Step Two: Feign surprise when the journalist says they can't because their NBN connection is down.
You've been awfully quiet for quite some time now. In fact, Mark Riley has probably pointed out that you're not saying anything.
But don't worry. You've got this.
"Well, Mr Speaker, I mean, sorry, Andrew. No, Katherine. [Wait for thunderous laughter to die down.]
"I could answer that, but instead, why don't you google the number I'm thinking of?
"Nope. It was seven. I guess we all make mistakes.
"Anyway, how good is it that every three months a person is torn apart by a crocodile in north Queensland?
"I have to go make an international phone call."
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