By John Kelly
When one analyses the furore over Zaky Mallah’s appearance on Q&A two weeks ago it isn’t hard to see what the government is trying to do.In an interview with Malcolm Turnbull on Insiders last Sunday, Barry Cassidy attempted to force the issue. It is not often Malcolm is accused of bluster, but he was clearly caught between bluster and righteous indignation as he attempted to answer Cassidy’s question.
In a reference to security at the ABC, Cassidy asked Turnbull to explain the difference between, on the one hand, Mallah appearing on Q&A and on the other, Mallah wandering through a shopping mall. In other words, why, if he is so dangerous, is he allowed to walk the streets? Turnbull’s response was unconvincing.
He said, “Well, if you can’t see that, Barrie, I’m sorry. I mean, seriously, you’ve lost the plot there, with all due respect.” Turnbull then went on to lose the plot himself. “This is a high profile audience. It’s a very high profile target. This is a fellow that has threatened violence in the past, has been impris- threatened to kill people, gone to jail for it, been involved in, you know, buying ammunition…”
Colour me red for asking, but is Malcolm Turnbull suggesting here that the Q&A panel and audience were more important than those who frequent shopping centres?
Following that exchange, Turnbull went on to make an extraordinary statement. He said of the ABC, “It is independent of government, but it has a higher duty, it has a duty of objectivity that the rest of the media does not. They can be as opinionated as they like. And so, the ABC gets over a billion dollars a year from the taxpayer and it’s got a very heavy obligation to deliver that accurate and impartial coverage and do it with the dignity and responsibility that befits our national broadcaster.”
So the non-ABC media doesn’t have to be objective but the ABC does. The question therefore arises: If the ABC is not already the closest thing we have to accurate and impartial reporting, what is?
Could it be that the rest of the media (or a substantial component of it), has become so partial, so absent of any objectivity, that we have lost our sense of what real objectivity is?
Have we been so conditioned to such extreme right wing views, coming from the Murdoch press that when reasonable levels of objectivity, reasonable levels of accuracy and impartiality such as what is practiced at the ABC, are being misinterpreted as left wing bias?
It seems that while it was not okay to have Mallah on Q&A, it was okay for him to be wandering around a shopping mall and also for the rest of the media to publish articles about him wherever and whenever they chose. Because they certainly have been doing that.
Furthermore, the use, by the prime minister, of the word ‘betrayal’ in reference to the ABC and ‘whose side are you on’ can only be interpreted as a thinly veiled attempt to splinter support for the national broadcaster and confuse the minds of voters as to where the ABC’s loyalties lie.
If a significant section of the community prefers the ABC rather than the Murdoch of Fairfax press, isn’t that democracy in action? Doesn’t that uphold the democratic principle of freedom of choice? So what is the problem here?
The problem, as I see it, is that this government practices a form of selective democracy, one that suits their ideology, one that espouses their values to the exclusion of any others.
And so, when a media outlet does not suit their ideology and they, by virtue of controlling its funding, feel short changed, it becomes a ‘lefty lynch mob’.
When the ABC does not toe the government’s line, the government is not happy. It is intolerant of criticism and cries foul when a publicly funded media outlet calls its actions and motives into question. But isn’t it the responsibility of the media to bring that to our attention?
If the government thinks that THEY are paying for the ABC and they therefore should be better treated, they are in need of a reality check. No, they are not paying for it.
The people pay for it, just like they pay for the Murdoch and Fairfax media. The people pay for EVERYTHING. Without the people, there would be no Murdoch or Fairfax media. There would be no ABC. Isn’t that a fairer and more impartial way of treating the national broadcaster?
“It’s coming after us”, is the message the prime minister has about ISIS, and this is this sort of extreme rhetoric that is directed squarely at those who might be sufficiently frightened by such rubbish, to change their vote. At least that’s what Tony Abbott is hoping.
Only it’s not working and because it’s not working the government, who are desperately looking for a window of opportunity to call a snap election, are becoming increasingly frustrated.
Their reaction to the Q&A program is a sign they are beginning to panic.