ABC apology was the error of judgment in Q&A affair

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Zakky Mallah

The Q&A spat was a rum affair. Zaky Mallah, a vocal opponent of ISIS with an interesting past asked a provocative question. He received a bullying response. The audience presumably made up its mind about the merits of the exchange, and that should have been that.

But then the Prime Minister asked whose side the ABC was on, and the ABC apologised. That was concerning, and perhaps another canary in the coalmine that is Australian public life.

Now many people see Q&A as more ego and waffle than the pursuit of truth. But the concept of exploring questions and seeking answers is surely a good one.

It is inconsistent with being on someone’s side.  It that was the starting point, the program based on it would need to be called ‘Answers, followed by approved questions by approved persons’.  Such a format would hardly lead to truth. That is why it was troubling that the ABC should apologise.

The notion that the ABC or Australians generally should stand up and be counted on someone’s side is also troubling.  There is no problem with being on one side or other of a conflict. We may take the side of the Tigers in a grand final, with farmers threatened by a coal mine, with protesters against wind farms, with one splinter group or another in Iraq and Syria. But to be called on to take sides is an impertinence.  

In reflecting on matters of dispute it is also has its dangers. If we are on someone’s side, we naturally exaggerate their virtues and minimise their faults, see the force of their arguments and discount the value of their opponents. We see are vulnerable to simple slogans, so neglecting the complexity in which we must seek the ethical values and predict the outcome of the outcome of conflict. That is why we need universities not beholden to the interests of their funding bodies and why we need programs like Q&A.

It is particularly dangerous for a Prime Minister to demand that public institutions or private citizens take a stand on complex issues. To take a stand for something means that you take a stand against something else.  In public debate something is always identified with someone. Causes become people.  So in the Q&A case, to take a stand means to condemn Zakky Mallah. From there it is a short slide to standing for genuine Australians against Muslim Australians.  

It is reckless for responsible leaders of governments to speak of taking sides in contexts where minority groups are vulnerable, as the examples of Nazi Germany, Rwanda, former Yugoslavia and the contemporary Middle East show.  In this respect the present Government has been reckless.

Finally experience warns us that if we descend to asking people what side they are on, we must ask ourselves a far more crucial question: how shall we treat those who are on the other side?  When the answer is that we shall do whatever it takes, we have a recipe for overriding the rule of law, treating people in a discriminatory way and licensing prejudice and discrimination.

In a time of fear these are more real and present dangers.  Perhaps all in all it would now be better for the Government to apologise to the ABC for heavying it, for the ABC to apologise to the Australian people for apologising, and for all of us to forget about taking sides.


Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is a consulting editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Q&A, Zaky Mallah, IS, Tony Abbott, ABC, free speech, national security

 

 

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Existing comments

Well said Andrew. The whole idea of an independent national broadcaster is that it should be on nobody's 'side', certainly not that of the government or the opposition of the day. I'm not a fan of Q&A because I don't think the format allows of any discussion at depth, but that's another issue. Abbott and his ministers are of more danger to freedom of speech and a spirit of community than 100 Zaky Mallahs. He clearly expects the ABC to act like Izvestia while the Murdoch press continues to ape Pravda.
Ginger Meggs | 25 June 2015


Great piece, Andrew. As you suggest sides are about conflict. Opinions, views. are sort of best guesses. You suggest that people who take sides could consider "how shall we treat those who are on the other side?" They can also ask how they decided which side they take. But if, as you suggest, the end justifies the means as the Prime Minister consistently argues anything goes. Simultaneously the end, the means and our community are diminished.
Michael D. Breen | 25 June 2015


While the PM frequently attacks the ABC, he is reportedly going to sign the TPP (a super free trade agreement) which includes a clause which will allow foreign corporations to sue Australia for loss of profits if our laws prevent them from making a profit!!!!! We will be giving away our powers to control things such as pollution.

Surely, this is FAR worse than anything the ABC has done.

Fortunately, we do have the ABC. And the Age and a few other media organisations prepared to question what is going on in this country.

What can we do? The earth is being trashed by people intent on plundering the system. The frackers, the banksters, the monsantos and so on.

It is clear that the politicians need to be reminded that they work for us, not the other way round.

