The recent student “interruption” on ABC’s Q&A was undoubtedly misguided and annoying.

For those of you who missed it…

But it demonstrates that citizens are increasingly feeling the need to push for their view to be heard.

While the dissenters in this case were “socialists”, their position on education pales in comparison to the radicalism of the Coalition’s proposed reforms. Yet, these socialists were compelled to make a menace of themselves on that old “leftist vanguard” Q&A.

As these events demonstrate, Q&A is actually a rather conservative affair. Its pretensions towards journalistic impartiality – as seen in its inclusion each week of a member both sides of parliament – conceals its underlying role in the promotion of a particular “status quo”. This helps to entrench Labor and the Coalition as duelling opponents in a “respectable” political arena.

Q&A’s careful conservatism is clear to those who care to observe it closely. Its presenter, Tony Jones, exhibits a selective interest in ensuring that his guests answer the questions posed. In events preceding the rude interruption the other night, Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, was allowed to politically spin his way out of confirming his support (allegedly documented) for the adoption of a “US-style” tertiary education system.

Pyne also avoided answering an intelligent question regarding rumoured plans to close down the highly successful Youth Connections program. This publicly-funded program assists underprivileged teens in their transition from school to higher education, training and employment.

Shutting down Youth Connections is consistent with the radical right-wing economic proposals of Pyne (who is, interestingly, the purported leader of the Liberal party’s “left faction”), and of the Coalition government. According to most eminent economists, the Coalition’s proposed austerity measures are not only unnecessary – they are also likely to severely damage the Australian economy.

And how about being blatantly anti-egalitarian?

On Monday night, Tony Jones inadvertently assisted Christopher Pyne in promoting the Coalition’s radical and dangerous agenda as consistent with egalitarian principles – no mean feat.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House, Labor’s Anna Burke, emphasised her own party’s lack of touch with egalitarian principles by identifying as a “socialist”, while at the same time representing a party that actively promoted the corporatisation of universities while it was in government.

Inconsistencies like this tend to go unexamined on Q&A. Ultimately, such programs are committed to the presentation of topical issues. Shirking from this role may affect ratings and ruffle feathers.

Christopher Pyne doesn’t like his feathers ruffled.

Unfortunately, the longer Pyne and other radically-minded politicians are allowed to conceal their core political convictions, the more likely they will succeed in implementing their radical conservative policies. In turn, we are more likely to see our democratic forums interrupted by desperate people who want genuine debate.

Here’s a thought, Tony: those irritating protesters are people too. Rather than dismissing them as undemocratic rabble-rousers, why not prove Q&A’s commitment to democracy by inviting one of them on as a guest?

Or is that a little too egalitarian for you?

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