GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 111
9 SEPTEMBER 2011
“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”
– Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.
“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time.
Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep.
of us that just wants to ask: “Hendo, are you OK?”
– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.
“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago
I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”
– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011
“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails
are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s
Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.
Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”
– Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.
“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”
– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.
“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”
– Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)
● Stop Press: Will the ABC Do A Sitcom On Bob Brown?; Rob Stary’s 9/11 Cop-out;
Phillip Adams – Yet Again on the Labor Leadership
● Historical Howler of the Week: Bob Brown on Vietnamese Refugees
● Nancy’s Old Bones – Factless at UNSW: A Theory
● Can You Bear It? : Marieke Hardy & Bob Ellis; Clive Hamilton’s Libya Invention; Q&A’s Shoe Sell-out
●Maurice Newman Segment: RN Breakfast and Asylum Seekers
● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Australian Literary Supplement Slagging
●America on 9/11 Anniversary
●History Corner: Lee Rhiannon – A Political Dossier
▪ At Home With Saint Bob – Not On Your ABC
MWD will form an assessment of ABC’s At Home With Julia later. In the meantime, there is reason to query Virginia Trioli’s claim on News Breakfast yesterday that there “has been extraordinarily rough satire on almost every high profile figure in Australian politics over the last….20 years or so”.
Er, not really. Can anyone remember the ABC making fun of Bob Brown? Does anyone believe that ABC 1 would do a comedy – replete with references to “quickies” – with the title At Home With Bob? Enough said. [Probably too much – Ed].
▪ Rob Stary Eyes
This morning’s edition of “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra” runs Melbourne criminal lawyer Robert Stary as the sole of contributor to its “September 11: Ten Years On” series.
The article, titled “Anti-terror laws cost us dearly”, virtually dismisses all the successful prosecutions of Australian residents and citizens for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. According to Mr Stary, the anti-terrorist legislation – which was introduced by the Coalition with the support of Labor – is a waste since it has upset alleged unnamed Muslims.
In his article on The Age’s Opinion Page, Robert Stary opines:
The broader issue that causes alienation comes from the treatment of their Muslim brothers and sisters in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt, and the West’s duplicitous dealings with oppressive regimes in those countries.
Needless to say, Mr Stary did not use his Age article to express concern about the plight of Muslims in, say, Iran or Gaza or Syria.
▪ Julia Gillard Survives Phillip Adams’ Ultimatum
Phillip Adams is invariably telling the ALP who should lead it. In the late 1960s, he thought it would be a leadership you-beaut idea if the leftist nut-case Dr Jim Cairns replaced Gough Whitlam. The Labor caucus had the good sense to support Whitlam over Cairns when Cairns – with the backing of Adams – challenged for the Labor leadership. In The Australian last Monday, Mr Adams was at it again in an article which commenced “Julia resign” and which ended “Resign, Julia, Resign”.
The ABC’s Man-In-Black reckons that Kevin Rudd should return to The Lodge. On 24 July 2007 Phillip Adams wrote in The Australian that he was “a little anxious” that Kevin Rudd’s policies were too close to those of John Howard and Rudd Labor’s strategy might not work. Stand by for more (gratuitous) Adams advice to the Labor Party.
HISTORICAL HOWLER OF THE WEEK
SENATOR BOB BROWN STEPS FORWARD WITH HOWLER ON VIETNAMESE REFUGEES DURING MALCOLM FRASER’S TIME
Has Greens leader Bob Brown ever been subjected to a tough-minded interview by ABC Radio National presenter Fran Kelly? Certainly MWD has no memory of such an occasion. Like many of her colleagues on the public broadcaster, Ms Kelly criticises both the Coalition and Labor – but invariably from the left. Since the Greens are the only genuinely left-wing party in contemporary Australia, Senator Brown and his colleagues are rarely – if ever – subjected to tough minded interviews on the ABC.