I am setting up a website called www.GuardiansOfPlanetEarth.com which you are invited to join, where we can work out what we can do to protect our freedoms, and the earth. Without a good environment to live in, we all die.
Clement Clarke | 25 June 2015


Zaky Mallah threatened to kill an ASIO officer, called two journalists “whores”, and suggested they be gang-raped. He travelled in a bus paid for by the ABC to air his putrid views on Q & A. Yet Fr. Hamilton apparently sees nothing wrong with this and he suggests that it is the government that is at fault for being critical.
Paul Keating was right about Q & A four years ago when he said: “If I was the prime minister I would not let federal ministers go on that program. You just wash the government through mud every time you turn up.”
The ABC is not neutral. It has been captured by the extreme Left, just like the BBC. During the second Iraq War, British sailors aboard the “Ark Royal” turned off the BBC news because they found it indistinguishable from enemy propaganda. Today’s ABC is just as bad. It is a disgrace and should be privatized.

Ross Howard | 25 June 2015


It sounds, Ross, like you've been raiding the 'urban myth' vending machine again. What do you possibly mean 'captured by the Left'? That the ABC apologised would appear to indicate the very opposite I'd have thought! If you bothered to sit and watch the various news programmes properly, and you were not so blinkered, you'd realise that there is in fact ample representation of conservative and other views. I suspect your real problem is you don't agree with a publically funded broadcaster, full stop.
SMK | 25 June 2015


Ross, you misrepresent Andrew's article. Go back and read it. He has not suggested that the government is at fault 'for being critical'. The article was focusing on Abbott's demand that the ABC take sides with the government. The critical para which I encourage you to read again is: 'It is particularly dangerous for a Prime Minister to demand that public institutions or private citizens take a stand on complex issues. To take a stand for something means that you take a stand against something else. In public debate something is always identified with someone. Causes become people. So in the Q&A case, to take a stand means to condemn Zakky Mallah. From there it is a short slide to standing for genuine Australians against Muslim Australians.'
Ginger Meggs | 25 June 2015


What has happened to the 18C Free Speech Brigade which advocated bigotry as free expression? Is it only white bigots or anti-democratic anti-multicultural bigots who should be able to speak freely? What has happened to IPA Freedom Boy who has so much to say when defending lovers of freedom like Bolt?
Bilal | 25 June 2015


Goodness, another extreme left plot to undermine values in Australia. Q&A does not add much to an “in depth” analysis of current affairs but it does provide a forum for opinions, however shallow and thoughtless. I suppose it serves some purpose in raising issues but there is rarely much more than repetition of set piece positions before they move onto something else. It is hardly a left wing bridgehead. I thought Mallah was an unimpressive person who lost the plot and all reason when he was unable to out-debate the Government person on the panel. His comments were obnoxious and unacceptable and Tony Jones was quite right to shut him down. They were in fact as repugnant as suggesting the Prime Minister be put in a chaff bag and dropped out to sea. I’ve read that Mallah has seen ISIS and now hates it, but so what if he does? His attitude to other people is just as bad. But it is all too convenient to blame the ABC, which was doing its job as a responsible broadcaster. Government Ministers were just about hyperventilating in their efforts to bag the ABC, as if they were waiting for an excuse despite the PM thanking the national broadcaster only last week for airing “The Killing Season”. Left wing bias? I think not.
Brett | 25 June 2015


I agree - well argued and perfectly reasonable points of view. Abbott is exceedingly dangerous. He has already shown the depth of his contempt and intolerance of our democracy. Unfortunately our political system provides no effective emergency mechanism for the removal of a politician with delusions, other than through periodic elections.
Phil | 25 June 2015


I endorse the article and its headline. You have done well. Thank you.
Gerard Costigan | 25 June 2015


Well said Ross Howard. I would hope that Zaky Mallah does not represent general Australian Muslims. The ABC does not give balanced views or air time to get two sides of a picture. It is loaded & biased in favour of the left...you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that. Pity the PM doesn't close down Q&A.
Penny | 25 June 2015


Zaky was kidnapped by ASIO, set up by a man pretending to be a journalist, charged with wanting to be a terrorist and abused for 2 years in solitary confinement in super max. He was 18 years old and the AFP and ASIO need a few scapegoats to test out their shiney new ''terror'' laws and he was just one of them. The court acquitted him because of the behaviour of the spies and cops here and had to pretend he threatened to kill when it was they who set him up to say it in the first place. He is not a criminal but it's also interesting that Alan Jones, Newsltd and Channel 9 were all found to be at fault for inciting him in the first place. Ciobo on the other hand was mendacious about why he was acquitted, said he should be exiled and was generally abusive. I wonder how many self righteous cowards would tolerate 12 years of abuse without getting angry
Marilyn | 26 June 2015


