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  • News, Telecommunications - Written by on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 13:00 - 111 Comments

    ABC actively censors NBN issue on Q&A


    news The ABC’s flagship panel discussion program Q&A last night appeared to actively censor the National Broadband Network issue from being discussed on an episode featuring Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull; ignoring a flood of questions from viewers prior to its filming, leaving the issue out of pre-show briefing documents and shutting down discussion on air.

    Q&A is a talkshow-style program which airs on the national broadcaster on most Monday nights. It is typically hosted by high-profile ABC journalist Tony Jones and features five guests, running for an hour. The show has achieved popularity, as similar shows such as the BBC’s Question Time have done in other jurisdictions, courtesy of the level of direct audience interaction. Typically the show’s host takes live questions from the studio audience, as well as questions submitted before the show via the Internet, and displays a live Twitter feed of comments from those viewing the show live.

    However, the show has gradually attracted criticism since it was launched in mid-2008 for what some have seen as its preference for repeatedly inviting certain politicians from the two major sides of Australian politics — Labor and the Coalition, while giving lesser preference to commentators from non-political or media professional backgrounds, or from smaller political or advocacy organisations. Liberal MPs Christopher Pyne and Malcolm Turnbull, as well as Labor figures Tanya Plibersek and Bill Shorten, have particularly been noted as repeat guests who represent entrenched political positions.

    Last night’s episode (available in full online) spurred a higher degree of normal interest from Australia’s technology community ahead of its on air date, due to the participation of both Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull as well as controversial commentator, playwright and novelist Van Badham (pictured above).

    The two figures could be said to be on opposite sides of Australia’s ongoing broadband policy debate. As Communications Minister, Turnbull is engaged in dramatically reshaping Labor’s National Broadband Network project, in a move which will deliver most Australians technically inferior broadband connections to the universal fibre option they were promised under the previous Labor Government.

    In recent months Van Badham has emerged as a critic of the changes, linking them in an article for The Guardian in mid-February to the continued dominance of Foxtel over Australia’s paid television market. Foxtel is a joint venture between Telstra and News Corp Australia. Many newspapers owned by News Corp, especially the Daily Telegraph and The Australian, campaigned strongly for the Coalition during last year’s Federal Election.

    Analysis of the questions submitted to the show before the episode went to air and published online on the ABC’s site showed that as a consequence of the two panellists’ participation, Q&A was inundated with at least many dozens of questions regarding the NBN as a topic, in both text and video form. It is unclear how many NBN-related questions in total were submitted, but it is clear that the issue was one of the most popular ones one in the pre-show questions submitted, with a list of the most recent 200 questions submitted up until yesterday midday showing some 48 mentions of the term “NBN”. A number of video questions were also submitted discussing the NBN.

    The majority of the NBN questions heavily criticised Turnbull for the Coalition’s radical overhaul of the project.

    “Malcolm Turnbull. You have given the go-ahead to a mixed NBN rollout without waiting for the Vertigan cost/benefit analysis, after your harsh criticism of Labor over this,” wrote one Q&A viewer. “Why build a significantly inferior broadband network, described as a dog’s breakfast, which fails to separate Telstra, and which [NBN Co chairman Ziggy Switkowski] has admitted may need upgrading in as little as 5 years, when it is unlikely to be significantly cheaper in the long term. How can you possibly equate this with Australia’s national interest?”

    “Mr Turnbull, how do you and your party live with yourselves, considering the fact that you have effectively destroyed what would have been the best telecommunications network in the world?” wrote another. “ABC, I dare you to air this. We need accountability from this government.”

    However, the show did not choose to air any of the NBN questions, instead choosing to focus on the Federal Budget, taxation issues, ABC funding, media ownership, free speech rights and the Joint Strike Fighter program. Turnbull repeatedly stated during the program that he found it difficult to comment on many of the issues, as he was not the relevant Cabinet Minister.

    In addition, pre-show briefing materials distributed to panellists and attendees before last night’s episode of Q&A also contained no mention of the NBN. One brief communication on Monday focused only on a small number of issues such as taxation, online abuse on social media sites and criticism by technology giant Google of surveillance practices.

    “Van Badham publishes commentary on Twitter that many would find offensive and attracts numerous nasty trolls,” the email from Q&A’s producers wrote. “Is cyber-assault the new frontier of abuse of women or is it a case of playing with fire?”

    A more extensive briefing went into a great deal of detail on a number of other issues, including the budget, free speech rights, media industry change and regulation, the influence of News Ltd proprietor Rupert Murdoch, climate change, the recent tour by British royalty of Australia and even Malcolm Turnbull’s history as a lawyer defending a former MI5 agent in the 1980’s Spycatcher case.

    Other panelists last night included Labor Senator Doug Cameron and British journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil. “One of the biggest issues in Britain today,” the briefing noted, “is the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum, due to be held in September. If the pro-independence forces are successful, the ramifications for Scotland and the rest of Great Britain will be enormous. Both Doug Cameron and Andrew Neil are proud of their Scots heritage. Do they think an independent Scotland can prosper? And how will the rest of what we currently call the United Kingdom fare?”

    However, this lengthy and detailed briefing also appeared not to contain any mention of the NBN.