On RN Breakfast last Monday, Senator George Brandis (the Coalition’s shadow attorney-general) received a tough interview from Fran Kelly on offshore processing. On Tuesday, however, Senator Bob Brown received the softest interview on the same subject. Fran Kelly even remained mute when Senator Brown made the following (false) claim about asylum seekers during the time of Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition government:
Bob Brown: What would have happened if Malcolm Fraser had said “Turn back the boats” at the time of the Vietnamese people escaping the war in their country and coming to Australia. How much better off is this country because of that Vietnamese influx?
Senator Brown made two historical howlers in a mere 40 words – and Fran Kelly corrected neither. Here they are:
1. Saigon fell to the conquering North Vietnamese Army – which was supplied by the communist dictators in the Soviet Union – on 30 April 1975. Malcolm Fraser was appointed prime minister of Australia on 11 November 1975 and the Coalition, under Mr Fraser’s leadership, won a convincing victory at the December 1975 election.
The Indo-Chinese refugees, mainly Vietnamese but including Cambodians and Laotians, did not come to Australia as a result of “escaping the war in their country”. Not at all – since by 1976 the wars in Indo-China were over and the communists had gained power in all of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
The Vietnamese and others who came to Australia during the time of the Fraser Government were not escaping war – as Senator Brown claims. Rather, they were escaping from the communist dictatorships which had been set up following the communist victories in South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 1975. In other words, the Indo-Chinese who came to Australia after 1975 were escaping their so-called communist “liberators” – something which Senator Brown does not wish to acknowledge.
2. Very few of the Indo-Chinese refugees who arrived in Australia between 1976 and 1982 came by boat. These are the official figures for unlawful boat arrivals in Australia during the Fraser years – they can be found in official Immigration Department documents and are confirmed, among other places, in Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs.
1976 – 111
1977 – 868
1978 – 746
1979 – 304
1980 – 0
1981 – 30
1982 – 0
A total of 2059 asylum seekers arrived in Australia by boat during the entire period of the Fraser Government – i.e. around 300 a year. This total is less than a third of the numbers who arrived during one year of the Howard and Rudd governments – i.e. 5516 in 2001 and 6879 in 2010.
Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition government generously accepted tens of thousands of Indo-Chinese asylum seekers. However, the overwhelming majority of these refugees were processed off-shore by the United Nations in such places as Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore and hand-picked by Australian officials. Moreover, all these refugees arrived in Australia by air with valid visas.
Senator Bob Brown should know this. And so should Fran Kelly.
STILL FACTLESS AT UNSW – BLAME HUMPHREY MCQUEEN
Two weekends ago Nancy’s co-owner was in Melbourne and happened to tune into leftist community radio station 3CR. In particular to the Left After Breakfast program. Lo and behold, leftist academic Humphrey McQueen was on the blower from Queensland banging on about some left-wing cause or other.
All this reminded Nancy’s co-owner of Humphrey McQueen’s seminal work A New Britannia (Penguin Books, 1970). Reviewing McQueen’s tome in The Age on 19 December 1970, Alastair Davidson commented that A New Britannia contained virtually no original research and that the secondary sources quoted did not support the claims in the book. Commented Davidson: “Astonished, we wonder how a history without original research or secondary research which substantiates the points made, can be written.”
Now here’s a theory. Perhaps, four decades later, Humphrey McQueen’s scholarship has influenced left-wing academics Nick Dyrenfurth and Tim Soutphommasane, the co-editors of All That’s Left (UNSW Press, 2010). As readers of MWD will be aware, in their contribution to All That’s Left, Dr Nick and Dr Tim wrote a chapter which contained neither primary nor secondary sources. Neither the authors nor UNSW Press nor the University of New South Wales itself will provide evidence for the claims made in All That’s Left. Nancy blames the influence of Humphrey McQueen.
