Abbott calls for heads to roll at the ABC

The Abbott Government has crossed a line by setting up an inquiry to interfere directly in the editorial processes of the ABC. That is the true obscenity of the Zaky Mallah Q&A affair.

Yesterday Abbott announced an “urgent” inquiry into Monday’s episode, saying it was “utterly incomprehensible” the ABC had “compounded the mistake” by rebroadcasting the episode.

    “Now frankly, heads should roll over this, heads should roll over this,” he said.

    “We’re not satisfied with an internal ABC inquiry because so often we’ve seen virtual whitewashes when that sort of thing happens.

    “Frankly the ABC ought to take some very strong action.”

So the outcome is predetermined, the inquiry is about the detail, according to Abbott.

Mark Scott has fired back at Tony Abbott, saying that the ABC is a national broadcaster, not ‘a state broadcaster’ like North Korea and Russia. China and Vietnam.

    “At times, free speech principles mean giving platforms to those with whom we fundamentally disagree,” Mr Scott said in a speech in Melbourne on Thursday night.

    “Media organisations often give air time to the criminal and corrupt, to those who express views that run contrary to accepted public values.

    “You have to set the bar very high before you begin to exclude certain views or perspectives.”

On the decision to let Mallah into the audience, Scott said:

    it would have been appropriate for Q&A to air a pre-recorded question from Mr Mallah, noting numerous media outlets had given him “considerable space” over the years. But he said it was a mistake to allow him into the studio audience to ask a question.

    “The risks and uncertainties of having him in a live programming environment weren’t adequately considered before the decision was made to accept his application to be in the studio audience,” he said.

He defended the Q&A as a program saying it had “all the potential of being a 20-plus year franchise for the ABC.”

It’s important to understand what in fact Mallah said. From the transcript:

    As the first man in Australia to be charged with terrorism under the harsh Liberal Howard Government in 2003, I was subject to solitary confinement, a 22 hour lockdown, dressed in most times in an orange overall and treated like a convicted terrorist while under the presumption of innocence. I had done and said some stupid things, including threatening to kidnap and kill but, in 2005, I was acquitted of those terrorism charges. Question to the panel: What would have happened if my case had been decided by the Minister himself and not the courts?

Steve Ciobo, parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs:

    “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.”

Mallah then said he was an Australian (he is, with only one passport) and would like to see Ciobo out of the country.

Mallah was clearly angered by what Ciobo said and after about five minutes of discussion by diverse people he said:

    “The Liberals now have just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight to leave and go to Syria and join ISIL because of Ministers like him.”

That remark has been taken as encouraging Muslims to join ISIL. It’s simply untrue, and Mallah is on record as passionately urging people not to go. He’s labelled Islamic State militants ‘w**kers’ and says teenagers who travel to Syria to join the terror group deserve to be ‘locked up’.

Abbott has bought into this lie, saying Mallah hates us.


Mallah is now permanently classified as a bad person because he served time for threatening to kill Asio officers when he was 19. Once a criminal, always a criminal. Ciobo suggested that he was unfit to live in Australia because of his criminal past.

Jonathan Holmes details how Mallah went to Syria and joined the Free Syrian Army, which is trained by the US and supported by Australia. A few days was enough. He came to realise that in Australia Muslims had freedoms that people in Syria were dying for.

I’ve not seen any comment on Ciobo’s charge that Mallah escaped the terrorism charge on a technicality.

Malcolm Turnbull has distanced himself from Abbott, who has clearly prejudged the outcome of the inquiry. When asked asked on the 7.30 Report whether he agreed with Abbott’s statement that heads needed to roll, Turnbull said:

    “I will decide which metaphors need to be made. I said today this was a grave error of judgement. The management has to take responsibility for it and there should be consequences. I don’t want to take it any further than that”.

Jonathan Green at The Drum has described the “inflated hypocrisy of the tabloid response and the blustering outrage of government” as an “omnishambles”.

He finds:

    A week that has shown the media class at its worst: reactive and self-absorbed, simultaneously inconsequential and self-important. Or worse: driven by petty vindictiveness over public interest.

    The public interest here is simple: freedom of speech, pluralism. And maybe Q&A has done some harm to that cause through accident, overconfidence and misadventure, but the thrust of its endeavour was right. Here is a young man, once radicalised, now reformed, whose central message is disdain for the “wankers” of Islamic State.

