DEBATE RAGES: There was plenty of healthy discussion during Splendour's Q & A session in the Forum tent.
DEBATE RAGES: There was plenty of healthy discussion during Splendour's Q & A session in the Forum tent.

Splendour's questions answered

SPLENDOUR-goers packed into the Forum tent this afternoon for some healthy debate, intellectual nourishment and perhaps a little respite from the non-stop partying outside for a session of Q & A.

Hosted by Tony Jones, the man himself, the festival iteration of Q & A was much like Australia's favourite panel show that airs on the national broadcaster on Monday nights, with politicians and industry experts picking apart the political problems of the day and attempting to present a way forward.

Consisting of Labor MP Tony Burke, Liberal MP Sussan Ley, Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi, cyber-security expert Vitaly Kamluk and SLAM (Save Live Australia's Music) co-founder Helen Marcou, the panel fielded questions from Tony Jones and audiences members ranging from the toxicity of current political debate, sexism in parliament, the lack of long-term future planning by government, unease over the digitisation of citizens' My Health Records and the future of live music in Australia.

That was all after Jones, now a cult figure amongst segments of Australia's more politically clued-in youngsters, entered the Forum tent to a rock-star ovation.

Joking with the audience much younger than the typical studio Q & A session, Jones warned the crowd to be polite to the panellists, "even though you're all probably young and communist.”

The session's first curly question referred to Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm's incendiary recent comments made in Australian Parliament toward Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Q & A, Splendour in the Grass 2018.
Q & A, Splendour in the Grass 2018.

All panellists strongly suggested that parliament and society at large needs to get better with its treatment of women, with some of Ms Ley's comments regrading Mr Leyonhjelm's remarks the most strident.

"I don't like to judge people from what I read in the media,” Ms Ley said. "But I've had a few dealings with Mr Leyonhjelm and I find him a singularly unimpressive individual.”

The next questioner took aim at a "lack of long-term planning” in federal politics, asking the panel, can we ever put partisan politics behind us?

Ms Ley pointed the the 24/7 news-cycle as partly responsible for the frayed political debate, Mr Burke laid part of the blame at the feet of six changes to the prime ministership in eight years, while Dr Faruqi took aim squarely at her fellow politicians.

"Politics did not used to be a career, it used to be a public service,” Dr Faruqi said.

"Political parties need to look at what they do...otherwise disengagement from the community will continue.”

On the issue of the proposed digitisation of the public health records with the My Health Records scheme, everyone agreed there needs to be a balance between efficiency and security, and that the government must proceed with caution.

Mr Kamluk, a counter-hacking expert, however, issued an ominous warning.

"From my perspective it's not an if (the records) will be hacked, it's a matter of when,” Mr Kamluk said

The audience also voiced a strong disillusionment with Sydney's current lock-out laws, and wider changes in the urban landscape, such as live music venues shutting down due to noise complaints, that are strangling cultural activity in Australian cities.

"I'm sick to death of it,” Mr Burke responded. "I don't want a situation where we continue to see venue after venue shut down.” 

But it was the voice of Ms Marcou, who is one of the most important figures in Australian live music today through the SLAM movement and her work with the Victorian Government's 'Sexual Assault and Harassment of Women in Licensed Venues Taskforce', that was most resonant.

"Sydney's lock-out laws don't work,” Ms Marcou said.

"Violence has actually risen in those areas.

"We need nuanced laws and nuanced policy where we have people being able to attend arts and cultural events who are able to exit at different times of the night.”

Questions were indeed asked across the afternoon's forum. Hopefully for those questioners, there is now a clearer way forward to a solution.

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