Student’s brutal question for ScoMo
A student stole the show on Monday night's Q&A with a simple question for the Prime Minister - while another guest's bizarre PR pitch left some viewers fuming.
As bushfires continue to rage across Australia, claiming three lives so far and devastating homes, the sombre panel largely focused on the issues of climate change, renewable energy and the Coalition's perceived inaction on both.
"With 150 fires burning across New South Wales and the devastating loss of lives and homes, our Prime Minister has offered thoughts and prayers," the student asked.
"As young student leaders and citizens we are more inclined for more direct action, so we are collecting food and essential items to donate to regional areas. We would like to know why Prime Minister Morrison did not heed the warnings of Greg Mullins, the former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, and plan prevenatitve action to avoid the devastation?"
Mr Mullins is now part of a group, along with 22 other former emergency chiefs, called Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, which has been warning of a bushfire crisis and seeking an urgent meeting with the government since April.
'HE'S A VERY BUSY PERSON'
Asked why Mr Morrison had not taken the meeting - and whether it was because they were viewed as political - Liberal MP Jason Falinski he "can't speak for the PM or his diary manager but I can say that would have absolutely nothing to do with it".
Host Tony Jones asked, "Do you think the PM should meet those 23 fire chiefs who have tried to meet him in April and again in September with the idea of a warning him that precisely this sort of thing would happen?"
Mr Falinski stressed that he didn't know why Mr Morrison had not met with the fire chiefs. "He's a very busy person," he said.
"At this point that's a decision for him. Yeah, look, I think that at least the Minister at very least should take the time to meet with them, hear from them. I understand that meeting's under way."
Labor MP Mark Butler said Mr Morrison "should take that meeting".
"We've had advice for years now, from the Bureau, the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science and from emergency services chiefs that the fire season hat got longer and more intense and impacting parts of the country that have never been impacted before," he said.
"Once this is over the PM and other ministers need to start taking the advice of emergency services chiefs and all our scientific agencies and much more seriously. For coming days our focus should entirely be on keeping people safe."
'BETRAYAL OF SO MANY PEOPLE'
Mr Butler also hit out at the war of words between Greens MP Adam Bandt and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.
The Nationals leader has railed against "disgraceful, disgusting" comments from "raving inner-city lunatics" linking the bushfires to climate change.
Mr Butler said there had been a "longstanding protocol" that during an emergency, "we put political disputes on hold".
"There's an understanding that you don't engage in political debate while people are at risk," he said.
"Over the past several years that's been put aside too much. Having a look at the TV news tonight, every single TV news led not with communities doing the sort of work you guys are doing but instead with a spat between Adam Bandt and Michael McCormack, and I think that's a betrayal of so many people who are putting their lives on the line to save other Australians."
While criticising Mr Bandt's tweet, Mr Butler said Mr McCormack's response was an "over-reaction" and "beneath the office of Deputy PM".
"Michael seemed to enjoy getting into the fight," he said.
He added that the Prime Minister was also guilty of the same thing, using the storms in South Australia to score points over renewable energy.
OH GAR-NAUT YOU DON'T
Ross Garnaut, author of the 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review, talked at length about the potential for Australia to become a renewable energy superpower - and more or less said, "I told you so."
"The science has been very clear since I described it in my report 11 years ago," he said.
"I was simply absorbing into that report what was coming out from the science. It told us if we didn't change the trajectory of growing greenhouse gas emissions … we were going to get the conditions for difficult bushfires much more frequently over time and the bad ones would be much worse. Unfortunately, it looks like the science was right."
Professor Garnaut said Australia could "open up a new era of prosperity" by using low emissions technology to turn our iron ore into steel, rather than shipping it offshore.
Jones cut in, however, asking him "in the interests of full transparency" to disclose his financial stake in various renewable energy companies.
"And I do that in the book," Professor Garnaut said.
Jones said, "I know. For the audience here."