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
▪ Read All About It (Or Maybe Not) – Marieke Hardy’s Bob Ellis Obsession
Marieke Hardy is a writer, blogger, broadcaster and granddaughter of the late Stalinist scribbler Frank Hardy (1917-1994). See MWD passim. Ms Hardy also professes an infatuation with the writer Bob Ellis – and has a dog named Bob Ellis. They are separate entities – believe it or not. Bob “The Canine” Ellis is the sensible one in that he is not into (false) prophecy.
The following over-written blurb, which Allen & Unwin has released to plug the release of Marieke Hardy’s book You’ll By Sorry When I’m Dead, has been drawn to Nancy’s attention.
From childhood dreams of prostitution to her unabashed passion for heavy drinking, from growing up wide-eyed on the set of Australian soaps to her infatuation with Bob Ellis, these are the outrageously entertaining and deeply revealing reminiscences of a multimedia star….
From stalking and eventually meeting her Young Talent Time idol when she was twelve, to a particularly abhorrent encounter at a high-quality swingers night, and a mildly perverse obsession with Bob Ellis, there is nothing Marieke Hardy won’t write about. Welcome to a chronicle of broken hearts, fervid pursuits, passionate friendships, deranged letter-writing, the allure of the bottle, the singular charms of musicians, the lost song of youth, and three very awkward evenings with varying prostitutes-exactly zero percent of which the author’s parents will want to read. Add to that a slightly misguided attempt to give real-life friends and ex-lovers a “right of reply” to the stories they appear in and it’s fair to say an extended stint in the Witness Protection Program beckons.
Maybe Marieke Hardy’s parents will not want to read their daughter’s true (or maybe true) confessions. Maybe. But MWD is on the case. Allen & Unwin boast that the publicity tart Ms Hardy is destined for an extended stint in the Witness Protection Program. It is not clear what she needs to be protected from – except her own narcissism. Can you bear it?
▪ Clive Hamilton Leads ABC TV News With No News At All
ABC TV News last Sunday covered a story that the CIA and MI6 may have rendered terrorism suspects to Libya for interrogation. There is some evidence for this claim – and it deserved news coverage.
However, the ABC elected to give a “free kick” to leftist activist Clive Hamilton – who has no expertise on intelligence matters. It appears that neither ABC News nor Clive (“Call me Doctor”) Hamilton bothered about evidence. Asked by an ABC reporter whether Australian intelligence agencies might have been involved in rendering terrorism suspects to Libya, Clive Hamilton responded:
Well, given the close collaboration between Australian intelligence and the CIA and British intelligence – it would be surprising indeed if Australian intelligence was unaware of these goings on in Libya.
So there you had it. Clive Hamilton had no evidence in support of the assertion – and resorts to such fact-free terms as “it would be surprising if”. Yet this claim led the ABC TV News last Sunday. Can you bear it?
▪ AM Falls For University “Productivity” Pitch
Glenn Withers, the head of Universities Australia, managed to get Page 1 coverage in the Canberra Times last Monday – along with an interview on the AM program. His topic? Well, Professor Withers reckons that universities are the key to lifting productivity in Australia. How come? Well, according to Professor Withers, all the Gillard Government has to do is to provide lotsa extra taxpayers’ funds to universities – and “Bob’s your Uncle”, productivity in Australia will increase. Here’s an extract from Brendan Trembath’s interview with Glenn Withers on last Monday’s AM.
Brendan Trembath: Boosting productivity growth is a bit like squeezing a lemon – everyone is trying to get a bit more juice out of that lemon but how do you get more juice out of the lemon from universities?
Glenn Withers : There is a lot of things we can do to improve our productivity – modernise the lecture theatres, use the latest technology in everything we do and we shall deliver.
How about that? Professor Withers conned AM to give him a run on Australia’s leading current affairs radio program by claiming that Australia’s productivity will increase if only the taxpayer funds new chairs in university lecture theatres. Can you bear it?