I once wrote to the editor of a great metropolitan newspaper describing the words of J M Coetzee as "scrupulously intelligent". Thanks for your scrupulously intelligent words Andy.
Pam | 26 June 2015


Thank you Andrew. Indeed we need affordable universities not beholden to anybody. We need an educated thinking community that won't be easily mislead by propoganda. I think Q&A, like the footy, offers many of us an outlet..a chance to shout at the tele and agree and disagree with the panelists in the name of fun and public discourse. I love it and the ABC. Like you I think there was no reason to apologize from the ABC. I am more suspicious than you though Andrew and I believe Mr Abbott's 'outrage" was totally about misdirecting the public. Some very dreadful Bills have just been passed in the dead of night which will harm our environment and now sadly once again the most desperate and vulnerable who in seeking asylum have been detained in Regional imprisonment camps. Laws just passed now making their abuse very difficult to stop. I can't imagine the Murdoch press showcasing Antony Hegarty and the Martu elders from the Pilbara the way #quanda did on Monday. Such a beautiful performance deserved its place on our National broadcaster and I have not seen our Indigenous given much voice in mainstream press.
Christina Coombe | 26 June 2015


Fr Hamilton, in ES on 5 October 2011 you published an article that dealt with the controversy of Andrew Bolt’s series of articles and the case brought against him under 18(c). The article was entitled “The moral ambiguity of free speech”. In the article you wrote, “So it may be worthwhile …. to consider what kind of speech is ethically good or bad.” According to the criteria that you set down you ultimately found that Bolt’s article was “indefensible”. This brings me to your present article. There is little in it that I disagree with. I especially agree with your point that the pursuit of truth means that a program like Q&A should not take sides or else we end up with “Answer, followed by approved questions by approved persons.” This brings me to my main point. Were you not doing the very same thing yourself when you applied your ethics of good and bad speech to Bolt’s article? Was this not also a banning of ‘unapproved’ speech? Are you not in danger of assuming your ethics of good and bad speech are normative? If I am missing something, I would welcome your response. Generally, I like the approach that bad ideas are best countered by exposure to good ideas in the hurly burly of the market place of ideas.
Marg | 26 June 2015


Thank you Marg for questioning the consistency between the argument of this article and that on Andrew Bolt. Consistency is not my strong point, I admit - an aspiration rather than an achievement.. But in this case I do not see inconsistency. In the Bolt case I made a distinction between ethical judgment and legal sanction. I saw his article as a reckless personal attack on members of a vulnerable minority, and so to be ethically unjustifiable. A judge also found it contravened the law. I left the question of the legal judgment, and whether there should be one a law an open question. In the case of the exchange on Q&A I did not discuss whether what Zakky Mallah said was ethically justifiable Those who heard it must make their own judgments on that. But his contribution did not seem to me to have the precise defects of Bolt's article - it was not made from a position of relative power, nor was it injurious to people from a vulnerable minority. And it certainly was not illegal. Finally, I certainly do not think making a negative moral judgment on the grounds of reasoned argument can be equated with calling for banning or for legal sanction. We must all make moral judgments, which are open to counter argument, and are all universal in their shape. They may also be wrong. Programs like Q&A allow those different judgments to be heard and weighed, and so are important. But that kind of weighing presupposes some level of restraint in conversation, and is inconsistent with giving privilege to hateful, abusive and ranting speech. That was not at issue in Q&A, and that is why the ABC apology was unjustified. It appeared to yield to the bullying of government, not to defend the open space for moral judgment.
Andy Hamilton | 26 June 2015


I know every time I hear our Prime Minister speak out as he has done this way on the ABC I just see him as increasingly more dangerous to the well being of our nation and democracy. I don't know when walls and silencing have ever really worked, it just drives things underground and unheard , unseen they can become even more dangerous. There is certainly a rebel in me that becomes more belligerent when those walls are set in place. And I am basically a peacemaker and often wonder if the PM has a Norman conquerer in his English heritage that tries to dominate from his castle. The lesson of history is castles and their walls eventually fall.
john | 26 June 2015


