Posted by: jkirkby8712 | February 8, 2011

Tuesday 8th February 2011 – the pollies and the playmakers meet the audience.

Last night on the ABC, we saw the return of the weekly open panel discussion – Q & A –   what exactly is Q & A? It’s about democracy in action – on Q&A the audience gets to ask the questions.  It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from – everyone can have a go and take it up to our politicians and opinion makers.   It’s about encouraging people to engage with politics and society, and is happening  live to air as viewers watch. As one viewer noted, it puts punters, pollies and pundits together in the studio to thrash out the hot issues of the week, and encourages the audience, both within the studio, and external, via the web etc, to engage with politicians and other respected members of society. Tonight’s panel guests for example were Graham Richardson [former Labor minister], Amanda Vanstone [former Liberal minister under John Howard], David Williamson [renowned Australian playwright], Catherine Deveney [comedian and social commentator, who did not impress me one iota] and  Gerard Henderson [historian and conservative commentator, an interesting man].

The show overall, is hosted by one of the ABC’s most respected journalists, Tony Jones, whose aim with the program is to put the Australian public directly in touch with the politicians and playmakers – to give them the opportunity to get some answers, eye to eye. Tony Jones has won pretty much every award an Australian journalist could wish for. He’s covered the seminal news events of the last two decades – from the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, through the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, to the rise of the Taliban and, closer to home, the revelations of sexual abuse in remote Aboriginal communities.

Now I make mention of this because, together with Tuesday night’s ‘The Late Session’ , Q & A is probably my favourite current piece of TV viewing at present, and as with both productions [on different channels] I enjoy the interaction between the various guests, and in tonight’s case, the audiences as well, and the opportunity to see some of these people perform outside of their comfort zones, being expected to respond to a range of questions which I think I can safely assume they have not been previously made aware of. Of course the fact the topics of discussion so often refer to issues of the day should mean that the participants have a fair idea of the subjects that are going to be thrown up at them.

Some examples of the kind of questions asked tonight of the panel included:

On the proposed Flood Levy, Australian of the Year, Simon McKeon, is known for his philanthropy and his propensity to give to those in need. If generosity is an Australian value worthy of our highest honour, why is it that 41% of Australians in the most recent Newspoll are so against the Flood Levy – against helping their fellow Australians?  [Here, broad agreement seemed to be that Australians in the main were not opposed to supporting those affected by the floods, etc, but the means by which the government was suggesting it be done].

Floods and climate change: Gerard Henderson, you have criticized Bob Brown recently for suggesting the coal industry should be taxed for their role in contributing to the effects of climate change. However there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that natural disasters such as these will become both more frequent and more severe as a result of greenhouse gas emissions.
Is it not both fair and prudent then that we tax the coal industry and other big polluters, to help pay for the damage they cause, and to discourage further pollution?  [Henderson made it very clear that the coal industry had his full support, and that it’s demise would be to the detriment of most Australians, but he did not have full support for that argument]

Gillard, the Actor? According to David Williamson, Labour’s biggest problem is that Julia Gillard can’t act. Mark Latham, in a recent column wrote, ‘she is not a naturally empathetic person – displaying… noticeable discomfort around infant children.’  Isn’t it worrying that we should be critiquing our leaders by their ability to ‘act’ in the sense of theatre, rather than in the sense of ‘deed’?  [Seemed to be a general view of agreement, however it was felt that she was been very poorly advised as to how she should act and speak – there were two different Gillards – the strong politician in Parliament, compared to the other Julia Gillard as she seems to be getting presented, as wooden and uncaring – quite a few differing views arising from this question, including the obvious comparison in performances between her and the Queensland Premier over the past three weeks]

Labor’s Demise: A video question to Graham Richardson: In your days, NSW right would have generated policy initiatives & worked to generate public support for government policies. Is it a major concern for Labour & indeed Australia that the labour political operatives seem to be purely concerned with preserving their power base in the party as opposed to assisting Gillard to establish policy platforms & win public support for her policies?

Egypt and Islam: Will the protests in Egypt bring about democracy, or simply be a catalyst for another Islamist regime?

Assange and the Nobel Prize: Does the panel agree that Julian Assange has earned the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting the democratic right of citizens to be informed of what is done in their name? If not why not? [General agreement and feeling that this suggestion should be regarded as a ‘joke’]

Coalition’s response to the flood levy: How does the Liberal party respond to commentary in major newspapers that Tony Abbott is playing politics in times of intense human suffering, rather than presenting a united front to rectify the damage in Victoria and Queensland?

Anyway, my purpose here because of space and time, was merely to indicate the kind of questions presented to our panel, and one notices that in most cases, they are questions that are probably on the lips or minds of the average Australian voter and/or citizen. I find it an interesting and useful hour of television, and no doubt will continue to be a regular Monday night fan!

Incidentally, yesterdayday was the anniversary of the tragic Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, on February 7th, 2009. I said plenty in my contributions at that time in regard to that terrible natural disaster, and won’t go over it again here, particularly in light of the dramatic climate events that have been going on in Australia since the beginning of this year. In speaking of bush fires, over in Perth where major bushfires have been ravaging some of that city’s outer suburbs, at least 70 homes had been destroyed by the end of today. So we have massive losses of property on both sides of the continent, and from opposite  extremes of climatic consequences.

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