Yesterday afternoon Tony Abbott tried a bit of a stunt where he pretended to be available to answer meaningful questions if people sent them to him on Twitter with the #asktony hashtag.

You can see why the concept appealed to Abbott – it would make him look like he was open to being challenged on his pronouncements, whilst letting him ignore questions he didn’t want to answer and in a forum where nobody could expect more than 140 characters anyway.

Which is good, because Tony’s preferred response to any question is the asinine (and false) “axing the carbon tax will fix it!” And the twitter “interview” lets him just keep repeating it (regardless of the question) whilst ignoring follow-ups:

Mark J. Cohen – What will be the macroeconomic effects on Australia if the Eurozone fails to stabilise its banks? #asktony
Tony Abbott – Serious. That’s why it’s important not to make extra burdens for ourselves such as the carbon tax and no ABCC. #asktony.

And:

Juliar Dullard – What do you rate as the biggest challenge facing Australia right now? #asktony
Tony Abbott – Keeping the economy strong. That’s why a Coalition govt will abolish carbon and mining taxes and restore the ABCC. #asktony

And:

Edward Wright – What will be your first priority when you form government? #asktony
Tony Abbott – Repeal the carbon tax! #asktony

And:

Tim Ferguson – When you gut the carbon tax, do our other taxes stay the same? #asktony
Tony Abbott – I want to get taxes down generally. There’ll be no tax increases to pay for the carbon tax abolition.
Cate – Then how will you pay for it? And whow will you fund the NDIS?
Cate – Lower taxes = razor gangs. What gets cut? Pensions? Who suffers most? The poor. Taxes = services. End of story.

(Unsurprisingly, Tony hasn’t replied to Cate’s questions.)

Sadly, those cynics on Twitter not only called bullsh*t on Tony’s faux interview, but they MADE FUN OF HIM:

@benpobjie #askTony what is your favourite Enrique Iglesias Best-Of compilation?

@crazyfun_nicol: @TonyAbbottMHR would you rather be attacked by a hundred duck sized horses or one horse sized duck? #asktony

@geeksrulz Mr Abbott, why does a round pizza come in a square box? #askTony

@declanf Have you ever killed a man in the heat of passion? #asktony @TonyAbbottMHR

@creativemercury How many angels on a pin? How many tears in a bottle of gin? #asktony @HelenRazer

@erinmarytaylor Scaramouche, scaramouche will you do the fandango? #asktony

@_KRuddMP @TonyAbbottMHR Thin or thick crust on Pizza? #asktony #auspol _KRudd

This made Alan Kohler upset:

Alan Kohler – Tch. No one’s taking #asktony seriously. Typical. Cmon people, the man has reached out!

Actually, many had tried to ask serious questions, but Tony didn’t respond:

@samantha4bs @TonyAbbottMHR Gov support for students is minimal, many of us are FT students & working FT just to pay rising utility$. Solutions? #asktony

@interactivate Why do you conflate women with mothers in your policy pronouncements? The former does not necessitate the latter. #asktony

@LOZandJASE #AskTony u don’t think it’s hypocritical to stand in front of “ditch the witch” signs and then claim ur offended by some satirical posters?

@JenRedding64 #asktony Do you ever consider the consequences of the level of negativity that you have been expressing since you became LOTO ?

@Pattt23 @TonyAbbottMHR Why should you be leader of the country when you don’t even view all its citizens as equals? #asktony #gaymarriage

@FearBlandness I want to #asktony why virginity is a ‘special gift’. But only for women?

If @TonyAbbottMHR won’t raise tax to pay for CT abolition, where will the money come from? Is the economy a magic pudding? #asktony #auspol

And the nastiest serious question of all?

Emma Alberici – @TonyAbbottMHR #asktony When will you accept our invitation to do an interview on #lateline?

Like the other genuine questions, Tony didn’t dignify THAT one with a response.

Naturally, other journalists were outraged. Tony Abbott, a man who expects to be Prime Minister after the next election, thinks he can avoid genuine scrutiny with faux interviews on Twitter? He thinks pretending to engage with the electorate for twenty minutes online whilst ignoring anything he doesn’t want to deal with is the equivalent of a Lateline interview or being grilled by a Q&A audience? He thinks ignoring the difficult questions he was asked won’t be noticed?

Well, just wait till the Herald Sun journo gets stuck in:

The Opposition Leader regularly conducts a question and answer session via Twitter when he has spare moments carrying the hashtag #asktony.

But today’s 20-minute session began trending after people started asking questions that ranged from nasty to just plain silly.

Mr Abbott responded to some serious questions on topics such as the carbon tax, asylum seekers and live cattle export.

But it didn’t take long for the tone to change

Okay, so Jessica Marszalek’s criticism of Abbott appears to be limited to criticism of people on Twitter with which he pretended to be engaging. Sadly it looks like there wasn’t room for Jessica to describe to readers just what sort of vacuous answers Abbott gave to the “serious questions”, and just what sort of serious questions he completely ignored before the #asktony thread went off the rails.

Instead, there was room for this heading in bold:

A SOCIAL networking exercise has backfired for Tony Abbott, with Twitter trolls seeking his counsel on a hoard of ridiculous topics.

And this caption:

Tony Abbott faced a barrage of absurd questions on his Twitter account today

Tony Abbott is lucky that Herald Sun readers will be left with the impression that he bravely “reached out” and the Internet was too stupid and nasty to engage seriously, rather than the more accurate account that he declined to answer difficult questions and when people realised it was a shameless stunt then they started mocking him.

Kudos to Jessica and her paper for not being annoyed by a politician’s attempt to sideline them and avoid geniune media scrutiny by spending twenty minutes ignoring difficult questions on Twitter in place of actually being grilled by a real journalist.

We’ll find out how Tony Abbott is going to magically cut taxes without raising others or slashing public services whilst still maintaining the ALP’s surplus after he becomes PM. It’s just rude to ask him before the election. Twitter might not realise that yet – but the journalists Tony is willing to speak with do.

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