John Keane | At the Melbourne Writers Festival
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At the Melbourne Writers Festival

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John Keane joins a Q and A panel at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Panellists: Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser; author Jessica Rudd; author and political historian John Keane; biographer and commentator Christine Wallace; and Chris Berg, research fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs.



This episode of Q&A was meant to have taken place with an election result already known and Australians looking for a break from politics. No such luck: with a minority government a certainty, Q&A went to air with both major parties involved in marathon negotiations with independent MPs and this was the only subject that the audience of several hundred Melburnians in the BMW Edge theatre wanted to talk about. Kass Hall suggested it was time for a fresh election – no panellist agreed – and Bill McIntosh asked which party should be given the chance to form a government if seat numbers were tied. Zoe Jones challenged Malcolm Fraser on the constitutional legacy of the Whitlam dismissal and Matthew Lesh asked why both parties pandered to the lowest common denominator. Santa Pastricha, in a similar vein, accused both major parties of directing their messages to a narrow band of voters, a sentiment roundly applauded by the audience.

Julia Henkel asked Jessica Rudd how the events befalling her father – former PM Kevin – had affected the family, and whether she might enter politics herself. Chloe Sesta Jacobs asked whether Jessica was disillusioned by politics and whether she thought Labor under Kevin would have done better in the election. Jessica replied that she believed in moving forward, but defended her father’s record against attacks from Chris Berg. Sam Fisken then asked Malcolm whether political realities would force Tony Abbott to compromise his conservative policies, and Scott McCloud raised Malcolm’s pre-election comments that the coalition was not ready to govern. Natalia Antolak-Saper then asked about proposals by Independent MP Rob Oakeshott for a non-partisan, ‘mix and match’ unity government, a concept the panel was not ready to embrace.

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