    On the show itself last night, host Tony Jones explicitly shut down several discussions of the NBN which Van Badham attempted to initiate with Turnbull. During a discussion relating to taxation and the Howard administration’s history of financial management, Van Badham said:

    “I seem to remember the privatisation of Telstra, and the sale of rather a lot of government assets, so let’s not talk about ‘we were totally in the black’. We sold off major pieces of infrastructure, that this country needs to be prosperous in the future, which is a wonderful way of perhaps talking about the NBN; and one of the problems we’re having with the NBN is since the privatisation of Telstra — used to fill up the government coffers — that we are behind on maintenance, that we are behind the technology required …”

    Host Tony Jones responded: “You know what, I’m going to pause you on the NBN, because we’ll come back to that subject later.” However, Jones did not return to the subject.

    During a later discussion about the Federal Government’s recent $24 billion purchase of 58 Joint Strike Fighters to bolster Australia’s military assets, Turnbull responded to criticism about the purchase by stating that the JSF fighters were “the latest” and “the best” in that category of fighter jet that Australia could buy.

    Van Badham responded: “Again it’s interesting, and I have to bring it up again … we need the latest and the best with these joint strike fighters and that’s why we’re spending $12 billion on them and another $12 billion in maintenance. And how great would it be if we had the latest and the best technology in terms of the NBN? Can we please start realising that politics and spending, it’s all a choice. The choice of the Coalition is to have the latest and the best strike fighters, but to have an inadequate, and not the best form of Internet structure.”

    The comment was met with applause from the audience, but Turnbull responded that Van Badham’s claim was “complete wrong about the NBN”. “It’s not wrong at all. We know that it’s not wrong, Malcolm,” Van Badham fired back.

    Despite the byplay between the two panellists on the NBN issue, Jones again immediately switched the topic to a different panellist, noting that the JSF purchase had been supported by both major sides of politics and asking Sarrah Le Marquand, opinion editor for News Ltd newspaper The Daily Telegraph, about her opinion on the ABC’s Australia Network regional program.

    This morning it emerged that a large slice of the audience for last night’s Q&A episode last night had actually consisted of Liberal Party members, in the form of the Sydney University Liberal Club, which organised a mass excursion to the event. The club’s Facebook page has published a photo of what appears to be several dozen members, with Turnbull featured at the centre.


    In addition, the Sydney University Liberal Club also has a relationship with one of the other panellists on last night’s show — UK journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil. The club published a separate photo last week of a number of its members meeting with Neil following an interview the journalist conducted with Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey.


    Q&A’s approach to the NBN issue last night generated a degree of controversy on social media both last night and this morning. “Almost like they went out of their way to change topic. Van tried, but got shot down,” wrote one commenter. “Host appeared to be acting on instructions to shut any NBN discussion down,” wrote another.

    In Opposition, Turnbull regularly criticised the ABC for what he believed was a stance the organisation had taken in favour of the flagship Labor project. In July 2012 the then-Shadow Minister accused the national broadcaster of creating “relentless propaganda” to support the NBN, in a stance which Turnbull described as “embarrassing”.

    And in November of that year, Turnbull again hit out at the reporting of the NBN debate by the ABC, accusing the broadcaster of “superficial, misleading and unbalanced reporting” of the issue and detailing a litany of complaints about the ABC’s Lateline program specifically, which Tony Jones hosts.

    Similar comments made by the Member for Wentworth in March 2013 led to journalists raising questions at a press conference as to whether Turnbull’s behaviour towards specific ABC journalists constituted ‘bullying’ them with respect to the NBN issue.

    The news also comes as the Coalition Federal Government has also been reported to be considering cuts to the ABC’s budget, with reports focusing on the potential introduction of a so-called “efficiency dividend” which would require a small annual cut to the broadcaster’s funding, bringing it in line with regular practice at some government departments.

    Delimiter has invited the ABC to respond to a number of questions relating to its coverage of the NBN. These include the issues of whether the office of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull had made it a condition of appearing on Q&A or other shows that the NBN not be featured as a topic; why pre-show briefing material distributed to the presenters and audience did not include any mention of the NBN, and whether any internal editorial policy existed that specifically guided editorial coverage of the NBN.

    This morning Van Badham was unapologetic for bringing up the NBN several times on last night’s Q&A show. “I will keep bringing up the NBN until this country has the infrastructure it deserves,” the commentator wrote on Twitter under the #qanda hashtag.

    Image credit: Screenshot of last night’s Q&A program on the ABC, Sydney University Liberal Club; both believed to be OK to use under Australian fair dealing provisions

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    1. Senectus
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

      While this annoys the hell out of me, could it be that we have a less than an hour to answer questions and they decided to triage NBN related questions to ensure other important issues we covered?
      Are we being too sensitive about this?

      • DMacD79
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Why was MT even on the panel? He himself stated many times that (paraphrasing) “he is not the minister responsible for this area” If the majority of the topics didn’t fall under his jurisdiction then why was he even there?
        If MT wasn’t there, replaced with say the Treasurer to answer the budget questions, and Van Badham asked those NBN questions to Joe Hockey no-one would be upset that he didn’t provide concrete answers as its not his direct area.
        MT is the Minister for Communications and was asked direct questions about the biggest Communications Infrastructure project in Australia and wasn’t allowed or refused (?) to answer them. If they didn’t want the NBN brought up then don’t have MT on the panel.

