On Monday nights on Australia’s public broadcaster (ABC), it is the usual Q&A slot with host Tony Jones. It is mostly predictable and “scripted” political theatre. Every now and then an exciting panelist is invited, but for most episodes, it is a yawn. But this last Monday night did spark my interest. It seemed out of ABC’s character for Q&A to allow some testy questions to be asked.
Zaky Mallah, the first Australian charged under Howard-era anti-terror laws, was in the audience and allowed to ask a question (report here). He had been locked up in solitary for a nearly two years, then acquitted of terrorism charges in 2005. He thus asked of the panel (referencing the new proposed laws on stripping citizenship), “…What would have happened if my case had been decided by the Minister himself and not the courts?” Minister Steve Ciobo replied, “…my understanding of your case was that you were acquitted because, at that point in time, the laws weren’t retrospective. But I’m happy to look you straight in the eye and say that I would be pleased to be part of a government that would say that you’re out of the country as far as I’m concerned.”
Given the choice, they would each strip the other of their Australian citizenship.
For the full program and transcript click here, but it appears that a portion of the audience were not supporting the minister’s view.
Well, what a storm this has created.
UPDATED VIDEO: I add this video (filmed 28 June 2015) of comments from Greg Buck
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has slammed the ABC over its decision to feature a former terror suspect on the program – questioning which “side” the national broadcaster is on. This forced the ABC to admit an error of judgment. Mr Abbott allegedly told his MPs that “we all know the program is a lefty lynch mob” and he called for a government-wide boycott of the ABC program, accusing it of betraying Australians.
It seem the government wants to sanitize free speech from the ABC.
Maybe the Q&A producers were trying to inject some energy into a tired format – but this smells a little like a set-up.
The conservative government would love to see the ABC cauterized and castrated – and what a perfect way to undermine the public broadcaster and one of their flagship programs.
The Herald Sun has been trying to find out how Mallah landed up in the audience asking a question. They are looking to lynch the “lefty wingnut”. But I am suggesting to the ABC, that there is a (slight) possibility that whoever “arranged” or encouraged Mallah to be on Q&A desired the present “heat” on the ABC.
It is a pity that the mainstream media, the government and the ABC continually ignore the facts, that the “war on terror” began as a fraud, but at least a few people see through the terror hype.
On Monday night Antony Hegarty (lead singer of the band Antony and the Johnsons) was also on the Q&A panel. Tony Jones asked, “…do you regard Dylann Roof as a terrorist or something else?”
Antony Hegarty: “I don’t really find the word “terrorism” very useful anymore. I feel like it’s a word that we are being manipulated with and, you know, the people that tend to throw it around tend to have an ulterior motive and it’s usually about, you know, an ever dwindling set of liberties, like, you know, justice for the individual….
But what was the ulterior motive for having Mallah be involved in a live show? Ratings? Diversity? Education? … or Sabotage?
The Herald Sun yesterday morning had these titles and subtitles:
“TV chiefs duck for cover as terror crisis grips network” and “ABC OF JIHAD.” On page 6 – “ABC in Q&A terror furore”, then the editorial – “Mallah fires hate bullets” and Rita Panahi’s headline “High time to rein in Q&A ‘wingnuts'”, she writes:
“Monday night’s Q&A program showed again that the ABC exist in a parallel universe where impartiality and sound judgement are redundant. The Left-wing echo chamber…. etc.” She goes on…
“The ABC charter requires it to be unbiased in its coverage but it is not.”
Rita, I agree – The ABC is not following its charter.
The ABC does report and reflect a fairly narrow view – a little to the left maybe… but mainstream all the way. You are lucky it reports and represents a conservative view much of the time too – parroting the Washington/Canberra narrative most of the time. But it dismally fails its charter for not reflecting a wider view of the global realities and reflecting all the views of Australians (like myself and many others).
And today – more headline.
And Andrew Bolt’s column:
Who is doing the “lynching” here?
And Rita – I propose, it is you, along with Andrew Bolt, the mainstream media, Canberra and the ABC that are living in the “scripted” alternative universe.
For example, the Murdoch newspaper you write for (and the ABC) never report truthfully about these important matters:
That al-Qaeda was an invention of the CIA. No one dares investigate who really killed those people at Port Arthur in 1996. What about debating how Building 7 collapsed on 9/11. No one reports on the secret agreement that is keeping the investigation of MH17 under wraps. A truthful discussion on the Howard government’s leading Australia to a war on Iraq on false intelligence would be refreshing. (Over a million people were killed, but to former prime minister John Howard that was just an “embarrassing” error.) And no one writes about the banking money creation racket that has had such devastating impact over so many generations.
So what this furor over the ABC program has proved?
That television is entirely CONTROLLED and “SCRIPTED”. We are not “allowed” to have a free and open discussion on the public’s paid for broadcaster. Debate and discussion is MANAGED and SANITISED.
It is a disgrace.
I am definitely no fan of Zaky Mallah or Minister Steve Ciobo – but at least I got to hear them (and Anthony Hegarty).
And as for this incident, there is a possibility that “someone” nedged Mallah towards Q&A to create this type divisive “incident”. It proves to many that Mallah-types are not wanted here – and provides a case for conservative government that the ABC is a “lefty” leaning organisation that needs to be “controlled”.
The scripted sanitized format of Q&A was already a yawn – now it could become a “controlled” embarrassment.
And as for the attack on the ABC by the government? It was predictable and shameful.
Update 26 June:
(I changed the context slightly by removing the word ‘mole’ above)
Last night Jonathan Holmes (former host of ABC’s Media Watch) and Mr Glum (Institutional presstitute, Gerard Henderson, Executive Director of the Sydney Institute) debated the state of free speech in Australia on Lateline with host Emma Alberici (transcript here).
And ABC managing director Mark Scott came out “blazing” with A in ABC stands for Australia, “The ABC is clearly Australian, it’s on the side of Australia.”
…..A scripted and controlled Australia.
Below, prime minister’s “Heads Should Roll” interview.
Below is the apology statement by the ABC. It reveals total subservience. Should not the government be answerable to the people?
ABC statement – Q&A
In attempting to explore important issues about the rights of citizens and the role of the Government in fighting terrorism, the Q&A program made an error in judgement in allowing Zaky Mallah to join the audience and ask a question.
Mr Mallah has been interviewed by the Australian media on a number of occasions. The environment of a live television broadcast, however, meant it would not be possible for editorial review of the comments he might make prior to broadcast, particularly if he engaged in debate beyond his prepared question.
Tony Jones correctly and immediately ruled a statement made by Mr Mallah as out of order.
Q&A will continue to raise issues that are provocative and controversial. There is always risk in undertaking live television.That is the nature of the Q&A program since it first aired in 2008.
As has been the case in the past on Q&A, circumstances will happen that are not anticipated. The critical question is whether risks could have been managed and the right editorial judgments made in advance.
The circumstances of Mr Mallah’s appearance will be reviewed by the ABC.
Director ABC Television