The Q&A episode that covered the leadership spill in real-time.

What happens when Q&A coincides with a #libspill? Some unmissable, real-time political commentary…

This week’s Q&A programme faced an unexpected disruption when it was announced the Liberal leadership challenge would clash with the show’s regular Monday night slot.

As a result of that timing conflict, Justice Minister Michael Keenan cancelled his scheduled appearance on the show and was replaced on the panel by former Liberal leader John Hewson.

The result of the leadership ballot was announced midway through the episode, and panelists including Labor Member for Griffith Terri Butler, World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello and Spectator Australia editor Rowan Dean remained impressively calm as they discussed Malcolm Turnbull’s appointment as Prime Minister in real-time.

The result of the leadership ballot was announced midway through the episode, so panelists discussed the change in leadership in real-time.

Here are the top Q&A moments you’ll need to know about this week.

The debate over whether the leadership spill was “a big mistake”.

Panelists were divided on whether the #libspill was a good thing — and in particular, whether we should be concerned about changes in leadership taking place without an election.

Panelist Rowan Dean described the leadership spill as “a big mistake for the Liberal party,” saying the country’s leadership shouldn’t depend on opinion polls.

“A leader needs a long time to establish themselves,” he said, naming UK Prime Minister David Cameron as an example.

Tim Costello agreed that the lack of stability in government was a problem.

“There is a sickness now at the heart of politics, and I think that is very destabilising in people’s minds,” he said.

Costello added that the outcome of the #libspill would define the future direction the party, describing it as: “sort of a contest for the soul of the Liberal party. Is it a liberal party, or is it a conservative party?”

Tim Costello: “There is a sickness now at the heart of politics, and I think that is very destabilising in people’s minds.” (Screenshot: ABC/Q&A)

Viewers were divided on reactions to the leadership change. Some voiced concerns about an unstable government, while many Abbott critics simply welcomed the old PM’s removal from the top job.

The claims Turnbull is a “sell-out”.

The conversation turned to reports that Turnbull has already agreed to stick to Tony Abbott’s targets for climate change, and Abbott’s plan for a plebiscite on marriage equality during his time as Prime Minister.

Butler called Turnbull a “sell-out” on climate change and marriage equality.

Butler seized on that rumour, describing the new Prime Minister as a “sell-out” for compromising on his personal values when it came to those key political issues.

She described Turnbull as merely “a new vessel, a new salesperson [for] the same core messages” of the Liberal party.

John Hewson weighed in, saying climate change was a key ethical and political issue of our time — and that it remained to be seen whether Turnbull would step up.

“We’ve lost 30 years on this issue already,” Hewson said of climate change. “We could have had a dynamic renewable sector, we could have had a phenomenal range of new industries, new technologies, new jobs.”

q&a Liberal Spill
Hewson urged Turnbull to take action on climate change. (Image: ABC/Q&A)

He did, however, acknowledge there were possibilities for positive change under Turnbull.

When host Tony Jones asked whether the front bench would change as a result of the #libspill, Hewson responded:

“I’d love to see that sort of dramatic change, there are some very good people in the younger ranks, the newer ranks of the party… and I think the electorate is a little bit tired of the old guard.”

The discussion about whether Australia should support the Syrian government.

The discussion turned to the conflict in Syria, and one audience member asked why Australia hasn’t considered supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, “who has been fighting ISIS [Islamic State] for years”.

The question was met with applause from the audience, but was criticised by some Twitter commentators, who alluded to the fact that Assad has himself been accused of serious human rights violations.

“I think the situation’s extremely complicated because we’re being forced to make choices we shouldn’t have to make,” Hewson said.

He described both ISIS and Asaad as “a significant issue,” saying the choice between the two was “fairly difficult.”

He added that air strikes are unlikely to have a significant impact, and argued that on-the-ground military action might be necessary to overthrow ISIS.

Tim Costello’s strong words against Australia choosing its refugees on religious grounds.

When an audience member asked why Australia had decided to choose its refugees on ethnic and religious grounds, Costello argued powerfully for a “non-discriminatory” refugee policy.

He told of visiting a Christian family in Lebanon who had taken in 16 Syrian Muslim refugees.

“I said: ‘Why do you do it? This is extraordinary,’ and he said ‘because they’re human,” Costello recalled.

“That really should be the only category… That should be the basis of our intake.”

His words were met with a loud round of applause.

Dean took a different approach, arguing that Syrian Christian asylum seekers had fewer places to go than Syrian Muslims.

“The minority Christians in Muslim countries have been driven out of every single Muslim country, every single Middle East country other than Israel,” be began.

“Of course we want to have the egalitarian approach, but there is nowhere in the Middle east for Christians to go and we have to recognise that fact if we want to be fair to them.”

What did you think of the episode?

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