Panel shows like ABC’s Q+A are a staple of healthy democracies — a great format to thrash out the debates and disagreements of the day. But like an increasing number of Australians, I’m tuning out of Q+A. And for one simple reason: it is no longer the “democratic platform” it purports to be.
The ABC would have us believe that:
“Q+A isn’t endorsing the opinions expressed; it’s providing a safe place for Australians to discuss their differences.”
Yet the reality is, Q+A’s viewership has plummeted two-thirds from where it was a decade ago, despite being moved to Thursday nights in an attempt to attract viewership.
I suspect that one contributing factor to Q+A’s demise has been the way Christians are treated on the program, which has a direct impact on those watching who follow Jesus Christ.
I. The Interrogation of Christians on Q+A
It is my observation that Hamish repeatedly demands Christians on Q+A to provide the source of their statistics and arguments, without requiring the same for other panelists.
For instance, last night, Martyn Iles stated that 90 per cent of children struggling with gender identity disorder grow out of it.
Hamish challenged Martyn Iles:
“I just want to just check — where are those figures from?”
By contrast, Hamish didn’t once ask Aboriginal panelist Teela Reid to provide statistical or factual backing for her claim that Australia is systemically racist and promotes white supremacy.
Nor did Hamish question the sources of the statistics given by Anika Wells concerning the ‘31% gender pay gap’ or the claim that ‘women over 55 are the fastest-growing cohort of homeless people.’
A similar dialogue took place back in November 2020, when a 15-year-old Christian boy — Aryan Ilkhani — asked a question about the negative effects of Biden’s proposed climate policy.
Hamish intimidated the young man:
Hamish: “Where did you get the numbers from?”
Aryan: “It’s according to a White House report released in October.”
Hamish: “OK, but you saw it on Fox, right?”
Aryan: “Yes, I did see it on Fox. I believe it was taken from there and also taken from a petroleum organisation in America.”
One cannot imagine Hamish giving such a confrontational response to a young female questioner promoting the LGBTQ agenda. Examples could be multiplied. But what’s clear is that Q+A has a different set of standards when a guest is a follower of Jesus.
II. Hamish isn’t a host — he acts as a panellist
In last night’s episode, Hamish fired this question at Trent Zimmerman following Martyn’s explanation of salvation by grace alone, and the need for everyone to repent of their sin:
“Do you think it is dangerous to be questioning it in the way that Martyn does?”
This is a loaded question. Moreover, it shifted the dialogue away from the Gospel to the apparent “danger” of Martyn’s approach.
“Look, Rugby Australia is not here to defend themselves, but I’m sure they would assert they weren’t lying. I just want to bring in Chris Breen.”
This sort of behaviour has become a predictable hallmark of Q+A, where Hamish acts as another panellist when a view is expressed that he does not like. It’s no wonder listeners have begun to tune out.
III. The power imbalance against Christians
The panel of Q+A is reliably stacked towards one end of the political spectrum, leaving Christians and/or conservatives in the minority.
The Structure of the Panel
- Three left-wing panellists + Hamish (yes, he’s a panellist too) — These panellists generally receive the most airtime, are given the easiest questions to answer, and receive praises from Hamish
- One libertarian panellist — This panellist is ostensibly presented as a conservative, though they are actually libertarian in their leaning. More than often, they have fundamental disagreements with the Christian panellist, or conservative values more broadly.
- One conservative/Christian panellist — On the rare occasion that ABC hosts a Christian, their role is essentially as the panel’s punching bag. And as we have seen, they are often disproportionately criticised by the panel and the host.
Take it to the bank. This structure, with a built-in power imbalance, is essentially the blueprint for your standard Q+A episode.
So, what do we make of all this?
Honestly, it grieves me, but it doesn’t surprise me.
What is advertised as a democratic dialogue is more truthfully a carefully managed performance — and one that serves as a battering ram against Christians and the Biblical worldview.
All the same, I praise God that Martyn was so bold in proclaiming the Gospel on Q+A last night. His courage and humility shone amidst a panel who seemed quick to speak but slow to listen, proving that when the Gospel’s light shines in the darkness, even the bias of Q+A can’t overcome it.