It’s really rather amazing that a political forum program such as Q and A (based on the BBC program, Question Time) has been such a hit. Naturally, any kind of political yak-fest is going to be attractive to political wonks but it’s quite impressive that it has had such crossover appeal.
Despite this, for a while now, I’ve been beginning to think that Q and A is enjoying its cult following a little too much. The inclusion of viewer tweets on the program is a good idea, but they are too often skewed towards previous panellists and people commenting on what a dish a particular panellist is. Several times, a panellist (usually from overseas), has alluded to language that would not be appropriate for live television and Tony Jones has suggested they try saying it anyway. Each time, the respective panellists have refrained, but it’s slightly undignified to try and goad guests into dropping the F-bomb in the hope that it will be talked about for the rest of the week.
And that brings us to the shoe-throwing incident. For all the outrage feigned when happened, you can be pretty sure the producers were punching the air in the control room, knowing that this was going to be the most talked about moment on Australian television since a dog had a piss on a camera.
All of this would be perfectly forgivable so long as the substance is there. However, I fear the substance is waning. Just take a look at the lineup for the first program of 2011:
Former Labor Minister, Graham Richardson
Former Liberal Minister, Amanda Vanstone
Playwright, David Williamson
Comedian and social commentator (their words), Catherine Deveny
Historian (again, their words), Gerard Henderson
On paper, it looks like they got the panel from Central Casting – Labor pollie, Liberal pollie, smug right wing commentator, loudmouth left wing commentator and apparently apolitical artist. The question is what do any of them have to say that’s relevant to what’s going on in the world right now? In fairness, I’m sure many of them may have interesting things to say, but Q and A stands for Question and Answer. As such, it’s fair enough to have had Richo on at the time Kevin Rudd was replaced as Labor leader. Having been instrumental in replacing a couple of ALP leaders himself, Richo could offer some special insight there. He has no special insight into the massive flooding that struck Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and parts of Victoria in January. Neither has Amanda Vanstone, and silly bloody Catherine Deveny is just as likely to blame it all on the Pope. (*h/t @wombat1974)
What perspectives can former John Howard staffer and conservative think-tanker Gerard Henderson give on the upheaval in Egypt? Little more than Amanda Vanstone, I would imagine. She is more likely to get all the questions regarding Tony Abbott’s response to the planned flood levy.
In fairness to Q and A, all the people who have a chance at answering important questions this week probably have more important stuff to do. Be that as it may, a better selection would have been
Anna Bligh, to talk about the floods and cyclones.
Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey to explain the opposition’s apparent mean-spiritedness towards the rebuilding plans.
Wayne Swan to explain the flood levy.
Tony Windsor, to explain the independents’ position.
Tim Flannery to talk about the climate implications of what’s happened.
Waleed Aly to talk about Egypt.
These are all people who might be able to really answer questions rather than just offering an opinion which is most likely a partisan opinion at that. The only questions Catherine Deveny can answer with any authority are ones about herself. Such questions will surely be asked, since it’s the first time she has been on the program since she was sacked by The Age following her Twitter rant. Does this have any relevance to anything? Not one bit. It’s old news. In fact, if anyone’s likely to grab attention by dropping the seemingly longed-for F-bomb on Q and A, it will probably be her.
Let’s get some people who actually know stuff on Q and A, at least in crisis times. If all you have to do to get on the show is have an opinion then hey, I’m an opinionated arsehole with a ’blog and a Twitter account too. I also have Facebook, that qualifies me as a “social media expert™” doesn’t it? Get me on Q and A!
....or at least Mike Stuchbery. He clearly wants it more.