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Turn out that damn light

The Abbott government’s hysterical response to a question asked on last Monday’s Q&A is concerning on many levels.

Zaky Mallah, an Australian who spent 2 years in jail for threatening to kill ASIO officials, had a heated exchange with MP Steven Ciobo on proposed laws to strip terrorists of their Australian citizenship after Mr Ciobo said he would be comfortable blocking someone with Mallah’s past from living in Australia.

Mallah fired back that Mr Ciobo’s comments were the reason young Islamic people were prepared to leave Australia and fight for ISIS. He later tweeted: “I would pay to see that Minister dumped on #ISIS territory in Iraq!”

The Prime Minister’s response was predictably to once again take aim at the ABC.

“I think many, many millions of Australians would feel betrayed by our national broadcaster right now, and I think that the ABC does have to have a long, hard look at itself, and to answer a question which I have posed before – whose side are you on?”

Long gone is the idea that we “shine a light on dark places”, that people should be free to express their views and the listener be free to judge them accordingly.

Rather than letting the hatred and anger foment in secret, there is much of value that can be achieved by having this discussion in the public arena.

Mallah travelled to Syria in 2011 and was believed to be involved in non-violent roles in the civil war to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There were accusations that he was an undercover operative of Australia intelligence agencies. (If it’s illegal for me to talk about that, sorry – I read it in the Courier Mail)

This young man seems ideally placed to help us understand how and why our young people are being seduced to join IS. His anger showed how some young Muslims are feeling targeted by their own government and alienated in their own community.

Mallah’s intemperate outburst (no worse than Steve Ciobo’s slit her throat comment about Gillard) was immediately condemned by the Muslim community. It sparked a Twitter war as Muslim groups rushed to distance themselves from the man.

By silencing the debate we are forgoing our chance to make our case – to speak publicly about the horrors of IS, to help address the social problems that have allowed some of our citizens to be wooed by these bloodthirsty extremists who are using our children as cannon fodder, to contribute to the discussion of policy that strips us of our rights.

Abbott described Q&A to the Coalition party room as a “lefty lynch mob”. He is launching inquiries and making threats and is relishing in his G W Bush stance “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

Abbott will not tolerate scrutiny or criticism. He hates Q&A because he cannot control the questions that the Australian public want to ask. It is the only place where those with a social conscience can question our politicians. The right has all the rest of the media – the Murdoch press and talk back radio. The ABC annoyingly persists with fools like Rowan Dean, the insufferable Gerard Henderson, and the never-ending parade of IPA stooges in waiting for their government appointment.

In defence of the repeal of Section 18c of the racial discrimination act, the IPA’s Chris Berg wrote

“the very foundation of our liberal democracy is a right to speak freely on matters of political importance. To defend free speech is to recognise that no ideas are sacrosanct, that all ideas can be challenged. Historically, free expression has been one of the strongest weapons for pluralism. Speech rights are most necessary for the weak, not the powerful. Nobody denies the harm of hate speech. But nor should anybody deny the necessity of protecting free expression for the maintenance of a democratic system and as a basic individual right.”

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, Tony Abbott said “I accept that in the course of having a robust democracy a lot of people will be offended, a lot of people will be insulted.”

The Prime Minister said if any encouragement could be drawn from the recent tragedies in Paris and at Sydney’s Martin Place, it was that “more and more Muslim people seem to be saying ‘look, there is a value in diversity’.

“We do have to adopt the position of live and let live.”

It is increasingly apparent that Abbott means live like I do and don’t question me or you will suffer the consequences.

40 comments

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  1. paul walter

    I though there was nothing intemperate in Mallahs comment and I think sections of the Muslim community have been pitiful in condemning a set of fair comments .

    Another example of how the Rightist thugs are turning the ABC into Die Sturmer.

  2. FreeThinker

    The ABC should not have apologised for seeking to create a forum for open discussion of serious issues in what is our diverse society.

