Q + A still in the spotlight

June 30, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council has dismissed as “laughable” a response it received from the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs (A&CA) division to a complaint it lodged about the panel on the “Q&A” program which aired on ABC TV Thursday May 27.
 An advertised topic for that episode was the “Israel-Hamas conflict”, and the panel featured both noted Palestinian advocate Randa Abdel-Fattah and Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer who has represented the Palestinians at the International Criminal Court, without any balance from a comparable pro-Israel advocate.

In its response to AIJAC’s complaint about the obvious imbalance on the program, the A&CA claimed the program met requirements for impartiality under its Code of Practice, and its “editorial obligation… to present a diversity of relevant perspectives on the issue, and to not unduly favour any one of those perspectives over any other.” It also said former Australian Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, had challenged Abdel-Fattah by “provid[ing] an informed perspective on Israel’s actions and decisions.”

A&CA also bizarrely cited invitations the program made to acting Israeli Ambassador Jonathan Peled and the ECAJ’s Alex Ryvchin to merely be audience members as helping fulfil the ABC’s obligations to provide all relevant perspectives.

AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein said of the A&CA response, “Q &A did not include any mainstream pro-Israel Jewish voice on a five-person panel which contained two known activists for the Palestinian cause.

“Liberal MP Dave Sharma, a former Australian diplomat of Indian heritage who served in Papua New Guinea, the United States and Israel, was somehow expected by the ABC to present the Israeli viewpoint. While Mr Sharma responded admirably to the stacked panel, he did not do so as a representative of a pro-Israel viewpoint but as a Member of Parliament, opposed on the programme by another MP, Ed Husic.

“The ABC’s response that the acting Israeli Ambassador and a representative of the Jewish community were offered a chance to participate – as audience members, not panellists – makes a mockery of the network’s obligations under the ABC’s Code of Practice, and the A&CA’s attempts to defend the program are simply laughable.

“This episode yet again demonstrates something is clearly deeply wrong at the ABC, and its complaints procedure at the very least is in need of urgent reform,” he concluded.

Five J-Wire readers who sent complaints regarding the program. They received identical letters.

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