The controversy dogging of the ABC’s Q&A program won’t go away after the communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, described the public broadcaster as “having lost the plot”. Meanwhile, two guests for tonight’s program have reportedly pulled out.
Fairfax is also this morning reporting that Turnbull has rejected an offer to appear on tonight’s episode. While parliamentary secretary, Alan Tudge, and Menzies Research Centre director, Nick Cater, have both pulled out of tonight’s program in an apparent protest of the ABC’s handling of last week’s controversial episode.
Yesterday, Turnbull had a heated exchange live on the ABC’s Insiders program with host Barry Cassidy. See it here:
The debate erupted after last Monday’s Q&A hosted Zaky Mallah, an alledged terrorist sympathiser who’d spent time in jail for attempting to murder ASIO officials and had threatened prominent women with rape.
Turnbull told Cassidy that “he’d lost the plot” if he believed that Mallah posed no threat and was an appropriate guest to have on the program.
“If you can’t see that, I’m sorry, seriously you’ve lost the plot there, with all due respect,” Turnbull told Cassidy in a fiery exchange. “This is a high-profile audience, a very high-profile target. This is a fellow that has threatened violence in the past, has threatened to kill people, gone to jail for it, been involved in buying ammunition, buying a gun.
“Because he served his term of imprisonment and he hasn’t committed another offence, that doesn’t mean that you would then consciously and willingly put that person in a very high-profile environment on a live television program,” Mr Turnbull continued.
“I mean, if you think there’s no physical security issues with Zaky Mallah in that audience in the ABC — that’s exactly what you are saying — and I’m really glad you’re not in charge the of the physical security of the ABC, Barrie, because the idea that this is a non-issue, I am stunned that you would be so blasé about it.”
Turnbull went on to question why the ABC would bother to give Mallah any airtime at all, particularly when another Liberal government minister, Steven Ciobo, was on the panel for the show (Mallah often spouts vehement anti-Abbott vitriol). Ciobo has said during the week that the ABC’s budget should be cut further.
It also has been revealed that the ABC had asked Mallah onto the program previously while some within the broadcaster itself had questioned why his deplorable past had not been revealed to the program’s audience.
“Why would the producers choose the least reputable, most discredited, arguably one of the most dangerous individuals to put that view?” Turnbull argued.
“The answer, I suspect, is because in a sort of undergraduate, playing at tabloid journalism style, they wanted to create the biggest shock and awe and sensation instead of running the program like a responsible current affairs program on the national broadcaster that, frankly, should do better.”
In further news, Tony Abbott’s parliamentary secretary, Alan Tudge, has decided not to appear on tonight’s episode of Q&A.
In a column in today’s The Australian Tudge wrote: “When you read the full details of Mallah, including his use of the media for attention-seeking, he sounds remarkably like Man Monis, the Lindt cafe terrorist. When given the microphone on Q&A, he used it to his advantage, providing a chilling justification for terrorists which came perilously close to incitement.
“If a man called for the public gang rape of two prominent women (Mallah had tweeted that two Sunrise journalist were whores who needed to be gang banged) what would be your response? Revulsion? Outrage?” Mr Tudge said. “How about giving the man a taxpayer-funded megaphone, live and unvetoed, with a million people listening?’’
Still, we suspect tonight’s Q&A should be a ratings bonanza for the ABC.