    Indeed the Q & A program for all its limitations now serves as a better informing forum to the wider Australian community, than does the Australian Parliament’s Question Time which has degenerated to a farce under this government. What I saw as a visitor in the gallery a couple of weeks ago was sickening.

    Abbott’s diatribe about which side the ABC is on says much about his dangerous and narrow world view. The ABC should be on the side of better informing the citizenry, not parroting which members of the government say.

    Criticism of the Liberal member Steve Ciobo, a privileged man in Australian society, who was unable to treat the question and the questioner with respect, irrespective of his views, was more than just disappointing. This arrogant young Liberal seems to learned his lessons well at the feet of his ‘mentor ‘ Tony Abbott.

  3. Maureen-D (@FayMaur)

    PM. Do as i do Don’t do as i Say is the Stern reply FAYMAUR

  4. Shirley Hynes

    If anyone came out of this event in disgrace it was the insufferable Steve Ciobo who, rather than taking the statement calmly, reverted to name calling and verbal abuse. As a government MP, he should be better than that!

  5. stephentardrew

    Another day another chink in the wall of democracy.

    They will never give up until they rule by dictate.

  6. mars08

    I’m sure I’ve read about various influential people suggesting that self-aggrandising politicians, media hysteria and heavy handed govt policies are working to alienate young Muslims rather than calm the situation.

    Zaky Mallah was not trying to encourage or radicalise anyone. He was pointing out the foolishness of Ciobo’s statement. If he was clearly and strongly trying to persuade young Australian Muslims to join ISIS… then… at this stage, there must be dozens of laws which leave him open to prosecution. So… arrest and convict him!!!

    BTW… I was far from impressed by the way Waleed Aly carried on during the interview last night. I thought he was smarter than that…

  7. Harquebus

    I agree. Stifling speech for political purposes only sends unwanted comment underground to be whispered in dark places. Only by allowing totally free speech can we be able to speak out against such things.
    The majority who, I believe are the good, will then win.

    On that Charlie Hedbo thing. Does anyone remember the politicians leading the marches after.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/01/12/merkel-cameron-hollande-paris_n_6454940.html

    Here’s the same photo from a different angle.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/paris-march-tv-wide-shots-reveal-a-different-perspective-on-world-leaders-at-largest-demonstration-in-frances-history-9972895.html

    “Terrorism is the best political weapon for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death”. -– Adolph Hitler

    “The state calls its own violence ‘law’ but that of the individual crime.” — Max Stirner

    Avagoodwun.

  8. dwejevans

    George W. Abbott, the Australian President! “whose side are you on?”………Who remembers that other idiot, g.w. bush, “you are either with us or against us”, both struggling against public opinion came up with the war on ‘terra’ when they were failing miserably.

  9. Matthew

    The media have yet again squandered a chance to explore important issues. Two years solitary confinement under a 24 lockdown, that would strain anyones sanity. The fact that we treated him in such a way beggars belief, and two Liberals on the panel had themselves made public comments about killing our then Prime minister. Kicking her to death and as you mentioned slitting her throat, Our PM did indeed receive death threats after the Liberal party cracked the door open, one facebook page devoted an entire evening to how to kill Julia Gillard, many posts on her public facebook page threatened her life in various fashions. Then Ciobo calls the mans acquittal technical, really he could be convicted under the laws of the time and that is a technicality, that statement itself went uncontested as it seems any person escaping punishment from Liberal party laws didnt deserve to get off. The man served his time and is entitled and protected under international law that we are signatories to that a punishment can not be increased, so further punishing him by deporting him is a breach of international law. Abbott once said the people will demand a change to our judicial system that will bring in a partisan judicial system where judges are partisan and elected, his vision for our legal system is frightening to say the least yet that Brain fart from years ago about moving to elected partisan judges is never mentioned. Never. Yesterday on the bat of new legislation Abbott Flagged even further anti terror legislation and it looks certain that anti terror legislation is going to continue to be introduced until our legal system is so weakened that we will indeed get show trials where the government have set the bar so low that conviction will be inevitable. Has anyone you know ever had more than $10 000 on them? that is enough to have you arrested under terror laws. Conditionality was removed from the law in respect to threats which made the comments of Ciobo, Morris and Jones criminal offences yet they not only walk free they excercise freedoms they attack others for having.

