Q&A (Australian talk show)

Q&A is an Australian television panel discussion program, broadcast on ABC hosted by news journalist Tony Jones. The show usually broadcasts on Monday nights at 9:35, and has run since 2008. Its format is similar to Question Time on the BBC and Questions and Answers on RTÉ.

Q&A logo
Presented byHamish Macdonald
Tony Jones
Country of originAustralia
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons10
No. of episodes481[lower-alpha 1] (list of episodes)
Production location(s)Ultimo, New South Wales, Australia
Running timeApproximately 60 minutes
Original networkABC (2008–)
ABC News (2010–2015),
Australia Network (2011–2014)
Picture format576i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Audio formatStereo
Original release22 May 2008 
External links


The program generally features a panel of five public figures, usually including politicians from each of the major federal parties (Labor and Liberal) as well as minor party politicians, media personalities, academics and celebrities, answering questions provided by viewers and the studio audience. On occasion, the show features a sole notable individual, such as the Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition. The program is broadcast live (in the eastern states) on ABC TV and online, in front of a studio audience. From October 2010, Q&A is also simulcast live on ABC News, allowing it to be viewed live across the country.[1] In March 2015 ABC News ceased simulcast of Q&A. When Federal Parliament isn't sitting, the show can be heard on ABC NewsRadio. Twitter is an important audience participation element of the show.

The program is usually broadcast from the ABC's studios in the Sydney suburb of Ultimo, but is often broadcast from various Australian metropolitan and rural centres. Audience participation is a key aspect of the program, with producers selecting members who represent "a diverse and well-balanced" group.[2] Q&A is occasionally broadcast from other cities, with three shows being broadcast from other countries (Indonesia, India and China).


The program premiered on Thursday, 22 May 2008, at 9:30 pm on ABC TV. The program contains closed captions within its broadcast signal.

In 2010, Q&A moved to Monday nights and received a full season of 40 episodes.[3] From 26 April 2010, Q&A introduced a Twitter feed; selected tweets discussing Q&A live are displayed on screen.[4]

Virginia Trioli, Annabel Crabb and Tom Ballard have filled in for Tony Jones whilst he has been on leave. In November 2019, the ABC announced that Hamish Macdonald will replace Jones as host from February 2020.[5] Tony Jones hosted his final episode of Q&A on Monday 9 December 2019.

Notable episodes


On 25 October 2010, former Prime Minister John Howard had a pair of shoes thrown at him from a member of the audience due to responses on his attitude to the Iraq War. The shoe-thrower was subsequently removed from the audience. Although Howard seemed indifferent to the incident, it was criticised by both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, among other members of Parliament from both the Government and the Opposition. The shoe-thrower, environmental activist Peter Gray, died of cancer six months later; before he died, however, he asked the ABC to auction his shoes and the money to be donated to the Red Cross.[6][7][8] Tony Jones announced the auction on the show on 9 May 2011, saying: "Before he died he asked that the shoes, which we kept, be auctioned for charity and the money given to the International Committee for the Red Cross for its work in Iraq. Former Prime Minister John Howard has expressed sorrow at Mr Gray's death and endorsed this idea. So the shoes, which symbolise the [sic] their disagreement over Iraq, will now be used to provide practical help to people in Iraq."[9] The auction was won by Volley for $3,650.[10]

University student protest

The show was disrupted on 5 May 2014, when a group of university students began protesting against proposed higher education cuts. The group unfurled a banner over the back of the set and began to chant at Minister for Education Christopher Pyne, before they were removed from the studio while the live broadcast was replaced with footage of a musical performance from an earlier episode. In the lead-up to the protest, Pyne was the subject of several questions regarding education cuts and was heckled by members of the Socialist Alternative.[11]

Zaky Mallah incident

The Zaky Mallah incident stirred great controversy and led to a boycott of Q&A by the Abbott Government, after a former terror suspect was invited to ask a question of a minister from the live audience.[12] On 22 June 2015, Zaky Mallah posed a question about terrorism laws to Parliamentary secretary Steven Ciobo.[13] Mallah had been convicted of threatening to kill Commonwealth officials in 2003.[14][15] He was found not guilty of terrorism offences in 2005.[16] Prior to his appearance on the program, Mallah had Tweeted that two female News Ltd journalists should be gang raped.[17] He was known to Q&A's editorial team, attending three shows as an audience member since 2011, and twice being rejected as a panel member.[18][19][20]