        • Senectus
          Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

          fair point..

        • Michael
          Posted 30/04/2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink | Reply

          It’s probably because half the Liberal frontbench won’t touch Q&A with a ten foot pole! I’m not sure if Joe Hockey’s been on before (I think he has?) but he probably wouldn’t be game to do Q&A at budget time. To his credit, Turnbull is one of the few who appear regularly.

          • GongGav
            Posted 30/04/2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Hockey would need prompt cards for every answer, and Abbott would need it written in crayon. The rest of the Liberal bench wouldnt be able to construct a sentence of relevance to whatever question they were given.

            Turnbull is the only one that has the capability of contributing to that show. Not helpful when the questions arent in his area of expertise of course, but at least he can bullshit with natural ability and make it sound plausible.

        • Dave
          Posted 30/04/2014 at 9:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

          The thing I find the most interesting that that MT ardently argued that the future of media is via the internet and not newspapers and television as it once was. If he believe this so much, why would he then cripple the progression of such a large industry. We all know the answer to this whether he will admit it or not.

      • Colin
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 3:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Could someone explain why this program that always seems to be cut short right when it is getting juicy, can’t run over? They have ABC News 24 for the late news … ABC 1 could simply push the schedule out and drop material in the middle of the night (as other networks do) … It’s a great program discussing important issues every week – Why restrict it to time?

        Cheers – Colin.

        • Posted 29/04/2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Don’t ask uncomfortable questions ;)

        • DMacD79
          Posted 30/04/2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink | Reply

          Its not like other programs don’t do it.
          If a live broadcast sports event goes into overtime they continue to show it, pushing everything else back.
          Even if they cant for whatever reason then have the show continue in front of the live audience and continue to show it online.
          If someone in the audience wants to leave at 10:30pm they can.

    2. Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Nice work dude. Why did Q&A allow a Liberal Club to make up a large chunk of the Audience? Most concerning, as we now have two media organisations propping up the Liberal party then: ABC & Murdoch.

      Looking at the photo, at least two of the club members were questioners/were allowed to comment. Might have to watch it again & see how many more I can pick out.

      • Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink | Reply


        The thing that is a little disturbing about this is how happy the Sydney Uni Liberal members appear after their audience-stacking exercise, and how happy Turnbull is to see them there. Just one big happy family.

        • sathias
          Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I take it those “Tonight the audience is made up by…” tweets are just a fiction then!

        • Danni
          Posted 29/04/2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I totally agree, but it would be more disturbing to censor audience participation based on political ideology. That said, I’m also very disappointed that the NBN actively wasn’t discussed. The panel seemed perfectly suited to have a reasoned and informed debate on the topic.

          • BruceH
            Posted 29/04/2014 at 6:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Don’t the ABC select the audience specifically to match the voting preferences of the day?

            • Cam
              Posted 30/04/2014 at 4:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

              Just sit in the audience one day, I can guarantee you the audience and the suppose ‘stats’ on who they vote for is completly false. Its generally pretty stacked. Any mention of gay marriage or asylum seekers has them all up in arms.

        • tinman.au
          Posted 30/04/2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Disturbing is asking the Minister for Communications on your show, then actively shutting down the biggest issue in his portfolio to ask him what is effectively opinion fluff about fighters.

          I sure hope the rest of the ABC doesn’t get infected with this #qanda virus…

      • Michael
        Posted 30/04/2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink | Reply

        Have you actually watched Q&A? They make sure the audience is close to realistic and disclose the percentages of each major party’s voters in the audience (assuming people are honest about how they vote). The fact that there was a group of USyd Libs in the audience makes no difference to anything, there’s always a bunch of student politicians there, on all sides. It’s totally irrelevant.

      • Robyn
        Posted 04/05/2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Kieran, I didn’t see the whole program but when watching it one of the guys in this photo made a comment in regards to media dominance. It was during the discussion in which Ms Telegraph, Tony Jones etc were trying to make out that Rupert is a mere freckle in his dominance of Australia newspapers rather than a melanoma (my words). This guy (who I picked as a Lib stooge immediately) said something inane along the lines of “well, you can set up other newspapers to provide balance to Rupert’s dominance”. What was interesting was that he was actually shot down by Andrew Neil on this, who said that it was a very difficult thing to do. Even though clearly Andrew Neil is a conservative he seemed far more honest in his approach than any from the Australian conservatives. It was refreshing.

        • tinman.au
          Posted 05/05/2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Not all conservatives are blinded by “big biz”.

    3. Alex C
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

      QandA has done this in the past, I remember once when I went my question was rejected on the basis that it had been discussed in depth in past weeks and they wanted to focus on different issues. I think the most likely thing here is that they’ve discussed the NBN several times with turnbull in the past and felt they would rather discuss other issues. Of course, that may not be the case.

      Also, I doubt that the attendance of a particular group of individuals in the audience would have made a difference. Often they take in large groups of individuals. Young Labor people and even young greens often can be spotted in the audience in groups.

      • Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Whenever I’ve seen Turnbull on Q&A over the past several years, the NBN has only been covered in the most cursory detail. Perhaps I’m wrong and the show has covered the issue in depth. I’m planning an analysis of this over the next week or so to find out.

        • Mr Creosote
          Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I think you are pretty right on this. I was trying to think back to when the last time that Turnbull was on and they asked him specifically about the NBN, or even issues related to his portfolio specifically. The only episode that springs to mind was way back before the election I think when Turnbull and Albanese were on.
          Turnbull always seems to get asked about issues from any other portfolio than his. IT was interesting last night on the awkward budget questions, he kept rolling out the line ‘this is not my portfolio – you will have to ask someone else’ . Shame he doesn’t stick to that line more often, and therefore allow more time for what he should actually be talking about – NBN

        • Chas
          Posted 30/04/2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink | Reply

          It is customary to agree to subjects and guidelines in advance for many of these shows (a practice that they obviously never tell you about), or the guest will not appear. My opinion is that they should just not air political members if they insist on those agreements…though I seem to recall that the ABC has been under threat by the Libs since their election…it makes you wonder…

          • Tom
            Posted 30/04/2014 at 11:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

            I mean it is possible the ABC cottoned onto the liberal stacking and just thought it was best to not give MT free to air space to continue a policy onslaught. No one in this thread seems to have acknowledged that giving a politician a big audience for their specific area really is a free soap box session… especially if the ABC actually want to discuss media issues and not just the politician’s flavour of the week. Hell MT might have been a bit naffed by it.

    4. barezina
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Unfortunately, money talks. If he was made to look bad on Q&A, you can bet ABC would have had funding cuts. Why avoid a topic that the public passionately cares about?

    5. Mr Creosote
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Last nights performance by Tony Jones was very poor. Its hard to believe there isn’t something behind this. Jones usually like to have a dig at Turnbull about tricky little issues, and the top quality fighters vs the low quality NBN was one in particular, I thought he would normally have pounced on with some little quip.
      Jones immediately shut anything NBN related down. By contrast, the lady from the Telegraph was allowed to wander through all sorts of different topics when she had the call. It all seemed very sus!

    6. Carl
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

      “What we have here is a failure to communicate”. The Captain (Cool Hand Luke)
      The Minister for Communications doesn’t communicate. He doesn’t compute. He doesn’t care.
      Better communications means more access to information. He ( or someone else – R.M.) doesn’t want this.
      Less access for the people. More control for the Corporation.

    7. Brad Cann
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The more likely explanation is that turnbull and his liberal cohorts made it very clear that the amount of funding the ABC will get in directly proportional to the amount of redirects to NBN themed questions the presenters give and how heavily they stack the audience.

      I’m now glad I didn’t watch the program.

      • Cam
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

        They’d have a field day if such a thing happened. Let’s be real here.

        • Brad Cann
          Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Didn’t read the story did you? it says in this story that the Sydney Uni liberal club made a very large attendance and are clearly seen asking questions from the audience. it’ll be interesting to see how many audience questions were asked when someone compares the faces in the above photos of the Sydney uni liberal party to those that asked the questions.

        • Ronson
          Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Cam, if you’re following the ICAC investigations at the moment in which the Liberal Party is playing a major role, you’ll see that nothing’s impossible.

    8. Gibbo McCool
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

      If they didn’t want to discuss the NBN, regardless of reason, then they should have noted this to begin with. TJ certainly should not have promised to come back to the topic then change it when it was bought up later.

    9. Brad Cann
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

      to me it also shows how apathetic journalists have become. They are too used to being spoon fed from the politicians and industry types that they’ve forgotten how to do investigative journalism, and don’t want to risk alienating their access to politicians and industry types. its much easy to toe the line then it is to actually report things for what they are. It reminds me of a quote from Al Gore quoting someone else:

      You know, more than 100 years ago, Upton Sinclair wrote this, that “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

    10. BruceH
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Not just QandA but Lateline as well.

      On the day that 3 NBNCo CxO’s were told their services were no longer required and that MT had decided that the CBN would proceed without a Cost Benefit Analysis – nothing but crickets concerning the NBN when MT appeared on Lateline that night.

      Although we did get an amazing insight into Bob Carr’s new book and how MT would never do such a terrible, disloyal thing.

    11. Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

      hey everyone,

      can as many people as possible do the ABC’s viewers and the public interest a favour and submit this article and any supporting material you have to Media Watch? The form is here:


      I’d like to see Paul Barry get his teeth into it. Hell, I’d prefer Jonathan Holmes. But I’ll settle for Paul Barry ;)



      • dJOS
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Done, great write up too, thanks for the article.

      • Soth
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

        No worries.

      • Mitch
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Done, hopefully they actually look into it.

      • Jasonk
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

        poor Sortius had a gut full as well of Q&A last night


      • Sam
        Posted 30/04/2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink | Reply

        Get a life people the abc hates the libs and always has! One episode that doesn’t follow the usual daily script and u guys are frothing at the mouth serious?

