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Second Liberal MP Alan Tudge snubs ABC’s Q&A

Tony Abbott’s parliamentary secretary Alan Tudge has withdrawn from tonight’s Q&A program on the ABC as the row between the government and national broadcaster over convicted criminal and “terrorist sympathiser’’ Zaky ­Mallah deepened.

Mr Tudge last night became the second senior government member to refuse to appear on the program and attacked the ABC over its decision to invite Mallah, who was convicted of threatening to kill ASIO officers, on to last week’s show.

Writing in The Australian today, Mr Tudge accuses the ABC of giving extremists what they are seeking — “media attention to magnify their message’’.

“When you read the full details of Mallah, including his use of the media for attention-seeking, he sounds remarkably like Man Monis, the Lindt cafe terrorist,’’ Mr Tudge says. “When given the microphone on Q&A, he used it to his advantage, providing a chilling justification for terrorists which came perilously close to incitement.’’

He also said Mallah’s appearance could not be justified because of his attitude to women. Mr Tudge said Mallah had tweeted earlier in the year that two well-known female journalists were “decent whores that ... need to be gang banged on the Sunrise desk”. He followed up by suggesting that he would be first to participate.

“If a man called for the public gang rape of two prominent women, what would be your ­response? Revulsion? Outrage?” Mr Tudge said. “How about giving the man a taxpayer-funded megaphone, live and unvetoed, with a million people listening?’’

Last night, Mallah released an offensive YouTube clip in which he repeated denials that he had called for the two journalists to be “gang-raped”. “My tweet clearly stated that these two News Corp trashy whores should be gang banged on the Sunrise desk. Gang banged not gang raped,” he said.

Mr Tudge said he discussed his decision with the Prime Minister’s office about his decision to withdrawn from tonight’s program “but ultimately it was my decision and I take responsibility for it’’. Last week Defence Minister Kevin Andrews also announced he would boycott Q&A.

With a formal government review of last week’s program under way Mr Tudge did not think it appropriate that he appear on Q&A.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is scheduled to receive the results of a review into the incident tomorrow.

Mr Turnbull told Sky News last night he expected ABC managing director Mark Scott and the board to take more responsibility for editorial standards at the broadcaster, saying the issue was key to the government’s inquiry.

Mr Scott last week compared Mallah’s right to appear on Q&A with the campaign for free speech that flowed from the jihadist murder of 12 journalists from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

But Mr Turnbull said last night: “Mark Scott is entitled to assert the independence of the ABC, he’s entitled to speak up for free speech ... but what perhaps he could have spent more time on in his speech was actually reflecting on ... (that) this is not something to just brush off as an error of judgment,” he told the Viewpoint program.

Mr Turnbull put the onus on the board to ensure the ABC’s news and current affairs operations were properly managed.’’ Mr Turnbull earlier had a fiery on-air exchange with the ABC’s Barrie Cassidy over claims that audience members were threatened by Q&A’s “undergraduate” decision to include Mallah.

Amid government accusations of ABC journalists running a “protection racket” for the panel show, Cassidy asked Mr Turnbull: “How many hundreds of shopping centres has this guy walked into and exposed himself to thousands of people in that way? How has that been a threat? What’s the difference between him going into a shopping centre?”

Visibly stunned, Mr Turnbull denied the threat had been “exaggerated”. “Are you pulling my leg? After the Martin Place siege, you are saying to me that there is no security in putting Zaky Mallah in a live audience?” Mr Turnbull said.

Cassidy interrupted: “What’s the difference between that and Zaky Mallah walking into a shopping centre?”

Mr Turnbull answered: “If you can’t see that, I’m sorry, seriously you’ve lost the plot there, with all due respect. This is a high-profile audience, a very high-profile target.”

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