ABC apologises to Tony Abbott for offensive tweet broadcast during live 'Q&A' TV debate

Incident coincides with a slip in Abbott's popularity ratings

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The Independent Online

Tony Abbott has called Australia’s state broadcaster ABC “out of control” after it broadcast an offensive tweet about the much-derided prime minister.

During a debate on whether politicians’ social media feeds were more honest than their memoirs, Q&A, a weekly panel discussion programme, featured a live tweet from a viewer.

The tweet itself was harmless, reading: “I prefer ones twitter feed to their biographies”. But the handle listed below it on screen, “AbbottLovesAnal”, prompted outrage and was soon trending on Twitter nationwide.

ABC apologised for the tweet, which comes at a difficult time for relations between the government and the state broadcaster.

The Coalition has accused ABC, and in particular the producers of Q&A, of anti-government bias ever since the programme allowed former terror suspect Zaky Mallah on as an audience member to question junior minister Steve Ciobo live on air.

The tweet came up during a debate on social media profiles (ABC)

An inquiry into ABC was launched by the government after it then chose to rebroadcast the episode, and Mr Abbott said he thought “heads should role”.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Mr Abbott said he was yet to respond to an apology text sent by ABC managing director Mark Scott.

He said: “I just hope that the ABC management get on and do what they said they were going to do with that programme.

“I think it is a bit out of control and I think it’s important for the ABC not just to talk about tighter management structures, tighter management control on that particular programme, but actually do it.”

ABC said in a statement that a formal letter of apology would be sent to Mr Abbott. “Q&A handles a very high volume of tweets during its live broadcast every week,” it said. “Last night's program was no different and contained a vibrant discussion on a range of topics and featured some lively Twitter exchanges.

“This particular tweet was not published on purpose and the ABC regrets any offence caused.”

While one rogue tweet cannot represent the thoughts of the general public, the incident came as it emerged that Mr Abbott had dropped behind the opposition Labor leder Bill Shorten in popularity ratings for the first time since May.

The latest Newspoll survey, published in the Australian, showed personal dissatisfaction with the prime minister’s performance was up two points, and an election tomorrow would result in an emphatic loss for his government.