Tony Abbott is willing to let frontbench ministers back on Q&A -- but on one condition

Photo: Pool/ Getty Images.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is offering to lift his frontbench ban on ABC’s Q&A program — but there’s a catch.

Last month, Abbott said “heads should roll” after convicted criminal Zaky Mallah was allowed onto the flagship talk panel show, with communications minister Malcolm Turnbull labelling it a “very serious error of judgment”.

Last month, Tony Abbott’s parliamentary secretary, Alan Tudge, was the first government MP to pull out from Q&A.

Shortly after, agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce also withdrew from 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.

Yesterday, Turnbull announced he would not be appearing after a week of speculation that he might defy the PM.

But it seems that Abbott is willing to end frontbench ban — on one condition.

In a letter to Abbott, ABC chairman James Spigelman wrote: “One of the options under active consideration is to transfer the program to the News division, I see merit in this proposal.”

Here is what Abbott wrote in return:

In discussion with the ABC, the Communications Minister was given to expect that Q&A would be moved to news and current affairs – which would be appropriate for such a programme.

In your letter to me, you indicate that transferring Q&A to the news division “has merit”.

Frontbenchers look forward to resuming their participation on Q&A once this move takes place.

While a shift from ABC’s television division to news division will not change the editorial policies of Q&A, it would mean a cultural change for the flagship program and place it in the same pool as news programs such as 7.30 and Lateline.

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