If anything, the Coaltion's Steven Ciobo came out with the upper hand, because Zaky's ill-thought words gave him a opportunity to display his bravado in the face of "the foe". The reason I believe Zaky's presence and comments have created such a scandal is because the time restriction in the Q&A format. and he got caught short in the heat of the final seconds of the show. If he had more time, viewers would realise he's totally anti-extremist, anti-violence, and his youtuibe channel is testament to the fact that he's a positive role model in the Aussie-Muslim world.
AURELIUS | 26 June 2015


I too endorse the article and its headline. You have done well.again Andrew. Thank you.
graham english | 26 June 2015


Father Andrew, as Jesuit alumnus at school and beyond, I find your views out of sync with all my formation. This is not about freedom of speech. This is about providing a platform for a criminal, a terrorist sympathiser. who threatened publicly to kill ASIO officers, and publicly advocated the rape of two Australian female journalists. You describe him as "a vocal opponent of ISIS with an interesting past". Really? I understand compassion for sinners. Forgiveness, as I understand it, however, first requires repentance. This man is not repentant. He advocates evil things. Nor is he entitled to the preferential option for the poor and oppressed. Here, in our wonderful Australian tolerant democracy he is neither. Indeed, he seeks to oppress and harm Australian government officials and female journalists. Your Jesuit brothers are great supporters of the millions of people fleeing such oppression. . He does not deserve a platform on My ABC to potentially influence young vulnerable Australians to his views and to risk our security. The public record shows that he is dangerous, and needs to be closely monitored by our national security authorities. The Martin Place siege has revealed that the perpetrator was given the benefit of the doubt, and a platform, at every turn on his quest for significance, culminating in destruction of the lives of good ,decent, innocent Australians. I declare my position. I am firmly on the side of goodness, or whatever side it is that is opposed to evil and those who advocate it. I am amazed that you, and so many of the commenters, are so sympathetic to the ABC providing a national platform for this misguided man, and then critical of their forced apology. The PM asked which side is the ABC are on. That is my question too.
Anthony | 26 June 2015


Father Andrew. Many of us (and all of you) have been through the exercise of contemplating the question of taking sides; of making a personal choice between opposing standards? Is taking sides not in keeping with first principles; at the foundation of things? Or do we remain indifferent? Indifference, as i understand it, has nothing to do with taking sides; it is about personal freedom.
Anrthony | 27 June 2015


Thank you Andrew, you have enunciated more eloquently than I could have, my reaction when I viewed the exchange. I am disgusted by the judgemental, dangerous attitude of our government. In that context truth becomes a casualty.
Jim Slingsby | 28 June 2015


Thank you for writing this, particularly the part quoted by commenter Ginger Meggs. This is not the way a leader of a country should act. It is the action of a thug.
Russell | 28 June 2015


I have a problem with the statement: So in the Q& A case, to take a stand means to condemn Zakky Mallah,. From there it is a short slide to standing for genuine Australians against Muslim Australians. ... Seems to me a very long bow to draw.
Trish Taylor | 29 June 2015


Well said Andrew. the whole idea of 'sides' is playground stuff and a mature society should be beyond it. We are seeing more and more the ingroup outgroup idea that divides people where we should be all working togther for a free and just society. Jorie
Jorie | 29 June 2015


Well said Andrew, in my personal opinion the ABC should become a private organisation so as to have a completely neutral and unbiased point of view and not have to "bow down" to Abbot and his shim sham of a political agenda.
Cameron | 29 June 2015


I'm not sure the views of either Ross Howard or Penny are based on any understanding whatsoever of Zaky Mallah or his background.

Mallah was convicted of making threats (ie mouthing off), and at the same time found innocent of supporting terrorism. He subsequently went to Syria and got involved with the secular Free Syria Army - NOT with the 'religious nutters' of ISIS or al-Qaeda. He witnessed his minder being shot dead by a sniper, and came home.

By all measures, Mallah has altogether eschewed violence, more demonstrably so than any of the rest of us - and yet it is Mallah who might be at risk of being deported and exiled under this ill-considered, deeply troubling law.

Mallah was entirely within his rights to query Ciobo on this, and the ABC was completely right to allow him to do so.

