On Q&A, Zaky Mallah and the ABC’s backdown

Pat Kirkman writes: Re. “Manning to ABC: harden up and defend free speech” (yesterday). I watched the episode of Q&A when Mallah asked his question. It was a surprise, but an interesting one. Tony Jones handled the situation expertly. I was more surprised when I saw the ABC’s “grovel” to the PM. What is the PM afraid of? Are we all going to be running off to the Middle East? I think not. New Zealand might be a good idea. I am fed up with the bullying and unnecessary hyperbole fed to us by the PM and his cohorts. This occasion is just another idiotic example of the talk coming out of Canberra. Free Speech is a fundamental right, for all. Tony doesn’t seem to get it. We need more Peter Mannings.

David Edmunds writes:Who’s on our side? A potted history of Zaky Mallah’s media appearances” (yesterday). Reading the media pieces about Zaky Mallah in Myriam Robin’s piece, the striking thing is that he appeared to be on our side.  He also seems to have walked away, as Australia has done, when the opposition to Assad morphed into a fully sectarian fight. I thought Australia was, along with Mallah, supporting the freedom fighters who opposed Assad’s regime, until they were reclassified as terrorists. In this he seems to share something with David Hicks, who only appears to have participated in a fight in Kosovo when he was on our side, but whom a coalition government has branded as a terrorist in the absence of any evidence to that effect.  It does seem to be a very thin argument to say that because these are not admirable chaps they should be exiled.

It was apparent in Q&A that Steve Ciobo was briefed about Mallah’s history, and on the basis of that briefing would have had him exiled. That briefing was all he needed, no court or evidence or any of that stuff.  From his response, it was not the threat made to the ASIO officer that was of concern, but his participation in the Syrian conflict. Ciobo’s off the cuff denial of Mallah’s right to citizenship is all the argument that is required against executive judgement of individuals. I do not understand how Mallah’s participation, and that of David Hicks, differs from that of the many young Australians who have served in the Israeli Defence Force, in that in both cases their participation in armed conflict was on our side.

The prime minister is now talking about making participation in such overseas adventures something that can be punished retrospectively, but not of course through any constitutionally valid means, something our Jewish and Balkan community in particular should be extremely worried about. It is also logically idiotic policy. Measures are put in place to ensure that terrorists cannot leave Australia, and other measures are put in place to ensure they cannot enter Australia. I am appalled that this government has apparently no understanding of their responsibility to uphold the basic democratic principle of fair judicial process, any notion of open debate, and equally appalled that the ABC would submit so meekly to the bluster and bombast that accompanies any nuanced discussion in our country that reflects on the narrow jingoist political agenda of Abbott.

Ben Marshall writes: Zaky Mallah has been vilified, insulted and patronised almost universally.  The impressively prompt and utterly confected outrage and moral panic by the Murdoch/Coalition/shock-jock Axis of Mouth-Breathing Mediocrity was to be expected, but, in a breath-taking failure of professionalism on The Project, Waleed Aly, also succumbed to a strange urge to demonise a polite young man with opinions that are far from unreasonable.

Aly, who appeared to be in a manic rush to ambush and patronise Mallah, resolutely refused to address Mallah’s reasoned and reasonable opinions. “Reasonable”?  Well, yes. Crikey has itself, on many occasions, pointed out the corruption of democracy when a federal minister legislates to replace the Rule of Law with ministerial authority, sans scrutiny or accountability. Crikey has also, at commendable length, made the point that Coalition/Labor military incursions in Afghanistan, the Middle East and elsewhere, and the demonisation of Muslims for political brownie points here, have aided the radicalisation of increasingly disaffected Muslims.

Aly should review the tapes of his ambush on Mallah, man up and apologise. Crikey should also refrain from making casual insults aimed at a soft target like Mallah — he may have once been a “loudmouth” but is now presenting his honest opinions as best he can. Likewise, remember to tackle the ball not the man.

Abbott’s sinking ship

Dean Ellis writes: Re. “Rundle: Captain Tony’s pleasure cruise is taking on water, and fast” (Tuesday). Comrade Rundle wrote: “Tearing up the banisters and burning the poop deck, they surely cannot last the full three years and retain any sort of shipshape.” This suggests a reason why we now see Australian Electoral Commission advertisements for electorate officers for the next federal election. An early election on the back of fear and loathing at the ballot box?

Terrorism hype and rule of law

Peter Matters writes: Re. “Citizenship bill continues 14-year tradition of terror hype” (yesterday). Abbott, the law is no longer the backbone of civilisation. It has now become amongst other things the last — and usually counter productive — resort of ignorant people in power totally bereft of any perception of what makes human beings tick. Ordinary youngsters successfully persuaded by mass hypnosis into mentally and emotionally sick hate and kill obsessions are no more the deadly enemy of the people than the boy in South Carolina who killed nine people in church.

It is up to us, the community, to firstly prevent them being infected, secondly being cured by inspired guidance and thirdly, to cure the general conditions which caused the youngsters to become unhinged in the first place. Such government policies would be incomparably superior and incomparably cheaper to the taxpayer. If you had achieved upholding first as opposition leader and then as prime minister the basic principles of democracy instead of a caricature of these principles, it might have helped. Going to church on Sundays and breaking the basic Christian principles for the rest of the week, did not.

James Morrison writes: Given that Tony Abbott’s government has paid people smugglers, an act which Abbott once described as giving money to terrorists, and that his new citizenship laws include financing a terrorist organisation as a terrorist act, why can’t we have UK-born Abbott stripped of his citizenship and deported?

Consequences for big business

Roy Ramage writes: Re. “Private equity, big losers” (yesterday). The billions of dollars lost on these decisions is further evidence, as if any were needed, of the money lavished on CEOs in order to get the “best.” So much for best practice.

On media trust

David Hilvert writes: Re. “Trust in the media down across the board” (Tuesday). Great survey, but it would be much better if it could split newspapers either by Fairfax and News Corp or even better on a newspaper by newspaper basis. While it makes sense to group commercial TV together because the three networks are more or less the same in their style of coverage, but Fairfax v News is obviously very different. The most interesting point of this would be to see whether the News Corp papers have suffered in their trust stakes as a result of their extreme partisan approach adopted about five years ago, and if so, one could almost conclude that the objects at News Corp are “influence” as opposed to “profit” given the added info you’ve already uncovered about those papers being unprofitable.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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