Tony Jones defends Q & A as panellists let rip


“The fundamental purpose of this programme is to let citizens to ask questions,” said Tony Jones on last night’s Q & A.

In the first programme since last week’s headline-grabbing incident, the ABC forum debated the exchange and subsequent fallout.

Tony Jones opened the show with an editorial responding to “events that have occurred on our own programme.”

“We’ve been the subject of a great deal of comment from politicians and other media. The ABC itself has acknowledged that an error was made in having Mr. Zaky Mallah Live in the Studio.”

The show then spent 40 minutes scrutinising the issue, with Jones putting “a few facts on the record.”

“The decisions made about Q & A are made by the whole programme and the management team and we all take responsibility for them,” he said.

“In considering the decision to allow Mr. Zaky Mallah to ask a question, the ABC’s Editorial Standards tell us to present a diversity of perspectives, so that over time no significant strand of thought or belief within the community is knowingly excluded, nor disproportionately represented.

“Now secondly, the safety and security of our panelists and audience is always a key priority for us.

“And finally the Q & A team were not aware at the time Zaky Mallah appeared of the very offensive, misogynistic tweets that he put out about two female journalists.

“Had we known, we would have rejected his participation.”

A robust and sometimes noisy discussion followed in which Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson and The Australian columnist Paul Kelly were highly critical of Q & A and ABC for giving Mallah airtime last week.

“This was a serious editorial mistake by the ABC,” said Kelly.

“Media organisations have got to be very careful about who they put up in lights.

“It would have been possible to have a lot of other Muslims in the audience raising these sorts of issues. The ABC chose not to do that.”

Tim Wilson said, “To be brutally honest Tony, when I first came onto this programme in 2008 it was an environment where we had serious policy discussion. Too often today it gets caught up in ‘gotcha’ moments and snide remarks, designed to get you extra attention. And that is what that was and it blew back onto this show and to its detriment.”

Tanya Plibersek also said it was an error to include him but defended the ABC’s role.

“Even when I don’t agree with it, I see that it does a really important job and plays a very worthwhile role in our community,” she said.

The programme followed a full Media Watch analysis by Paul Barry, noting Mallah had previously appeared on ABC, Seven, TEN and SBS plus radio stations. Barry agreed things on Q & A could have been handled better, noting the pre-recorded video question from David Hicks to John Howard in 2010.

At the time Howard noted:

Well, I’d make a couple of responses to David Hicks. The first is that isn’t it a great country that allows this kind of exchange to occur and this is not the sort of exchange that would occur in other countries and in dictatorships and it ought to make all of us – whatever our views are about my Government’s policies concerning Mr Hicks – it ought to make all of us very proud that we live in a country that allows that sort of exchange …

An investigative report is expected to be delivered to Malcolm Turnbull’s office today.


  1. Yes, Paul Kelly has spent too long working for Murdoch to not toe the company line on their campaign against the ABC, although on other non-Mallah questions he was fairly lucid. Tim Wilson though lacks any credibility at all as he is too much under the spell of the IPA.

  2. Poor Tim, he lost his cool a bit, especially the look he gave the audience when they laughed at something he said. Dr Anne Aly was very interesting, never seen her before. After a while, when listening to Paul Kelly, I just switched off. On the night, I found him to be the least interesting.

  3. Its simple really. The Murdochs want to get rid of the ABC in its current form as it is competition. Andrew Bolt and other right wing commentators have been been trashing the ABC of late and the government are supporting them. Disgusting if you ask me.

  4. There is a reason Mr Kelly could only repeat himself over and over. Miranda Devine let the cat out of the bag last week when she said that the problem with the ABC is that it is competing against commercial entities that are “doing it tough”. Give me a break.

    This is all about getting rid of a competitor to Murdoch full stop. It has nothing to do with an off the cuff comment by a child in response to another child’s comment in a bit of playground toing and froing.

    If Murdoch and his ilk want to truly compete then they can bring their “journalism” up to scratch and provide unbiased and true news rather than lies and opinion. Then we wouldn’t need an entity like the ABC to present the actual news.

    • Secret Squïrrel

      Well said, unclepete. News Corpse’s almost continual railing against the ABC is tiresome but allowable in a democracy. However, the Abbott govt’s, at times, sinister intent toward a supposedly independent public instrumentality is far from acceptable.

  5. Tim Wilson showed why he should not be the AHRC. Saying Zaky Mallah should not have been allowed on is denying free speech. What Zaky Mallah said initially was fine, it was the way he reacted to Steve Cibio was the problem. As Counter-terrorism expert Anne Aly said if Cibio had not have verballed Mallah and condemned him there would have been no issue.
    Mallah was saying ISAL is bad.