  10. guest

    The amazing thing about the Q&A incident is the way Ciobo said that Zaky Mallah’s acquitttal was on a technicality an therefore he felt no compunction in wanting to send Mallah back. Ciobo obviously brooks no criticism.

    This attitude i not uncommon amongst those who support the Abbott regime. Today in The Australian Paul Kelly is complaining about the Pope’s encyclical on Climate Change:

    For Conservative Catholics in Australia such as Tony Abbott and his Catholic backers this document offers only a relentless repudiation of their ethical framework and policies.

    What on earth does Kelly mean? Does he really think that the Coalition’s ‘ethical framework and policies’ are beyond reproach? Are we to believe that business-as-usual is the way to go; that what scientists are telling us about Climate Change is also a repudiation of the Coalition’s ‘ethical framework and ethics’?

    According to Kelly, apparently, those who support the Coalition are right and those who follow the scientists and the Pope on Climate Change are wrong.

  11. Anthony Shorter

    Will someone tell Abbott that the ABC is an independent entity and is not supposed to be a cheer squad for his right wing soul destroying policies.
    And if he wants to identify people leading lynch mobs, Tony Abbott should take a long look in the mirror.

  12. jimhaz

    It is time we all started referring to the LNP as terrorists, because that is precisely what they are – Christian/neocon terrorists.

    The attributes the LNP front bench possess are exactly the same as jihadists (bullying, false propaganda, false promises, excessive control and forced obedience, excessive paranoia, ideological inconsistency, bigotry, a lack of care and empathy, unrestrained anger) – it is just that Islamic terrorism is far more primitive and thus directly violent.

  13. John

    Abbott has form here, there are echoes of his response to One Nation. We had an opportunity to explore and debate racism and xenophobia in the community when Ms Hanson got on her soapbox, but that argument was shut down and Howard then appealed to her constituents for his wedge politics. There was then a campaign to remove her from the political and social debate – led by Abbott with his $94,000 slush fund.
    http://www.kingstribune.com/index.php/component/k2/item/1643-casting-the-first-stone-tony-abbott-and-the-awu
    http://australianpolitics.com/tag/pauline-hanson

  14. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    The scary thinf is that the new Citizenship stripping legisl;ation is retrospective so is Mailah liable?

  15. donwreford

    What is left out of the terrorists debate as in today’s discussion of what terrorism is? we need to remember our Australian history is based on terrorism? it is all very well for Australia to claim the high moral ground after pillaging this country for over two hundred years, not only that after killing many original inhabitants and the destruction of this culture is we are still in debt? I suggest if we admit to wrong doing other than a apology that to describe some as evil as Abbott has suggested is hypocritical.

  16. Morpheus Being

    Isn’t Abbott the bloke who recently stated we love freedom and we live by rule of law? His attack on the ABC smacks of we are all equal but some are more equal than others.

    donwreford: you are correct is questioning the definition of terrorism and what constitutes terrorist activities. IMHO Abbott is a terrorist and is committing treasonous activities against our country – his mob certainly are not defending our freedoms and rights which he keeps using an excuse to impose more and more draconian restrictions on we the people.

  17. Lee

    Since when has Tony Abbott and his bunch of loons been “for us”? He has attacked most of us since he became the Prime Moron. He terrorises us on a regular basis. The ABC doesn’t do anything that impacts my way of life. I don’t have to watch it or suffer any consequences of its actions in any way. The Liberal Party has betrayed me (and most Australians) far more than the ABC ever could.

