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Q&A recap: Panel gets to the point, and pointlessness, of Newspoll debate

“Why don't we try this?” Trioli ventured.

“It was a remarkable comment that was made by Peter ..

"Why don't we try this?" Trioli ventured.

"It was a remarkable comment that was made by Peter Dutton about people in Melbourne and the south-east being afraid to go out at night to restaurants. Let's have a show of hands. If you were, around about the time of that comment, if you were afraid to go out at night to a restaurant, whack your hand up."

Crickets.

Trioli: "Anybody at all?"

Crickets.

"One up the back. Thank you, sir. Thanks for saying that."

The mysterious, frightened gentleman up the back was not further identified, and the concerned viewer was left lingering with the hope that he had been delivered to the studio via armed escort and provided with a home-cooked meal.

Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge.

It was that kind of Q&A: leaving more questions than answers, though the program did manage the rare feat of weaning itself off coverage of Malcolm Turnbull's 30th consecutive Newspoll loss relatively quickly.

We were done with it in around seven minutes, but it was an excellent seven minutes, or a terrible seven minutes, depending on your current tolerance for the term "Newspoll".

Blessedly, the opening questioner framed his inquiry so even Sam Newman could understand it.

"On Friday, Carlton lost by 24 points to Collingwood. Malcolm Turnbull just lost his 30th Newspoll. Who's going to have a worse 2018?"

The implication that Victorians can only understand… anything… through the prism of football was a vaguely offensive if entirely accurate shot at the host state, but it drove us straight to both the point and the pointlessness of the inquiry.

"Well, there's three possibilities in there. Collingwood, Carlton and the PM," said Trioli, throwing to panellist and Herald Sun writer Andrew Rule.

Trioli: "Well start with you."

Rule: "Collingwood."

Trioli: "Even though you beat us. Even though you beat Carlton?"

Rule: "I'll stick with that."

Which was, let's be frank, as good a summary of Canberra leadership tensions as anything else on offer this week.

Poor Alan Tudge was the Turnbull government representative on the panel, and it would be churlish not to acknowledge that Alan Tudge does an extravagantly good job of looking and sounding like a man named Alan Tudge.

Tudge is the minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, a role in which he is occasionally required to explain Barnaby Joyce to the nation at large. And so it was on Monday night, when Australia's most reluctant New Zealander came up in the conversation, along with the football.

Trioli: "Alan Tudge, who is going to have the worst year?"

"I hope North Melbourne has a great year and I hope Malcolm Turnbull has a great year. He is having a great year for the Australian people," replied Tudge, as the Australian people swiftly fell into a coma.

"And yet, and yet, and yet," said Trioli, "Newspoll marks him, the people of Australia mark him down in that poll every single time."

Tudge: "It's very common actually for governments to slip in between elections…"

Trioli: "You're saying Malcolm Turnbull can catch up?"

Tudge: "Of course he can. Of course he can. Politics these days turns very, very quickly, as you know, Virginia."

And then we came to Barnaby.

Trioli: "I should put this to you… Barnaby Joyce is calling on Malcolm Turnbull to improve by Christmas… or consider giving up the leadership. He says, 'If you truly believe this is exactly the sentiment of the people, then you also have an obligation not to drive your party or the government off a cliff.' Do you agree?"

Tudge: "I don't think it was a particularly useful contribution from Barnaby this afternoon."

Left unresolved: what a useful contribution from Barnaby might be. When it comes to the simmering Barnaby/Malcolm war, it might be easier to make sense of Carlton and Collingwood.

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