Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told his ministers to boycott a talk show by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) after the network allowed a former terror suspect to appear on a live question and answer session last week. Local media reports said that Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce canceled his appearance on the Q&A show on Monday night, following Abbott’s orders.
"The Prime Minister has communicated that he does not want any frontbencher to appear on Q&A," a spokesman for Joyce said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, adding: "Barnaby was told this tonight and apologized to Q&A that he would not be able to appear."
Joyce said Monday in an address to the National Press Club that he was simply following orders, ABC News reported. "It is by deference to the Prime Minister that when an instruction comes through, it is obeyed. Otherwise the whole process of Cabinet becomes chaotic."
"Do I think it would have been good to know about it a little bit earlier? Yes, that would've been nice, but that's life, you take it on the chin," he added.
Last week, former terror suspect Zaky Mallah asked a question on the ABC show, drawing criticism. The network later apologized for letting Mallah appear on the show and said it was conducting a review of the decision, BBC reported.
Mallah was convicted of threatening to kill government officials in 2005 but was acquitted of terror charges later. During the Q&A show, he had asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Steven Ciobo about the plans by the government to take away dual citizenship of those who support terrorism. Ciobo had replied saying that he was happy to be part of the government "that would say that you were out of the country."
Mallah reacted strongly to the comment, saying that the government "just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight to leave and go to Syria and join [Islamic State] because of ministers like him," BBC reported.
Abbott’s boycott of the Q&A received opposition from some of his ministers.
Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon said that it was extraordinary for Abbott to pass such an order. He also urged Joyce to stand up against the decision. "This is not Soviet Russia or even modern day Korea, this is Australia, a democracy," he said, according to ABC News, adding: "We've got to ask ourselves why the Prime Minister is doing this.
"I'd like to have $20 on Malcolm Turnbull appearing on Q&A next Monday night. ... I would be amazed if Malcolm Turnbull doesn't do what Barnaby Joyce should do today and give the Prime Minister the single finger and get on with it."
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is now in a tough spot as he is scheduled to appear on the show next week, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.