OPINION: Free speech? Sometimes

OPINION: The DEX editor - David Moase

IT'S amazing how politicians love free speech - as long as it works to their advantage.

They also love to clamp down on it - particularly when it works to their advantage.

The indignation at the appearance and comments of Zaky Mallah on the ABC's Q&A program this week seems to be a classic case of the latter.

While questions about the ABC's choice to allow Mallah a key role on the program are legitimate, the horror at the fact he exercised the free speech we like to think is a key part of this country appears highly contrived.

The furore created by government ministers and sympathetic media seemed to work just a little too well. It allowed the Coalition to put the boot into one of its favourite targets - the ABC - and quickly turned attention away from suggestions out of Canberra that public schooling might no longer be free.

Suddenly the government was fighting on much more comfortable ground.

Free speech is a wonderful part of our culture, but sometimes it can make us feel uncomfortable.

That discomfort, however, is a very small price to pay.