Thanks for this article, Andrew.
David Arthur | 29 June 2015


I find the whole terrorism business in Australia just a beat up. The biggest challenge facing the government today appeasr to be how many Australian flags you can get in a camera shot at any press conference. It all just needs to be seen for what it is - nothing to do with government everything to do with politics. To gain a greater understanding of what is going on here may I suggest you get the training manual on this type of political activity- the movie “Wag the Dog"
Paul Coghlan | 29 June 2015


My family, like millions of other Australian families watch the ABC and in particular Q&A. We enjoy its unpredictability .It is a Forum for free speech, sadly lacking in many countries. The ABC is totally independent of Government of the day and so it should be .To do otherwise is a serious attack on freedom of expression. I strongly endorse Andrew's commentary. I have experienced first hand what can happen when you are pulled aside by "Goons" as you are leaving a country after attending a conference , because someone dobbed you in for allegedly saying something about the leadership. ( Interestingly, on my next visit was was quite emboldened to do just that! He was ousted less atyhn twelve months later in a "people's revolution"
Gavin O'Brien | 29 June 2015


One man's terror is another man's zeal. An apology can cost nothing, and in the face of threats can avert their execution. The basic cause of much of the terror in the world is worship of false gods. Religions are all responses to God's call but they are all conditioned by the degree of development and the culture of those involved. When religions are deified as the one and only way to respond to God's Universal call, they inevitably clash with other religions. If these clashes are handled with good will and understanding, new insights and harmony result. If with prejudice and intransigence wars and terrorism are produced. Responding to aggression "by any means", equates to terror against terrorism. The right way to respond is to promote goodwill and mutual understanding, leading to peace and harmony.
Robert Liddy | 29 June 2015


I think the real problem underlying the current government's position on this issue is a fear of the sort of terrorist attack which recently occurred in Tunisia happening here. After all Martin Place has already happened. These sorts of incidents, which can happen anywhere, are of great concern. What worries me is that, as with the Charlie Hebdo affair in France, which is highly regrettable, is that the likes of Mallah and Ciobo will oversimplify a number of very serious matters and make it a case of a simplistic "either/or" case. It isn't. There was an excellent article in last weekend's Australian by Anooshe Mushtaq entitled "Believe it or not, Islam is central to radicalisation". Once again, like so many intelligent, educated and thoroughly integrated Muslims, she suggests a sane deradicalisation approach involving the community. Free speech and our traditional legal freedom are worth defending. I think we really need to believe in them as much as ISIS believe in their system. In retrospect the Q & A session with Mallah and Ciobo was a bit of a Punch and Judy show. It distracted us from facing up to a number of serious issues and genuine political discourse.
Edward Fido | 29 June 2015


I hope your opinion piece goes viral, Andy! The ABC cowering to our bully-boy PM is the greatest concern. Mr Ciobo goaded Mallah and being the volatile young man that he is, he took the bait. If Ciobo had had one grain of common sense he would have diffused the interaction with Mallah, not taunted him until he erupted. Kerry Bergin
Kerry Bergin | 29 June 2015


Thanks indeed Andrew. The diversity and energy of the responses to your article affirm its relevance and strength. Journalist in The Australian in particular are exemplified, in the world of "free Speech" by today's cartoon in that paper lampooning Pope Francis. Here is a letter i penned to their editor with little expectation of it seeing the light of day:
"Dear Editor
Contradictory opinions abound on where to set the boundaries for free speech. On the one hand we have the cartoon (Aus 29/6) belittling environmental warrior Pope Francis, an exemplar of compassion for the vulnerable, while journalists pillory the ABC for enabling a one-time extremist to react angrily to an aggressive verbal broadside from a government minister on television. I yearn for some middle ground."


Mike Foale | 29 June 2015


Thank you, Andrew for your well reasoned contribution to what is becoming an extremely serious situation in Australia.

Perhaps some have not yet come to realise that this government is leading us down a very dangerous path.

The Q&A affair has allowed Abbott to clearly set in motion his plan to win the next election. His weopon is fear, announcing the terrorists are after us. His solution is he will provide us with a strong leader and a resolute party, as long as we demonstrate we are on his side, which is the Australian side. If we accept his narrative, we accept that freedom of speech is a justifiable casualty in the war against the ever threatening terrorists.

Within the context of Abbott's narrative the ABC in general and more specifically Q&A have both demonstrsted they are not on his side, the Australia side and therefore must show their rremorse and also be punished in order to ensure they tie the line.