      • tinman.au
        Posted 30/04/2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I asked them to explain themselves as well, it really does bother me that they (or perhaps only Tony Jones?) appear to be letting him (Mal) off the hook…

    12. Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hey! I am twitter famous :D

      • Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink | Reply


        Didn’t want to specifically mention anyone’s name as it’s a bit privacy invasive — but wanted to give a flavour of the sentiment :)

    13. Geoff
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The young libs swarming Q&A is not a new thing. They used to be more obvious about it jeering and cheering like they were in parliament. My feeling was that Q&A wanted to spend more time on topics they could quiz their international guest on and NBN just didn’t fit the bill. It’s frustrating but the Australian media has a long standing love for asking visiting intellectuals about complex australian issues they know nothing about.

      • Sam
        Posted 30/04/2014 at 7:20 am | Permalink | Reply

        Get a life seriously peopleand I suppose no young labor have done any such thing! If ur going to be biased at least try and hide it slightly of just come out and announce it prior to ur message

        • Duke
          Posted 30/04/2014 at 5:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Nah, the young fascists have plenty of form as media thugs…

        • nonny-moose
          Posted 30/04/2014 at 6:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

          noones suggesting young labor have not done that – tho as an aside, i would like to snark ‘citation needed’ for the last time you saw Q&A bumrushed by at least two dozen of them as seen this week…?

          what we *are* suggesting tho, is that whatever the makeup of the audience, issues should be answered and dealt with; particularly hot button topics – which in this case fell right into the wheelhouse of the member appearing (in the person of MT).

          Questions should be answered; regardless if they are made to Liberal members or Labor – both equally have a responsibility to their constituencies. as the govt of the day the constituency of the liberal party at the moment technically is ‘all Australians’. if they abscond on that – and again Labor members are not blameless in this – then further questions rightfully should be asked of them.

          In this case, i see a whole ton of evasion from MT – and shamefully the host as well. that does not sit well with me; and regardless your political persuasions i would like to think it doesnt sit well with you either.

    14. damien
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Disgraceful. The ABC should stick with its strengths and report without fear or favour on all topics of substance, threats of cuts be damned. This is not *my* ABC.

    15. elementalest
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

      My take on this is that the coalition are happy with the position they are in regarding the NBN. Hence they don’t want to talk about it anymore. They know they can’t win many arguments on any factual basis. So if they don’t talk about it, and for the most part ignore others who try to raise the issue, the problem effectively goes away. People will start to forget about the NBN and it will no longer be a hot topic. Then there will only be the minority, like readers of delimiter, that are aware of whats going on.

      My guess would be that the murdock media etc. will only report mostly positive things about the NBN now, such as ‘Trials successful for ultra high speed broadband’, ‘NBN completed in location x’ etc. They might even get some people to testify how good the CBN is. This will placate most people and they will think everything is going fine.

      • Eamon Byrne
        Posted 01/05/2014 at 6:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

        The ALP should be raising hell over the CBN fiasco. But it’s dropped NBN off their “policy” list. At least that’s what I’m getting from the deafening silence coming from Clare and Husic. Even Shorten, when recently listing a string of Labor priorities to talk about, didn’t mention NBN.

      • Nefarious Wheel
        Posted 02/05/2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink | Reply

        “”My take on this is that the coalition are happy with the position they are in regarding the NBN. Hence they don’t want to talk about it anymore.””

        They may be happy with their position, but it’s no guarantee that they believe it’s working or workable. If they did, they’d never shut up about it.

        And nobody on Turnbull’s team wants to give a questioner a chance to raise awareness that they may be intentionally scuttling the project to suit a Murdoch agenda. That’s not a speculation Fox News would want to report, either.

    16. Chad
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Eh, my 2c, the NBN is frequently covered on Q&A – I have a feeling that they wanted to simply cover other topics.

      • JC
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

        May as well get Joe Hockey in and ask him about the NBN not the budget then. Whats the point of getting the comms minister on if they aren’t going to ask a single bloody question about his portfolio’s major project?!?

        • Soth
          Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

          The telecommunications minister to talk about.. telecommunications? Don’t be silly.

      • Ronson
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Chad, Turnbull was last on Q&A in early February this year and, once again, the NBN was not discussed.


        (You’ll need to be a Whirlpool member to access the link.)

    17. Paul Grenfell
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      How is it that MT gets away with discussing every portfolio but his own ?

    18. Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Great article Renai, but not sure that the Sydney U Liberals Club thing is that big of a deal – QandA always publishes the audience skew at the beginning of each ep and last night’s was COALITION 47%, ALP 36%, GREENS 11% which is a fairly typical lickety split. It’s not as if they could vote as a bloc for questions or anything.

      Having said that, the lack of NBN discussion was otherwise very suss and terribly disappointing.

      • Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I’m sorry, but I don’t want Q&A audiences stacked with several dozen Liberal members sitting next to each other; I want the audience to be a representative group of the public. I think most people would feel the same.

        • Tom
          Posted 29/04/2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

          If you think the QandA audience is usually a ‘representative group of the public’ you should get out of inner-city Sydney more.

          Tweets broadcast are 2-1 in support of Left wing views, panellists with a left-wing bias are over represented, and the show attacks both Labor and Liberal from the Left.

          For example there is usually huge support for asylum seekers on the show when opinion polls say the public think we are too soft on asylum seekers.

          QandA is representative of inner-city Sydney, not representative of the public.

