THE ANTI-AUSTRALIAN “Adventure in Democracy” charade that is the ABC’s #QandA show has done it again this week; not content to merely steer debate away from anything that could turn a blowtorch on the woeful record of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government — although it did that too — last night’s episode provided a platform for an accused jihadi who admitted threatening to kill ASIO personnel. Perhaps it is time for #QandA to face the axe.
Readers know I have a real issue with #QandA: it is not, despite the exciting catchphrase, an “adventure in democracy” or anything remotely approaching it; it is, simply distilled, a free weekly one-hour slot for the airing of the ideological and political whims of the Left, and for the slapping down of any common sense and/or sanity that emerges from the token one to two participants included in the invariably stacked panel of six (although I will give credit where it is due, and concede Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon made a bit of sense last night too — which is perhaps why his invitations to appear on #QandA are very intermittent indeed).
Anyhow, first things first: anyone who didn’t see last night’s shocker can watch it here, and a word to the wise: as tempted as you might be to reach for No-Doz (and/or something to throw at your computer screen) be sure to be alert in the last 15 minutes of the programme even if the rest of it has worked you into a state of unbridled pique.
Anyone who has ever either tried to get a question into #QandA‘s running sheet and/or taken part in its audience — and I have done both, to no avail on the former count and successfully earlier this year on the latter — knows everything about this show is carefully and tightly vetted, scripted and prepared well in advance.
When it comes to getting a question included, discretion over what makes it into the programme and what doesn’t is held by the ABC producers and editorial staff responsible for the show, and one of the biggest bugbears about #QandA from the Right is that episodes are invariably set up to provide free airtime and a forum for the Left to indulge its ideas and thought bubbles on a national, publicly funded platform.
Questions — and who asks them — are so carefully planned in advance that when you arrive at the auditorium as an audience participant on #QandA, microphones have been strategically placed throughout the room and selected “questioners” assigned to those seats: there is nothing spontaneous, or random, or left to chance insofar as who asks what is concerned.
Before you get as far as being selected to ask a question, it must be submitted for vetting, in writing, to ABC production staff: and if you end up being chosen (as others I know have been) those staff will have corresponded with and/or actually spoken to you several times before the episode of the programme is filmed.
And as ever, even then, the direction these “adventures in democracy” take is controlled with an iron fist.
Indeed, last night the discussion on #QandA meandered very close to a debate over the incompetence of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government — a foray immediately shut down by host Tony Jones, who chided participants for straying off topic and returned proceedings to this week’s version of the standard #QandA fare of socialist diatribes and kick-the-rich, shame-the-nation, class-envious bleeding heart fantasies that this programme is infamous for.
The reason I am speaking so generally thus far is because I am relying on readers to watch the episode, and where I am headed with this concerns a questioner who appeared toward the end of the episode — and readers can learn a little more about him from this article in today’s edition of The Age.
In the interests of giving credit where it is due, Fairfax deserves acknowledgement for reporting the fact such an odious individual was provided with a platform at the expense of the taxpayer.
For Zaky Mallah — charged with planning a terrorist attack in Sydney more than a decade ago, and the first Australian detained under the Howard government’s anti-terrorism laws — was not only selected by ABC producers last night as a #QandA participant, but used the opportunity to declare that Muslims who disagree with the Liberal Party are “justified” in going to Syria and joining the jihadis at Islamic State.
Whilst acquitted in 2005 of terror-related charges (because, as Liberal MP and panel member Steve Ciobo pointed out, the laws were not retrospective), Mallah did admit last night to pleading guilty to threatening to kill officials from ASIO.
Nonetheless, he had the nerve to use the forum to lament that during his incarceration he was treated “like a convicted terrorist” and I have to say that frankly, the bastard ought to consider himself to have gotten off lightly.
And Mallah isn’t just a highly dubious character who is an embarrassment to the Muslim community and a disgrace to Australia, but a filthy misogynist pig who has incited gang rape against prominent female conservative journalists in the past.
I am indebted to Daily Telegraph columnist Rita Panahi, who kept a screen shot of a particularly insidious tweet from Mallah that was posted back in January — and like any coward, Mallah subsequently deleted everything in his Twitter feed prior to and including that post, presumably to try to falsely claim the cover of deniability.
But I think it is relevant today, as it goes to the heart of ABC values, how the broadcaster operates in light of its expenditure of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year, and the kind of individual #QandA production personnel deemed suitable to showcase last night.
My apologies to the lovely Miranda Devine (whom I would never deliberately offend or upset) and to Panahi (a lady of razor-sharp, ordinary common sense and decency if ever there was one) in republishing it now, but people have a right to know exactly what this piece of shit — the ABC’s newest star and its latest carefully chosen #QandA insurgent against the Liberal Party — really stands for.
Yes, Jones ruled the question “out of order” (but not before it had shanghaied debate down its disgusting anti-social tangent) and yes, ABC TV director Richard Finlayson said in a statement this morning that #QandA made an “error of judgement” in including Mallah, but the damage is done.
The ABC cannot have it both ways: on the one hand, claiming it was all a mistake and that things got out of hand, and on the other exercising a command-and-control regime over what gets into this God-forsaken show that is so stifling as to render any denial now of its culpability over Mallah completely pointless.
Certainly, given Mallah’s past, it should have known his was a presence to be avoided at all costs; if it didn’t know this, it only serves to exacerbate the outrage over the waste of public money on such drivel.
It is inconceivable that #QandA staff were unaware of Mallah’s background prior to last night’s broadcast; given one of the publicised themes of last night’s episode was “Terror” and given the ABC’s trenchant opposition to the Abbott government’s proposed changes to citizenship laws where Australians going overseas to fight jihads is concerned, one has to conclude that Mallah would have been gleefully leapt upon by those staff as just the hand grenade to detonate over the subject.
And if it did know about Mallah, what he has been accused of in the past and what he has admitted to, then those people at the ABC responsible for his inclusion in last night’s show ought to be contemplating an involuntary job change this morning.
On Mallah, can I simply say he is a filthy piece of shit whose relevance and value to this country is non-existent: and to this end, Ciobo’s remark that Mallah would make a good candidate for deportation under government moves to strip dual citizens of their Australian citizenship is an astute one, and a matter for commendation.
I also note that once again, decent members of the Muslim community are likely to be tarred, by the less reasonable in our community, with the same brush as this odious individual whose television career should have concluded when the coverage of his trial and incarceration finished a decade ago.
But where the ABC and its #QandA programme are concerned, this kind of thing happens far too often; and whenever it oversteps the boundaries of public decency and acceptable standards, it is simply not good enough for it to pull its head in for the proverbial five minutes before ramping things back up.
This column has spent far too much time over the pst four years tearing into the ABC over this show, and whilst doing so is justified, the fact is that this programme is unfit for broadcast on any objective criteria — not least in light of the ABC’s charter, and specifically where it relates to requirements of taste, decency and balance.
I have this morning sent a message to Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull — in his capacity as the minister responsible for the ABC — asking him to either publicly rebuke the ABC over last night’s programme and/or to engineer the show’s axing, and I encourage anyone who shares my sentiments to follow suit.
After all, #QandA adds very little that is meaningful to political debate in Australia, and virtually nothing when its biases and prejudices and blatant favour of the political Left are taken into account.
Surely, enough is enough.
UPDATED: Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced today that an “external review” of #QandA is to take place — and that it has already commenced. We will follow this with great interest. It is to be hoped this “review” has teeth.