In his pre-approved question Mallah asked Ciobo "What would have happened if my [terrorism] case had been decided by the Minister and not the courts?" and confirmed he had pleaded guilty to threatening to kill officials.[13] Ciobo replied that he understood that the acquittal was based on a technicality, so would be happy to see the government remove Mallah from the country.[21] Mallah later was directed to respond, saying "The Liberals now have just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight to leave and go to Syria and join ISIS because of ministers like him."[22] Tony Jones called these comments "totally out of order".[13] Mallah later wrote in Comment is free that he "hates ISIS" and his comments were "misinterpreted".[23]

Following the incident, the ABC reported that it had been "roundly criticised for allowing Zaky Mallah... into the show's studio audience" and received over 1000 complaints.[24] Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek described the decision to have Mallah on the show as "clearly an error of judgment."[25] Prime Minister Tony Abbott condemned the broadcaster for "giving Mallah a platform," asking "Which side is the ABC on?" and saying that they had "betrayed" Australia.[26][27] When the ABC repeated the program, he said that "heads should roll".[28] He banned members of his Front Bench appearing on the program,[29] later offering to permit them if the show was moved from the ABC's Television section to News and Current Affairs.[30] The ABC moved forward their plans to move the program, which an ABC source characterised as "the biggest example of editorial interference I've ever heard of".[31]

The ABC released a statement apologising for including Mallah on a live event,[32] and the ABC board appointed Shaun Brown and Ray Martin to audit Q&A,[33] and issued a formal warning to Q&A executive producer Peter McEvoy.[34] Martin, a veteran journalist, said that some critics of the program needed "a good lie down."[35] ABC director Mark Scott conceded the producers had erred putting Mallah on live television, but defended the independence of the ABC's editorial decisions[36] and argued there is merit in platforming "views that run contrary to accepted public values" in order to "understand the root cause" of alarming actions.[37]

Substantially negative coverage of the ABC's conduct appeared in News Corporation owned papers, with some changing the ISIL flag to an ABC logo.[38][39] The Daily Telegraph ran the headline "ABC doing the devil's work...".[40] The Australian said "ABC exists in a parallel universe where impartiality and sound judgment are all but redundant".[41]

ABC Radio's Jonathan Green accused some critics of Q&A of hypocrisy, but wrote: "Mallah should have been a no-go zone after he tweeted threats of sexual violence against columnists Miranda Devine and Rita Panahi a few months past, threats repeated with idiotic zeal after this fuss blew up".[42]

Other commentators defended the ABC. Peter Greste said that Tony Abbott attempted to shut down debate in a crucial area of policy.[43] Jonathan Holmes said that Malcolm Turnbull's portrayal of Zaky Mallah and his views is profoundly misleading, and that Q&A has been prevented from defending itself.[44] Richard Ackland has suggested that "the hysteria over Zaky Mallah on Q&A would make Joseph McCarthy proud".[45] In November 2015, Q&A's host Tony Jones said the Zaky Mallah furore and boycott was based on a 'big lie' [that Mallah supported ISIS].[46]

Twittergate qanda

Not long after Zaky Mallah's session, the Twitter feed for Q&A, showing posts with the hashtag #qanda, accidentally let a tweet screen that ran "i prefer ones twitter feed to their biographies" from someone running under the username @AbbottLovesAnal, creating a huge uproar, with some commentators suggesting that the ABC needs to rein Q&A in.[47][48][49]

Duncan Storrar

Duncan Storrar asked assistant government minister Kelly O'Dwyer a question on tax-free thresholds, asking why poorer people were not receiving similar tax relief from the Coalition government. He quickly gained widespread support as an embodiment for the 'battling Aussie'. The publicity from his question caused various media outlets to cover his life, with some outlets publishing allegations that he was a drug addict and that he had previously failed to care for his family. Storrar became traumatised as a result of his harsh media treatment.[50][51] A crowdfunding campaign was started to buy him a new toaster, which played on O'Dwyer's remarks about depreciation treatment for small business, namely cafes.[52]

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

In February 2017, panellist Yassmin Abdel-Magied defended sharia law, arguing that Islam is "the most feminist" of all religions.[53] On the same program, Abdel-Magied stated in response to another panelist, Jacqui Lambie, that Sharia law is as simple as "me praying five times day," and that it says in Islam, "you follow the law of the land on which you are on".[53] Some Islamic scholars have disputed this saying "they must comply with the laws of their country of residence without, at the same time, disobeying Islamic law."[54]

Q&A Broadside

On November 4 2019, Q&A hosted a special show in conjunction with The Wheeler Center's Broadside festival of feminist ideas. [55]. The show aired content including swearing, and discussions about violence. This led to hundreds of complaints being filed against the ABC about language and viewpoints[56], resulting in the ABC network opening an investigation into whether the show violated editorial standards. Panelists included Mona Eltahawy; Author Jess Hill; Nayuka Gorrie; Ashton Applewhite; Hana Assafiri; and Host, Fran Kelly.


