Q&A: After Queensland, it's all Daleks and constipation


In the aftermath of the Queensland election, Q&A pondered the big questions: Are our politicians Daleks? Just who is Pauline Hanson? Is she, perhaps, a character from Monty Python? Or is she our very own fish-and-chip version of steak-and-ketchup Donald Trump?

And speaking of food, do we want fish and chips from our politicians or meat and potatoes? And if it's the latter, does that explain why our political discourse feels, in the words of one audience member, somewhat constipated?

As the nation staggers to the end of another year it would mostly prefer to forget, Q&A was battling valiantly to make sense of it all. The path to doing so drove inevitably through Queensland, which is not usually a good place to start but under the circumstances is probably better than Canberra as presently constituted.

A questioner, channelling Monty Python and the Holy Grail, wanted to know: "Just like the Black Knight, Pauline Hanson believes her performance in her own state election was just a flesh wound. But will there be any far-reaching consequences to the One Nation Party at the next federal election?"

The best answer to this question came from the comedian on the panel, Jan Fran from SBS's The Feed, who reminded us of the orange elephant in the room - the elephant who now serves as a cautionary tale when it comes to divining the motives of the average voter.

Fran: "I really don't see this as the end of One Nation. A flesh wound? If it's a flesh wound it's bleeding profusely right now but I think that bleeding can be stemmed. I was in the US last year in the lead-up to the US presidential election and I'm looking at Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson and there's these two people you think would have nothing in common..."

Tony Jones: "Apart from red hair."

Fran: "Apart from flaming, beautiful red hair. That's right. But Donald Trump is kind of this multimillionaire real estate developer from New York. Pauline Hanson is a former fish-and-chip owner from Ipswich, Queensland. You'd think they don't have the same things in common but they do in that they speak to the same people.

"They speak to people who feel like they are losers of globalisation, and disenfranchised from the major parties, and they speak to people who are rallying against the rise of cosmopolitanism. The rise of these inner-city groups or the cities they feel might be controlling the agenda, policy, media, and to some extent they feel really left out of that.

"Those issues are not going to go away. If Pauline Hanson hasn't won any seats in this election, that doesn't mean that the issues that people are flocking to her for are suddenly done. That's what I would caution."

Fran hit the nail on the head.

As did the LNP senator James McGrath, in his own way - losing the plot just as he was trying to explain how politicians could better explain the very plot he was trying to explain.

"I think the challenge for us politicians is when we speak, we don't speak English, we speak a dialect of English," he mused. "And we use words that no-one understands. We're sort of like the love child of a Dalek and an accountant in terms of the language ... I know sometimes when I don't [sic] speak, I don't listen to myself. I say, 'What did I just say then?'."

McGrath then launched into a reverie on the joys of joining the LNP, a verbal disturbance halted first by The Guardian's Lenore Taylor - "What about policy?" - and then by Tony Jones.

Jones: "James, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'll interrupt the party political broadcast for a moment and see if you might answer the question."

McGrath: "I'm shameless. I have forgotten it. Sorry."

He continued: "What I think is, we've got to focus on meat and potatoes."

Back to basics then? No. Back to outer space, where the Dalek senator pondered the difficulty of Queensland conservatives ever winning an election given they were up against this "axis of leftists on polling day ... an Armageddon of leftists that come towards us".

Jones: "James, I assume that's one of those moments when you actually recall what you just said."

McGrath: "Sometimes. Sometimes I go to screensaver mode too."

This is meat and potatoes?

One audience member wasn't having any of it. "Meat and potatoes will just constipate you. That's the problem with the current policies we're seeing."

Jones: "We'll take that as a comment. You might want to respond to it, James?"

Fran: "Maybe you need to try green smoothies?"

Labor's Murray Watt: "You need a bit of kale."

McGrath: "I like meat and potatoes. There's nothing like a T-bone."

The lingering dilemma in all this: what to do about the voters who just love their fish and chips?

This story Q&A: After Queensland, it's all Daleks and constipation first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.