Although the taxpayer-funded ABC, like the licence-payer-funded BBC, is obligated to provide political balance, that obligation was (predictably, in a trend so reminiscent of the BBC too) honoured more in the breach than the observance, for only one of last evening's silver-haired panellists, Peter Coleman, former editor of the conservative monthly magazine Quadrant and former leader of the New South Wales Liberals (on the left of the above photo, seated between art critic and former New South Wales Art Gallery director Betty Churcher and British primate expert Jane Goodall), did not lean towards the Left.
A perusal of the show's transcript here (or the video here) will confirm that Coleman managed to land much-needed punches in relation to John Pilger (whose film "Utopia" was the subject of a question) and made a classic politically incorrect elephant-in-the-room observation regarding violence against women in traditional aboriginal society (the kind of observation's that turned Quadrant editor and historian Keith Windschuttle into a target of obloquy by many leftist historians and which earned Coleman a much-applauded rebuke by Jane Goodall).
There was no question specifically relating to Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, although as the transcript and video reveal Jane Goodall touched upon that subject in passing when discussing the "Roots & Shoots" project that's dear to her heart.
But any viewer who thought that this edition of Q&A was going to be free of anti-Israel propaganda reckoned without the near-fanaticism of BDS enthusiast Stuart Rees, who managed to turn a question about the Australian budget and its impact on young Australians into an opportunity gratuitously to introduce "the Palestinians":
Zoe Thompson: ... My question is to the panel generally. The current budget seems to place an unfair burden on young people. The proposed changes to higher education are expected to increase fees, leading to a bigger debt burden for most. Young people also have to contend with the prospect of being locked out of the housing market, especially in major cities and, as we have already talked about, we’re inheriting a – they are inheriting a huge environmental problem. As a mother and a high school teacher, I know that young people feel uncertain about the future. Are the burdens of today's young people greater than in the past? Greater, for example, than when you were young people?
Tony Jones: Stuart, we’ll start with you.
Stuart Rees: Yeah, certainly they are because when I was brought up in a period of not - nowhere near - well, it certainly wasn't economic prosperity but we hadn't discovered the market. We hadn't discovered the notion that your and all the students here are simply commodities. On Q&A last week, we had a politician and an economics journalist saying and trying to reassure the audience that the major problem of this country was debt. Well, it is debt but, in terms of your question, it is actually a moral debt. It is a moral debt that we need to get rid of regarding the treatment of Indigenous people, regarding the treatment of asylum seekers, regarding the treatment of the young unemployed and the mentally ill. Let alone the vulnerable people around the world whom this current government treats with complete indifference, people in West Papua, the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the Palestinians in the Middle East. So, yes, unfortunately it is because of this absurd mantra, this absurd notion, that the market is king and you have just had a Commission of Audit who said that we – the future is about competitive Federalism. It is not. It is about a common humanity.To his credit, Peter Coleman jumped in, and had his say, before Tony Jones steered the discussion back to relevance:
Peter Coleman: Tony, can I say something on this? Well, I disagree entirely.
Stuart Rees: I am surprised.
Peter Coleman: As you'd expect. I'm so damn old that I was at university in the 1940s and it was an age in which there were no handouts, no student pensions and my circle of people simply had to work their way through the damn university and to go on strike or to have demos or riots about reduced handouts or the size of the debt that they incur by having their fees paid for is unthinkable. So I don't have too much sympathy with the young that you talk about. As for the Palestinians and the Israelis, I don't see how you can work them together. The real problem there is not – is the organisation of which you are such a distinguished leader, Stuart, that is the Boycott Israel movement, the BDS, and while that continues, although I notice your university union, the Tertiary Education Union, has denounced it and rejected it [see here], but I simply feel that you miss the point.
Tony Jones: Now, Peter, I am letting you finish that point because that was raised by Stuart but let's go back to the question.Incidentally, next week's Q&A might be worth watching, since, in Tony Jones's words, it will have
"a panel that includes a Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, one of the few Jewish MPs Josh Frydenberg and alongside him rising Labor star Ed Husic, the first Muslim elected to the Federal Parliament".
Anyway, for anyone who's a glutton for punishment, here's Stuart Rees speaking in favour of academic BDS to Sydney students in 2012 during the so-called "Israel Apartheid Week":