Danby calls Q&A “a setup”

April 21, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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Federal Labor MP Michael Danby  has lashed out at ABC-TV’s choice of panellists on tonight’s Q&A calling it a set-up. He has written to ABC Managing Director Mark Scott pointing out that once again the ABC  was presenting a panel whose members hold strong views on Israel and “the Jewish lobby” on a Jewish festival without a strong representation of opposing opinion.

The panel includes former Foreign Minister Bob Carr, British violinist Nigel Kennedy whose reference to Israel as an apartheid state were censored by the BBC, Eva Cox, Kerry Chikarovski and Brendan O’Neill.

Danby told J-Wire: “Tonight’s Q&A is a set-up because the panel designed to promote Bob Carr along with overseas guest Kennedy and Eva Cox who is a critic of the mainstream Australian Jewish community.”

Michael Danby

Michael Danby

The member for Melbourne Ports said that he had asked ABC last week to add a participant to balance what he predicts will be “the inevitable attack on Israel and the Australian Jewish community”.

He has not had a response.

He said the he expected a “conservative view” from Miss Chikarovski andMr O’Neill…adding “but there will be no-one able to respond to the detailed and false claims which may be made by Carr which will inevitably be supported by Cox and Kennedy. I want the public to know that I contacted the managing director of the ABC last week seeking a wider debate. The program in my view has been deliberately designed to promote for its one million plus audience that part of the program may deal with a one-sided view of  controversial Australian foreign policy.

Danby added: “The ABC regularly exhibits its cultural insensitivity of having programs like Q&A on Jewish holy days such as Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Passover.”

Tonight is the eight day of the Festival of Passover.

This is how the ABC describes the panel:

Bob Carr: Bob Carr fulfilled a lifelong ambition when he became Australia’s Foreign Minister in March 2012. The former Labor premier of NSW was appointed by Julia Gillard to fill a casual Senate vacancy and went directly into Cabinet in the foreign affairs portfolio, but quit the Senate shortly after Labor lost government in last year’s election.

This month Bob published his latest book, Diary of a Foreign Minister, sparking a storm of controversy because of his comments about first-class air travel and airline food. Bob insisted most of his comments were self-mocking and satirical, but the criticisms continued even though many critics praised the overall thrust of the book and its insights on foreign policy and the political process.

Previously Bob had been the longest continuously-serving Premier in the history of NSW. He served as Leader of the Opposition from 1988 until his election as Premier in March 1995. He was re-elected in 1999 and then in March 2003 he secured third four-year term.

He retired from State politics in 2005 after over 10 years as Premier.

As Premier he introduced the world’s first carbon trading scheme and curbed the clearing of native vegetation as an anti-greenhouse measure. He was a member of the International Task Force on Climate Change convened by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and was made a life member of the Wilderness Society in 2003. He has also received the World Conservation Union International Parks Merit Award for creating 350 new national parks.

Bob has received the Fulbright Distinguished Fellow Award Scholarship. He has served as Honorary Scholar of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue. Earlier books includedThoughtlines, What Australia Means to Me and My Reading Life.

Kerry Chikarovski: After a career as a solicitor, Kerry Chikarovski was elected to the New South Wales Parliament in May 1991.

After only thirteen months in Parliament she was appointed Minister for Consumer Affairs. She later held the portfolios of Assistant Minister of Education, Minister for Industrial Relations, and the first Minister for the Status of Women appointed in NSW.

In December 1994 Kerry was elected Deputy Leader of the NSW Parliamentary Liberal Party – a position she held until the State election the following year which Labor won. In Opposition Kerry held the portfolio responsibilities of Corrective Services and the Environment. In December 1998 she was elected Leader of the NSW Parliamentary Liberal Party, the first woman to lead a major political party in NSW.

Following the 1999 election loss Kerry continued in the leadership until 2002, retiring from politics at the 2003. She then established her own consultancy advising individuals and organisations who seek her experience in working with various levels of government.

Kerry is a Trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground and Sydney Football Stadium and is involved in many community projects, including the boards of a number of charities.

In 2004 she released her life story Chika which has been described as an uncompromisingly honest account of life in the difficult world of the NSW Parliament.

Kerry was born in Sydney in 1956. She grew up in the northern suburbs and attended the University of Sydney. In her spare time Kerry enjoys working out at the gym and spending time with her grown-up children, Lisa and Mark.

Eva Cox: She was born Eva Hauser in Vienna in 1938, and was soon declared stateless by Hitler so grew up as a refugee in England, Italy and then Australia from age 10.