Professor Garnaut replied that he is "chairman of a company that's seeking to lead the Australian zero emissions energy transition and I'm a shareholder in the group that is bringing low-emission steelmaking to South Australia, and in this role I hope to help lead the Australian effort and at the same time build a strong company".
With that out of the way, things got a bit wonky.
Professor Garnaut risked losing the audience with an explanation of the temperature at which hydrogen turns to liquid - before declaring that the jobs would come to "places that will lose their coal jobs" and "these are going to be more jobs and better jobs than are currently in the coal industry".
'IS THIS AN AD?'
With California also enduring devastating fires, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sarah Friar, chief executive of social network platform Nextdoor, at first seemed a good fit for the panel - before she launched into an extended, self-indulgent pitch for her company.
"In California itself, there is no debate on whether or not it's linked to climate change," she said. "The science proves it. Whatever you read shows it has a scientific underpinning. The seasons are getting longer and longer, our countries are getting drier and drier."
Lauding California's reputation as a "renewable superpower", Jones asked, "How does that vision work?"
Ms Friar discussed a number of zero-carbon-footprint initiatives by the likes of Wal-Mart, putting solar panels on roofs and the like, but said it was really about the "grassroots level".
"Local is where we're getting things done because people are sick of hearing all of the macro politic debate going on and instead they're saying we will take it upon ourselves," she said. "Something Nextdoor is very proud to help put in front of people a platform where those conversations can begin. Grassroots efforts, community …"
Jones, sensing Ms Friar had jumped the gun on the ad break, interjected, "We'll hear more about your platform in a moment. Let me go to Mark …"
Later in the show, after an interminable discussion about start-up funding, Ms Friar was lobbed a question about Nextdoor's marketing claim to be the "anti-Facebook".
"Thank you, I appreciate the question. So let me give you a little bit of the differences. Nextdoor is founded on trust," she said, launching into a rehearsed spiel filled with buzz-phrases like "friction", "on-boarding", "lean in", "proximity over preference", "safety by design", "kindness reminder" and "reptilian brain".
The sentiment on Twitter was pretty much universal:
Is #qanda now just an ad for a company with no connection to the topic?— IanWoolf (@IanWoolf) November 11, 2019
#qanda i thought abc didn’t believe in advertising....— chris(69) (@ChrisForward1) November 11, 2019
Sarah is fluent in corporate buzzwords. We need a translator... #QandA— Peter Martin Garrett (@petergarrett) November 11, 2019
Can anyone get on the panel to spruik their business #QandA?— Malcolm Treanor (@MalcTreanor) November 11, 2019
So tonight has basically been:-— 💩 (@InCythera) November 11, 2019
Garnaut promoting his product
NextDoor lady promoting her product
Can we stop listening to this American neoliberal drivel and go back to the comprehensive lack of meaningful policy from either of our major parties? NSW is on fire. Is there an app for that? #qanda— Jo Robin (@Jofacekillah) November 11, 2019
'I'M WITH CHE-R'
And finally, it wouldn't be an episode of Q&A without a bespectacled Labor supporter wearing a T-shirt featuring Julia Gillard as Che Guevara lamenting the result of the federal election.
"Like many Australians I was bitterly disappointed by the election result," he said.
"Since becoming a member I've been increasingly frustrated by the party's lack of direction and the messaging from frontbenchers who continue to espouse that Labor should continue with a bold, progressive agenda and not paint itself as a small target or Liberal-lite, while simultaneously they fold on every issue and they're unable to gain any traction - most disappointingly was people openly floating the idea of abandoning climate change policies."
The questioner said he "hoped that the post-mortem would reset this conversation but (Labor leader Anthony) Albanese's performance on Insider's yesterday seemed to contradict that".
"I understand there will be a period of recalibration, but when will it end? Where are the new idea?" he said. "Where's the ambition? Or should we look forward to another 12 months of frontbenchers equivocating when asked if franking credits will be retained or jettisoned?"
Mr Butler said "yes we'll look at our policies", but "we're not going to review our core commitment to climate action".
"Our core values will remain in place and they'll be the subject of the gradual development of more detailed policies," he said.