Q&A: ‘Ultimately govt is weak’

It only took half an hour but the discussion on Q&A came back to itself, as the ongoing war between the Government and the ABC rages.

Monday’s episode made several mentions from panelists, host Tony Jones and audience members that Deputy Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce was blocked from being on the show, in the same week he released his signature Agricultural White Paper.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has banned government frontbenchers from appearing on the show until a review over Zaky Mallah’s appearance on June 22 concludes.

• How a war on current affairs split the Coalition
• Barnaby Joyce pulls out of Q&A
• Q&A head formally warned

But Mr Abbott took a hit he probably wasn’t expecting from News Corp foreign affairs editor Greg Sheridan, and he didn’t have any of his team to defend him.


Zaky Mallah’s June 22 appearance has had ongoing consequences for the ABC.

On Monday, George Nott asked a question from the audience: “Is democracy in danger when politicians avoid facing questions from citizens in public forums such as this?”

Mr Sheridan half-joked that the government’s ban was an opportunity for backbenchers to get a promotion, but carried on with a serious note.

“I do think the Government is mistaken not to come on this show,” he said.

“But the Government is now in danger of making the sympathy flow against it, making itself the issue.

“All it needed to do was say ‘you’ve been very naughty the ABC, and we are very disappointed in you’ and let community sentiment express itself and move on.”

Greens Senator Larissa Waters took a similar line.

“He is flogging a dead horse two weeks on, he is now issuing a decree his front benchers aren’t allowed to come on a show,” she said.

Clearly he is wanting to distract from talking about other issues.

“Clearly he is wanting to distract from talking about other issues.

“But I think the Abbott government is attacking the ABC because it doesn’t like the ABC.

“We’ve seen the funding for the ABC generally slashed by this Government.

“We know this government doesn’t like transparency and it likes to silence those who try to criticise it.”

Q&A panelist Trisha Jha. Photo: ABC

Q&A panelist Trisha Jha. Photo: ABC

Centre for Independent Studies policy analyst Trisha Jha, who identifies as a small-l liberal, said “you have to be in it to win it”.

“As someone who is right of centre and likes to put arguments based on right of centre, on liberal ideas, I think you have to be in it to win it,” she said.

“That’s the only way that anything is going to change if the Government wants to actually govern with conservative or with liberal values, then frontbenchers or backbenchers for that matter have to be able to get out and participate basically.”

Finally, Opposition immigration and border protection spokesman Richard Marles said: “It is a mistake on the part of the government.

“Ultimately it is weak. It is weak because all of us in political life will be in some rooms which are hard rooms, some rooms which are easy rooms but if all you do, it is like what Trisha just said, if all you do is choose the room which is easy for you, it ultimately compromises your message.”

Host Tony Jones started the show with an announcement that Mr Joyce couldn’t appear because of Mr Abbott’s ban, but decided two weeks of Q&A talking about itself was too much.

“Let’s stop talking about ourselves,” he said.

But at the end of the show, he made one last mention of the government boycott.

“Next Monday on Q&A, we are expecting the Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull,” he said.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Turnbull will show, or as Mr Marles suggested on Monday’s episode, he will instead be represented as a sock puppet. 

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