    Malah was tried an convicted and since then on terrorism matters he has been anti ISAL.

    Now this from Steve Cibio.
    said the explanation was “very strange”.
    “So his tweets expressing sympathy for terrorist organisations, his tweets against me and others … apparently none of that precludes him from being on the panel (sic),” he said.

    Mr Ciobo said he “wasn’t anticipating an apology” from the program, but was “looking for the ABC to simply get that [it] was an error”.

    The ABC has…

  6. Isn’t the definition of maturity to be able to listen to different viewpoints, even extreme ones, without necessarily agreeing with them?

  7. jezza the first original one

    The ABC have admitted they made a mistake…..everyone, the left, the right and the ABC themselves…..move on.

    The ABC will need to do a bit better in future, with regards to research, otherwise they could end up with a wifebeater asking the panel a question along the lines of ” do women derserve it”. So improve your research….

  8. A great week for political hypocrisy! A great week for the songsheet writers and the bleating sheep at News Corp! Next week the ABC’s Four Corners reveals more about the Mafia’s influence on our MP’s. Can our opinion of politicians sink any lower?

  9. The hypocrisy from Paul Kelly from ‘The Australian’ was incredible. The bloke just looked like a total clown last night. Considering his newspaper had published interviews with Zaky Mallah in the past then criticising the ABC for featuring the same person on one of their programs and coming from an organisation that dealt in illegally hacking deceased peoples’ phones, Paul Kelly doesn’t have any credibility whatsoever. The mainstream media particularly News Limited have just how shown gullible and hypocritical they can be in the past week. Any chance they can get to discredit the ABC they will considering the ABC provides news services for a very low cost compare to others that expect to you to pay for subscriptions to news services and put up with large amounts of pop up ads and commercials.

  10. If the ABC new about the tweet they wouldn’t have allowed him on. But is that right? Should he be denied some the right to ask a question on a completely different matter, a law targeted at him because of a passed offensive comment on another matter?

    And the offensive threat he served time for is a more serious matter and the ABC knew about it. But it was over a decade ago and he had served his time so should be be denied the right to ask a question of those in power for the rest of his life as a result?

    And remember Mallah said nothing offensive on Q&A, he simply responded civilly to an attack by Cibio and was cut off promptly. Because people don’t get an actually get to answer on Q&A, only to ask a question. Free debate it is not.

    • Agree Pertinax. Personally I find the Government and its overheated reaction to this far more offensive than anything Mallah said on the show. They want muzzle the ABC and force it to tow their party line. How sinister.

      • jezza the first original one

        You may find that British tourists in Tunisia would find people like Mallahs’ viewpoints a little more sinister

        • Technically he didn’t state that on the show (but in subsequent interviews). He said the Libs position had justified why more Muslims would go to Syria. Unfortunately the tone in which he made a heated opinion confused everybody into thinking he was advocating it.

          • You’re right David he didnt say it on the show. However to answer Jezza I would say he was not telling people to go join IS or any terror group. He was saying the hard Liberal attitude expressed by Ciobo would give many Muslims a reason to join IS. Ciobo’s comments were inflammatory and angered Mallah. However he did not make comments that promoted joining terrorists.

  11. I still think the ABC should have come out and said, although his comments were out of order, why can’t he have a voice? When I say out of order, I mean his last comments, but if someone said they wanted to throw me out of the country, I probably would have fired back too. Last time I checked, ABC was the national broadcaster. Just because the Government heard something they didn’t like, doesn’t make his point of view invalid. Abbott has everyone in ‘Reds under the bed’ mode = anyone is a terrorist these days. In fact, maybe you should have a look through your blinds, your neighbour is probably doing something dodgy right now, or maybe he/she is too busy downloading Game of Thrones to care. My point is, I think this has been blown out of proportion. And those that say ABC is left biased, it really isn’t. This Government is being called to account just as the last Governments were…

    • Hear hear !
      Totally agree.
      Of course Mallah’s comments were out of order, ridiculous and moronic.
      He just made himself look like an idiot on national television.
      But no matter how stupid and ignorant his opinion is, he still has a right to express it.

  12. daveinprogress

    Very robust and consciousness raising episode. Some interesting reframing on what took place a week ago. The backlash will continue regardless. If the show ignored it, or as they chose to do, focus on it; they would be and will be criticized. One of the most iluminating for me, was Tim Wilson being brought to task over his comment about Muslim representatives; as if one person speaks for all. I hope the Libs/Nats put their big boy/girl pants on and return to the platform. The show is better for the argy bargy.

  13. Paul Kelly for some reason just kept going on about it and saying the same things over and over even when the question had nothing to do with it. Obviously toeing the company line of bashing the ABC wherever possible.

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