Alan Jones says he is 'very comfortable' with his role in Liberal implosion
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Alan Jones says he is 'very comfortable' with his role in Liberal implosion

On Monday’s Q&A, Alan Jones was, as usual, resplendent above the waist - a stylish dark suit and salmon tie, impeccably attired. But as happens when he fronts his anxious radio audience each morning, one was forced to imagine what he was wearing under the desk.

On this occasion one didn’t need to imagine too hard: he was plainly clad in some very well-fitting crankypants.

This was not the Jones of his previous appearances on the ABC debate program. On those visits since 2015, Jones has been a surprise packet - congenial, at times even amusing, jolting the audience with the odd progressive view - occasionally showing flashes of his radio self but mostly playing to the Q&A arena.

Not last night. One wondered how host Tony Jones was ever going to enforce the recent Q&A rule of all answers being limited to 60 seconds, the length of time Jones typically takes just to clear his throat.

In the wake of the Liberal Party leadership upheaval - and amid debate over issues ranging from climate change, to bullying, to his own allegedly nefarious influence on the body politic - Jones had the grumps, to put it mildly.

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He continued his long-running feud with Malcolm Turnbull - indulging an hour-long fusillade of insults against the recently departed prime minister - and batting away questions from the audience about his own role in national life.

Early on came the forthright audience inquiry: "Mr Jones, when I voted in the last federal election, nowhere on my ballot paper did it say Alan Jones... how do you morally justify using your position and privilege to manipulate and paralyse our parliament?"

Jones, setting the tone for the night, replied: "Very comfortably."

Position and privilege? Goodness gracious me, the very thought of it.

Without blushing, Jones asked the questioner why she, too, had not called Liberal MPs to express her views on the leadership change.

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"Tess," he said. "I would have hoped you’d have rung a few people... I’m sure you have a view as to who should be running the country, as to who should be leading the Liberal Party."

In the audience, Tess restrained herself from doing whatever it was one might have felt like doing in response to this particular answer. One assumes she was able to collect her jaw from the floor after the show.

The evening proceeded in much the same fashion - the leadership change haunting every twist and turn. There were questions about Julie Bishop and sexism; about the post-coup “special envoy’ jobs for Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce (“This will end in tears,” said Labor’s Anthony Albanese); and the question that has occupied and amused social media for weeks: “What’s the go with the au pairs?”

Alan Jones said he was 'comfortable' with his role in the Liberal party implosion.

Alan Jones said he was 'comfortable' with his role in the Liberal party implosion.

Photo: ABC

On the latter, Jones was stern and adamant - as he was on everything else, not letting a smile or a quip depart his lips. It’s as if he knows he and his tribe are in the fight of their lives - and currently losing it.

“This is someone getting square with Peter Dutton for him challenging the leadership,” he declared of the au pair uproar.

To Albanese, he advised: “Don’t start suggesting you have a monopoly on compassion, Albo.”

And of departing MP Julia Banks’s claims of bullying, he followed up Liberal Craig Kelly’s suggestion that Banks “roll with the punches” with this advice: “You must produce the body.”

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Jones wanted evidence, and in its absence he had this to say to Banks: “Take a teaspoon full of cement and toughen up.”

It was a vintage Jones performance - angry, at times nasty, and intent on setting fire to his enemies, Turnbull the most prominent among them.

In that sense, it was not at all reflective of his prior and mostly genial outings on Q&A, appearances that made viewers think they might have misjudged him.

This outing appeared aimed at confirming that they hadn’t.