The Today show host made one subtle joke that left the Treasurer out of his depth – and Karl Stefanovic thought it was hilarious.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was left stumbling to find the right words after he was hit by a curly question about Australia’s submarine program from Today host Ally Langdon.
Mr Frydenberg confirmed a Chinese spy ship spent three weeks off the Australian coast, potentially collecting intelligence.
While no international laws were broken, Langdon said it was “lucky” that Australia’s own nuclear submarines would be in the water “in what, 40 years’ time”.
“She’s got you, Josh,” host Karl Stefanovic interjected.
“I’m having a dig, mate,” Langdon said, to which Mr Frydenberg said he was an “easy target”.
It comes after months of tit-for-tat after Australia tore up a $90 billion submarine deal with France in favour of obtaining nuclear capabilities through the AUKUS partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom. But, under that program, the nuclear vessels won’t be in the water until at least the late 2030s.
Mr Frydenberg was one of numerous government ministers who confirmed reports on Friday that a vessel, believed to be a Dongdia-class spy ship, entered Australia’s 200km exclusive economic zone off the coast of Darwin in August before slowly heading south.
It’s understood the Chinese ship monitored a number of crucial military training areas, before heading across the Tasman towards New Zealand.
The ship did not contravene international laws, but Mr Frydenberg came under fire during an interview because of the prolonged drama relating to Australia’s own submarine capabilities.
“It … underlines the challenging strategic environment that Australia is in, and this is why we’re heavily investing in our Defence Force,” Mr Frydenberg told the Today show.
“ … We’ve poured billions of dollars into our Defence Force (since 1938). At the same time we’ve entered into strategic partnerships like AUKUS with the United States and the United Kingdom, two valued, trusted partners who are going to share the most up-to-date technology with our defence forces and with our security personnel.
“These are the steps that we need to take to ensure that Australia’s national security is protected.”
The digs kept coming later on in the interview, as Mr Frydenberg told Langdon and Stefanovic he was feeling “very confident” in the lead-up to Christmas that “the worst of Covid is behind us, and we could look to next year with a lot of optimism”.
“You should go into the weekend not feeling confident at all after Ally just towelled you,” Stefanovic said.
“I think it’s going to be okay,” Langdon replied.
Mr Frydenberg said he was grateful that Langdon “didn’t say anything about me opening water bottles or anything like that”, making reference to a viral video of the Treasurer struggling to open his bottle in the House of Representatives this week before asking Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to help.
“What happened there my friend?” he was asked.
“There is a legitimate excuse there … splint on the finger,” he said as he held up his splintered finger.