Q&A's late-season festive cheer with bonus bowl of rice

Of all the uplift and inspiration the nation's capital has given us this year, surely nothing compares to this: politicians and Q&A on a Monday night in Christmas week.

Only a day prior, December-addled viewers of the Sydney carols were assumed so ill-equipped to comprehend Kochie's Santa Tracker the producers wheeled out Todd McKenney on a sleigh to explain it in song.

As a rule, the days leading up to the annual celebration of parents who remembered to buy batteries are not our sharpest week of the year. And apart from that one Christmas week when we misplaced a prime minister, it is not traditionally a time for politics.

And yet here we were on Monday night, going dense on Q&A, the program having run three weeks past its usual sign-off date.

It seems like a joke of the kind even John Alexander would think twice of telling depending on how many sheets to the wind he was at the time. And yet the joke was all Mr Alexander's doing: his citizenship muddle gave us the drama of a mid-December poll in Bennelong, and therefore robbed the staff of Q&A, Insiders and most of the Canberra press gallery of an early mark for Chrissie.

Everyone had to be here feigning interest in sifting the entrails just in case they meant anything and even if they didn't, and thus it was that Tony Jones wisely went on holidays. His seat was ably filled as always by Virginia Trioli - proof that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus: he gave you this gig on an anti-climactic post-Bennelong December 18, but at least he gave it to you with a mostly interesting panel.

For instance, there was the famed oracle Greg Sheridan, who has the rare quality of looking like a sock that woke up with a fright and who can switch from avuncular to evangelist to avenger of Tony Abbott on a dime. Ideal Christmas company.

Labor's festive elf Anthony Albanese was also there, being all Albo and all elbows when required, alongside the Liberal's Greg Hunt, who has the air of being a dab hand with a bon-bon joke while wearing the hat.

Maxine McKew - who at Christmas and all other times appears likely to break into Ding Dong Merrily On High at any moment - was there, Bennelong and ABC credentials in her knapsack. Buzzfeed reporter Alice Workman - breakout press gallery star of the year - displayed her cross-platform chops with what was surely a Q&A first: she live-tweeted the show while on the actual panel, including threatening a closing group carol session.

Somewhere, Tony Jones was frowning.

The debate was light on festive cheer - we waited in vain for Trioli to throw some shade on Kochie with Q&A's own Tony Jones Tracker - but it was sometimes interesting.

This story Q&A's late-season festive cheer with bonus bowl of rice first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.