Eva is an unabashed feminist and passionately promotes inclusive, diverse and equitable ways of living together. Her 1996 book Leading Women explained why women who made a difference were usually labelled as difficult, a label she wears with pride.

She was the ABC Boyer lecturer (1995) on making societies more civil. She has been an academic, political adviser and public servant, and now runs a small research and policy consultancy.

A sociologist by trade, Eva promotes ideas widely and eclectically in books, on line, in journals and other media.

Eva has been recognised in various ways: Australian Humanist of the Year, a Distinguished Alumnus at UNSW and an Edna Grand Stirrer award.

She also a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development and as a Research Fellow at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning (UTS).

In 2011 Eva featured on a series of postage stamps celebrating eminent Australian women, the others being Germaine Greer, Anne Summers and Elizabeth Evatt.

Brendan O’Neill:  Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked, the online magazine with the modest ambition of making history as well as reporting it. He is the author of Can I Recycle My Granny and 39 Other Eco-Dilemmas – a satire on the green movement, and is a regular columnist for The Australian.

He started his career in journalism at LM (Living Marxism), until it was forced to close following a libel action brought by ITN. His journalism has been widely published on both sides of the Atlantic, including in The Spectator, The New Statesman, The Guardian, The Catholic Herald and The Christian Science Monitor.

He also writes regular reports for BBC News Online and is a correspondent for the Polish political weekly Prze Kroj. He makes regular appearances across the British and American broadcast media. He is also co-founder of the Manifesto Club, which aims to reclaim the creative spirit of the Enlightenment for the 21st century.

Nigel Kennedy:  For over twenty-five years, Nigel Kennedy has been acknowledged as one of the world’s leading violin virtuosos and is seen as one of the most important violinists Britain has ever produced. His virtuoso technique, unique talent and mass appeal have brought fresh perspectives to both the classical and contemporary repertoire. He is the best selling classical violinist of all time.

During his career, Nigel has undertaken countless international tours, performing with the world’s leading orchestras and conductors throughout Europe, North America, Central and South America, South-East Asia and Australia.

He founded the orchestra of Life, made up of vibrant young (mainly Polish) musicians, which made its debut tour in Germany in April 2010. It presented a unique program of Duke Ellington and Bach and went on to perform in major cities and festivals in Europe.

In 2010, Nigel’s UK performances of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons included a sold-out show at London’s Royal Albert Hall. In February 2012 he presented Bach plus Fats Waller across Asia. This was an entirely acoustic programme developed for venues with natural acoustics.

Nigel is a passionate Aston Villa fan and attends as many games as his schedule allows. He has one son, is married to a Polish lawyer, Agnieszka, and they divide their time between homes in the UK and Poland. On the ABC websiteSydney-based Vivienne Porzholt has submitted the following question for consideration:

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 7.00.45 am







Michael Danby’s as yet unanswered letter to Mark Scott.

Mr Mark Scott,
Managing Director of the ABC, Editor in Chief
CC: Peter McEvoy, Executive Producer of QandA

Dear Mr Scott,

Thank you for our telephone conversation earlier today. At your suggestion I am copying Peter McEvoy, Executive Producer of QandA to this note restating my concern with the likely content and construct of the panel of next Monday’s QandA program. Clearly there will be a focus on Mr Carr’s book, particularly given the publicity his book attracted this last week. The publicity highlighted his controversial views of the ‘unhealthy influence of the Australian Jewish Community’ on Australian Foreign Policy. A community, of which you know, I am a proud member and advocate.

Mr Carr’s advertised co-panelist Eva Cox has virulently negative views about Israel and the Australian Jewish Community which she has previously expressed on QandA. Mr Jones has hosted Ms Cox on previous QandA programs when Israel has been a topic, in which she has vociferously expressed such views. A third panelist, British violinist, Nigel Kennedy, was censored by the BBC in August 2013 for his ad-hoc attack on Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state during a performance screened by the British network. As it stands, those criticised in Mr Carr’s book, such as myself, Mark Dreyfus, Josh Frydenberg and Mark Leibler will have not any opportunity to respond to the inevitable chorus of criticism of phantom ‘Likudniks.’ Even though our position of a two state solution brought about by an agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis is the position of both Australian Parties representing 90% of Australians. Of course each panelist is entitled to their opinion, however, it would be both equitable and instructive for an element of balance to be introduced by either myself, Dreyfus, Frydenberg or Leibler.

