In his revealing interview with Barrie Cassidy yesterday, Malcolm Turnbull confirmed what Crikey reported on Friday — that the current investigation into Q&A being undertaken by Turnbull’s own bureaucrats is unprecedented and far beyond what Richard Alston did in his attack on the ABC in 2003.

“But you are the first Communications Minister, I think, in the ABC’s history to send government officials into the ABC to investigate what was an editorial judgement,” Cassidy said to Turnbull.

“Well that may be the case,” Turnbull admitted, but then tried to argue “we’re not questioning the editorial judgement”.

In fact, the rather bald terms of reference for the inquiry make clear that it is the ABC’s editorial judgement that is exactly what is being questioned. The investigation to be conducted by Turnbull’s bureaucrats will look at:

• The context in which Zaky Mallah appeared on Q&A, including his previous engagement with the ABC;
• The decision-making process for Mallah’s appearance; and
• The decision-making process for the subsequent re-broadcast of the Q&A episode.

If Turnbull seriously thinks that isn’t investigating the ABC’s editorial judgement, he’s remarkably ignorant for a minister in charge of the ABC and supposedly maintaining its independence. But then, throughout the life of this government, Turnbull has always liked to walk both sides of the street on such matters.

The Minister for Communications likes to leave some room between himself and Tony Abbott, as if he’s in the Abbott government, but not of it. But whatever he might tell himself, this unprecedented attack shows he is completely and utterly a government man.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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