  18. kerri

    Great article Kaye Lee and So many good comments here!! We can all see the media speech control the terrorists (LNP) are pushing for?
    Why can’t the journos see it and hold them to account? Start by asking Ciobo what his beliefs are regarding freedom of speech? Then slap him across the face with his response to Mallah on Q&A?
    Ask any politician about 1984 and doublethink?
    Does it gall anyone else here the way the terrorists (LNP) keep telling the media what the Australian people want?? Everytime Abbott utters that phrase I want to smash my TV screen! He has no idea what the Australian people want! And the mandate? FFS half of the nation voted against Abbott! He does not have a mandate and probably never will!! We are too gentle and patient in our responses to him. Someone commented on another post asking if parents were consulted before Abbott was put in front of their kids at school. I read it just after I told my 21 yo that I would be mightily offended if She had been forced to suffer his BS! Depending on her age at the time my 21yo would probably have asked him some curly question anyway. She’s way too smart to be fooled by his racist, homophobic, elitist, right wing, fascist, brain dead stupidity!
    When will this nightmare end?? This country is so screwed and the “opposition” or maybe that should read the LNP second chance club, do nothing? Do less than nothing? Agree!!! Support!!! Fail to question!!! Disappoint us.

  19. Kaye Lee

    In breaking news, after a High Court directions hearing this morning into the legality of the Commonwealth funding offshore detention, Abbott is introducing emergency legislation that would stop this hearing before it starts. He wants to ram it through parliament in the next two days.

    And so we continue with the undermining of the judicial system.

  20. diannaart

    Riiiiight, Tony, the ABC has let down the entire nation for allowing free-speech. Then so have SBS who featured Zaky Mallah a few weeks ago and even The Project had the temerity to ask Mr Mallah about Monday night’s Q&A.

    I can’t say I particularly warm to Zaky Mallah, however the response to him from such as Steve Ciobo actually made Mr Mallah’s point for him – the attitude of our leaders towards anyone who dare to dissent is nothing short of vindictive, I have never tolerated rudeness from anyone but ESPECIALLY when they are in positions of power – I just don’t take that sort of B/S any more. However, I am white, blond-haired, blue-eyed bog standard Caucasian (well almost) I can get away with a lot more than anyone whose complexion is a little, what used to be called darker but nowadays referred to as ‘suspect’.

    Whose side am I on, Tony Abbott? – the one that respects the fact that we all have a right to express ourselves freely without being insulted by a puffed up little politician.

    Abbott has entitled all the little Hitlers out there.

  21. Zathras

    It’s becoming more and more obvious that the Thought Police will not tolerate any signs of dissent or discussion beyond the official stance.

    It’s one thing to be secretive about “on water matters” but another to dictate whose voice may be heard publicly.

    Now we are going to experience censorship on the Internet. After they ban torrent and VPN sites, will sites like Wikileaks be next?

    If this sort of information repression was happening in another country we would be outraged.

    What sort of country does “Kim il” Abbott have in mind for us?

  22. stephentardrew

    The ABC apologises for what?

    Nothing to see here.

    I think the ABC has let down the nation by allowing themselves to be bullied into submission.

    These bastards are beginning to scare the hell out of me.

  23. Aortic

    Only beginning to scare the hell out of you? They have been scaring the hell out of me from day 1!

  24. Margot

    Breaking news Abbott says Channel 10 seems to be on everyone’s side but Australia’s
    Zaky Mallah tells angry Waleed Aly he stands by his words
    Date June 24, 2015 – 12:38AM
    Zaky Mallah, who was acquitted of terrorism charges but jailed for threatening to kill Commonwealth officials in 2005, stood by his beliefs on Channel Ten’s The Project in a fierce exchange with the show’s host Waleed Aly.
    http://www.theage.com.au/national/zaky-mallah-tells-angry-waleed-aly-he-stands-by-his-words-20150623-ghvwqu.html

  25. Kaye Lee

    I have just heard that our gormless Opposition leader “Me too” Shorten has agreed to rush through Abbott’s amendment to halt the case about offshore processing.