▪ Taxpayer Funded Q&A Mugged By Very Commercial Volley Shoes
The story so far. When John Howard was the sole guest on Q&A on 25 October 2010, audience member Peter Gray attained world-wide attention when he threw a pair of well-worn runners at the former prime minister. The 30 year old leftist greenie was asked to leave the studio by presenter Tony Jones and the ABC declined to return his footwear. Then, earlier this year, Mr Gray died of bowel cancer and Q&A decided to auction his Volley shoes on Ebay. Mr Howard agreed to the proposal and all funds were to go to charity – namely, the work in Iraq by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
And so it came to pass that the auction concluded last Monday. At the end of last Monday’s Q&A, presenter Tony Jones proudly declared the entire auction raised – wait for it, $3,650.
Fair dinkum. A lousy $3,650. This would work out to $10 a head for those who comprised the Q&A audience last Monday. Or less than one cent per household for the 587,000 households who watched the program. How lousy can you get?
Australia’s professional sandal-wearing left watch Q&A and hate John Howard. Yet all the vast team of Q&A viewing Howard-haters could put together was a mere $3,650 for the International Red Cross. The final bid was even put in by Volley itself – apparently the late Peter Gray’s shoes will be placed in the company’s museum.
So there you have it. The very commercial Volley obtained much free product promotion on the public broadcaster. And the taxpayer funded ABC made a big issue out of the fact that the shoe company had contributed almost nothing to charity. Can you bear it?
MAURICE NEWMAN SEGMENT
EVERYONE AGREES WITH EVERYONE ELSE ON RN BREAKFAST
This increasingly popular segment is devoted to analysing ABC chairman’s Maurice Newman’s suggestion that there is a “group-think” ethos extant in the public broadcaster – and the ABC Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes’ refutation of any such claim. See MWD passim.
What a you-beaut discussion on Radio National Breakfast yesterday. The issue was asylum seekers – with particular focus on a report that the Immigration Department has warned the Gillard Government that relatively large numbers of unlawful boat arrivals could cause social disharmony within Australia.
Former Liberal MP Bruce Baird and ANU academic William Maley are good blokes who deserve to have their views heard on RN Breakfast and elsewhere. However, not necessarily at the same time on asylum seekers – since they essentially agree with each other.
And so – certainly not for the first time – a “debate” on asylum seekers took place on the ABC where everyone essentially agreed with everyone else. Mr Baird essentially agreed with Dr Maley who essentially agreed with Mr Baird who favourably quoted from refugee advocate David Manne who had recently been heard on ABC Radio News. Fran Kelly attempted to play the devil’s advocate – but her heart was not really in it – since she essentially agreed with Bruce Baird who essentially agreed with William Maley who essentially agreed with David Manne who essentially agreed with her.
Maurice Newman: 2
Jonathan Holmes: Zip
THE AUSTRALIAN LITERARY REVIEW CHANNELS LEFT’S AUNTY
Robert Manne’s Quarterly Essay (Issue 43) titled “Bad News: Murdoch’s Australian and the Shaping of the Nation” came out on Monday – alleging, inter alia, that The Australian is “an unusually ideological paper committed to advancing the causes of neo-liberalism in economics and neo-conservatism in the sphere of foreign policy”.
Then, on Wednesday, The Australian Literary Review appeared as a supplement to The Australian. The cover story, by Geoffrey Garrett, was titled “America’s Lost Decade: The True Cost of 9/11”. There were two other articles on 9/11 by (i) Queensland University academics Tim Dunne and Matthew McDonald and (ii) Brendon O’Connor. There was also an article on the Australian American Alliance by James Curran. Garrett, O’Connor and Curran all are employed by the US Studies Centre – which received a $30 million handout by the Howard Government.
Most Australian taxpayers believe that the United States was the victim of al Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001. Apparently Australian taxpayer funded academics are of a different view – especially those who work at the US Studies Centre in Sydney.
