2UE Sydney Interview With Bill Woods

Release Date: 
29 June 2015
Transcript

Topics: Q&A Program E&OE…

BILL WOODS:
I'm assuming, Mr Tudge thanks for your time, that you think it's just a bit inappropriate at the moment for you to appear given the controversy. Is that right?

ALAN TUDGE:
That's exactly right Bill. Last week, as you know, the ABC gave a platform to a man who is a criminal, who's a terrorist sympathiser, and who's advocated sexual violence towards women. It was an appalling decision on behalf of the ABC.

The government has instigated a formal review into that decision and I've decided that it is just not appropriate for me to participate on a panel whilst that review is underway.

BILL WOODS:
When did you accept initially? You were invited a little while ago, weren't you?

ALAN TUDGE:
Probably two weeks ago when I accepted to be on tonight.

BILL WOODS:
And you left it till today to make that decision. Why did it take so long?

ALAN TUDGE:
That's right. I've been thinking about it all week since last Monday's episode. We'd only decided to instigate a review on Thursday. The managing director of the ABC then made a speech on Thursday night which, in essence, was justifying the man being on the program.

Then over the last couple of days I made my decision and yesterday I rang the producer and explained that I won't be on the program and explained the reasons why.

BILL WOODS:
Did you discuss this with the Prime Minister?

ALAN TUDGE:
No I didn't.

BILL WOODS:
The Department of Communications is reviewing Q&A's behaviour, for want of a better term, and that report is due tomorrow I think. What powers do they have? What can come out of this?

ALAN TUDGE:
What the review will do is ask the questions of how this decision was made; who knew what about this particular man; when did they know; what was the decision making process?

It will no doubt then make some recommendations. We can provide those recommendations to the ABC but we actually have very little power over them. They are an independent statutory authority.

They are quite rightly independent of government, but just because they are independent doesn't mean they shouldn't be accountable. That's what we're seeking. We're seeking accountability on behalf of the managing director of the ABC to own up to this decision, to put in place processes so that people like Zaky Mallah can never be given a taxpayer funded platform again.

BILL WOODS:
As you've probably seen in the making of that decision in the last seven days or so, the usual outrage has come from both sides. We've got all the lefties and bleeding hearts screaming that you guys are a bunch of fascists and that Zaky Mallah deserved to be on TV and say what he said.

Then of course we've got all the right wingers on the other side accusing the ABC of all sorts of horrible things.

ALAN TUDGE:
Bill can I just say that I find this extraordinary. This Zaky Mallah guy, putting aside the terrorism charges and maybe we can discuss that in a minute, but this guy had actually publicly called for two prominent female journalists to effectively be gang raped. That's what he was doing.

This individual should not be getting a platform anywhere for such absolutely outrageous propositions. Then you can go to his criminal charges if you like. He's a man who has been found guilty of threatening to murder ASIO officials.

When the police went to his home, they found a rife, 100 rounds of ammunition, and they found alongside that a manual which was called 'How I can prepare myself for Jihad'. This is the individual we're talking about.

I don't think this individual should ever be getting a platform on the taxpayer funded premier program on QandA with a million people watching. He just should not. He is the last person almost in Australia you'd want to give that platform to.

It's been said, in opposition to that of course, that there are free speech issues here. There's also the comparison of Zaky Mallah to other criminals. Should not a person who's served their time and been a convicted criminal had the right as any other Australian would to appear on a program like this?

ALAN TUDGE:
This individual has served his time, absolutely, for two years for threatening to murder an ASIO official. But he constantly and consistently puts out hate on his twitter feed. I mentioned the comments he made in relation to women.

He's just not a pleasant individual and at the same time, you go back and look at the Federal Court judgement when he convicted Zaky Mallah for two years. The Federal Court judge himself said that we should not be giving a media platform to individuals like this because it is exactly what they seek. If you provide a media platform it just encourages them to make even more outrageous behaviour.

BILL WOODS:
The difficulty we face here though, and you do as part of the government, is that on a number of fronts are needing to create restrictions and in a sense quarantine this threat. But that in itself impinges on other generally accepted rights that the average Australian holds.

