Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:30 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:30 | SYDNEY

The art of asking questions


Andrew Carr


16 March 2011 09:35

Many people have bemoaned the lack of answers on the ABC's Q&A program, but I think the questions are the bigger problem. Take these two audience questions, from Monday night's show, both on Australian foreign policy:

JOANNA KING: Hi, Julia. Since becoming Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd has become Eddie Everywhere, providing media commentary at seemingly every opportunity. Today, an opinion poll has Mr Rudd ahead of you as preferred Labor leader. Do you think he needs to be reined in and although you say you don't put any weight behind opinion polls, how do you explain his clear rise in popularity'

LYN STEVENSON: Good evening, Prime Minister. Mine follows on from the last question. I'm wondering particularly is a no-fly zone over Libya an integral part of Australia’s foreign policy and something which Cabinet has decided or is Mr Rudd once again off on a frolic of his own'

These are the type of questions we are used to hearing from journalists. They are not requests for information so much as an attempt to place the PM in a difficult position. Either Gillard denies the obvious while appearing to ignore the public ('I don't put much weight in opinion polls') or she has to criticise her colleague and foreign minister. No wonder the PM doesn't directly answer either. The second is a little better, but not much. 

Journalists and the general public ask questions of their leaders for different reasons. Journalists need stories to publish, and they often have a personal relationship with the politicians they are speaking to. But the general public, even if it is the political class at a Q&A taping, doesn't have any incentive to ask the same type of question. A rare opportunity to question the leaders should be used to either elicit new information or to hold them to account. Some tried to do so, but in general, Q&A audiences, (and I suspect the public at large) have become socialised to asking questions of our leaders in the way journalists do. 

Photo by Flickr user Duc Digital