CANBERRA -- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has never met a word he didn't like. When one word will do, three is better and five are better still -- which raised the hackles of breakfast TV host Karl Stefanovic on Thursday.
Stefanovic interrupted the Prime Minister during an interview on the Today show to accuse him of "waffling" when answering a question about his leadership and the government's achievements.
Which then devolved into Turnbull calling the beleaguered TV presenter "patronising".
Stefanovic had put to Turnbull that he was getting bogged down in the minutiae of problems, such as the dual citizenship saga, when he should be getting on with running the country.
A two-hour meeting between the Prime Minister and Labor leader Bill Shorten ended on Wednesday without agreement about how to handle citizenship declarations, with Turnbull saying, "We don't know where Labor stands".
"Boy oh boy, are you under the pump at the moment!" Stefanovic tried with a laugh.
Nothing to see here, according to Turnbull.
"Well, I am a good man in a crisis, Karl. You know, everyone else gets frenzied, particularly in the media. I'm very calm," he responded.
Then this from Stefanovic, to try to break said calm: "Are you going to survive this?"
The PM's response was not a brief enough one for breakfast TV, listing all the Government's achievements including signing trade agreements, "dealing with" the North Korean threat, meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, reducing company tax and creating jobs.
The Prime Minister was hitting his stride when Stefanovic called an end.
"PM, with the greatest respect you are waffling this morning. You are waffling," he said to his guest.
Well. Wait. What?
"You may think it is waffling, but if you have been unemployed and you are getting a chance to get ahead, you would think that's... you would say you are being very patronising," Turnbull fired back.
"Saying young peoples' jobs is waffle!"
It then came down to talking about the "real" Malcolm Turnbull.
The goading had worked.
"OK! This is what I want. This is the real you. This is what we want," Stefanovic stated.
PM Turnbull says the phrase "fair dinkum" six times in interview with Karl Stefanovic this morning, discussing the stalled negotiations with Labor over the dual citizenship crisis #auspol pic.twitter.com/K4ymziyFZw— James Elton-Pym (@JamesEltonPym) November 8, 2017
The interview then devolved into the use of "mate," "fair dinkum" and further smatterings of "patronising".
"The perception is you are supposed to be running the country, but it looks like you can't even run your own party," Stefanovic posed.
"Karl, that's nonsense. The party -- look at all of the big issues we have dealt with recently," as Turnbull offered another list of achievements.
"The same-sex marriage issue. The postal survey -- total support. It has gone out there. Eighty percent or thereabouts of Australians have participated in it and we will know the result next week.
"The National Energy Guarantee, that has overwhelming support in our party. It is out there. That will have the result of bringing down wholesale power prices by 20-25 per cent over the next decade through to 2030.
"That is the practical political economic leadership that Australians want."
Stefanovic's response was brief, like he had already tuned out, "Yeah."
The PM tried again.
"Now, we have this issue with citizenship. We will resolve it. We will resolve it. That's my commitment," he said.
"But the issue for Australians is, can I get a job? Can my kids get a job? Will my business get ahead? Can I start a business? Can I afford to pay the power bills? Will the lights stay on when I do pay the power bills?"
Stefanovic's response was another brief "yes" with the added statement, "Okay, let's hope that you can go and do that, PM. I think Australia just wants to be led and more importantly, they want to be led well."