Q&A ban like ‘Soviet Russia’

It is unclear whether Turnbull will appear next week. Photo: AAP

It is unclear whether Turnbull will appear next week. Photo: AAP

Labor wants Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to defy a prime ministerial edict not to appear on Q&A, likening it to something out of Soviet Russia.

“This is not Soviet Russia or even modern-day Korea, this is Australia,” opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

Mr Joyce was scheduled to appear on the ABC panel program on Monday night but pulled out late on Sunday.

Barnaby Joyce pulls out of Q&A
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His spokesman said Prime Minister Tony Abbott didn’t want any frontbencher to appear on the show after its decision to allow convicted criminal Zacky Mallah to quiz a parliamentary secretary.

Mr Abbott’s office on Monday said that given the ABC was undertaking an inquiry into Q&A, it wasn’t appropriate for Mr Joyce to appear.

Mr Fitzgibbon said that was ridiculous.

“The Zaky Mallah incident is behind us. This is not about Zaky Mallah,” he said.

It is unclear whether Turnbull will appear next week. Photo: AAP

It is unclear whether Turnbull will appear next week. Photo: AAP

“This is about the prime minister and his mind games, his mind manipulation and his determination to shut down any debate which he doesn’t believe is in the interest of him.”

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is scheduled to appear on Q&A next week but is yet to confirm that commitment after Mr Abbott’s edict.

Mr Fitzgibbon said he’d like to have a bet on the minister still appearing.

“I would be amazed if Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t do what Barnaby Joyce should do today and give the prime minister the single finger and get on with it,” he said.

Meanwhile, a poll of three Liberal electorates shows only about a third of voters support the government’s decision to cut ABC funding.

The ReachTEL poll, done for the Australia Institute in April, found that more than half of those in the seats held by ministers Joe Hockey, Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne opposed the cuts.

“If the Liberal cabinet is intent on waging a war on the ABC, whether it’s through funding cuts or political interference, they’re likely to pay an electoral price,” institute chief economist Richard Denniss said in a statement.

Cabinet minister Scott Morrison says he has no plans to appear on Q&A and hasn’t done so since the coalition came to government in 2013.

He denied the prime minister had told all frontbenchers they weren’t to appear on the show.

“Frankly, there are far more important things happening in Australia today,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Melbourne, citing Monday’s meeting about recognising indigenous people in the constitution.

Labor MP Brendan O’Connor told reporters in Darwin on Monday that Mr Abbott’s decision to stop frontbenchers appearing on Q&A was bad for democracy.

“The fact that the ABC is our public broadcaster …. It is really against the grain of the democracy in which we live,” he said.

“If I was Barnaby Joyce I’d be very embarrassed right now that I’ve been gagged by the prime minister.”

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