Geoffrey Garrett did a predictable bash at the neo-conservatives. He also declared that US “wins” which had prevailed in Iraq “which had seen Osama bin Laden killed” and “which had prevented another terrorist attack on the US mainland – are “hard to justify”. Garrett favourably quoted the UK’s Daily Mirror against George W. Bush. Nancy just loved Garrett’s sentence which read: “The second lesson of the ‘70s is that they were followed by the ‘80s and then the ‘90s.” Your taxes at work at the US Studies Centre.
Then Tim Dunne and Matthew McDonald declared that the “opportunity costs of the war on terror are all too apparent”. The message of the article is that governments are into terror as well as the likes of al Qaeda.
Then Brendan O’Connor did a leftist rant bagging such predictable targets as Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and (believe it or not) even “Miss Teen South Carolina”. [Professor O’Connor must be one of the most astute minds at the taxpayer funded US Studies Centre – Ed]. O’Connor even went on to blame the US for “the rise of Pol Pot” and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. He too quoted the Daily Mirror bagging the Bush administration. Pretty persuasive, eh? [Are there no other newspapers in the US Studies Centre Library? – Ed].
James Curran, who is usually worth reading, wrote a lightweight account of the Australian American Alliance. For example, he quotes American journalist James Fallows stating (at the US Studies Centre, of course) that Australians are “improperly nervous” about the future of US policy in Asia. Fallows was once a senior adviser to, wait for it, President Jimmy Carter.
In other words, the current issue of the ALR is channelling the ABC – where five authors write pieces essentially critical of the US and no other view is presented. And yet Professor Manne maintains that The Australian advances the cause of neo-conservatism.
LEE RHIANNON’S (POLITICAL) PAST – A DOUBLE DENIAL
Lee Rhiannon (nee Brown) delivered her first speech, as a Greens senator for New South Wales, on Wednesday 24 August 2011. Soon after, on Sunday 28 August 2011, Senator Rhiannon was interviewed by Peter van Onselen, Paul Kelly and Michael Stutchbury for the Sky News Australian Agenda program. On both occasions, the Greens senator was in denial about her past as a left-wing extremist and supporter of repressive communist regimes. Senator Rhiannon is also in denial about the Stalinist past of her late parents who never renounced their support for the Red Army and the repressive regimes of Eastern Europe.
In her first speech, Rhiannon claimed success in achieving electoral reform while in the New South Wales Legislative Council and referred to her role in “exposing the influence of corporate donations on politics”. On Australian Agenda she also called for transparency with respect to “electoral funding and lobbyists”. So Senator Rhiannon believes in transparency for others – but not, it seems, for herself. She was anything but frank about her political past during her first speech and was quite evasive during her Australian Agenda interview. Also, despite a promise to the contrary, she has declined to answer questions put to her by The Australian’s Christian Kerr.
Let’s start with some facts. Lee Brown was born on 31 May 1951 to Wilton John Brown and Freda Yetta Brown (nee Lewis). Lee’s parents were commonly known as Bill Brown and Freda Brown. Lee Brown married Paddy O’Gorman – when the marriage dissolved in 1987 she changed her surname to Rhiannon. Lee Brown joined the Socialist Party of Australia around 1971.
The SPA broke away from/was expelled by the Communist Party of Australia in 1971. The CPA, which was led by Laurie Aarons, became disillusioned with the communist rulers of the Soviet Union following Moscow’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The SPA group, which was led by Bill Brown, continued to support the communist rulers in Moscow following the break with the CPA.
In 1980-1981 the pro-Moscow Socialist Party of Australia itself split and the Browns were expelled/resigned from the SPA. They joined a new pro-Moscow communist organisation which took the name the Australian Association for Communist Unity. The AACU – headed by Bill Brown and Pat Clancy – survived until the collapse of Soviet communism around 1990. In his book The Communist Movement and Australia : An historical outline – 1890s to 1980s, W J (Bill) Brown made it clear that his split with the CPA and, later, the SPA turned on the fact that he regarded neither organisation sufficiently supportive of the Soviet Union.