It's a very difficult situation to come to grips with. I suppose you can understand this debate swinging back and forth.

ALAN TUDGE:
Bill, I can understand that we should be having a vigorous debate about our security laws, about our citizenship laws. It is perfectly valid to have vigorous debate about these things but if you're going to have such debate why wouldn't the ABC put up a credible individual in order to make the case say against our proposed citizenship laws.

That's perfectly legitimate. We have no problem with that. Why would you though put up one of the least credible people in Australia to make that case? That's our question.

BILL WOODS:
Well because the two points that Zaky Mallah made, one of which was if you crack down too much on the Muslim community in general or people who appear to be disaffected in that community, that you can in fact encourage more discontent and incite more of that behaviour. It's a difficult balance to get. That was one point.

The accusation made against Mr Ciobo, the Minister, was pretty crazy, you know 'why don't you get out', but he wasn't even a dual citizen so the question didn't really apply to Zaky Mallah anyway.

ALAN TUDGE:
That's exactly right. My point again is that if you want to put that case up, get a credible person to mount that argument – that's absolutely fine – but Zaky Mallah is not only not a credible person, but he's a very nasty individual.

I've gone through his track record and we should never be giving a platform to an individual like that.

Is there a risk of the government being seen to be an enemy of the ABC and QandA in particular. Could that in a way be damaging to the government's reputation? There are plenty of people out there who are saying it.

ALAN TUDGE:
Our objective is just that we want the managing director to be accountability and take responsibility for the decisions which were made. We find it extraordinary that on the Tuesday after the Monday night episode, they issued a statement of regret for letting Zaky Mallah be on the program, but then the very next day they repeated the episode of the program, they kept the program on the online platform and then Mark Scott the managing director went out and gave a justification for Zaky Mallah being on the program.

All we're seeking is that he takes responsibility for the very poor decision which he has made.

BILL WOODS:
One could argue too that Zaky Mallah is very active in social media and a lot of other people who are active in social media are saying that's the voice of the people, everyone can access it so he has a platform. By giving Zaky Mallah a platform on the public broadcaster it could be seen as some way sanctioning that view.

ALAN TUDGE:
I think that's exactly right. Of course it is. He was given a live platform. We had no idea what he was going to get up and say and indeed in the end, he did almost encourage or say there was a justification for Muslim's to be going overseas and fighting with ISIS. He came perilously close to incitement for people to go and do that.

That's not the type of thing we want on the ABC – that is absolutely not. Out of all the people in the world the ABC could have had on their program to give a voice to, this Zaky Mallah individual would be one of the absolutely last people.

BILL WOODS:
But you also as a government must address the point that just because a Muslim has a certain point of view doesn't make it any more dangerous than say some left wing radical academic who also happens to oppose Australia's involvement in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in anything to do with the middle east.

Suggestions that we're all part of an oil-hungry western imperialist bloc and that any association with the United States is terrible, there are plenty of Anglo-Saxon Christians saying that sort of thing as well which makes it hard for the average Muslim to actually express their opinions sometimes.

ALAN TUDGE:
There are many very sensible Muslim voices out there who could well have been invited on to the program to ask a question who would be able to put that point of view across. There are a great many who could have done that.

There are academics who hold that view who may be Muslim or otherwise who could have been able to put that view across.

Why would you ask a person with the background that I have described, who has been charged and has been convicted of two years imprisonment, who is a terrorist sympathiser, who has such appalling attitudes toward women, why would you give him that platform?

That's the question which Mark Scott the managing director has to answer.

BILL WOODS:
Fair enough. On that subject, any idea when you'll go back on QandA? We'll find out tomorrow what the verdict is, but when are they out of the banned zone?

ALAN TUDGE:
My position is that I decided that I would not participate tonight while the government's review is underway. Let's see what the review says. Let's see what actions the ABC takes.

BILL WOODS:
Alan Tudge, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks so much Bill.

[ENDS]