    These bastards are now above the law. If it looks like they will be held to account they change the law. It’s time for a general strike and let’s start with the slaves that spend hours continually bring them miniscule glasses of water throughout QT. How much would we save if these people took in a bottle of water each? (Petty I know but watching QT makes me that way)

  26. mars08

    If the govt really thinks that Zaky Mallah was prompting young Muslims to join ISIS or engage in terrorism… they should have him arrested and charged…

  27. Kaye Lee

    Mark Scott was given the job by John Howard. He had no experience in broadcasting or as a chief executive.

    Scott, a one-time school teacher, worked in Liberal Party state politics as an education adviser to then NSW Opposition leader Nick Greiner and press secretary to education spokesman Terry Metherell in the 1990’s to whom he was later policy adviser in government.

    At the time, Friends of the ABC spokesperson Glenys Stradijot said she was concerned that, “in the present climate where there is so much political pressure on the ABC from the Government, and the ABC’s board has already been stacked, it is a big step for someone with no public broadcasting experience to move to managing the national broadcaster. He will be on a steep learning curve. He carries a huge responsibility as head of a great cultural institution and one which is meant to be independent of government and commercial influence.”

    Friends of the ABC expected two critical things from the new managing director according to Stradijot:

    ”He should work to secure adequate funding for the ABC, so it is able to meet all of its charter responsibilities and is not marginalized in the emerging new digital media environment, [and] he must maintain the ABC’s independence – from government and commercial influence.”

    Great job Mark – NOT! Just another Liberal stooge. But what would we expect when Abbott appointed conservative commentator Janet Albrechtsen and former deputy Liberal Party leader Neil Brown to the panel overseeing appointments to the boards of the ABC and SBS.

  28. Margot

    10-flag announcement brings government flag count to all-time high

    This graph shows the number of flags in selected prime ministerial announcements, based on AAP photo coverage of press conferences and footage posted to Tony Abbott’s YouTube account. The inclusion of 10 flags at Tuesday’s announcement of legislation to remove citizenship from suspected terrorists brings the flag count to an all-time high. Read more here, or get the data here

    http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2015/jun/24/10-flag-announcement-brings-government-flag-count-to-all-time-high

  29. stephentardrew

    Absolutely Mars08 the courts are the place for trial not the biased opinionated government of fear mongering fools.

  30. Kaye Lee

    mars08, it appears he has been condemning IS rather than recruiting….

    Mallah did travel to Syria in 2012. The “jihad” he was interested in joining was the fight against the tyrannical government of Bashir Al-Assad, and the outfit he joined for a few days – without engaging in any combat, he insists – was the Free Syrian Army. This is the force which the United States is now training and which Australia supports.

    As The Australian’s Adam Shand reported at the time, the former would-be suicide bomber realised “how misguided his anger towards Australian society had been…’Go to Syria where your brothers are dying for freedom, democracy and the true Islamic way, rights guaranteed in this lucky country,’ he says…. ‘We Muslims have so much freedom here (in Australia) yet we are causing so much trouble’.”

    Since then, Mallah has been outspoken in his condemnation of Islamic State. On Channel Ten’s The Project last October he said: “I’m on this program this evening to distance myself from the actions of these individuals, these idiots, these wankers, who are giving Islam and the Muslim world and the Islamic community in Australia a bad name and for those who are considering to join ISIS I hope ASIO is onto you, I hope your passport is refused and I hope you are arrested and locked up.”