According to the ABC Media Watch program Q&A has been criticised for "being biased to the left".[57] An internal review commissioned by the ABC in the wake of the Zachy Mallah affair noted that "The most commonly expressed criticism is that the program lacks impartiality and maintains a left wing anti-Coalition bias," but the report found the criticism to be "not substantiated".[58] After participating in the audit of the program, journalist Ray Martin wrote: "Q&A is a top-rating, professional but tightly controlled, live television discussion, in which the only thing that's unpredictable are the panellists' answers. Mind you, given the fact that the panellists are always politicians, academics or public figures their opinions are pretty well known beforehand. However, there's no guarantee that on the night — under the glare of studio lights — they will always say what is expected of them. That occasionally adds a modicum of danger to the program."[59]

Acclaim for the program

David Marr said in 2015 "The ABC has only created a handful of great shows in recent years and Q&A is one of them."[60] After being invited by the ABC to investigate Q&A for bias after the Zachy Mallah affair, journalist Ray Martin told the Sunrise that the Abbott Government's boycott of the program was "silly" and that he suspected "Tony Jones was just as tough on the Labor government as he is on the Coalition".[61] After completing the audit, Martin wrote: "The simple fact is, like it or loath it, Q&A discusses serious politics and important social issues at a more intelligent level than anywhere else on Australian television."[62] Former Liberal leader John Hewson said of the show: "I think you get few opportunities in politics to get your message across, and Q&A is one of them."[63]

Political criticism

Various high-profile Liberal-National politicians have complained of bias. In March 2015, during a debate on feminism, Liberal Deputy Leader Julie Bishop told the audience that she did not believe Tony Jones interrupted her because of gender, but because of her politics: "When I've come on Q&A and had Tony Jones has cut me off, I think it's because of what I'm saying. It's the fact that I'm of a particular political persuasion."[64] In May 2015, Senator James McGrath raised the issue with ABC Managing Director Mark Scott, telling Senate Estimates: "We have a flagship program here that consistently shows bias [against] those on the right or centre-right of politics.... I'm interested in how that comes about and how steps are not taken to ensure there are more balanced panels."[65] During the Zachy Mallah affair, former Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott reportedly told his Party Room that the program is a "lefty lynch mob".[21] In his first appearance on the show as Prime Minister in June 2016, Malcolm Turnbull described Tony Jones as a "a very good spokesman for the ALP".[66]

Criticism by journalists and political commentators

A number of high-profile conservative journalists and political commentators have complained of bias and boycotted the program.[67][68]

After Tony Jones joked that a new conservative Party led by then-Liberal Cory Bernardi could be called "Cory Bernardi's Golden Dawn", Andrew Bolt described Jones as a "Leftist" who has had to make repeated apologies for the treatment of conservatives on the show.[69][70][71]

After the Mallah affair, Janet Albrechtsen wrote that she was boycotting the program because "Free speech on Q&A means stacking the panel, the audience and the questions to skew left."[68] Piers Ackerman wrote: "The show is scripted and Jones directs the show, only coming undone when the rare panel member challenges his supercilious views."[72] Liberal power broker Michael Kroger and conservative journalists Miranda Devine and Tom Switzer also boycott the show.[67] Following the ABC's review of the Zachy Mallah affair, Gerard Henderson wrote that the ABC had engaged "leftists" who cleared the program of "being accused of leftism".[73][74] Broadcaster Steve Price described a July 2016 question put to him about violence against women and the ensuing verbal altercation he had with journalist Van Badham as an "ambush".[75]

Following his audit of the program, Ray Martin wrote that the show had a "chronic imbalance" whereby women were underrepresented on the panel and that the program was "Sydney-centric".[59]


Most frequent guests

The most frequently-appearing panellists on Q&A, as of 14 May 2018 (not including the digitally-streamed pilot show) are listed below:[76]