Lee Rhiannon remained within the Brown/Clancy pro-Moscow communism faction until the time she was around 39 years of age. In other words, Lee Brown/O’Gorman/Rhiannon supported pro-Moscow communists from the time she was a teenager until the eve of her 40th birthday. In 1990 Lee Rhiannon joined the Greens.
Mark Aarons (born 1951) is the son of Laurie Aarons. He traced the history of the Communist Party of Australia in his important book The Family File (Black Inc, 2010). Mark Aarons documents that the CPA received financial support from the Soviet Union and that, after the split in the CPA, Moscow provided money to the SPA and later the Association for Communist Unity headed by Bill Brown and Pat Clancy.
In an article in the May 2011 issue of The Monthly, Mark Aarons wrote about the split among Australian Communist Party members, which led to the formation of the SPA:
The August 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia precipitated a bitter struggle inside the CPA. The majority condemned Moscow but a vocal minority supported the invasion. Recently, Rhiannon has sparred with Gerard Henderson about her parents’ role in the pro-Soviet faction; her defence has largely obscured the truth.
Soon after the invasion, Lee’s parents formed a clandestine relationship with the Soviet embassy, which directed and financed those who opposed the CPA’s principled stand on Czechoslovakia. By late 1971, it was clear they could not seize back control of the CPA. So the dissidents formed a new, pro-Soviet communist party, the Socialist Party of Australia (SPA), which uncritically supported and promoted Soviet policies.
Lee Rhiannon has just turned 60 years of age. She was a committed communist from the time she became politically active at about age 16 until she left the SPA and joined the Greens in 1990 at about age 39. In other words, Lee Rhiannon spent over two decades of her near adult or adult life supporting the communist regimes of Eastern Europe. She now chooses to deny her political past – and declines to answer questions about her past political involvements.
Senator Rhiannon’s First Speech
In her first speech, Senator Rhiannon spoke about her parents whom she claimed were “deeply committed to making the world a fairer, more peaceful place for all”. And she referred to the fact that she went to Canberra in 1968, at age 16, along with one hundred high school students who were protesting against the Allied (including the Australian) commitment in Vietnam. So Senator Rhiannon will discuss the political beliefs of her parents and her early political involvement. But only to a certain extent.
In her first speech, Senator Rhiannon had this to say about her “political journey”:
On my political journey, I joined the Socialist Party and I am proud of the campaigns on unemployment, women’s rights and nuclear disarmament that I was involved in. Over recent months, there has been a revival of Cold War rhetoric and McCarthyism style politics with the intent to discredit my work and in turn that of the tens of thousands of Australians who have joined socialist and communist parties. By far the majority of these people were motivated by altruistic values and a desire to serve the best interests of Australia and all humanity.
Senator Rhiannon’s apologia for her one-time communist comrades was greeted with thunderous and prolonged comradely applause from her Greens supporters in the Senate chamber.
Senator Rhiannon on Australian Agenda
On Australian Agenda on 28 August 2011, the following exchange took place:
Michael Stutchbury: It is unusual to have a new senator, or new member of parliament, in Australia really singing the praises of socialists and communists in their maiden speech. And you spoke of a revival of McCarthyist rhetoric around the place. While talking about your own history and so forth, shouldn’t you have really got into the issue of why socialism and communism got it so badly wrong?
Lee Rhiannon : I think there has been a whole lot of really wrong things done and I have often acknowledged the mistakes and the crimes that have been committed by different socialist countries. I think probably what you are also referring there to is some of the comments from Michael Danby, Gerard Henderson sometimes comes into it, Paul Howes – all running their criticisms of me. I think there is an interesting point here, that I do actually acknowledge those crimes that have been committed. But I am not behoven to one regime or to one government. I have also been critical of the French when they were bombing, testing the nuclear weapons in the Pacific.
