Q+A last night conducted a debate on the conflict tearing apart the Middle East without a studio audience, as police were stationed outside its Southbank studio in Melbourne.
Host Patricia Karvelas told viewers, “Before we start the program tonight, a few words on this moment in our national debate.
“We’ve made the decision to conduct tonight’s difficult and sensitive discussion without a live studio audience. We believe in your right to ask questions and that is a right we will always defend.”
The panel consiisted of Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese, Former Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma, President of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network and Mark Leibler National Chairman of The Australia / Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.
Despite calls for Nasser Mashni and Francesca Albanese to be removed from the panel, the broadcast proceeded.
“Tonight our panelists will hear your questions through video link as we explore an issue rocking our diaspora Jewish and Arab communities. We will conduct a robust, healthy and respectful debate. Without hearing from each other we are weaker and because of the nature of this topic, we’ll be canvassing some confronting material,” said Karvelas.
But she also asked Tim Watts, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, if he was concerned about the safety on suburban streets, particularly following an incident in Caulfield on Friday night.
“It’s worth reflecting on where we’re sitting now, PK,” he replied. “I mean, there’s no audience here. There’s a very significant police contingent out the front of the public broadcaster in Australia.
“I’ve not appeared on Q+A before and had to have security protection out the front. It’s deeply concerning that this is the way we have to talk about this issue.”
Q+A was without studio audiences through the worst of the Covid pandemic but prides itself on giving “town hall access” to decision makers and influential Australians.
Last week ABC sources confirmed the show would return in 2024.