Name Role Appearances
Tanya Plibersek Labor 30
Christopher Pyne Liberal 25
Malcolm Turnbull Liberal 23
Barnaby Joyce National 20
Bill Shorten Labor 19
George Brandis Liberal 19
Penny Wong Labor 18
Joe Hockey Liberal 15
Greg Sheridan The Australian 16
Chris Bowen Labor 16
Greg Hunt Liberal 14
Germaine Greer Author 13
Janet Albrechtsen The Australian 13
Julie Bishop Liberal 12
Craig Emerson Labor 12
Graham Richardson Labor, Sky News Australia 12
Judith Sloan The Australian 14
Kate Ellis Labor 12
Tony Burke Labor 13
Kelly O'Dwyer Liberal 12
Sophie Mirabella Liberal 11
Amanda Vanstone Liberal, ABC Radio National 11
David Marr The Guardian Australia 10
Christine Milne Greens 10


  1. As of 2 December 2019. Excludes a webcast-only pilot episode.


  1. Q&A goes live across Australia on ABC News Archived 7 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine, ABC TV Blog, 22 October 2010.
  2. "Join the Audience of Q&A". ABC. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
  3. "ABC: 2010 Highlights". Knox, David. 7 December 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2009.
  4. "Q&A Hot On Twitter". Knox, David. 13 April 2010. Retrieved 14 April 2010.
  5. Kelly, Vivienne (7 November 2019). "Hamish Macdonald confirmed to host ABC's Q&A in 2020". Mumbrella. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  6. Shoe thrower departs with bequest from the soul; smh.com.au; 10 May 2011
  7. "Cancer claims John Howard shoe thrower, Peter Gray", The Daily Telegraph, 10 May 2011
  8. "Man who threw shoes at John Howard dies of cancer", Herald Sun, 10 May 2011
  9. Q&A Transcript: The Bin Laden Hit; abc.net.au
  10. "Peter Gray and John Howard's shoes". Archived from the original on 7 August 2018. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  11. "Q&A hijacked by protesters, Anna Burke praises Christopher Pyne". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  12. Q&A fallout: Tony Abbott orders frontbench ministers to boycott ABC show; smh.com.au; 6 July 2015
  13. "Q&A Transcript: Terror, Poverty & Native Titles". abc.net.au. 22 June 2015.
  14. Q&A host Tony Jones says Zaky Mallah should not have been allowed on show; theguardian.com; 29 June 2015
  15. ABC offices in security lockdown after threats following Q&A Zaky Mallah episode; smh.com.au; 26 June 2015
  16. "Oz jihadist charged for issuing 'how-to survive' holy war list on Facebook". Business Insider. Sydney, Australia. 18 May 2013. An Australian has been charged under anti-terrorist laws for issuing a how-to list on Facebook for how young men can engage in holy war without getting killed or ending up in Guantanamo Bay.
  17. Q&A guest Zaky Mallah hits back with new gang-bang tweets; 1 July 2015
  18. "Q&A: Program did investigate Zaky Mallah before his appearance, Department of Communications report finds". ABC News. 3 July 2015.
  19. "ABC check found Mallah wasn't dangerous". Sky News. 3 July 2015.
  20. "ABC producers had concerns about Zaky Mallah, government review finds". Sydney Morning Herald. 3 July 2015.
  21. "Abbott asks the ABC 'whose side are you on?' over Zaky Mallah's Q&A appearance".
  22. "Terror over that error". Media Watch (TV program). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 29 June 2015.
  23. Zaky Mallah (23 June 2015). "Zaky Mallah: I stand by what I said on Q&A. Australia needs to hear it". The Guardian Comment is Free.
  24. Tony Abbott declares 'heads should roll' at ABC over Q&A 'betrayal'; abc.net.au; 25 June 2015
  25. Q&A: Explanation for including 'terrorist sympathiser' Zaky Mallah on program lacks logic, Steven Ciobo says; abc.net.au; 30 June 2015
  26. "'Whose side are you on?' Tony Abbott lashes ABC's Q&A program".
  27. "Q&A: Tony Abbott says 'heads should roll' over Zaky Mallah episode, orders inquiry". Sydney Morning Herald. 25 June 2015.
  28. "PM slams ABC: 'Whose side are you on here?'". Sky News. 23 June 2015.
  29. "Barnaby Joyce pulls out of Q&A as Tony Abbott insists frontbenchers boycott show".
  30. "PM wants Q&A to shift to News & Current Affairs". Tvtonight.com.au. 10 July 2015.
  31. "ABC board moves Q&A to news division following Zaky Mallah controversy". Sydney Morning Herald. 6 August 2015.
  32. Richard Finlayson, Director ABC Television (23 June 2015). "ABC statement – Q&A".
  33. Matthew Knott (1 July 2015). "ABC board appoints Ray Martin to conduct audit of Q&A following Zaky Mallah episode". Sydney Morning Herald.