Paul Kelly : Surely there is no parallel here whatsoever between French tests on the one hand and the 20th Century history of what communists did in a range of countries? Surely that’s a completely false comparison?
Lee Rhiannon : I am not comparing one crime to the other. My point was is that how I live my life is that I will speak out against injustice, oppression and exploitation. I believe I have been consistent in doing that. I have been a member of the Greens for 20 years, I have stood up for our policies. If you look at my track record in parliament, you can see what I have worked for. So a lot of these attacks on the work that I did when I was very young, I think, has got a great deal to do with the fact that the Greens are in balance of power and it is an attempt to smear us. It’s not about actually engaging with the challenges that we have before us.
So, these are Lee Rhiannon’s two essential claims about such critics as Labor MP Michael Danby, Gerard Henderson and Australian Workers’ Union national secretary Paul Howes. Namely, that criticisms of her past political involvements are McCarthyist in nature and related to a period when she was “very young”.
Lee Rhiannon’s (Alleged) “McCarthyist” Critics
Senator Rhiannon believes that those who criticise her political past engage in “Cold War rhetoric” and practise a “McCarthyism style of politics”.
The essential criticism of Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) was that, when an influential Republican in the United States Senate in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he made false or unsubstantiated allegations that certain Americans were either members, or supporters, of the Communist Party. Clearly, the term “McCarthyist” does not apply to critics of the Brown family. For it is an undisputable fact that the Brown family were life-time barrackers of Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev and the other communists who resided in the Kremlin between the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the collapse of Soviet Communism some seven decades later.
Bill Brown and Freda Brown as Followers of Soviet Totalitarianism
Lee Rhiannon’s father Bill Brown (1917-1982) joined the Communist Party of Australia in 1940. In other words, Bill Brown became a Communist Party member during the mid-point of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Under the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union became formal allies and divided Eastern Europe between themselves. Bill Brown opposed the Allied War effort until June 1941 because Stalin had instructed Communist Party members the world over to support Hitler – since Germany was an ally of the Soviet Union. Bill Brown only commenced supporting the Allied war effort after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 and Stalin instructed Communist Party members to cease their support for Hitler’s Germany – because it had become an enemy of the Soviet Union.
Freda Brown (1919-2009) joined the CPA in 1936 and soon after supported the Nazi- Soviet Pact. In other words, between mid 1939 and mid 1941 the Browns wanted Nazi Germany to win the Second World War.
As virtually life-long communists, Bill Brown and Freda Brown supported the “glorious history” of the Bolshevik Revolution from 1917 on. This included (i) the military conquest of the nationalities during the formation of the Soviet Union at the time of the Civil War, (ii) the brutal suppression of the workers’ uprising at Kronstadt in 1921, (iii) the forced famine in the Ukraine in the 1930s in which millions died and (iv) Stalin’s purge trials of the late 1930s.
As active CPA members, Bill Brown and Fred Brown actively supported (i) the Nazi- Soviet Pact of 1939-1941 which saw Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania forcefully incorporated into the Soviet Union, (ii) the suppression of virtually all of Eastern Europe by the Red Army in the mid-1940s following the defeat of Nazi Germany, (iii) the creation of dictatorial communist regimes in such “satellite” nations as Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania after the end of the Second World War, (iv) the crushing of the East German workers’ uprising in 1953, (v) the savage extinguishment by the Red Army of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and (vi) the suppression of human rights and rampant anti-semitism of the Soviet regimes during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Then, in 1968, the Soviet Union crushed the “Prague Spring” in Czechoslovakia. At this time the CPA split. One faction – headed by Laurie Aarons – decided that enough was enough and broke with Moscow. The other faction – headed by Bill Brown – supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and remained friendly with the Brezhnev regime in Moscow.