I accept that the British panelist Mr O’Neil has at times written regarding the issues of anti-Semitism and BDS, and has expressed views that might introduce some balance on the Middle East. However, he is not cognisant of the domestic issues ventilated by Mr Carr, which are specifically with regard to Australia’s vote at the UN and a severe critique of the Australian Jewish Community, nor would he have any knowledge of the specific electoral pressures that I and many others ascribe as a primary source of Mr Carr’s conduct and writing. Nor, I doubt would Ms Chikarovski.

Other than the aforementioned people, I would also suggest the humourist, Sandy Gutman, who has previously appeared on QandA, Sydney psychiatrist and writer Ida Lichter or Jewish Community Council of Victoria President, Nina Bassett, as appropriate guests to balance to the current three panelists who will no doubt echo each other’s criticism of Israel. I understand QandA sometimes has 6 panelists. I believe the views of at least one articulate Australian who represents a different view on the inevitable discussion of the thrust of Carr’s book should be included in the line-up.

Finally, as a suggestion, one of the panelists or Mr Jones might want to raise with Carr why he was so obsessed with this issue when there are far worse situations in the world, such as 300,000 incarcerated in North Korean Concentration Camps, or 140,000 people murdered by their own government in Syria, or indeed Bob Carr’s cruel indifference to the millions of Tibetans living under China’s boot.

I ask you and the QandA team to broaden rather than narrow the conversation by including an extra panelist from any of the above people, or indeed anyone else who could put forward the view of the tens of thousands of people who will certainly be offended if the criticisms of these panelists are presented without sufficient representation of a different mainstream Australian community view.

Thanking you in advance,

The Hon. Michael Danby MP
Federal Member for Melbourne Ports


14 Responses to “Danby calls Q&A “a setup””
  1. Brendan O’Neill was magnificent and Eva Cox came across better than she has been in the past re Israel.

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dealing first with the nonsensical observations by Adam Scott:
    YES, “alternative” views, such as those promoted by Zionists,have an inherent right to be seen/heard. “Inherent” pertains to lots of justified things which I shall not develop here simply because elementary sophistication should grasp its meaning.

    To be fair to ABC and to Michael Danby, the Q&A in question must be “seen” in the way it unfolded, NOT the manner in which even Michael Danby ( falsely ) anticipated .
    Tony Jones was more than equitable in constantly redirecting an evasive, digressing, erratic, self-promoting and absurd Bob Carr toward the issues raised by the audience, when critical of Carr’s exploits. Most importantly Carr DID NOT get away with the floundering rants as attempts to escape rational criticism. Carr practically was properly cornered and shown for the unfairness of his statements, whether in his book or on the Q&A panel.To a significant extent, Brendan O’Neill did a remarkable job by elevating the entire night to very respectable standards and, particularly, in terms of defining the complex character of anti -Israel bashing. NONE of the other panelists raised to O’Neill’s level of presentation.Kerry Chikarovski dismissed herself from the Israel issues by admitting total ignorance.
    Eva Cox was all over the place, arguing in favour of some fantasy, erratic desire of some alternative systems of discussions, debates, socio-political structures where she would have felt comfortable in her element of irrelevance and aimless ravings. Her display failed in all respects, principally to render any respectability to her broken record anti Zionist rants. She lost the plot big time.
    Nigel Kennedy , once again, failed to convey any reasonable message, particularly when spewing rubbish about palestinian artists ( show me one !!!) who would be subject to boycotts similar to the BDS affecting Israeli personalities. As a violinist he is good, as a political commentator he served his “cause” as well as Eva Cox, pathetically !!!
    All in all it was a rare occasion which worked in FAVOUR of the Jewish community, and by that I mean the kosher vyosher one.
    My heroes for the night: Brendan O’Neill and a very fair and flawless on the night, Tony Jones.

    Michael Danby’s thrust of criticism is a tad bent toward preconceived/prejudiced politically aligned “objectivity”, basically WRONG, albeit with the best of intentions….

    • Paul Winter says:

      Good points Otto, but lets try to be a bit fair to Michael Danby. He could have had no idea that Brendan O’Neill was going to be rational and fair. O’Neill is a Marxist and Michael (and all of us) could have expected a rant acceptable to the Social Alternative crew.

      It was a pity that none of the panel members or Tony Jones made Kennedy explain in what way Israel is an apartheid state a matter Bob Carr conspicuously failed to take up.