          • RBH
            Posted 29/04/2014 at 7:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Tweets only come from “Lefties” because commentary from the right has clearly stated that the internet is only for watching porn and pirated movies. There’s enough talk about twitter so you would think some of them would be curious but I guess when you’re in your happy place who really wants to tweet?

        • Morrissey
          Posted 29/04/2014 at 6:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Are you against a family of Liberal votes turning up?

      • Abel Adamski
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Sorry, Major difference between a public split roughly among National Voting spectrum and a committed organised group of Paid up active Party Members that have no interest in the the National Interest only politics and their particular demographics benefit.
        Interesting to know the disciplines they are studying ?

      • skywake
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

        The audience split is not at all what is being talked about here. The issue is partly the political machines placing enthusiastic yes-men in the audience. The bigger issue is the avoiding of topics you’d expect to be discussed given the ministers that appeared on the panel.

        Having Turnbull on the panel and not talking about the NBN is odd. Having Turnbull on the panel and deliberately redirecting discussion away from the NBN is suss. It would be like booking Dawkins and Krauss and constantly moving the discussion away from science/religion.

    19. Mick
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I wasn’t happy with the absence of NBN discussion, but it wasn’t the only thing. A question about the criminally-low No-Start rate was also neatly side-stepped.

    20. Alex
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

      There was also the case two weeks ago where a ‘Concerned baby boomer’ audience member (older balding guy with glasses) asked a question directly attacking Labor on some issue or another. The week before he was also on QandA and guess what? He was able to ask a question with exactly the same aim.

      There is something very scary about all of this.

      Conspiracy? I don’t know.

    21. Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

      But hang on Renai, you choose to cover some things every day and decide not to cover others.

      That’s CENSORSHIP!

      Actually of course it is not censorship.

      • Posted 29/04/2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I ask the Communications Minister questions about Communications. So sue me.

        • Morrissey
          Posted 01/05/2014 at 6:29 am | Permalink | Reply

          Well he was asked questions to do with this portfolio on QandA as well, just not the questions you wanted.

    22. Rory
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Perhaps submit this to Media Watch? If they picked it up I’m sure this could get a bit more traction.

      edit: woops I see you already had the same sentiment, I just needed to read more comments

      • nobody
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 4:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I’ve sent a message to Media Watch, asking them to look into the issues with Q & A not allowing Communications/NBN questions being asked of Malcolm Turnbull.

        I also sent a bit of a “nasty gram” to Q & A directly, through their comments page, asking them the same question, and following it up with a question regarding asking the Prime Minister (Mr “I’m no Bill Gates”), or even the Minister for Agriculture (BarnabyJoyce) NBN questions instead. Not expecting a reply, but I thought I’d put the boot in to them directly…

    23. Dean0
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

      What’s the bet they will have a NBN related show after his cost benefit analysis is out?

    24. Brendan
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I do have to question why the Minister for Internets, is able to repeatedly enjoy not answering questions directly relating to his portfolio, yet when his predecessor was on, the topic of his portfolio was constantly discussed.

      He had to answer questions on the NBN, and the filter. No punches pulled as I recall.

      I find it remarkable that the current Minister should expect any different, and yet here we are – a Q&A when even a panelist question or two is shut-down.

      Clearly the audience wasn’t going to ask, and apparently no-one submitted an NBN question. At all.

      I wonder what Media Watch can dig out of the archives? It’ll be a little night-versus-day I suspect.

      It’s a pretty silly situation if the incumbent government is so incredibly sensitive, it can’t damn well debate the topics of the day.

    25. Tom
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

      @QandA twitter account has said they ran out of time for the NBN question.

      I don’t recall any questions regarding Gillard’s fraud investigation. Also, when I submitted a video question about Labor’s responsibility for 1000s dead at sea it wasn’t broadcast.

      Maybe QandA just doesn’t always ask the questions we want asked?

      • Brendan
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 5:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Did you have any luck with questions regarding apparent deaths at sea due to boats being sent back, or the ongoing NSW Liberal fraud inquires?

        Asking for a friend. Of course not all questions we ask will be answered. We’d be there forever.

        But – Ministers should expect to answer questions regarding their portfolio if they’re on Q&A, regardless of party affiliation.

      • RichardU
        Posted 29/04/2014 at 10:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Gillard’s “fraud” investigation has been done to death. Has anything new emerged in recent memory? And surely the people responsible for deaths at sea are those who take their chances. Are those who build roads (or cars) responsible for those who die while using them unless they are manifestly badly designed or built?

    26. Posted 29/04/2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      FYI I’ve received an extended response from the ABC, which I will publish tomorrow morning.

    27. SBD
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 6:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Rather sad that Turnbull was only asked questions unrelated to his portfolio, but on the other hand, when has he ever actually answered any questions related to his portfolio? Redirection, obfuscation, soapboxing about Labour, but rarely any actual answer to the questions asked. His presence is pointless.

      I love the response by Van Badham to the “latest and best” fighter jets. The logic is directly comparable. Perhaps we should be buying biplanes instead, or some messerschmitts.

