Q&A Aug 8, 2011

Q&A Aug 8, 2011 (Click to access the ABC page)

Tom Switzer. Conservative (right) editor.
Mark Dreyfus. Labor politician.
Noni Hazlehurst. Labor supporter and ex Playschool presenter.
Kelly O’Dwyer. Liberal politican.
Graeme Richardson. Anti-Liberal (Labor?) political commentator and ex political operator in the Labor Party.

Wow! Are good looking younger female politicians being given preferential treatment on the ABC’s Q&A TV program?

Last week they had Tanya Plibersek seated next to a fairly unsympathetic control freak member of and apologist for the right wing press. She is well spoken and only had to make Nice to look good. This week they had Kelly O’Dwyer next to Graeme Richardson. She only had to make a few remarks about behind scenes manoeuvrings in the Labor Party to look good.

But Kelly did more than that. She dominated the discussion. Usually Tony Jones prevents any individual taking control, but her interjections were done so smoothly and always courteously, particularly towards the host. Lesson there for future panellists wanting extra time. (Was there also a bit of that good looking younger woman factor?) Kelly exploited every little slip of her opponents, on one occasion ably assisted by Mark Dreyfus who actually handed her an opening on a platter by addressing a (probably intended as rhetorical) question to her. You have to watch it to see how she used this to absolutely demolish him from a debating point of view. Later she’d gathered so much rope she was in danger of hanging herself with it. But she redeemed her performance by neatly avoiding the trap of dissing Noni Hazlehurst’s views/actions outside the political sphere (unlike that Tom Switzer fellow) even supporting her with a personal story, which always goes down well. Look out Malcolm Turnbull.

By contrast Mark Dreyfus seemed to be wearily going through the motions. Moreover he came out saying Malaysia is a better solution than Nauru because almost everybody sent to Nauru was accepted into Australia! Oh dear. So much for Tanya’s Niceness the week before.

Tom Switzer supported Kelly’s financial pronouncements, sandwiching Mark Dreyfus between them. His borrowed quip about Wayne Swan’s budget demonstrating his adhesion to the Dolly Parton School of economics was rather good although as Tony Jones, who had tried to cut it off, said, no doubt well rehearsed. (An unbelievable figure, blown out of all proportion, with no visible means of support.) Proved he’s no politician however by attacking Noni Hazelhurst’s morals and hence alienating every Australian woman who became a mother in the final quarter of the twentieth century.

Does anyone know whether Richo still holds Labor Party membership BTW? From the little I watch of politics he has positioned himself in the media market as a well-informed honest commentator on Australian politics with insider understanding of the Labor Party. The resultant picture of Labor is not pretty. For example, Richardson said that the reason why Gillard will retain the Labor Party leadership is that the agreement with the 3 independents is a personal agreement between them and herself, not an agreement between them and the Labor Party. He also said “I think Labor has already lost the next election”. Notably he came out in support of onshore processing of boat people (pardon the shorthand). Perhaps he’s trying to destroy Labor in order to build them back up in a reformed version? Or is he just trying to redeem his image?

Now, from the point of view of understanding Australian politics from the inside, we need a Liberal equivalent of Richo. Maybe there is one but I can’t call them to mind.

Noni Hazlehurst tediously established her credentials as a Labor supporter by making a remark about budgie smugglers and big ears. But her remark linking Abbott with two year olds who always say no was at least original, appropriate in the context of her professional background, and got a laugh. Loved her featured reading of the Go The F**k To Sleep book and her background on why she got involved with it. And gotta love her Playschool insider bean spilling on Big Ted.

In the context of a broader question about denigrating the office of Prime Minister, the panellists were asked whether they believe Gillard is being particularly denigrated because she is a woman. Switzer ignored that part of the question. Richo and Dreyfus agreed. Noni agreed but couldn’t make a cogent case as to why, rather disastrously implying that Arabs aren’t good people along the way. I was disappointed that Kelly first ducked the issue then characterised it as a non-problem. But apart from dutifully seizing the opportunity to highlight legitimate political criticism of Gillard, it is risky politics for a female politician to support the ‘female politician as victim’ story. Particularly when the younger female politicians are performing so well on Q&A.