    That’s a voice that has a place in our conversation about the promotion of terror, but not if politics has anything to do with it.

Green says that what should have kept Mallah off the program was his “tweeted threats of sexual violence against columnists Miranda Devine and Rita Panahi”. Two women a week are killed in domestic violence, compared with how many deaths from terror?

Elsewhere there was an excellent segment on the Media Report on the subject.

13 thoughts on “Abbott calls for heads to roll at the ABC”

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever been made so angry by the excesses of the Abbott Government. I sent Abbott an expletive filled tweet over it. Usually, politicians annoy me, but my annoyance is tempered by a huge amount of contempt, on the presumption that you can never trust any of them.
    The independence of the ABC must be defended at all costs, orour democracy becomes not just the bit of a sham it is but a complete sham.

  2. I sent Abbott an expletive filled tweet over it.

    Ouch !, he’ll be smarting over that for quite some time I would imagine.
    You certainly can be a brute when your pushed Paul.

  3. At the very least Mallah should have been made to remove his golden marijuana leaf cap, or does the plain packaging laws not cover dope ?

  4. If what Mallah said on Q&A was so dangerous why is no-one attacking all the media outlets who have had a picture of Mallah on the front page with extensive quotes of what was said. This stuff was published by media outlets that claimed that what Q&A had done was wrong!!!
    My own take is that the best thing the IS recruiters have going for them in Aus is Abbott himself, his new citizenship laws that only punish some Australian citizens and his steady wink wink nod nod attacks on Muslim people.

  5. John
    My take, if we’re going to be apologists and absolve individuals actions in favour of blaming protagonists, then we will start to see anti-muslim attacks ( inevitable I recon ) on Australian soil.
    Abbott can’t win as both pro and anti attacks will ridiculously be his fault.
    And the ( left leaning, shit stirring ) ABC /Fairfax and ( right leaning, shit stirring ) News LTD will have more grist for the mill.

    Success in media nowaday is measured in views, clicks, likes and outrageous response.

    The medium is now the media, with devastating consequences for the masses.

  6. Jumpy: You are right. The chances of an attack on Aus soil go up while Abbott is doing his to best stop people who want to fight in Syria from going. Doing things that are helping ISIS convince potential recruits that the government doesn’t like people who share your ancestry and religion probably doesn’t help either.

  7. In calling for “heads to roll” will Abbott be assuaged if some ISIS nut beheads an ABC employee?

  8. Zoot: You are right: “Heads to roll” is an unfortunate metaphor given the ISIS “heads to roll” policy. (Or is using this metaphor proof that Abbott really is an ISIS mole?) Ahh the power of paranoia.
    Turnbull publicly said that he was not going to use “heads to roll” expression on 7.30 the other night .

  9. I must say, isn’t ramadan going swimmingly this year ?
    I recon the Mohammedans might get a PB with the death count this time, goes till 18th July !
    I wonder if the mandatory fasting rituals makes them more splodey, shooty and head loppy or the mandatory increase in koran reading.

    Anyway, it’s probably not for me to question the cultural practices of the religion of peace …….

  10. I dunno Jumpy, they’ll have to lift their game to catch the Christians.
    According to these guys, since the start of Ramadan there’s been 271 deaths from gunfire in the US alone (I think they still claim to be God Fearin’ Christians, even though they’ll be bound for hell after that Supreme Court decision). Sorry, I can’t find figures for the African Christians – who usually give the Ragheads a run for their money.
    Gentle Jesus meek and mild and all that.

  11. 271 ?
    Please, there’ll be more mohammedan honour killings in just Pakistan.

    I see the daytime prohibition of rehydration has claimed over 600 so far.

    As for Africa I’m sure boko haram, al-shabaab and hizbul islam are going for gold.

  12. … there’ll be more mohammedan honour killings in just Pakistan.

    You’re misinformed Jumpy.
    Going by past experience there’ll be somewhere between 60 and 90, depending on whose figures you use.
    And if our Yankee cousins keep up the pace, that 271 will become something around 1000 by July 18. Jesus wins again!

  13. Zoot
    You may be accidentally overestimating the influence Jesus has on US gun crime.
    Or intentionally, either way, it’s incorrect.

    On the other hand, Mohammeds influence on islamic crime is fundamental and inseparable.

    FTR, I think both are ridiculous.

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