    28. Darin
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 9:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I watched the program, must say that more banging on about the NBN would have bored the pants off me. Q & A may well have moved the conversation away from the NBN but for no other reason than we have heard Malcolm Turnbull state his position over and over and on more than a few occasions he has been grilled on Q & A. think we should not keep demanding a one dimensional conversation with him (or anyone else)

    29. RichardU
      Posted 29/04/2014 at 10:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Last night’s Q&A and its apparent capitulation to the government on the NBN should be seen in perspective. The ABC did a big serve on the government in the preceding 4 Corners episode on the riots in Manus Island which until now has been shrouded in secrecy and misinformation. That program gets a big audience too.

      I’d like to see the NBN discussed more in any forum, but in the meantime the forum no one controls is social media. That is where the word must be spread.

    30. Posted 30/04/2014 at 1:24 am | Permalink | Reply

      A friend of mine was in the Q&A audience and recounted what happened:

      “I was there last night and prior to the show, they KEPT saying ‘don’t talk about the NBN, until it’s been brought up as an individual question – it will come up later in the show, so wait till then to talk about it’… But then it never came up…”

    31. Bek
      Posted 30/04/2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink | Reply

      Q and A is the most god awful show on television. Who really cares if they cut off discussions on the NBN, it all ends in short sighted shouting anyway.

    32. Kevin Cobley
      Posted 30/04/2014 at 11:59 am | Permalink | Reply

      The ABC need to conduct ballots for audience ticketing, to end the bussing of party members, and have on site ballots for the proposed questions.
      It’s a very shonky setup at the moment I’ve watched the last couple of Flawedband’s appearances and haven’t seen an NBN question.
      The coalition have been manipulating audiences for some time.

    33. David
      Posted 30/04/2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I’d put my money on cock-up not conspiracy.

      But it certainly was odd to have the Minister refusing to comment outside his portfolio, but not being asked about the big issue in his portfolio

      My glance over the submitted questions prior to the show suggest a dominance of NBN questions over any other single issue.

      • Brendan
        Posted 30/04/2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I would presume the show producers did not want NBN to overshadow the entire episode. It, like the topic of asylum seekers, leads to very vigorous debate and eats a lot of time as a consequence.

        However, in the process of trying to ensure other topics were covered, the show actively silenced debate on the NBN to such a degree that it was simply dropped entirely.

        There was ample opportunity to allow some debate of NBN; more than once a panelist broached the topic and was immediately shut down without concern.

        Clearly moderation and control of the debate wasn’t an issue.

        In my opinion there was clear intent to stop debate relating to the Minister’s portfolio, in entirety. That’s a long way from simply broaching other topics first.

        This wasn’t attacks on the man – this was informed debate on his policies.

        I should think Media Watch might find this a bit perplexing, for a show that’s based on open and honest question and answer debate.

        • Aaricus
          Posted 01/05/2014 at 6:55 am | Permalink | Reply


          When the panelist is getting preachy the host should shut them up and move on to the next same topic related question.

          Last night was a complete shutting down of discussion on the NBN.

          The minister didn’t get OR WANT a chance to respond to the issue because its better politicaly for him that it was shut down.

          Maybe there’s some corruption going on where ABC gets to keep funding in the budget for shutting down NBN discussion. Wouldn’t be surprised with how corrupt the politicians are.

    34. damien
      Posted 30/04/2014 at 1:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      “Q and A is the most god awful show on television”.

      It’s the gold standard for wide ranging discussion of matters political and public interest. No commercial network would even think of producing such a program these days as they’ve abdicated all responsibility to the demographic of the lowest common denominator. QED.

      “Who really cares if they cut off discussions on the NBN”.

      Perhaps the majority of rational thinking Australians that have been shortchanged by the vandalization of a critical piece of national infrastructure.

    35. Damein
      Posted 30/04/2014 at 1:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Why do the Liberals have a ‘Club’ and Labor have a ‘Party’ ?

      • Posted 30/04/2014 at 1:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

        The Sydney Uni group is a “club” so they can get funding from the union to run their activities ;)

        • Abel Adamski
          Posted 04/05/2014 at 11:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Their “Club” activities of course includes “union bashing “, poetic isn’t it

    36. SMEMatt
      Posted 30/04/2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Maybe of FoI requesting relating to the communication between MTs office or the department and the ABC regarding his appearance on the ABC. It is not uncommon for a request to exclude certain topics when public figures appear on this show.

    37. guest
      Posted 30/04/2014 at 10:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

      another misleading title and comments by renai that have been debunked elsewhere already. sensationalist ‘reporting’ at its best once again.

      • Seano
        Posted 01/05/2014 at 3:39 am | Permalink | Reply

        If you could point us to this font of knowledge, I’d be much obliged…but nope, doesn’t seem like there’s one iota of substance behind your assertions….nice well structured argument you laid out there…/sarcasm

        • tinman.au
          Posted 02/05/2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

          He is obviously a Liberal supporter, things like “facts”, “evidence” and even “science” are “beliefs” that don’t hold up to the cold hard light of opinion…

      • Lionel
        Posted 01/05/2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink | Reply

        Hmmm, so repeatedly stopping discussion of a certain topic and in fact never allowing discussion of it is not censoring. Well, you will have to give me a copy of this marvelous new dictionary, mine seems to contain an the old meaning of the word censor.

    38. Derrick
      Posted 30/04/2014 at 10:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I’m just waiting on a “Temporary” MTM upgrade Levy to be implemented in five years time..

