ABC RN Drive Interview with Jonathan Green

Release Date: 
29 June 2015
Transcript

Topics: Q&A Program E&OE…

JONATHAN GREEN:
And not on the panel tonight, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Alan Tudge. Alan Tudge welcome.

ALAN TUDGE:
G'day Jonathan.

JONATHAN GREEN:
I didn't want to confuse you with the theme. You might've thought it was entrapment! You were invited on tonight's Q&A program before the Zaky Mallah controversy but you withdrew last night. Why was that?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well last week the ABC gave a platform for a man who is a criminal, a terrorist- or I should say terrorist sympathiser, and who has advocated violence against women. It was an appalling decision, and the Government has a formal review into it and I've decided that it would not be appropriate for me as a Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister to participate while that review is underway.

JONATHAN GREEN:
Appropriate because of the existence of the review or because of the character of that gentleman last week?

ALAN TUDGE:
A bit of both. Because of the existence of the review, because of the decision that was made and me not wanting to give any indication to any viewers that we don't take the decision made by Q&A last Monday incredibly seriously.

JONATHAN GREEN:
Couldn't you make that clear indication on the program?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well that's one of the arguments that you're one of six panel members and there's probably ten topics which will be discussed tonight.

Now I'll be making my case to you here on the ABC but there is a formal review into the decision and I just didn't think it was appropriate why that review was underway for me to be a participant on the Q&A panel.

JONATHAN GREEN:
Queensland Government MP, Ewen Jones says that boycotting Q&A- in his words- smacks of petulance. It's counter-productive.

ALAN TUDGE:
Wouldn't say it's an overall boycott of Q&A. It's just a decision which I have made while this review is underway.

Jonathan, the decision that the ABC made, or Q&A made last Monday, I think was an absolutely appalling decision.

This man, Zaky Mallah, as you know he publicly advocated that two prominent women be pack raped. That's what he did. Now as far as I'm concerned, that alone excuses him from being on the ABC

On top of that he's a convicted criminal and he's a terrorist sympathiser.

JONATHAN GREEN:
Well convicted criminals, if we drew that line, Derryn Hinch wouldn't have a show.

ALAN TUDGE:
As I said, do you want me to go through Zaky Mallah's bio? I can. You've invited me to do so let's go through.

JONATHAN GREEN:
Sure.

ALAN TUDGE:
He was convicted of threatening to kill ASIO officers. When the police went to his house, they found a rifle, they found 100 rounds of ammunition, and they found a manual sitting beside that called how I can prepare myself for jihad.

This is a person who says when he wants to kill people, we need to take at his word.

JONATHAN GREEN:
That 19 year old who did those things ten years ago, now takes the position that anybody who joins IS in his words is a wanker- that there is no place for any Muslim going to Syria. He thinks that behaviour is abhorrent. That's his contemporary message.

ALAN TUDGE:
You know his views today. You can look at his Twitter feed. I know...

JONATHAN GREEN:
Those are his views today, that he abhors terrorism.

ALAN TUDGE:
Well have a look at his Twitter feed in terms of what it says. Some of the atrocious things which he continues to say.

You've written Jonathan I know on the Drum website that he is a reformed man. I guess my question to you is, on what basis can you say this individual is a reformed man? What confidence do you have that he is a reformed man?

JONATHAN GREEN:
That goes to our entire process of law and rehabilitation and people are found guilty and they do their time. We hold he view don't we? That's the end of the matter, that they are entitled to he presumption of good behaviour here on in.

ALAN TUDGE:
You're absolutely confident given his track record that he no longer has any sympathy for Muslim extremists? That he no longer has any particular views? You're satisfied with that? Bear in mind that on the Q&A episode itself, he got up and provided some justification for Australian Muslims to go abroad to Syria. That's what he got up and said and came relatively close to inciting people...

JONATHAN GREEN:
It was close, but in fairness what he said was that sort of rhetoric is the sort of thing which inflames people's view which could encourage people to take that position. He was attacking the tone of the conversation I think.

ALAN TUDGE:
The question though Jonathan is out of all the people in the world that the Q&A people could have on its program to invite to ask a question, why would you give it to this individual? Given his track record, given his sympathies for extremism, given the fact that he has publicly called for women to be pack raped and they give the microphone free, unfettered, live, with the million people listening to this individual. I think this was an absolutely outrageous decision, an appalling judgement. The ABC admitted the next day that it was an appalling judgement.

