I’m assuming many of us have now seen the Prime Minister’s turn on Q&A this week – a turn in which, and I’m not generally a huge fan, she acquitted herself fairly well, I thought.

One aspect is now being beaten to within an inch of its life, though – the fact that the ABC had approached Assange and got him to record a video question for the PM.

There is much outrage out there… in The Australian. And from people who are far from Julia Gillard’s greatest supporters. Dennis Shanahan declared that the set-up was “a disgrace” and “a travesty of politics and news reporting”. Liberal Senator George Brandis called it “absurd”.

You can watch it for yourself and form your own view – but is it really so outrageous to put a question from an individual the PM has personally criticised in the past (and, as it happens, had just criticised moments before his question was put to her)? Was it outrageous for David Hicks to have an opportunity to ask John Howard about the way he’d been treated?

I certainly think Assange could’ve asked a better question – but then I also think someone should’ve called the Prime Minister on her mystifying distinction between Watergate and Wikileaks (why is whistleblowing on a political conspiracy important, but whistleblowing on shooting civilians not? There’s a reason Daniel Ellsberg is a big supporter of Bradley Manning). If I’d been Assange, I would’ve asked the Prime Minister why she thinks the Collateral Murder video should’ve been covered up, and if not how she thinks that would’ve been released without Wikileaks.

But having a man accused by the Prime Minister appear to ask her a question doesn’t seem to me to be so much a “gotcha” as an entirely reasonable opportunity for such a citizen to face his accuser. There are many things wrong with Q&A – the panel selection, for starters – and the ABC in general (see Dave’s most recent post), but I’m not convinced that this is one of them.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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