A Government senator has defended Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s impression of US President Donald Trump as an “entirely healthy” roast, but an author thinks he had other motives in making the speech.
An audience member asked the Q&A panel during Monday night’s program if it was important for an Australian politician to be “witty and colloquial” and if it leads to a damaging level of “unprofessionalism and negligence”.
Liberal senator James Paterson, who was joined on the panel by Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies Peter Kurti and author and social innovator Rachel Botsman, said he did not think Mr Turnbull’s impression was “keeping [the US President] up at night”.
“One of the most common complaints I hear about politicians is that you’re all too tight, too straight-laced, you stick to the talking points, you’re too boring, you don’t really show us who you are as people — and frankly I think often that’s quite a valid criticism,” Senator Paterson said.
Twitter video: Rachel Botsman wants to know why PM Turnbull poked the bear knowing it would be leaked
“So I’m all for the Prime Minister showing a bit of levity, a bit of self-deprecation and engaging in a bit of a roast of others in public life, and I think that’s entirely healthy.”
But Ms Botsman said the Prime Minister could have had other motives when he delivered the impression.
“He’s tech-savvy, he knows that Chatham House rules and off-the-record do not apply in the mobile age,” she said.
“I think he knew this video was going to be leaked, and there was part of him that maybe thought he was going to look less subservient to Trump through the use of humour.”
Ms Burney meanwhile said the impression was “funny” but Mr Turnbull should have thought harder about whether it would stay private.
“You have to have a set of standards whether it’s on the record or off the record, and of course the symbiotic relationship between journalists and politicians is very important — we need each other,” she said.
Dr Goodall urges young people to question what they read
The discussion about trust between journalists and politicians turned into a discussion about trust in institutions collapsing, with a Q&A audience member asking if the trend was leading towards anarchy.
“Trust is collapsing in institutions at an unprecedented rate and the way I think of trust is it is a bit like energy — it can’t actually be destroyed, it changes form,” said Ms Botsman, who writes and presents on the topic of trust in her career.
Twitter video: Jane Gooddall wants young people to question more of the information found on the internet. Corruption is tied to trust. #QandA
She said trust in all kinds of institutions — such as the media, politicians and banks — was in a state of collapse and it was an issue that needed to be talked about more.
But Senator Paterson, despite saying that as a politician his profession has “never been particularly highly regarded”, said social media was changing things for the better.
“The public square is much more democratic than it once was,” he said.
“It’s much easier for people to get an audience and be heard and they don’t have to go through the gatekeepers they used to have to go through in the media where a TV or newspaper editor had immense power over what was discussed.
“Although I share Rachel’s concerns, I don’t thing we should forget the positives, too.”
Dr Goodall, who has spent a lot of her career working in Africa, said one of the biggest problems in the developing world and the developed world was corruption.
“And somehow the lack of trust, corruption, power, the lust for power, the lust for money, it’s all tying together and creating this very frightening world we live in today,” she said.
“I’m spending a lot of my time working with young people, and I’m always having to say to them ‘just because you see something out on the web, don’t necessarily believe it, you must check it out’, and young people are beginning to look at something they read and trust it without questioning it, and that’s what I think is so terrifying.”
She said while corruption and the erosion of trust did not appear to have a solution, “we must tackle it with our indomitable spirits and overcome it for the sake of our children”.