Diary Australia

James Paterson’s Diary

13 February 2013

The best thing about appearing on Q&A is not hanging out with Tony Jones backstage, or even appearing before 700,000 viewers on ABC1. It’s logging on to Twitter afterwards and reading hundreds of abusive tweets from enraged lefties so that you know you’ve done your job.

This time was no exception. In fact, I even managed to clock up dozens of tweets before the show went to air. Many are not printable in an august publication like The Spectator Australia. When the official Q&A Twitter account announced on Monday morning that due to an illness I would be replacing Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor Greg Craven, the howls of protest began. One tweeter even announced he’d be boycotting the show because someone from the Institute of Public Affairs was appearing. I’m sure the ABC was devastated by the advertising revenue they lost as a result.

After the show I log in to check if I met my KPIs. Marieke Hardy is a writer whose work has been featured extensively on the ABC. She’s most famous for writing on ABC’s The Drum website that she would like to see Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne ‘attacked by a large and libidinous dog’. So I must admit to being quite chuffed that she took to Twitter to label me a ‘douchecanoe’, whatever that is. Craig Reucassel, another recipient of taxpayer largesse via the ABC as a member of the Chaser team, is equally unimpressed. He skilfully manages to fit an attack on me and my boss into just 140 characters, writing ‘Sure James Paterson’s #qanda appearance isn’t great unless you remember John Roskam’s appearance.’ Ouch! Funnily enough his colleague Julian Morrow was much more complimentary in the green room after the show.

Tonight’s panel consists of myself, shadow Attorney-General George Brandis, Chris Evans, the ALP’s recently-retired Senate leader, comedian Corrine Grant and Rachel Botsman, whose biography describes her as a ‘social innovator’ and ‘global thought leader’. I still have no idea what that means.


I’m very glad one of the topics we discuss is freedom of speech and the way the Gillard government’s draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill threatens it. The IPA through our Legal Rights Project has been the leading voice against the Bill. It’s great to see George Brandis use the opportunity to deliver a strong defence of free speech and make it clear the Liberal party will oppose the Bill outright. One of the aspects of the Bill that has not received sufficient coverage is how it reverses the onus of proof and thereby undermines the presumption of innocence. As I point out, if I’m offended that Tony Jones doesn’t give me sufficient air time, under the new anti-discrimination laws I can sue the ABC, and they have to prove themselves innocent!

We move on to the mining tax, and a self-described lifetime Labor voter complains to Chris Evans that the Gillard government hasn’t hit the mining industry hard enough, to the delight of the studio audience. In his answer, Evans suggests that the applause is a good indication of changing community sentiment and perhaps the government should look at reforming the tax to collect more revenue. I can’t resist the opportunity, and point out that if the ALP really thinks a Q&A audience is a representative sample of the Australian community, no wonder they are in such bad shape. It wins me no friends in the audience, who loudly groan. But at least Sinclair Davidson at the excellent blog Catallaxy Files appreciates it — he writes that it was my best comment all night, and Andrew Bolt agrees on his blog.

The audience seems determined to prove my point. At the end of the show, when Tony Jones announces next week’s line up, they again audibly groan when he says one guest will be from the Centre for Public Christianity. It’s as if having a Christian on the ABC is something to be outraged about.

A perennial frustration for Q&A watchers is the amount of time dedicated to the ins and outs of politics instead of policy issues. Corrine Grant is particularly vocal early in the episode about how Australia doesn’t have enough big policy debates. To be fair, this is a pretty policy-dense one. But the final question of the night, in the form of a video, concerns why Tony Abbott will no longer be appearing every Friday on the Today show. I can’t think of a less important topic to discuss than the Opposition Leader’s media appearance schedule and the panellists’ theories of what sort of media management tactics his team are running, so I say so. Of course, Corrine Grant believes this is a deadly serious matter of national concern. And nobody mentions the failure of every Gillard government minister bar Anthony Albanese to appear on The Bolt Report on Ten. Tony Jones doesn’t seem to appreciate my criticism of Q&A for spending time on trivial topics like this and announces in response that they will be pioneering a new format with detailed questions to ministers and shadow ministers in the lead-up to the election.

A  sympathetic tweeter asks me why me and my colleagues bother turning up to events behind enemy lines. The obvious answer is that it is a great platform to advocate for freedom. But it’s also true that sending the Left into fits of rage is actually pretty fun. And I think we provide a useful community service. There’s even an online petition with 2,000 signatures calling for the IPA to be banned from the ABC. Without us, what would these people do with their lives?”

This Diary appeared in this week’s The Spectator Australia. James Paterson is the Director, Communications and Editor of the IPA Review at the Australian Institute of Public Affairs. 

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  • Vivienne

    Great article, I was able to watch some of your comments on Q&A because Bolt put them up on his page. I don’t watch Q&A, its enough pain that we have a Government of Fools, without adding to it by watching their cheer squad. You did good James.

  • Phil

    Thanks James. I needed a good laugh at the expense of the left.

  • Steve

    You made the show bearable mate! Keep hitting those KPI’s!