Those of us voters who dissent and actually believe people like Mallah should have a voice so that we can judge for ourselves show ourselves to be on the side of traitors. Ciobo's vicious attack on free speech was not only warranted but necessary in order to silence those who would otherwise jeopardise our safety.

This narrative is far more frightening and dangerous to Australians because it breeds alienation among those in minority groups, some of whom are likely io feel resentment for being vilified and who taake their allegience elsewhere. At the same time hatred of those minority groups by'patriotic' Australians becomes normalised. This is the alarming future for Australia towards which Abbott is determined to take us.
Anna | 29 June 2015


'The PM asked which side is the ABC are on. That is my question too.' But Anthony, how many 'sides' are there? Abbott was implying that there were only two - 'Australia's side' (in other words with Abbott) or 'the enemy' (anyone who disagrees with Abbott). Abbott's dualist world ignores the fact that there are many 'sides' in this matter. What passes for coalition policies are nothing but three word slogans. He, and many of his ministers, are incapable, or perhaps unwilling, to admit of subtleties and nuance.
Ginger Meggs | 29 June 2015


One of the things that interests me is to discover how little we are able to predict the outcome of human response. I have been shocked in public fora to discover that a point I am making in good faith is perceived by others in equal good faith to be challenged aggressively. The surprise for me is that we cannot anticipate human group behaviour.
Graham Warren | 29 June 2015


Thank you Andrew. Your essay is a beacon of light in a dark time. Seeing the multiplication of flags behind the PM every time he speaks - now what does that remind us of?
Frank | 29 June 2015


Andrew writes that Zaky Mallah. is a man with an 'interesting past'. That sounds like a line from a paper-back crime thriller, which is usually applied to the attractive but mysterious hero of the story. Maybe Andrew could enlarge on Mr Mallah's 'interesting past', especially those bits about which the public has yet to be informed.
Claude Rigney | 29 June 2015


Thank you Andrew. In general I agree with your line of argument, but I think that it was a mistake for the ABC to invite such an unstable character as Zacki on to the programme; it made them and reasonable discussion a hostage to bad fortune. Chiobo was dreadful but did his dirty work well in getting Zacki angry and incoherent. It could not have worked out better for Abbot. He now continues his despicable fear-mongering and can crusade against the ABC. Politically it has call been absolute gold for him. It all makes me cringe.
Eugene | 29 June 2015


I can't believe that so many people see Abbott as dangerous to this country. Where does the danger lie? The last government put us into huge debt, created so much red tape that we are one of the most nannied countries in the world, and ran the country largely through the power of unions, not all above board either it is being made public.
Do people not understand the nature of what Australia/Western countries face in terms of this extreme Islamic Group which has tentacles everywhere it seems? Or do we wait until something awful happens here to believe the nature of the enemy? It is a horrible subversive war.... Keeping us safe is a thankless job, as living in a relatively peaceful society means the opposite reality it appears is rather remote to most Australians. When the enemy may be within, as well as without, what do you do? "Eternal vigilance" is how to keep our country peaceful.
I believe the politicians are doing their job, after all if something huge did happen, who would be blamed..the government of course! Give Tony Abbott a fair go......he is a good man.
Penny | 29 June 2015


I am not surprised to hear the PM ask ABC "Whose side are you on?". His ethos and paradigm for government appears to be couched regularly in terms of "sport". But his approach is really about his embrace of conflict and opposition as his modus operandi to gain what meets his Interests and those who are on the side he picks. So, the Captain picks his side, makes his calls on everything, looks to shirtfront the opponents he selects, and does his best to eliminate or crush those on "the other side", even those among the Coalition. "Heads will roll" echoes the practice is ISIS. Sadly, some on his side such as Mr. Ciobo are likewise ready to trample on any who question them. When will Australians, including Coalition MPs, require that the PM be and act as a "good sport"? We deserve a better leader.
Name Alex Nelson | 29 June 2015


I agree that the ABC was at fault for kowtowing to Tony Abbott's rampant populism. The warning signs are getting bigger every day about this government's divisive agenda.
Karen | 29 June 2015


