The royal wedding came to Q&A on Monday night, along with one of the other great democratic questions of our time – debate over the number of women MPs in the Australian parliament.

Could it be that our unelected monarchy is more into gender equality than that great democratic experiment known as the Liberal Party?

Well, by accident of birth, yes it could.

According to the current line of succession to the throne, nine of the top 20 in line for the top job are women. Throw in the current occupant, Queen Elizabeth herself, and you reach an even 50 per cent.

This compares to the quota-friendly Labor Party – sitting on 45 per cent representation – and the governing Liberals, where women representatives most closely approximate the popularity of a revival of the Duchess of York at royal Christmas parties.


But among those women is the enthusiastic senator from Victoria Jane Hume – a panellist on Monday's episode – whose campaign slogan is apparently Hume: My Way Or The Highway.

Liberal Party senator Jane Hume.

Senator Hume was having no truck with the notion of quotas for women in the government, asserting confidently that she had made it because, well… to use Hume's own words: "I know the reason I got to where I am is not because of my gender, but it's almost in spite of it."

Sexism for the win!

Jane Hume was keen to advise women that if they had a problem getting ahead, they should just be Jane Hume, and everything would be solved.

It was, inarguably, an inspirational message for all the little girls across the nation named Jane Hume.

"For women that don't get there, the trick is work that little bit harder. Don't get beaten. Get better. Work harder. Nothing that is worth getting doesn't come without hard work."

Writer and academic Randa Abdel-Fattah.

Host Tony Jones seemed sceptical.

"Jane, you're against quotas but is that because you know you'd never get it through the men in your party?"

"No, no. That's not the reason at all."

Fellow panellist, author and academic Randa Abdel-Fattah, was also sceptical. She referred back to the evening's opening questioner, Sarah Ador Loi, an African migrant living in western Melbourne, who had wondered about equality of education and opportunity.

Abdel-Fattah to Hume: "Do you think she has just as much chance to get into parliament as somebody who goes to a private school in Toorak? Does she have the same connections and networks and start with the same family? No."

The crowd went wild, and not for Hume – who gamely responded: "Sarah, if you'd like to join the Liberal Party, I will make sure you are well looked after, well-mentored and we'll get you there in the end."

Abdel-Fattah: "Spoken like a white female politician."

This was bruising, but the real brawl came when discussion turned to events in Gaza, a tragedy whose resolution amazingly came no closer in the course of 20 minutes of hollering on Q&A.

This mainly pitted Greg Sheridan, The Australian's foreign affairs expert, against Abdel-Fattah, whose lengthy espousal of injustice against Palestinians had Sheridan literally with his head in his hands.

Abdel-Fattah: "Was an eight-month-old baby who died a Hamas operative? It's no mystery what happened… We don't need another investigation. What will happen after that? Nothing."

Sheridan: "You have to give me a couple of sentences of context if I'm to answer this. The Israelis withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and they said, 'Make this place work and we'll have a partnership together'… They left behind their agricultural industry and so forth. Now, because of Hamas, which took power and murdered many, many Palestinians…"

He was halted by Jones: "OK, Greg, I'm going to interrupt you, only to go to…"

Sheridan: "You've got to let me…"

Jones: "I will, I promise you…"

Sheridan: "It's not fair – to allow all this emotion and then to prevent me from having any…"

Jones: "I'm not preventing you, I'm going to the audience…"

Jones did that, and then threw to Peter Singer.

The philosopher's Q&A appearance was, as always, punctuated by a debate about the relative worth of the lives of humans and animals – the opening question pondering whether you should crowd-fund a $15,000 vet bill for a dying dog.

Singer thought this was a poor use of money, though he did contend that Medicare for animals was not a bad idea.

"In terms of suffering, we should regard that as just as bad. If there are similar quantities of suffering, whether they're dogs or sheep or whatever they might be, we should regard that as just as bad as if it's suffering to a child."

On the later question of Israel and the Palestinians, Singer straddled both sides of the philosophical fence, as a philosopher should.

"I would have liked to have seen an investigation both into why Israel used live fire and could not find a less lethal way of preventing people from attacking and cutting through the fence. And also why Hamas was inviting people go to the fence… Why people would go there with their children and babies actually is mind-boggling to me. What kind of person would you have to be to take their baby to an area where there's likely to be firing?"

It was, in short, not a night for easy answers.

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