    39. Aaricus
      Posted 01/05/2014 at 6:51 am | Permalink | Reply

      Last nights Q&A was disgusting.

      I had already complained to the ABC prior to even reading this article I was SHOCKED to see the line of questioning shutdown and the host lying by saying they would “address the issue later in the program”- it was never once revisited.

      All we had was self interest from the ABC trying to save their own backsides from cuts in the next budget.

      I tell you what after last nights woeful performance, I hope they do get defunded, what good is the ABC if they are just going to invite the minister for communications on and then shutdown the only decent question on broadband.

      THE ABC HAS NO IDEA how bad broadband is in this country PEOPLE ARE CRYING OUT for better broadband, the NBN is the largest infrastructure project in the nations HISTORY, yet the reporting on the matter is LITTLE TO NONE, AND ALWAYS FEATURING NON-TECHNICALLY LITERATE COMMENTATORS.

      Last night was just a complete disgrace, I’m disgusted in that performance. Telstra is reportedly going to be paid up to $100 billion or more in kickbacks to get the copper, WAY MORE than Labors plan even WITH blowouts. NOT 1 ***** QUESTION about that!!!


    40. Aaricus
      Posted 01/05/2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink | Reply

      The countries with better broadband than Australia:

      Hong Kong, Singapore, Romania, South Korea, Japan, Andorra, Sweden, Lithuania, Switzerland, Macau, Netherlands, Taiwan, Denmark, Luxembourg, Latvia, Iceland, Republic of Moldova, Bulgaria, Belgium, Norway, France, Finland, Portugal, Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, Liechtenstein, United Kingdom, Aland Islands, Israel, Slovakia, United States, Russia, Malta, Uruguay, Canada, Ukraine, Spain, Austria, Poland, New Zealand, Ireland, Thailand, China, Lesotho, United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Jersey, Slovenia, & Isle Of Man.

      The minister didn’t give a single update about his single biggest job. All he did was go to the show and sit on his butt for an hour.

      Get rid of these career politicians.

    41. Gordon Drennan
      Posted 01/05/2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink | Reply

      Yawn. The ABC actively censors ALL issues on Q&A.

      You don’t think the questions that get asked on the ABC are what the public wants asked, do you? If you do you are simply naïve about how the ABC works. The questions that get asked on the ABC’s “democracy” program are what the ABC allows to be asked.

      Ask anyone who’s ever been on Q&A.

    42. damien
      Posted 01/05/2014 at 12:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

      “The questions that get asked on the ABC’s “democracy” program are what the ABC allows to be asked”.

      Well, of course. You need some level of quality control to ensure a high standard, but what happened last Monday was quite different in nature.

    43. Posted 01/05/2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

      We have the minister in charge of the largest project undertaken in Australia for many decades appearing and yet there was absolutely no discussion permitted on it.

      Yet he was continually asked for his “opinion” on topics that have nothing to do with his portfolio.

    44. Adam Nelson
      Posted 02/05/2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink | Reply

      NBN has been a “banned” topic on Qanda for some time. Tony Jones even in Conroy era would issue a statement on saying to audience for no more NBN questions, Because the entire show was “hijacked” with NBN questions and therefore after that episode any NBN topic get quickly shutdown

      ABC need to protect Qanda from being Hijacked by interest groups looking to push their own agenda

      You could report this to Media Watch. But Likely media watch will tell you the same thing about preventing hijacking and prevent viewer complaints about the show being every week on about the NBN

      • Adam Nelson
        Posted 02/05/2014 at 7:52 am | Permalink | Reply

        If you want asked questions on NBN to turnbull then request a special Q&A episode. Don’t be douchebag and hijack the monday show

        • tinman.au
          Posted 02/05/2014 at 4:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

          “Hijack” was what TJ did when people were allowed to ask questions.

          On the qanda “About” page it says:

          “It’s about democracy in action – on Q&A the audience gets to ask the questions.”

          So much for democracy…

          • Adam Nelson
            Posted 06/05/2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

            The speaker in house of reps can do the same thing tony jones did. Shutdown a conversation if they feel the need to control the situation

            Apparently that happened last night on qanda

            As show producer you are left with tough choices. Providing a opinion based on abc guidelines and policy and provide non hostile evironment that encourages guest to appear

    45. Posted 02/05/2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink | Reply

      Obviously they are moving away from the NBN issues, they wanted to show the viewers that it is not an important issue.

    46. Janey
      Posted 06/05/2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

      This is what happens when the media personalities or commentators don’t want to offend the liberals. Not sure why this is happening but Turnbull needs to explain himself on a dud NBN, one that will influence our future prosperity. He should have been allowed to be asked questions on why he is CHOOSING to destroy the NBN. Where is the media????????? Too scared to say anything because they are being bullied? Turnbull’s name will be remembered in the future but not for the right reason, but for deliberately sabotaging a first class NBN for our future.

    47. JB
      Posted 26/05/2014 at 11:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Rather than duplicate a longish post; use this reference as to why the NBN is a dangerous technology and the growing threats to public broadcasting: http://delimiter.com.au/2014/05/23/abc-delayed-albericis-pro-nbn-article-election/#comment-658668

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