    In one of numerous video blogs on YouTube, Mallah calls on Australia’s Salafist imams to join the fight against extremism: “You need to condemn terrorism. You need to condemn fundamentalism. You need to condemn those who are brainwashing our youth into believing that a group like ISIS is fighting for jihad. They are not fighting for jihad. They are fighting for bulls—.”

    http://www.theage.com.au/comment/abc-seems-to-be-cowering-in-silence-over-qa-program-fallout-20150624-ghw8hs.html

  31. John Kelly

    I don’t see the problem either. Ciobo’s comment was inflammatory, Mallah responded in kind.

  32. diannaart

    Ciobo’s comment reinforced the very point Mallah was trying to make.

    We have to endure the vicious bigotry of the likes of Bolt, Jones et al? Mallah appears far more reasonable in comparison – he can learn, he has done time for his mistakes, he can admit when he is wrong.

    The only explanation for Waleed Aly would be Devil’s Advocate + pay check from Channel Ten.

    The more I compare this shit-storm in a thimble to the denigration of people like Gillard, Assange, Burnside, Snowden… the more I am warming to Mallah.

  33. Lee

    Breaking news – the Nine Network has paid Wellness Warrior and health fraud Belle Gibson for an interview on 48 Minutes of Bullshit and 12 Minutes of Commercials. Gibson claimed to have cured herself of a fictitious cancer with a range of quack therapies and then made money out of desperate people seeking her help to do the same. It’s a grave (no pun intended) error of judgement by Nine, yet there’s not a word of criticism from Malcolm Turnbull, nor Health minister Sussan Ley. Then again, considering her comments on vitamin D testing she probably isn’t too concerned about evidence in health care. No word either from Tony Abbott. Whose side is he on? His continued silence will demonstrate he is not on the side of Gibson’s innocent victims, yet health fraud has killed more Australians than terrorists have.

  34. silkworm

    That whole confrontation between Mallah and Ciobo on Q&A feels like a setup. Ciobo would say something insulting to Mallah, and Mallah would say something insulting to Ciobo in return, giving Turnbull and Abbott opportunities to grandstand and launch attacks on the independence of the ABC.

    If I blame Q&A for anything, it’s for having extremists like Ciobo and Morris on the panel.

    Abbott has threatened a government-wide boycott of Q&A. Well, that one threat that I look forward to him carrying out. Then we wouldn’t have creeps like Pyne making their too frequent appearances.

  35. Kaye Lee

    Mallah wasn’t promoting IS. He was guilty of a far greater transgression – criticising the government.

  36. Ned

    interestingly neither Minister nobody in the audience said “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire. Probably because the Minister and Q&A audience would think they supporting a terrorist cause in quoting Voltaire

    The Pure contempt for the rule of law, the Minister showed when he shows contempt for a person who has no restraining order and whom ASIO clearly did not stop him from attending the Q&A audience. It shows the pure contempt the coalition have for free speech and freedom of movement of Citizens who have no ASBO or orders against them. That Minister shows contempt for a free and independent judiciary void of cronyism and political interference of corrupt government while they hold the Magna Carta the foundation of the British common law of Westminster to contempt. This Government are the lawless ones talked about in the bible who like a lion go around and devour innocence. They are a permanent filthy stain on this Commonwealth

  37. paul walter

    Last night, a Tony Jones interview with a Liberal MP who chairs the Terrorism laws committee, Dan Tehan.

    I think Jones shows as another at the ABC thugged by the hard right, but this interview is chilling for the answers to reasonable questions asked by Jones. Wake up, Australia.

    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4261425.htm

  38. Kaye Lee

    As far as polls are concerned, I had an interesting experience last night. Living in a marginal seat I am often polled. Last night it was about pensions. They wanted someone between 55 and 64 who is employed but likely to retire in the next ten years so I fit the demographic. This will take about ten minutes he said. First question after determining I was appropriate age group etc was about internet usage. When I told them I get my news from the internet the guy said “We have filled our quota” and hung up. I guess they don’t want to hear from people who don’t get their news from Alan Jones and Rupert Murdoch.

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