JONATHAN GREEN:
Do you want to see heads roll?

ALAN TUDGE:
I want to see the ABC take responsibility for the decision and be accountable for the decision.

JONATHAN GREEN:
What does that mean?

ALAN TUDGE:
This is my concern. On the one hand there was an expression of regret in relation to the decision on Tuesday morning....

JONATHAN GREEN:
And an internal investigation.

ALAN TUDGE:
...straight after the episode. But the episode was repeated, it's still up online, and then the Managing Director of the ABC on Thursday night provides a partial justification for Zaky Mallah being on the program.

JONATHAN GREEN:
What would you want to see from here though?

ALAN TUDGE:
I'd want to see him take responsibility and accountability for what happened and to ensure that someone like Zaky Mallah is not on the program again.

JONATHAN GREEN:
If he says that he doesn't have a case to answer. If he says there's been an internal inquiry, I don't want heads to roll and we've changed our processes, why shouldn't that be enough?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well then why did the ABC put out a statement of regret on Tuesday morning?

JONATHAN GREEN:
(Inaudible) and they investigated it.

ALAN TUDGE:
This is the thing. On Tuesday morning they regretted it, but then they repeated the program, and then the Managing Director provides a partial justification for it.

JONATHAN GREEN:
Does that merit an almost unprecedented government inquiry into the public broadcaster?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well the inquiry is to providing the facts, to determine what the facts were. Who knew what, when? How did this individual get to have a microphone live on Q&A...

JONATHAN GREEN:
But that's a government inquiry into a specific editorial decision of a broadcaster. Isn't that interference?

ALAN TUDGE:
No it's not interference. We have no power to interfere as you know Jonathan. The ABC is at arms length from the government, it's a statutory authority. We actually have very limited power...

JONATHAN GREEN:
So you'll have the inquiry and you'll have no power whatsoever to make any change subsequent to that.

ALAN TUDGE:
Well we'll have the inquiry, the ABC has said it will participate and has agreed to do so in the inquiry to establish the facts.

That inquiry may make some recommendations which will then be put to the ABC board and the ABC Managing Director. Ultimately it's them as to what they do with those recommendations.

But our view is of course the ABC is independent, of course they are. They rightly have independence over their editorial decisions- rightly so…

JONATHAN GREEN:
But why not have faith in…

ALAN TUDGE:
But Jonathan, being independent does not mean not being accountable, and that's the key thing.

JONATHAN GREEN:
Certainly accountable, but being independent also means being able to run an internal inquiry independently internally and not have one foisted on you, and one as you admit has no capacity to impose its solutions.

ALAN TUDGE:
No but it still has a capacity to understand the facts. As Minister Turnbull has pointed out that he at the end of the day has to front up to an Expenditure Review Committee, has to front up to Parliament and answer questions on behalf of the ABC. So he needs to understand what the facts were which led to Zaky Mallah getting a platform.

JONATHAN GREEN:
Has this got a little bit out of hand in some of the other media reaction? We had tabloids running IS flags with ABC symbols on them last week, we've had threats to the ABC, we've had protests involving pigs on spits. Is this getting a bit off the rails?

ALAN TUDGE:
I'm not going to provide a commentary on some of the other media organisations and what they are doing. The ABC is a publicly funded national broadcaster. It has statutory obligations to be fair, to be impartial, to be unbiased. It is held in very high regard the ABC, and it is held to very high standards. But on this occasion it made an absolute fundamental error.

It's interesting when you look back actually at the Supreme Court judgement when he was convicting Zaky Mallah to two years imprisonment for threatening to kill an ASIO officer, he actually made the point then, he said that individuals like Zaky Mallah should not be given a media platform because they seek out the media and by giving them the platform it encourages them to more outrageous behaviour. That's what the Supreme Court judgement said.

And as you know Jonathan, there's extremists around the world that deliberately use the media to get their message across. That's why they often take a video of the atrocious things they do abroad and then tweet it out to get that message across.

JONATHAN GREEN:
Alan Tudge thanks so much for your time.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks so much Jonathan.