ABC is on Australia’s side

ABC managing director Mark Scott says the organisation is on Australia’s side. He was responding to further criticism by government leader Tony Abbott, following the controversial appearance of Zaky Mallah on an episode of current affairs program Q&A.

Mallah, who was acquitted of some charges and found guilty of others, asked Parliamentary Secretary Steve Ciobo if he thought he should have been stripped of his citizenship following his sentencing. Ciobo’s hardline reaction turned the segment into a slanging match. It ended with Mallah saying it was attitudes like Ciobo’s that were driving Muslims overseas to join the fighting. Abbott said it was a serious error of judgment to allow Mallah on the show and “heads should roll”.

More than anything else, the episode is another demonstration of the LNP coalition government’s intolerance of any criticism or opposing point of view; its apparent hatred of free speech. Government MPs have used the episode to continue their attack on the ABC, which media mogul Rupert Murdoch and so-called think tank, the IPA, want privatised. Abbott has banned his ministers from appearing on Q&A during the period of an inquiry, expected to take about three months.

It’s important to note that Mallah asked to be allowed to put his question to a Q&A panel. His request was considered and approved. He was not sought out and invited to create controversy, as some have suggested.

In a calm and detailed response contrasting with Abbott’s hysteria, Scott explained the status of the ABC and the vital role it played in Australian news and current affairs. Scott’s remarks were made in the annual corporate affairs oration to the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs. I can’t find the address on that body’s website. The above link takes you to an ABC website story, with the text of the address embedded in a scrollable window.

For earlier stories on the on-going anti-ABC saga, see: War on ABC continues in this resource centre.