Q+A has been criticised for not pushing back on an audience member who alleged Australia’s approach to multiculturalism has “diluted” the nation’s identity, with some viewers calling the show’s handling of the question “frankly irresponsible.”
While sitting next to a young woman wearing a head scarf, the audience member asked why Australia continues to embrace migration when, in her words, it “clearly hinders” a “unified national identity and culture.”
The question was permitted by host Hamish Macdonald and passed to anti-family violence advocate Tarang Chawla. “Great question,” he said, dryly. “I think that multiculturalism doesn’t hinder us.”
Other panellists agreed, with Gamilaroi woman and presenter Marlee Silva arguing that modern Australia never had a unified cultural identity to begin with, outside of certain ageing ideals tied to the ANZAC legend.
Comedian Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann said that, as far as he could see, there are only three unique facets of the Australian identity: Indigenous Australian culture, our flora and fauna, and Aussie Rules footy.
Hardly a ringing endorsement from the show’s panel. Still, the fact the question was given airtime at all has been singled out. The issue, as some see it, is that even hearing the question lends its core premise a sense of legitimacy.
Taking to Twitter, Guardian Australia reporter Naaman Zhou wound back his earlier praise of last night’s programme, stating there was a “completely racist element” to the question which went unexamined by Macdonald.
Can Hamish ask that questioner why she thinks multiculturalism is “diluting Australia’s culture”? What about multiculturalism is in conflict with that? A completely racist element to that question that it’s frankly irresponsible to let slide #qanda
— Naaman Zhou (@naamanzhou) March 2, 2020
Separately, Zhou asked if Australia has forgotten that Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist who killed 51 people in two mosque attacks in March last year, was born and raised in New South Wales.
Osman Faruqi, editor of the 7am podcast and former deputy editor at ABC Life, also highlighted the fact the ABC once hosted neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell on a separate panel show. After the Christchurch attack, an ABC investigation found Tarrant had praised Cottrell online.
In a later tweet, Faruqi called Q+A‘s handling of last night’s question “appalling.”
Others have levelled similar concerns about the programme, and at the assumptions which provoked the question in the first place.
Like BBC’s Question Time, ABC’s Q&A isolates a right-wing question from the audience about the alleged dangers of multiculturalism and ‘mass immigration’ to put on social media. pic.twitter.com/x6U1tphnnf
— Evan Smith (@evansmithhist) March 2, 2020
Wow! Check the white nationalist question! Our national identity IS multiculturalism. Australia is a beautiful melting pot of people from all over the world #QandA
— Bethany Williams 💙🇺🇦💛 (@BethanyinCBR) March 2, 2020
The question completely overlooks the fact that what hinders Australia from having a unified national identity as a multicultural society is the (unstated of course) underlying attitudes that gave rise to the question #QandA #auspol https://t.co/LWlfCKin1U…
— Mike Kennedy (@MikeKennedy1906) March 2, 2020
I don’t even know where to start https://t.co/JUiPahoihT
— Hiero Badge (@hierobadge) March 2, 2020
In a statement provided to PEDESTRIAN.TV, Q+A Executive Producer Erin Vincent today defended the show’s decision to “bring together people with a range of widely divergent views and create a forum where they can have a civil and productive discussion despite their differences.”
Vincent said the show’s format allows the host, the audience, and the panel to dispute controversial opinions highlighted in the broadcast.
“Being included on the panel or in the audience isn’t an endorsement: we couldn’t possibly agree with or endorse all the views expressed on Q+A, but we do try to include significant opinions,” she said.
Discussing the show’s recent facelift, Zhou said recent episodes have resulted in “Much more active discussion with questioners” and “More productive discussion.”
“At least for last week’s ep and 80% of this one,” he added.