No Questions, No Answers

For technology consultants and those merely interested in journalistic thoroughness, the most notable thing about Monday night's Q & A program on ABC television was not the issues it discussed - the Joint Strike Fighter, ABC funding, taxation etc. - but one it deliberately omitted, namely the NBN. This omission was glaring given the presence of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the panel, who otherwise contributed little.

Part of the allure of Q & A is that interested viewers are invited to submit questions for the panellists before the show airs live. ABC makes a portion of these questions available online beforehand, although it is made clear that not all of them will be supplied to the guests. Inevitably, a large proportion of the viewer questions revolved around the NBN, with none that I saw being complimentary. Yet none of these questions were included in the list of topics to be discussed.

Furthermore, whenever the discussion did (inevitably) turn to the NBN, the discussion was immediately shut down by host Tony Jones. It was hard not to believe that there wasn't a deliberate policy being enforced. A cynic might suggest that Turnbull had made it a condition of his appearance, but that ignores the fact the he has never been shy to discuss the matter before, even if he is sometimes inclined to play fast and loose with the facts. (Delimiter also revealed that part of the Q & A audience was made up of the Sydney University Liberal Club, who afterwardsmet with the Minister. Oh, for those footloose undergraduate days.)

The question begs: if the most important and high-profile aspect of the Communications portfolio wasn't going to be discussed, why invite the Communications Minister on the program? This question was thrown into ever bolder relief as the show ground on, and Turnbull repeatedly declined to comment about other issues, since they fell outside of his ministerial purview. He wasn't necessarily stonewalling, but nor was he contributing much.

For a technology consultant, it was a frustrating hour's viewing. For the national broadcaster's flagship panel discussion program, it was a disgrace.

The full episode can be viewed here.

Complaints to Media Watch can be made here.