The empty chair missing its faceless man
There’s a hilarious saga going on over an empty chair on tonight’s Q and A panel.
The ABC last week booked ALP powerbroker Mark Arbib for tonight’s show, but this evening Julia Gillard’s office pulled the NSW Senator from the show, and offered up backbencher David Bradbury instead.
The Q and A producers politely but indignantly told the PM’s office to bugger off. In the grand scheme of things it’s worth remembering it’s just a TV show, but in the absence of any concrete details out of Canberra tonight it’s set off a bit of a storm.
Gillard’s statement said this:
I have made it clear that this is not a time for campaign analysis. The focus of Labor’s ministerial team must be on providing stable and effective government and discussing Labor’s positive plan for the nation’s future.
Consequently I have requested and Senator Arbib has agreed to not appear on Q & A tonight which is focussed solely on campaign analysis. I have requested Labor Backbencher David Bradbury to represent the Labor team on the panel.
But Q and A executive producer Peter McEvoy tonight wrote this to the PM’s press officer Russell Mahoney.
Mark Arbib agreed to be part of the Q&A panel over a week ago. We are now told he has been directed by the Prime Minister that he cannot join tonight’s discussion.
Q&A provides an opportunity for Australian citizens to question their political leaders and has become a model for broader democratic participation in this election. We’re dismayed that Mr Arbib will be prevented from answering the questions of the Q&A audience on the significant issues raised by Saturday’s election.
Contrary to the comment you released, tonight’s Q&A will not focus “solely on campaign analysis”. We expect a significant part of the discussion will be on the nation’s future and the importance of stable and effective government – the very issues Ms Gillard identifies as the focus of her team.
We cannot accept your request that you choose a substitute panel member for tonight’s Q&A since this would be a clear breach of the ABC’s editorial independence. Mr Arbib will be represented by an empty chair at the Q&A desk.
I hope that the Prime Minister and Mr Arbib might still be responsive to the obligations that all Australian politicians have to face Australian citizens and the media on matters of national significance such as the future government of Australia.
Peter McEvoy Executive Producer Q&A
Arbib is one of the NSW powerbrokers many in the ALP are holding responsible for Gillard’s debacle of an election campaign, so it’s not surprising she’s not keen for him to come under scrutiny tonight while negotiations with the independents over who will form government are still so fragile.
But the saga has only added to the sense of chaos around the care taker PM, which I’m sure she could do without.
There’s a bit of a tizz about this on Twitter you can check out here.
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