Thank you Andrew. I have little to add to the excellent letters thread on your fine essay. The majority of commentators agreed with you. As I do, but as a matter of realpolitik I think Mark Scott had no alternative but to apologise to the government. He certainly made his full view clear in his subsequent detailed speech which I praised in social media. I would also say this. You are absolutely right in your acute dichotomy of 'good' Australians (on Abbott's side) versus 'bad, disloyal Muslim Australians on the other (enemy) side. This is exactly the kind of hateful divisive rhetoric that German Nazis used quite openly R about German and Austrian Jews in the years leading up to Nazi seizures of power and the Holocaust in those countries. As a child of a Viennese Jewish mother with many close relatives who perished in the Holocaust, I am entitled to draw that disturbing comparison. More and more. I find Tony Abbott hateful and dangerous. His leadership of this country not a laughing matter for me anymore - it is a tragedy in the making.
Tony kevin | 29 June 2015


A footnote of the Free Syrian Army which Zaky Mallah joined in 2011. According to Wikipedia, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Syrian_Army , the FSA is supported by the U.S. Govt in its military opposition to both the Assad regime and ISIS. It is secular and made up of former officers in Assad's Syrian Army from Sunni, Shia, Christian and Alawite ethnicities/faith backgrounds. I doubt if people like Abbott and Ciobo understand - or care.
Tony kevin | 29 June 2015


I did not see the Q&A programme but regardless, Andrew's article stands alone and is hard to fault.
Frank S | 29 June 2015


Ginger, I declared what side I am on - " whatever side that is opposed to evil.....". And I hope, as you said, there are multiple sides for me to choose from. I am on the side of them. My clear choice is to take side/s against evil, evil doers and those who advocate evil deeds. The ABC hosted a person who fits the third category (at least). I take sides against that.
anthony | 30 June 2015


Andrew, “It is particularly dangerous for a Prime Minister to demand ...” suggests a biassed focus on the PM’s question “Whose side are you on?” Listeners take sides anyway without any PM prompt. You missed the point. The ABC is funded by taxes. We have a right to question perceived bias. Zaky Mallah's appearance was offensive. When did he become “a vocal opponent of ISIS”? He was jailed because he planned to attack our Police and Security personnel. Whether he openly espouses ISIS he followed their orders. And you say this is “an interesting past”? He would have been a murderer, if successful. Your bias is compounded saying he asked “a provocative question”. This is naive. Questions are previously known to Tony. Example: ADF members were concerned both major Party’s were not responding to our request for a review of the annual increment to Super and Pensions. Payments had been stuck on CPI for 20 years and we’d lost ‘heaps’. Our spokesman finally appeared on Q&A/ABC. He did not ask the question we waited for. He told us later our question had been ‘doctored’ by Q&A/ABC. He’d no flexibility except in verbal replies. Is this “why we need programs like Q&A.”? Zaky Mallah was a ‘set-up’. The audience response suggests this . I chose to stop watching Q&A/ABC due to obvious political bias.
Dr Karl H Cameron-Jackson | 30 June 2015


A great article Andrew.
terry fitz | 30 June 2015


The error was funding the ABC in the first place. IN 1969 before leaving school I had detected that the ABC was a pro-communist group. It's veiled Editorial policy has been to actively support International Communism and Communist activities in AUstralia, and now ISlamo -fascism. However when it comes to Eco-fascism or support for sexual immorality the veil disappears and the ABC is clearly on the side of evil. Would ABC have allowed pro NAZI speakers during WW2. Abbott knows this and is just to gutless to stand up to ABC. CUT their budget by 10% today followed by 10% tomorrow until they have reformed and decide they are not on the side of totalitarians of left.
Andrew Jackson | 30 June 2015


"Many people see Q&A as more ego and waffle than as the pursuit of truth". I certainly do. We are fascinated by the fast-moving, shallow medium of TV into thinking it can be a platform for pursuing truth. It's not. It fits well into our top-of-mind culture of 'sound bight' communication, so popular with our politicians - but (sorry ABC) it is by no means 'in depth', and should never be valued as such by thinking people. This program should be labelled Q&SO: Question and spontaneous opinion, not Q&A. Its only value is to provide provocative entertainment. As Marshall MacLuan said, TV is a 'hot' medium - fast and shallow. It worries me greatly that such a program on such a medium is taken so seriously by politicians and public. If you want in-depth answers and insights into issues and questions, go to other 'cooler' media, not TV programs like Q&A. This becomes most obvious when Tony Jones introduces subjects like faith and religion vs atheistic scientists.
John O'D | 01 July 2015


