QandA Scorecard: Dr Abdalla by default

2 April 2013

Written by: Eric George

In this week’s QandA scorecard, upstart’s political editor Eric George is rejoined by its editor and hairstyle-expert-in-residence, Liam Quinn. Together, they will determine the winners and losers from last night’s episode, and assign each contestant a score out of a possible 10 Tony Joneses.


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Dr Mohammad Abdalla – Imam




EG: Dr Abdalla was the bedrock of last night’s panel, as he remained rational and insightful whilst his companions veered between flippant and overly emotive discussions. The erudite imam was handled some tough questions on Islam’s troubles both in Australia and abroad, but he maintained a level head throughout, and wasn’t afraid to conceded that there were issues within his faith. Although Abdalla never managed to win over the audience with a knock-out answer, he was at least informative and consistent throughout an incredibly bland evening of QandA. It’s all downhill from here, Liam.

7 Tony Joneses out of 10.

LQ: Dr Abdalla did his best to try and maintain some level of legitimacy, which was certainly no easy task. He was refreshingly honest and upfront, and aside from a few clumsily worded answers, he was the star of the night – in fairness, the desk was second best. For all his good intentions, Abdalla was reminiscent of the band playing on, whilst the Titanic sunk. And, all things considered, perhaps an iceberg was needed last night.

8 Tony Joneses out of 10.


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Deborah Conway – Jewish atheist singer-songwriter



EG: I’ve long held the view that QandA should give up on musicians, Liam, and tonight didn’t shift that opinion one iota. Comedians at least have the advantage of practice, as they’re paid to say entertaining things. Musician guests generally seem to struggle to bring either enough depth or zing to their answers, and end up biding their time until the musical feature that closes out the show. I struggled to pluck out any of the comments that Conway made during the night other than her explanation of her “Jewish atheist” identity. Dear ABC producers, it’s time to kick the habit. Bring on another journo, or just dedicate a permanent seat to either Christopher Pyne or Tanya Plibersek, depending on availability.

2 Tony Joneses out of 10

LQ: Eric, I understand the appeal of bringing artists on board – in theory, they should serve as a counterbalance to the political rhetoric. Yet, the problem with Conway’s appearance, was that there wasn’t any meaningful narrative to contrast. I agree that her “Jewish atheist” schtick didn’t quite carry, especially when her explanatory origin story was little more than “because my Mum was.” Unfortunately for Conway, she did fade into the background the longer the night went on, largely due to the fact that she’s hardly trained for the QandA thunder-dome. The song was decent though.

3 Tony Joneses out of 10.


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Josh Thomas – Atheist, comedian, and actor



EG: Thomas was played a tough hand in the game of QandA tonight: be the sole gay atheist on a panel largely discussion religion, and why said reiligions shouldn’t allow you to marry. Early on he seemed content to play the cute card and let the obvious retorts slide in the interest of congeniality. But as the show drew to a more emotional conclusion he finally stepped up and started pressing Coleridge on his views on marriage equality. This made for the most interesting viewing of the night, and sadly it was concertinaed into the final five minutes of the program. You played it too cool Josh! Should have pressed your advantage sooner, as it would have been interesting to see the Archbishop string along non-answers for more than five minutes.

5 Tony Joneses out of 10

LQ: From the moment I first saw QandA’s promo for the week, advertising Thomas as “atheist comedian”, I got the feeling he was going to be in for a tough night. And, while he – to quote my fellow judge – “played the cute card” too long for my liking, that seems to be Thomas’s act. Which is all well and good for his stand-up gigs, but it doesn’t really carry in this instance. However, you had to feel a little uncomfortable for him, as Tony directed ever gay related question his way without the slightest bit of subtlety. TJ made Thomas come across as the “token”, rather than a meaningful member of the discussion. Oh, and seeing you mentioned it Eric, his hair needed some work.

5 Tony Joneses out of 10


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Archbishop Mark Coleridge
Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane



Eric George: It seemed that Coleridge was content to play his cards close to his chest throughout the first half of the program, as he laughed off puff questions about what sort of car one receives upon entry to heaven. Life got significantly harder for the Archbishop once the questions turned to paedophilia within the church, but he did an admirable job under the circumstances-genuine, heartfelt, thoughtful answers. Unfortunately everything went completely pear shaped in a bizarre final 15 minutes featuring claims that homosexuality was at times a developmental phase, and confusing answers about how said sexuality relates to the moral fabric of Australia. He snatched disaster from the jaws of mediocrity by my reckoning, Liam.

1 Tony Jones out of 10.

Liam Quinn: Eric, I don’t know where to start with the Archbishop. Be it his apparent failure to have any idea what “church and state” means, his continued description of religion as knowledge or understanding, or the horrifically subpar way he spoke about homosexuality. With every uttered word, you could see Coleridge’s head sinking further below the water – he was drowning out there at the end, and no one appeared to be in a rush to save him. I read once that bigotry was a reponse generated by people worried they’re losing whatever social status they have. The way the archbishop ranted about the church being marginalised in society, he certainly fits the aforementioned description.

0 Tony Jones out of 10.


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Robina Courtin – Buddhist nun



EG: It was difficult to fault Courtin’s answers throughout last night, as she consistently turned out what appeared to be thoughtful, reasonable responses. There was a bit of fence-sitting involved in her responses, but I imagine much of that is due to the meditative nature of her religion. There was one significant issue with Courtin’s performance: she insisted on mumbling through the other panellists’ answers! The constant “mhmm…yes…that’s right” that accompanied some of the answers last night was infuriating, and cost Courtin a few TJs.

4 Tony Joneses out of 10.

LQ: Eric, I’ve been staring at the keyboard for five minutes trying to figure out what to say about Courtin, but I honestly can’t muster a thought about her. That isn’t meant to be an insult or shot, but simply she didn’t resonate for me. The topics broached by tonight’s panel were largely subjective and opinion based, and Courtin seemed unwilling to really offer up anything. She wasn’t good, she wasn’t bad. Hell, I barely noticed she was even there.

3 Tony Joneses out of 10.



Eric GeorgeTHUMBEric George is a postgraduate journalism student at La Trobe University, and the current politics and society editor of upstart. You can follow him at @ericpaulgeorge



Liam QuinnTHUMBLiam Quinn is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University, and the editor of upstart. You can follow him on Twitter: @liamquinn23