Is Bill Shorten the drover's dog for the new millennium?
The opposition leader arrived at Q&A on Monday night with the wind in his sails, pre-loaded with an opinion poll lead so big - eight points at last count - that the perilous position of his opponent seemed to invite the obvious question about the apparent ease of putting Malcolm Turnbull out of his misery.
It was the question Shorten faced on his first solo outing on this program almost two years ago - September 21, 2015 - when the political landscape was looking rather different. Malcolm Turnbull had been prime minister for a week, having just rolled Tony Abbott; Turnbull's poll numbers were stratospheric. Shorten looked in all sorts of strife.
Thus the question that night: "With all due acknowledgment to Bill Hayden, a drover's dog could have led the ALP to victory over Tony Abbott. Do you acknowledge that the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull has made your job a lot harder and that your leadership is a lot less secure?"
What a difference two years makes.
Shorten is ascendant - but on his third solo round on Q&A, the drover's dog was nowhere in sight, even if you imagined you could hear the fabled hound barking in the distance. No one takes anything for granted these days, at a time when politics is in a state of permanent flux, and parliamentary majorities hinge on the possibility that someone's mum forgot to tell them they are actually Albanian.
Shorten surely knows nothing is set in stone. And if he didn't know, he was reminded with the first question on Monday night, which went straight to the point: "Despite the latest Newspoll out today showing support for Labor over the Coalition at its highest at 54 per cent to 46 per cent, you've consistently trailed Malcolm Turnbull as preferred PM. My question is, what do you think the Australian public see in Malcolm that they don't see in you and does this bother you?"
Shorten: "The short answer is no."
And the long answer? It was mostly boilerplate - inspiringly, Shorten advised the audience that "one of the reasons why I've been looking forward to coming on to this show and hear your questions is we need to break through business as usual" - but he warmed up from there, and emerged from the risky business of this format unharmed, and possibly enhanced in the eyes of doubters.
The town hall-style Q&A format is Shorten's best by a mile - certainly better for him than the media conference routine where he is all zingers and over-modulated talking points - and on this outing he paraded his strong suits, most notably a flair for disarming questioners with personal answers.
There was a question on marriage equality: "Last weekend my housemates and I woke up to find someone had scratched the word 'fags' into the front of our house right here in Sydney. What do you have to say to Malcolm Turnbull and the Government and the people of Australia about the role of respectful debate when it comes to marriage equality?
Shorten: "Thanks for what you just said then. First thing I want to say is not to anyone else but to you. This will pass."
Then there was the musician who "provides my services at weddings" and thought Shorten was "determined to deny me my right to have a say on this issue". He was treated gently. "Thank you for saying that??? we will ask you what you think and feel at the next election. If you find this policy sufficient reason to vote for another party, that will be your democratic right."
The erstwhile trade unionist appeared when a questioner wanted to know why it seemed "like Labor's always focusing on wanting to tax me more, the harder I work, because I put in the long hours."
Shorten: "What do you do, Eric?"
Eric: "Security and fire safety."
Shorten: "You'd have a background in plumbing? Or fire sprinkler fitting?"
Eric: "Fire fighting originally."
Shorten: "Oh, great."
Whatever you think of Malcolm Turnbull, you will surely never see him manage that segue.
And then there was the question of whether Shorten is Albanian (or a Pom, to be precise).
He insists he's not. And he won't be presenting the paperwork to prove it one way or the other.
Shorten: "I know I renounced my British citizenship."
Tony Jones: "So you've got the documents?"
Shorten: "We've done all of that."
Jones: "You've got the documents? Will you release them or not?"
Shorten: "Just because a Liberal makes an accusation doesn't mean the rest of us have to start searching through the filing cabinets. We haven't demanded any conservative or anyone else produce their documents."
And then, as is best political practise these days, he raised the spectre of??? Donald Trump.
"They keep making allegations after allegations. Barack Obama had to produce his birth certificate and then they said it was a fake. Some people are never going to be satisfied."
Questions, questions. Which brings us back to the unasked one from Monday night: is Bill Shorten the drover's dog?
There were no breeding papers in sight, so we will just have to wait and see.