ABC host Stan Grant has ejected a Q&A audience member in a sensational blow up over the Ukraine conflict.
The extraordinary moment was triggered by widely discredited pro-Russian claims about killings in Ukraine.
After taking an inflammatory question from a Russian-Australian man that appeared to advocate retaliatory violence, the show moved on, but its host could not.
Almost 20 minutes after the question was uncomfortably deflected, Grant decided to take action, booting the questioner in emotional scenes.
“Something has been bothering me … people here have been talking about family who are suffering and people who are dying. Can I just say – I’m just not comfortable with you being here. Could you please leave?,” Grant said.
The questioner tried to argue his case but Grant was having none of it.
“You can ask a question, but we cannot advocate violence. I should have asked you to leave then. It‘s been playing on my mind and, I’m sorry, but I have to ask you to leave.”
Grant appeared visibly shaken while asking the young man to leave.
Later, Grant apologised for the disruption and explained the question had not been vetted.
He said while it was unfortunate to exclude people from the debate, advocating violence was never welcome.
“We come here in good faith to have open conversation, rigorous conversation. We’ve heard different points of view, and we encourage different points of view here,” he said.
“But we can’t have anyone who is sanctioning, supporting, violence and killing of people. So I‘m sorry for the disruption. It was not a vetted question. It was a rogue question. It’s not good.”
Panellist Olga Boichak, a Ukranian woman living in Australia, was given the last word.
“My friends and family – a lot of them are staying – some of them have joined the territorial defence units locally and they’re willing to do what it takes to not allow Ukraine to be occupied,” she said.
“They’re putting themselves at tremendous risk. They’re understanding the costs of freedom. It’s really interesting to reflect on Ukraine’s national anthem that says, ‘We will lay down our body and our soul for our freedom’, which is actually what is being asked of them right now.”
Earlier in the program, former director-general of ASIO Dennis Richardson made the grim prediction of a prolonged “guerilla war” if Russia achieved it’s apparent aim of taking over Ukraine.
“You could paint a scenario whereby Russia achieves its objective in the Ukraine, which is a puppet state, of some sort. They either kill or imprison President Zelenskyy – hopefully that does not happen. They take over that part of the Ukraine they want,” the former spy boss said.
“That then leads to urban, rural warfare, with the guerrilla resistance being supported out of Poland and NATO.
“Russia, over time, becomes frustrated by that. Perhaps an accident happens somewhere between Poland and Russia, leading to a bigger conflict. You can‘t exclude that.”
Mr Richardson also said that Putin probably has less constraints on him than the Soviet rulers and described him as essentially a “modern day tsar”.
“People talk about ‘the oligarchs should do more’. I don‘t think they have a lot of influence on him. I don’t know who has influence on Putin. I’m sure there are people who do, but it would be a very small number of people.”