The Verdict proved to be a fired-up, all-in brawl, as panel members dissected the week’s big issues with very little substance.
The Nine Network’s new weekly panel style program, which aired on Thursday night, included several experts and commentators who discussed the current events of the week.
Hosted by Today’s Karl Stefanovic, the talk show was modelled on the ABC’s Q&A program and the Ten Network’s The Project – but the panel talked and shouted over each other, making it difficult for viewers to keep up.
Each segment was briskly skimmed over, before the next one started.
Stefanovic often failed to keep control of his panel, who wanted to get their point across without listening to others.
Regular panel member, and former Federal Labor leader Mark Latham, appeared to be the designated controversial mouthpiece of the show.
But it was political scholar and counter-terrorism expert Anne Henderson who put Latham back in his box, after he suggested terrorism in Sydney grew from “unskilled Muslim migration to western Sydney in the 1980s”.
“Large parts of suburbs have welfare dependency problems and it pains me to say in western Sydney there is a Muslim problem,” Mr Latham said.
Ms Henderson replied: “With all due respect, do you work with these young people? I work with the young people who have been radicalised or becoming radicalised, in Perth and in Sydney.
“And in Sydney, it is not a socio-economic problem. It is not a Muslim problem of western Sydney. It is not a Muslim western Sydney problem.
“It is a social problem that is embedded in a range of social issues and not what we saw now is not what we saw 10 years ago.”
‘Handing out anti-depressants like lollies’
Mr Latham also suggested the disability support pension had too many reports – with a third made up of people claiming mental health.
“Senior academics like Ian Macgregor at the Sydney University have said that they are handing out anti-depressants like lollies,” he said.
“There is no doubt across society there is too much servicing and reporting in the sector. Let’s devote the resources to the people that need it.
“Two per cent with clinical depression. As for the others, there are a lot of savings the government can make at plenty of levels.”
Another panel expert, psychologist Sandy Rea, also stopped him in his tracks.
“At best, Mark’s argument is chaotic and fractured. It is a really disorganised argument. You have interchanged the terminologies. You have misused mental health and mental illness,” Ms Rea said.
“You haven’t defined the difference between anxiety and anxiety disorder. There is no evidence – equally, are we talking about patients who are malingering, and I don’t doubt for one second there are some patients who have, I guess, mental health issues that malinger.”
Mr Latham replied: “That’s the point. Hopefully you don’t write out scripts.”
“Psychologists don’t write out scripts,” Ms Rea said.
Mr Latham responded: “You make money out of this industry.”
Ms Rae shot back: “No, I don’t. This is where you are actually not informed.”
“Five million people in Australia suffer from mental disorders or mental ill health every year. So, your argument is about the poor diagnostic skills of doctors who are are the ones that write out the scripts, or is your argument about public feigning mental illness. What are you talking about?” she said.
Mr Latham responded: “A third of the disability support pension, people are saying they have got mental issues. What you have got is headaches replacing back aches at Centrelink and it is a major reporting problem in the society. You should face up to that.”
‘I love the Donald’: Latham
Stefanovic wanted to know what could be learnt from US business tycoon and presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“Karl, I love the Donald. I love the Donald,” Mr Latham responded.
“He is against political correctness. He gives the political media a good spray when they need it, which is most of the time. He is authentic. You get the feeling that’s the real deal.
“I mean Australian politics has become a joke. We have had five Prime Ministers in five years. It’s dominated by spin and hatchet men and a feral media environment.
“At least Trump is out there being himself which I find very refreshing and if I was an American I would even be tempted to vote for him.”
“That’s quite the endorsement,” Mr Stefanovic replied.
Lambie spills death threat details
During the hour-long program, independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie spoke about the moment her life was threatened, including a letter sent to her office warning to shut her mouth or face beheading.
The Senator revealed in March that she had been the subject of threats as a result of her criticism of Sharia Law and comments about Islam.
“It was a credible threat,” Ms Lambie said.
Police believed the letter originated from South Australia.
She said the letter included graphic photos, and threats to come to her office and “take her by surprise” if she didn’t stop voicing her opinion on Islam.
“I will not tolerate this kind of behaviour,” Ms Lambie said.
“I’m proud of being born and bred Australian and a born and bred Tasmanian – if I let them scare me, it would be letting them take control of me.
“I think after 10.5 years in the armed forces and army, I’ve got plenty of army mates around me and the last thing I’m going to be doing is showing any fear of those low-life bastards, I’ll be honest right now. No way in hell.”
Ms Lambie said she would welcome a Muslim person to work for “as long as they have integrated into the Australian system and follow the Australian law and the Australian constitution and don’t follow Sharia law, I will do that”.
The hour-long program, which is scheduled to air over five weeks, also allowed the audience at home to vote on weekly topics.
Home viewers and audience members were posting Tweets with the hashtag, #TheVerdict, throughout the show.
Actually Mark antidepressants are clinically proven to treat anxiety. Do some research before making irresponsible comments #TheVerdict
— Jessica Thomson (@jeccajt) October 8, 2015