  • Alternate View

    Actually, commenting on the SMH live blog, The Pulse during parliamentary sitting days is a lot of fun if you like stirring up the lefties.

  • joanne

    Great article, sorry I missed you but I no longer watch Q & A. Nothing to see/hear here, moved along… Jo

  • Ian

    Good on ya James for taking on the likes of Grant and Evans. I was particularly impressed with the number of times Jones was required to point out that you worked closely with Gina Reinhart, while studiously ignoring the fact that Grant worked closely with Julia Gillard. Congrats on a stirling performance. PS, is it now Q&A policy that the ‘extremists’ get placed at either end of the desk, as they’re two from two in this series.

    • Sam

      Hey Ian, excellent point!

  • John Gorton

    Sock it to them James – We have a CORRUPT gillard as PM, THE labor party IS ROTTEN FROM THE TOP

  • http://twitter.com/cameron1971 Cameron

    Well done, could not agree more, and yes i’m a member of the IPA and proud of it.

  • Frank

    Wonderful work James. I first read of you on a Leftist blog last Monday night. Thought you must be important as the expletives and what they’d like to do to you with a limp zucchini made me pause for thought. Keep up the good work.

  • Erasmus’s tea lady

    James great to see a young dynamic sticker-upper for freedom of speech. Love your work and I support the work of the IPA. Ya done good

  • http://www.facebook.com/kattee1 Kattee Cinosa

    Have not watched that lefty show for ages, rarely watch or listen to the ALPBC, but will keep an eye out for when you next appear. Good on you James!

  • David

    Go the IPA. Best $70 a year I’ve ever spent. What a superb voice. And well done James. A voice of reason

  • Buttons

    “Rachel Botsman, whose biography describes her as a ‘social innovator’
    and ‘global thought leader’. I still have no idea what that means.”

    Ha! Ha! Brilliant! “Global thought leader” what kind of utterly egotistical claptrap is that? Sounds like she is the leader of some kind of neo-pagan cult.

    Q&A, like the rest of the ABC, is an utter joke and I would love to see the Coalition break it up. Sadly, Jones will be offered some 6 figure job lecturing at a University and continuing to peddle his failed neo-Facist Socialist bile to the young and impressionable.

  • miney

    You think Q&A is bad you should try Gillards Facebook page that is where the real Labor weirdos hangout ..pop over and have a look it’s a sight to behold

  • Jickster

    Magnificent! You and the IPA have many fans and many new ones I reckon after that appearance. This is a terrific article; funny, light hearted but skewers precisely, on very serious overarching issues.

  • Ian Douglas

    Very impressed with the considered and articulate views put forward by James on Q&A. James has the rare gift of being able to cut through all leftist waffle and get to the heart of the matter, often leaving his opponents struggling to respond with anything remotely as coherent. Compare that to Corrine Grant’s contribution which was to pull silly faces every time George Brandis spoke.

  • http://twitter.com/toaf Toaf

    The shorter Paterson: I use taxpayer-funded broadcast time for trolling.

  • cathi

    In Victoria (at least) anti-discrimination legislation places the onus of proof on the accused.

  • Sam

    James, you were wonderful. Congratulations. As was George Brandis. Tell you what though, Chris Evans put in a good performance. If I didn’t know the truth, I would actually believe he did a good job and was leaving due to “family matters”

  • roger lewia

    Great performance James, despite the hostlie environment. Even Tony Jones became a commentator, abandoning his moderator role.

  • http://twitter.com/MComms101 Rachel

    “…if the ALP really thinks a Q&A audience is a representative sample of the Australian community, no wonder they are in such bad shape.”
    “A sympathetic tweeter asks me why me and my colleagues bother turning up to events behind enemy lines.”

    Behind enemy lines? Really?

    Did you know that the audience participation survey showed 41% Coalition supporters? This compared to 36% for the ALP, 14% Greens.

    Sounds kinda representative to me… but perception is reality, I guess.

    • GrazingGoat66

      Even if you happen to believe in the fantasy that is the Q&A audience participation figures, it still shows a 50/41 bias in favour of the “Alliance” which masquerades as our federal “administration”. So “enemy lines”? Yep no doubt.
      “Kinda representative”…….ah no. Your perception is far removed from the reality.
      I guess…….

  • Adam

    Hi James, I noticed that in this blog and on Q&A you referred to the anti-discrimination legislation as ‘undermining the presumption of innocence’. This concept is one rooted in the criminal law and you are incorrect (and possibly disingenuous) if you try to link it to civil proceedings. I don’t much like the IPA, but I agreed with what you and George were trying to say, although I thought you both could have made a better case for it.

  • http://twitter.com/tjlalor Tom Lalor

    Great work champ.

  • Mike77767

    Aside from her silly title, I didn’t think Rachel Botsman was that bad. She voiced some obvious and easy opinions but didn’t exhibit the hysterical tribalism of Corinne Grant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/barry.waters.737 Barry Waters

    James, you are so brave to appear on Q&A where not everyone thinks as intelligently as you.

  • http://twitter.com/DallasBeaufort Dallas Beaufort

    What’s new, when the public sector is lazy with excess drones producing dribble to pour over their dreaming productivity.?

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