news

The most talked-about moments of last night's Q&A.

The best bits.

Last night’s ABC Q&A panel was meant to be ‘dangerous’, stacked as it was with speakers from Sydney’s The Festival of Dangerous Ideas. There was feminist journalist Laurie Penny, climate change activist Naomi Klein, novelist and campaigner Tariq Ali, theology expert Miroslav Volf and (right-leaning) ABC Radio National Between the Lines host Tom Switzer. And as you’d expect, there were some pretty heated exchanges about feminism and climate change.

It went like this:

1. The discussion about why we got fired about ‘Operation Fortitude’ but not other issues.

One of the most heated exchanges in the show came when an audience member asked about the widespread protests against news that Border Force officials would be checking visas in the Melbourne streets.

(In case you missed it, the vocal opposition to that proposal eventually led to the cancellation of “Operation Fortitude”. You can read about that story here.)

While Naomi Klein and Laurie Penny welcomed protests against Operation Fortitude, both said they’d like to see people rise up against other oppressive government policies, too.

Klein invited Australians across the country to take a stand against the Federal government’s mandatory offshore detention policy for asylum seekers.

“Nauru is tantamount to torture,” she said. “I think the lesson of this is, when people do rise up and send a message, you can enact policy.”

Related: Claims a woman was raped on Nauru, then denied medical care.

Penny agreed, condemning the “anti-immigrant rhetoric that is ramping up in Western nations particularly this year”.

“It is easy to come out against broad, sweeping state interventions and invasions of everyone’s privacy of the state, but let’s not kid ourselves that this is the only human rights abuse that is against migrants in Australia today,” she continued.

Pretty spot on, we think.

2. The bit where activists were called “watermelons”.

When an audience member asked whether Australia will ever abandon its current “environmentally destructive economic system,” Switzer responded by launching a rather odd verbal attack on climate change activists.

ADVERTISEMENT

“They are, if you like, watermelons. They conceal their social agenda beneath green skins,” he said.

He then launched into a staunch defence of capitalism, arguing that it’s “responsible for lifting so many people out of poverty”.

Naomi Klein talking to Tony Jones (Screenshot: ABC)

Klein disagreed, powerfully arguing that climate change just makes pre-existing inequalities even worse.

Many Twitter commentators seemed to agree with her, with one calling Switzer a “raging climate denying right winger.”

3. Laurie Penny’s powerful words about shaming people for cheating.

Does new technology make cheating more common?

That was the question posed by one audience member last night following the Ashley Madison hack earlier this month.

Related: ‘I tried to sign up to Ashley Madison. Here’s what happened.’

Penny seized on the topic and changed the direction of the debate — by asking why we’re still so obsessed, as a society, with shaming people for casual sex.

Laurie Penny talking to Q&A host Tony Jones. (Screenshot: ABC)

“What is disturbing about the Ashley Madison hack is that we’re using very new technology to sort of promulgate Victorian moral values that are around. Shame around punishing people for punishing people for private behaviour that is not abusive,” she said.

“I think the hack was chancers trying to get hold of private information and that is the thing that we should be worried about when it comes to services like this, instead of people’s private data being stolen by criminals,” she added.

“We are jumping on this bandwagon, shaming people, gleefully rubbing our hands.”

Related: It shouldn’t take two suicides to stop demonising the Ashley Madison cheaters.

Food for thought.

Penny’s argument prompted a few interesting observations on Twitter:

What did you think of last night’s episode? 

00:00 / ???