We need to talk about Mitchell

On Monday night, I had the pleasure of being one of the first ‘people’ to sit on the Q&A People’s Panel. I had a great time telling Matt Canavan that he has to break up with coal. The one thing I did not enjoy, however, was Mitchell.

Mitchell Walton, one of the other ‘people’ on the panel, is a certified troll. Here is some of his skin-crawl-inducing-work from his now defunct social media feeds:

You might think the point of this post is to call out the Q&A producers for having a person with such deplorable views (yes I chose that word on purpose) on the People’s Panel. But, I actually don’t think it’s the ABC’s job to sanitise the cross section of the community for the television audience. The reality is, there are Mitchells out there-a-plenty. And the scary part is I don’t think Mitchell is as ‘fringe’ or ‘extreme’ as you might think. Have you been on Twitter lately? Watched parliament? The Q&A producers chose Mitchell to represent the right wing of politics, and I think he did that in spades. Sorry to break it to you everyone: Australia is still a very bigoted country.

I got to meet Mitchell in the green room before the show, and he was a fairly nondescript person who showed absolutely no clue of the dark resentful mess that spews into his social media feed. He mostly stood quietly, so I can only presume he was hyping himself up to be as controversial as possible.

It was fairly clear from the outset that he was on the show to bring the bigotry. His video entry mentioned his dislike of paying tax – an amusing statement by an ex-police officer who has a school teacher wife, and I was relishing the opportunity to discuss the inherent contradiction in these positions. But, alas, tax fell by the wayside when it came to his A’s for the Q’s: he brought with him a cocktail of misogynistic and homophobic views in his bigotry handbag (see above tweets), but he chose racism as his priority insult.

His overarching narrative encapsulated the simplistic (and entirely incorrect) scapegoating of every problem in the country as being the fault of non-white immigrants. It didn’t matter when people like me made the point that the Australian economy relies on immigration for economic growth (even the Australian says that!), because Mitchell, I can assure you, is not changing his mind. He clearly doesn’t like black or brown people, and appeared to get a wicked thrill from accusing them of wrecking everything, at every opportunity.

Most of what Mitchell said was a mix between babble and uninformed resentment aimed at immigrants. He tied his argument in knots by trying to overlay overt racism with a patronising tone of conciliatory reasonableness, which meant his statements petered out into vague dog whistling. Sound familiar? Mitchell surely learned from the best of them: Donald Trump. Or maybe he had tutors closer to home – he voted for Australia’s very own Trumpet – Tony Abbott, and said he has considered voting for Pauline Hanson or Cory Bernardi.

And why do you think Mitchell applied to be on the panel? He never said, but I can guess he hoped to build a political following. Perhaps he wants to be a shock jock. I’m sure Sky News would have him. Or, perhaps more likely, he wants to run for parliament – maybe as a One Nation candidate, or side by side with Cory Bernardi. Why wouldn’t Mitchell aspire to lead a nation that has leaders like Matt Canavan, who happily nodded along in agreement whenever Mitchell spoke, and joined his racist chorus in saying:

“But now, today, I’m worried that most of our migration gets concentrated in our major cities and there is a certain ghettoisation in some aspects of this, where there is parts of cities that are different cultures. Now, I want to maintain one culture in this country. We should have… We’re multicultural, but we should have one Australian culture we get behind, and I think it would be a lot better if we could spread our migration patterns around the country, perhaps like we did do in the past”.

Don’t think for a moment that Canavan doesn’t know his right wing base. He knows he is speaking to hundreds of thousands of Mitchells when he says ‘ghettoisation’, ‘one Australian culture’, ‘we’re multicultural, but…’ These are lines straight out of the ‘how to win votes by being racist’ song book. So, the problem is not that the ABC allowed Mitchell a platform. Don’t shoot the messenger. The problem is that the country elects people like Canavan, Hanson and Bernardi, who further embolden the worst side of our country – the Mitchells – to believe their most bigoted ideas and their most offensive thoughts make for great campaign material.

As I said in response to the first question on the panel, we get the government we deserve. If we democratically choose to undermine the values and civility of our great nation by laying down with dogs, we deserve all the vile fleas we get.


  1. I happened to wander into my lounge room and first heard, then turned and saw, this fool spewing out his dopey one liners and sitting there with a smug look on his face……I asked where they had dredged him up from and my family did not know….now we do…..

  2. The anger at women being recognised as ‘victims’ to the exclusion of male victims is traced back to a family court in every case of men on my facebook.
    The abortion debate(ha) centres around god’s creation a the fertility by sperm. The conviently forget god’s part in miscarriages.
    Sadly my tolerance for the ABC is challenged daily and for the ‘ along came jones’ show is nil.

  3. “We get the government we deserve.” How true. I’m afraid many Australians either look for a person or group to blame and when a politician from the extreme right wing points the finger at a minority group it’s too easy to agree. I’m often shocked by the right wing views of people I know, nice people, not just those I think of as nutters. Others are just plain apathetic and waste their votes because they don’t believe there vote, or lack of it, can make a difference. It’s depressing. We ought to be better than this.

    • Sad but true. I suppose we are like any other group of insular Westerners (especially, it seems). I know many people I am friendly with try to modulate their extreme right wing views near me – and fail far too frequently! It’s quite alarming how basically ignorant many are. The favoured excuse seems to be “But *I* work all day long!” Of course, I play freaking tic-tac-toe all bloody day, I suppose… As for the ABC and Q&A, you probably don’t want to know my actual depth of despair at their continued downward spiral….

  4. Well said Victoria. I particularly liked the bit about Walton not wanting to pay tax in spite of being paid from it – but as you say, he is not particularly rational and there are lots like him out there.

    BTW, I just had a look at your appearance on Q&A and I think you came across as having an excellent intellect, being able to express arguments concisely, rationally and quickly – far better than I have ever been able to.

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