This week’s episode of QandA saw Tony Jones take his show on the road as Werribee played host to Australia’s premier political showdown. To adjudicate last night’s action, upstart’s political editor Eric George is joined by staff writer Adria De Fazio.
AC Grayling– Philosopher
Eric George: A visiting academic aristocrat was always going to struggle to fit into a QandA session based in Werribee. Grayling kicked the night off with a neat line about Australian’s obsession with change indicating a desire for cleaner politics… or something along those lines. I was hypnotised by his charming accent. Whatever he said, he got a laugh out of the audience, and then turned into a statue for the remainder of the night’s discussion. The night’s closing question—about the right of disabled Australians to access sex workers—was tossed to ACG, and he handled it with a straight face and admirable compassion. Started well, finished well, but absent in between.
3 Tony Jones out of 10.
Adria De Fazio: Completely right, Eric. What can you say about AC Grayling? His glasses were fabulous, and perfectly suited to that hair. But when it comes to his answers, he was far too philosophical for me. Who would have known? The responses – while I’m sure they’re well-educated and appropriate – were far too long, and I found myself more interested in the cat sitting on the couch next to me. Luckily for Grayling, his response to that last question earns him an extra mark.
3 Tony Jones out of 10.
Kelly O’Dwyer– Member for Higgins
EG: It’s clear that O’Dwyer did not read last week’s scorecard, a particularly costly mistake by my reckoning. Barnaby Joyce provided the roadmap for QandA success with his rambunctious antics a week ago, and it was obvious that yesterday’s docile panel was dying for some fireworks. The Minister for Higgins seemed uncharacteristically restrained throughout her appearance, and certainly could have used a dash of Barnaby in her responses. This is QandA, after all, we expect some aggression from the token coalition panellist! O’Dwyer consistently let O’Connor off the hook, especially when he was stumbling through an explanation of the 457 visa quagmire. A luke-warm performance at best.
4 Tony Joneses out of 10.
AF: It’s obvious that Kelly O’Dwyer got the brief wrong. Her first answer was a political line, and it continued almost until the end. The answer she provided to the leadership spill question was completely predictable. Had you taken her out of that seat and replaced her with anyone from the Opposition, the answer would have remained unchanged. I don’t know whether to commend or condemn O’Dwyer for sticking to the “Abbott hasn’t played the gender card” line.
3 Tony Joneses out of 10.
Brendon Gale – CEO, Richmond Football Club
EG: As the panel’s sole sportsman, Gale’s role on last night’s show was plainly obvious: talk about drugs in sport. But when the issue of sporting integrity came up, Gale was reduced to a stunned spectator as Megalogenis lead the audience through a comprehensive analysis of the topic. But, Gale did give a disarmingly honest answer when asked about asylum seekers, and seemed to engage a number of issues on a personal level, which was refreshing amongst the tide of media-trained responses.
4 Tony Joneses out of 10
AF: I think we all stared in awe when it came to that response from Megalogenis. For the sporting go-to man on the panel, Brendon Gale held up well. Given the events in Canberra of late, it’s understandable that Gale wasn’t centre stage. His answers did seem a little too prepared, and at times a bit wishy-washy, but he’s not a seasoned television performer, so I might let that slide.
Christine Nixon– Retired Victoria Police chief commissioner
EG: One of the most surprising performances in recent QandA memory. When she last appeared on the program, Nixon was still fighting a comprehensive PR war after her resignation from Victoria Police. How times have changed. Where once she struggled to win over the public, last night she was confident, relaxed, and got the audience laughing early with some self-effacing humour. I’m not sure how much of the suburban matriarch charm was a put on, and how much was “real Christine”, but I am sure that the purple leopard print jacket was a mistake. A very likeable performance, but I’m going to subtract one TJ for the wardrobe.
6 Tony Joneses out of 10
AF: I think Christine Nixon is a top lady – she knows what she’s saying, she understands the audience, and they understand her. She’s just really nice to listen to: the perfect balance of fact and personality. Now that she’s no longer in the Victoria Police Chief Commissioner role, Nixon almost becomes a mouthpiece for the masses – she seems so relatable.
7 Tony Joneses out of 10
Brendan O’Connor-Minister for Immigration
EG: O’Connor was handed the kiss of death by his party last night, sent in as the lone Labor representative to face the QandA audience after another disastrous week in Canberra. Considering the cards he was dealt, he did a capable job of defusing a series of difficult questions on the leadership spill and asylum seekers. Unfortunately it all started to unravel when the issue of 457 work visas surfaced. As with David Feeney last week, the Minister for Immigration quickly learnt that things turn sour very quickly on the panel when you try to fudge your way through a policy answer. Jones pressed, Megalogenis looked exasperated, and O’Connor lost the audience through a series of confusing answers.
5 Tony Joneses out of 10.
AF: For me, Brendan O’Connor started out well. He seemed to be in his element, and the troubles of the Labor party were a lifetime away (if only for a split-second), but slowly slowly he started slipping into political campaigning. As he stumbled his way though the tougher questions, it became obvious that he’d gone overboard and needed to be pulled back in by Tony Jones. By the end, it seemed that all hope of redemption for O’Connor had been squashed by the 457 visa questions.
4 Tony Joneses out of 10.
George Megalogenis– Author, retired journalist
EG: As with last week, there was a standout winner throughout last night’s discussion. Megalogenis did not so much provide answers as he provided miniature theses. An answer on drugs in sport became an inquiry into the values of modern Australia. A question on work visas was answered with a plea for vision, scope, and nation building. Maintaining the audience’s attention through such long, complex answers devoid of punch lines is an extremely difficult task, but it was clear that he was up to the task. This was a QandA masterclass, pure and simple.
10 Tony Joneses out of 10.
AF: Can George Megalogenis do no wrong? I’m not going to hide it – I’m a big fan of what he has to say and the way he says it. He moved swiftly from politics to sport and back again. In the current state of the government (and the AFL) he’s just what’s needed. His answers were succinct, easy to follow and they actually answered the question. If I wasn’t taught that there’s always room for improvement, this would be a full house of Tony points.
9 Tony Joneses out of 10.