Q&A high school students targeted by trolls

 

A special high school edition of panel show Q&A saw four students join two politicians to discuss a range of topics, from climate change to education funding.

But the fourth instalment of the long-running ABC show's youth-focused guests and audience was married by viewers and trolls bombarding the Twitter hashtag with vile comments and abuse.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Senator Kristina Keneally were joined by students William Gillett from Loxton in South Australia, Aurora Matchett from Miranda in NSW, Willoughby Duff from Booragoon, WA and Varsha Yajman from Asquith, NSW.

The entirety of the audience was made up of high school students, with a mix of public, private and Catholic institutions represented, and 42 per cent coming from regional areas.

The show took to its Twitter account before the episode to urge those following along at home on the platform to exercise respect for the teenage guests.

 

Q&A's high school special saw four students join two politicians to discuss a range of topics.
Q&A's high school special saw four students join two politicians to discuss a range of topics.

 

But many ignored the request and peppered the youth speakers with attacks about their appearance, perceived politics, style of speech, confidence or otherwise, views and even their style of school uniforms.

News.com.au has chosen not to repeat the insults nor who they were specifically directed at, but many of which used explicit language or were pointedly offensive.

Countless nasty comments were posted, labelling some of the student panellists as being "brainwashed" and "creepy", among other mean remarks.

Proceedings opened with a bang with the first question surrounding the school strike for climate change staged in Australia in March, which saw 150,000 students attend.

"How do you expect young people to support either of the major parties when both seem to be complicit on destroying our air, land, and water resources?" the questioner asked the panel.

 

 

Miss Yajman, who was sat next to Senator Keneally, offered a simple and to-the-point response.

"I don't think we can (trust them)," Miss Yajman said. "We can't support any of these parties when they don't support what we need. The reason we have people in (parliaments) is to support our views."

She said climate change was "civilisation's wake-up call" and strikes mobilising young people should be taken seriously by politicians.

RELATED: 'My teacher doesn't know I'm here': Tens of thousands of teens gather for climate change protests

 

The audience for Q&A's high school special was made up entirely of students.
The audience for Q&A's high school special was made up entirely of students.

 

Mr Duff, who disclosed that he's a conservative and member of the Young Liberals, said he believed the Coalition Government was making good progress on tackling emissions.

"I do think it is important we do our part on climate change. At the same time as well, we need to remember that the coal industry not only makes thousands of jobs … but it makes up a lot of our exports as well.

"It's creating and generating billions of dollars for the Australian economy."

 

 

Ms Berejiklian earned herself a few groans when she discouraged school strikes and instead suggested students organise a 'protest' within school hours and in the school grounds - with the permission of teachers.

"I don't blame you for expressing yourself in the way you have. There's no doubt climate change is one of the biggest issues for your generation.

"I encourage protest, but outside of school hours."

Mr Gillett said the rural community he lives in doesn't tend to show great concern for climate change and admitted he was sceptical on the science.

 

Q&A's high school special saw four students join two politicians to discuss a range of topics.
Q&A's high school special saw four students join two politicians to discuss a range of topics.

 

While Ms Matchett spoke about her admiration for youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who is a prominent spokesperson for action and has addressed the United Nations.

"Greta is amazing. She's an inspiration and I really don't get why people patronise her because of her age."

The move to decriminalise abortion in NSW was also brought up, with Ms Berejiklian defending her delay on a vote after pressure from conservative factions in the Liberal and National parties.

"I think it's really important on issues of conscience, which is what it is, that people are heard. I appreciate there are very strong views on this issue," she said.

"When you're a member of parliament, you have to stand up and do what you believe is right. Some felt we needed a bit more time, and I listened and I agreed."

 

Q&A's high school special saw four students join two politicians to discuss a range of topics.
Q&A's high school special saw four students join two politicians to discuss a range of topics.

 

The contentious issue of pill testing at music festivals and, more broadly, the actions of NSW Police in stripsearching people suspected of possessing drugs, was also discussed.

So too was radio shock jock Alan Jones's widely criticised attack on New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The panel was asked how someone with such a long track record of inappropriate commentary directed at women could retain his position.

Senator Keneally made a perhaps surprising admission, saying: "I have a really good relationship with Alan. I've known him for more than a decade. And I tell him when he's wrong. Alan was wrong. I'll be seeing him later this week and I'll tell him then."

But on the issue of why he hasn't lost his job despite an exodus of advertisers and a swift backlash, she said: "Because he rates."

The panel was also asked about education standards in the bush versus the city, which is seeing parents 'school shop' by sending their kids to more desirable public schools.

And the night ended with a question about the merits of school uniforms, which everyone agreed were good for "equalising" the schoolyard.

While there were plenty of disgusting remarks, they were outnumbered in volume by praise from viewers for the passion and interest shown by the students.