Having only taken a quick look at Q&A partial transcripts rather than watching the whole show (the full transcript should be available at ABC Online’s Q&A page after lunch, video available now), I thought Julia Gillard performed well in what was certainly not a piece of puff theatre for the PM. Her responses to questions about the Allan Jones Ju-Liar episode, the outrage regarding carbon pricing and the latest round of Rudd being out of control claims were calm yet sharp and where possible good-humoured without being flippant.
Then came the Julian Assange video question. My opinion of Tony Jones and Q&A has been trending downwards for the last year at least, and this stunt made it plummet. Assange has more front than Myers, which at some levels certainly has its entertainment value, but is it really the place of the national broadcaster to set up an ambush effort that network tabloid current affairs programs would be dubious about?
WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange confronted Ms Gillard via a video question. He said Australian citizens wanted to know: ”Which country do you represent? Do you represent Australians and will you fight for Australian interests? ”We have intelligence that your government has been exchanging information with foreign powers about Australian citizens working for WikiLeaks. ”When will you come clean about precisely what information you have supplied the foreign powers about Australian citizens working or affiliated with WikiLeaks?” Ms Gillard laughed and said: ”I represent this country all day every day. You don’t have an accent like mine and get confused with being someone from another nation.” She said: ”No one in the United States raised with me Mr Assange, no one.”
I seriously wonder how someone as peripatetic as Assange can, with a straight face, claim that he knows what Australian citizens want to know. What he, as one Australian citizen, wants to know is not necessarily representative. The PM’s riposte regarding her accent gave Assange’s effort exactly the level of attention it deserved, in the format that it was presented to her.
If the larger accusation about “exchanging information with foreign powers about Australian citizens working for WikiLeaks” has any basis to it, and on Wikileaks’ previous form then I wouldn’t lightly dismiss it altogether, then that is indeed a serious matter, and one that deserves to be raised with more gravitas than by engaging in a media ambush for stunt value.