Thanks again, Andrew, for another thought provoking piece. I recently attended a talk by a lawyer working in Nauru. What I discovered is evidence of a far more deceitful terror worming its way into our national psyche - it is what I call 'terrorist politics', and young Tony Abbot is its most adept disciple. We need the ABC. We desperately need a FREE press. The addictive nature of power for ever requires an equally balancing force. Thank you for being a small sliver of this glimmer of light.
Vic O'Callaghan | 02 July 2015


Thank goodness for analytical, clear, unbiased thinking expressed so clearly in this article. Thank you Andreww
Lucy van Kessel | 02 July 2015


So, Bolt's article is, “... a reckless personal attack on members of a vulnerable minority”. A minority within which Jihad: a drive to set up a Caliphate: and Sharia Law is widely majoritysupported. In Australia, one-in-four non-Muslims don't feel safe. They rank terrorist-related issues as a MAJOR "threat to the country’s security” (Advertiser Wed 17/6/15).
Mallah supporters see "a vocal opponent of ISIS with an interesting past". They don't agree the ABC provided a platform for a criminal: a terrorist sympathiser: who threatened to publicly kill ASIO officers and advocated the rape of two Australian female journalists. If the PM speaks out he is “increasingly more dangerous to the well being of our nation and democracy”.
The price of “Freedom” is eternal vigilance.
Keep Hebdo where it belongs, in Muslim countries where real hatred for our system of government, religious values and lifestyle is deliberately being destroyed. Free speech and 'freedom' are worth defending. To be “disgusted by the judgemental, dangerous attitude of our government” is hypocritical. Do we want a terrorist attack like in Tunisia.
What if the Martin Place siege, had been repeated in more parts of Sydney or in a chain of our Capital cities ? Would people who see the PM as the problem still see it that way? We have had serious terrorist attacks interrupted by good intelligence and the law. The ABC Q&A session distracts us from facing really serious security issues and genuine political discourse.


Dr Karl H Cameron-Jackson | 04 July 2015


Thank you for that clear explanation of the issues which were troubling me very much. You have helped me articulate my concerns properly.
Faye Lawrence | 05 July 2015


I attended my first Q&A a few months ago. It was again about Muslims. The panel was pro-muslim; the questions were pro-muslim. Muslims were prominently placed in the audience. None of the questions submitted by our invited group were selected. In short, the panel was rigged; the audience was rigged and the questions were rigged.
William J. Player | 05 July 2015


Excellent article Andy, you are right (i.e., correct)! It would be great if the PM & ABC could take your advice, apologise and move on!
David Feith | 07 July 2015


Having read and now re read your comments Andrew I fundamentally disagree with your position and believe you have missed the point. I have listened to and watched various ABC programs for years now. The reaction by the standing Prime Minister was justified for those of us who have seen the ABC continue to push left and set an agenda against the conservatives. The fact that we have an ABC in the first place should be sign enough that democracy is alive and well in our country. The issue with Zacky Mallah was that the ABC deliberately went out of its way to set up the confrontation. It used its own 'independence' to broadside the government. In so doing it stepped outside its charter, something it has been doing so now for years. The other night backfired. It was Zachy's second sentence that had us switching off our TV sets. I sat dumbfounded as I listened to our national broadcaster provide a free platform to yet again another minority view. It did little for genuine conversation at a national level. In short it backfired. Of course freedom of speech is central to our democracy but it doesn;t mean we allow 'our' public broadcaster to use it considerable influence to use the precious little airtime available to set up spats that are deliberately intended to provoke the sitting government. The ABC mantra is 'our ABC' and sadly in recent years this has been eroded to represent a shrinking minority.
Troy | 14 July 2015


Troy, surely one of the roles of a public broadcaster is to provide a platform for the expression of minority views that won’t necessarily receive coverage in the commercial media. It is part of the democratic process and I don’t see the ABC following a leftist agenda. I see it more as a questioning agenda and I remember the former Government often being grilled on the ABC during the Rudd/Gillard years. Perhaps it just looks left in comparison to much of the commercial media. The “standing Prime Minister” himself recently thanked the ABC for showing “The Killing Season”, so it can’t be too far left. Mallah clearly lost the plot on Q&A but if you look at the dialogue between him and Steve Ciobo, there was provocation by both which was not constructive. The review of the program should also look at Ciobo’s comments. If you turned off your TV after Mallah’s second sentence you missed most of the action.
Brett | 16 July 2015


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