      • Brian Rom says:

        Oh the irony of right wingers like Mr Winter and Mr Waldmann wailing about Bob Carr’s complaint that the the Jewish community is too right wing.

        What makes Carr’s accusations false is that your rants do not (I hope) represent the views of the entire Jewish community in this country

        • Otto Waldmann says:

          Brian, you are incredibly right. My opinions do NOT represent the views of the entire Jewish community for I would be mortified,intellectually embarrassed to be associated with YOUR kind.

          Bob Carr was gasping for credibility and logic by attempting to present the genuine Zionist Jews as being some kind of a “wing” and, then continue by attempting to discredit what is a realistic attachment to Israel’s fate as a totally non-definable “right” side. Just as Carr, you wouldn’t know yourself what non-sense you are peddling by labeling abusively perfectly common and proper pro Israel views.

          You must be the only one I have noticed in agreement with Bob Carr. Howz about you dwell on that worrying little detail….

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        Dear Paul

        you are right about Danby’s premature and, actually, prejudiced…judgement of O’Neill. We are dealing here with the “end product” and this may demonstrate that assumptions are at least risky.
        As far s Kennedy, I think that rattling his cage with further “challenges” would have elicited more of the same idiotic rants. In the end he played his fiddle and, as a passionate classical music follower, what he played was even worse than his clowning into politics.

  3. please thank MICHAEL DANBY

    on my behalf for being brave and articulate in standing up for Israel . Unfortunately there are many jewish people like myself who have neither the wit or bravery to take on programmes like Q and A. in fact i no longer watch it as i can’t bear to see the attacks on Israel and other places that support honesty and democracy….thank you again…from the bottom of my heart.

  4. gabrielle gouch says:

    Well it was not Israel bashing.
    In fact the question relating to the Israeli lobby was very good. In addition no one could have spoken out better against demonizing Israel than Brendan O’Neil did. So let’s don’t get paranoid.

  5. Adam Ford says:

    So, if an independent panel in no way chosen for its views on Israel happens to not include anyone who supports Israel, rather than this being a genuine representation, this is deemed to be some kind of evil gerrymander and we all need to complain to ACMA?
    THIS is the very sort of absurd defensiveness that leads to allegations of behaving as an organised lobby intolerant of deviation from the official line. I mean, you are honestly asking the ABC on the basis that a question might get asked about Israel to include one pro-Israel person on every single panel it ever convenes which might ever be asked a question on the topic.
    Honestly, take a step outside all of this and ask how this sort of hysterical overreaction merely reinforces the sorts of perceptions you are trying to countermand.

    • David Samson says:

      “independent panel in no way chosen for its views on Israel” is this description seriously intended or did the Easter bunny drop it into your fantasy.

    • Paul Winter says:

      1) grow up
      2) grow a brain
      The reaction of Jews is not that of an intolerant organised lobby howling mindlessly to silence anyone who deviates from the party line. That line is taken by anti-semites who want to excuse all smears against Jews and Israel by high-mindedly sniffing that Jews want to stifle debated about their nefarious activities.

      The problem with the Q&A panel was that it included a well know Israel basher (who didn’t claim to be a Jew, but rather from a Jewish background), a former Israel supporter who accuses Jews of being unAustralian Israel firsters, an ex-politician turned lobbyist and a foul-mouthed fiddler who was allowed to get away with calling Israel an apartheid state. Questions were taken from Orientals who see the debate as between white Jews (forget about the Ethiopians) and “coloured” Palestinians – the ones identified by Hamas’ Fathi Hamid in 2012 as coming from Arabia and Egypt – as resisting” colonialism and racism. And not a representative of your organised Jewish lobby to act as an enforcer on the panel.

      The panel and hence the debate was no more balanced that you are. Shame on you!

  6. Paul Winter says:

    Michael Danby has done the right thing in complaining to the ABC. The problem is not only lack of balance, but in group vilification of Australian Jews: anyone who supports Israel is by Carr’s description working behind the scenes to advance Israel’s interests rather than Australia’s. If ever there was a cause for lodging a complaint under section 18C of the antidiscrimination act this is it. And yet, neither Danby, not any other communal leader who so vociferously demand that 18C be retained have lodged a complaint. Pathetic!

  7. David Samson says:

    If as I expect, tonight’s Q&A will evolve into an Israel-bashing debate, use your voice to complain to:
    1. ABC at http://www.abc.net.au/contact/complain.htm
    2. ACMA at http://www.acma.gov.au/webwr/_assets/main/lib100048/acma_b80.pdf

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