  34. "Q&A: Executive producer given formal warning after former terrorism suspect Zaky Mallah's appearance on program". ABC News. 1 June 2015.
  35. "Ray Martin urged to step down from Q&A review after calling boycott silly". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 July 2015.
  36. Mark Scott (25 June 2015). "Annual Corporate Public Affairs Oration". abc.net.au.
  37. "Mark Scott says the ABC is on the side of Australia – in all its forms".
  38. "Tony Jones: ABC unaware of Zaky Mallah gangbang tweet". Sunshine Coast Daily.
  39. "The Courier-Mail is running an utterly damning front page on the Q&A Zaky Mallah disaster".
  40. "ABC doing the devil's work in giving terrorist sympathiser Zaky Mallah a voice".
  41. "High time to rein in Q&A 'wingnuts'".
  42. Zaky Mallah, Q&A, and the media at its worst; The Drum; abc.net.au; 25 June 2015
  43. "Peter Greste says shutting down Zaky Mallah means shutting down debate".
  44. "Zaky Mallah: ABC cowers in the face of Q&A fallout".
  45. "The hysteria over Zaky Mallah on Q&A would make Joseph McCarthy proud".
  46. "Q&A host Tony Jones says Zaky Mallah furore and boycott was based on a 'big lie'".
  47. "Transcript: Media Watch - Episode 31, 31 August 2015".
  48. "Q&A recap: Lewd Tony Abbott Twitter handle could put the show back in hot water". 25 August 2015.
  49. "Q&A new blunder with offensive tweet about Tony Abbott".
  50. "Duncan Storrar thanks Australians for support in wake of Q&A appearance, hits out at News Corp". 17 May 2016.
  51. "Geelong dad Duncan Storrar steals the election debate from the pollies".
  52. "Go Fund Me: Buy Duncan Storrar a toaster".
  53. "Blackouts, Childcare, and Migration". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 13 February 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  54. Overington, Caroline (16 February 2017). "Taxpayers billed for Q&A activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied's grand tour of Islamic regimes". The Australian. Retrieved 16 February 2017.(subscription required)
  55. ""Q&A Broadside"". 4 November 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  56. Carmody, Broede (8 November 2019). ""'Let them be scared': Q&A panellist stands by comments after complaints"". Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  57. Media Watch : EPISODE 23, 6 JULY 2015; abc.net.au
  58. Q&A review: ABC program not a 'lefty lynch mob', but Tony Jones should be careful in questioning, review finds; abc.net.au; 18 December 2015
  59. Ray Martin delivers his verdict on Q&A; Ray Martin; news.com.au; 21 December 2015
  60. Matthew Knott (2 July 2015). "Meet Peter McEvoy, the faceless man behind the Q&A scandal". Sydney Morning Herald.
  61. Ray Martin urged to step down from Q&A review after calling boycott silly; smh.com.au; 8 July 2015
  62. Ray Martin delivers his verdict on Q&A; 21 December 2015
  63. Abbott's desire to impose guidelines on Q&A is censorship, says Labor MP; theguardian.com; 12 July 2015
  64. Q&A Transcript: Bad Feminism: Contradictions and Careers; abc.net.au; 9 March 2015
  65. Everyone from Coalition thinks ABC's Q&A is biased to the left, says LNP senator James McGrath; smh.com.au; 28 May 2015
  66. Q&A: Malcolm Turnbull accuses Tony Jones of being 'a very good spokesman' for Labor; 21 June 2016
  67. Q&A boycott the stuff of classic Stockholm Syndrome; AFR Weekend; 29 November 2014
  68. Arrogant ABC's left bias lets down taxpayers, and Q&A is proof; theaustralian.com.au; 30 June 2015
  69. Tony Jones "clarifies" again. The ABC's Left is out of control; heraldsun.com.au; 6 October 2016
  70. "Q&A Transcript, Monday 17 March, 2014". Q&A, ABC. 17 March 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  71. "The ABC's Q&A apologises to Andrew Bolt for 'racist' slur". Herald Sun. 17 March 2014.
  72. New low is just common ground for ABC anarchists; dailytelegraph.com.au; 26 June 2015
  73. Media Watch Dog: ABC engages leftists who clear Q&A of leftism; theaustralian.com.au; 18 December 2015
  74. Henderson, Gerard (5 April 2014). "Taxpayers funding Left ABC agenda". The Australian. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  75. Steve Price claims on The Project that he was 'ambushed' in controversial Q&A comments; smh.com.au; 12 July 2016
  76. All programs, Q&A, ABC TV
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