Agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce has pulled out of tonight’s ABC talk panel show Q&A, less than 24 hours before he was due to appear, saying prime minister Tony Abbott told his frontbench ministers to boycott the show.
His withdrawal came just hours after he’d appeared on ABC Insiders on Sunday morning, saying he’d be on Q&A, despite continued government anger over the appearance of Zaky Mallah a fortnight ago.
Last week, Tony Abbott’s parliamentary secretary, Alan Tudge, was the first government MP to withdraw from Q&A, followed by Nick Cater, executive director of the Menzies Research Centre.
However, audiences did not boycott the show, which attracted the best ratings of the year as it tackled the issue of terrorism and extremists and the fallout from Mallah’s appearance.
Fairfax Media reports a spokesman for the Nationals deputy leader said “The Prime Minister has communicated that he does not want any frontbencher to appear on Q&A. Barnaby was told this [Sunday night] and apologised to Q&A that he would not be able to appear.”
The prime minister has called Q&A a “leftie lynch mob”, adding that “heads should roll” after the episode featuring Mallah was rebroadcast.
On the weekend, the government released its $4 billion agriculture white paper and Joyce was expected to sell its focus on drought relief and water security during Q&A.
On Insiders Joyce said he held no grudge against the show.
“I think the ABC is dealing properly now with the issue,” he said.
On Friday, a report into Mallah’s appearance by communications minister Malcolm Turnbull’s department found the Q&A team unsuccessfully attempted to contact two people familiar with him, and instead relied on its previous experience with him, the advice of another ABC journalist, a review of a recent television appearance and a review of his social media posts undertaken in August 2014, which did not include Mallah’s offensive tweets posted in early 2015 or his recent YouTube videos.
They decided he was not dangerous, would not be disruptive and could ask a question.
The review noted the ABC “subsequently acknowledged an error of judgement” and last week on the show, host Tony Jones said Q&A would not have put Mallah to air if it had known about his misogynist tweets about two female columnists.
Last week, the ABC announced journalist Ray Martin and former SBS managing director Shaun Brown would conduct a review into Q&A, looking at the last 22 programs broadcast this year.
Attention now turns to Malcolm Turnbull, who is due to appear on the July 13 edition of Q&A. Turnbull has previously stated he doesn’t support a ban on the show.
Last week, conservative columnist and Coalition insider Niki Savva described Tony Abbott’s attacks on the show as “over the top”.
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