Bill Brown died in 1992 – just after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He remained a supporter of Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev and their political heirs up to the time of his death. Freda Brown died in 2009. She never renounced Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev or their political heirs up to the time of her death. Indeed, in Moscow in 1977, Freda Brown was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Brezhnev regime (see the obituary by Tony Stephens in the Sydney Morning Herald, 27 May 2009).
In her first speech in the Senate, Lee Rhiannon claimed that her late parents were “deeply committed to making the world a fairer, more peaceful place for all”. This claim is completely misleading – unless Senator Rhiannon seriously believes that supporting Soviet totalitarianism was consistent with working to achieve fairness and peace. If she does hold this view, Senator Rhiannon is seriously deluded.
In letters published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 28 July 2010 and The Australian on 12 April 2011, Lee Rhiannon wrote:
Neither my parents nor I were Stalinists.
Senator Rhiannon’s claim that Bill Brown and Freda Brown were not Stalinists is simply untrue. The fact is that all members of the Communist Party were Stalinists at least up to 1956 – when Nikita Khrushchev denounced some of Stalin’s crimes at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In 1986 Bill Brown wrote The Communist Movement and Australia: An historical outline – 1890s to 1980s (Australian Labour Movement History Publications). It was dedicated to his daughter Lee “without whom this project would not have been possible”. Bill Brown’s book does not contain any criticism of Lenin, Stalin or Brezhnev. None whatsoever.
Lee Rhiannon as a Follower of the Soviet Dictators
Lee Brown – who became Lee O’Gorman and then Lee Rhiannon – joined the Socialist Party of Australia in 1971. In other words, she joined a communist organisation which was both loyal to and funded by Moscow and which explicitly supported the invasion of Czechoslovakia. From the time Lee Rhiannon joined the SPA in 1971, until the time she left the party following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, she consistently supported the communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
In May 1972, when a university student, Lee Brown was challenged by a left-wing activist Brian Aarons to indicate whether “she supports the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the shooting of Polish workers and the suppression of socialist democracy in the Soviet Union”. (See Tharunka, 30 May 1972, Page 2). In her reply, Lee Brown specifically declined to criticise the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 or to condemn the shooting of Polish workers by the communist regime in Warsaw. (See Tharunka, 13 June 1972, Page 4). See generally MWD – particularly Issue 90.
In 1975 Bill Brown became editor of the SPA’s magazine Survey – which was substantially funded by the Soviet Union. In time, he handed over to Lee O’Gorman, who edited Survey until the magazine expired in July-August 1990. A read through Survey – when it was edited by Bill Brown or his daughter Lee – indicates that Survey praised all the regimes in Moscow from its first edition in 1975 to its last in 1990.
Writing in The Weekend Australian on 2-3 July 2011, Christian Kerr documented Lee Rhiannon’s role as editor of, and contributor to, Survey. On Sunday 3 July 2011, Senator Rhiannon was interviewed on Channel 10s Meet the Press program when the following exchange took place:
Hugh Riminton: Welcome back. This is Meet the Press. Our next guest is no stranger to politics, but she is new to the Senate. The former NSW State representative, now part of the Green tide to Canberra, Senator Lee Rhiannon. Welcome to the program.
Lee Rhiannon : Good morning.
Hugh Riminton : This wasn’t the reason that we asked you on to this program, but I want to clear it up and get it out of the way. Did you write for and edit a newspaper in the 1980s called Survey that was funded in whole, or in part, by the Soviet Union?
Lee Rhiannon : Yes, I assisted with it to some extent. You’re referring to the Christian Kerr article yesterday?
Hugh Riminton: There’ve been reports in the media that this was something you’ve not been entirely frank about?
Lee Rhiannon : I’ve always been frank about my work. Absolutely. What we’ve just seen here is another one of these articles. I mean, when you read it, it was a little bit hard to get to the end, but it was sort of like being hit with a wet sock. I’m quite proud of my history. I’ve always been very open about it.
Hugh Riminton : If you’re proud of it, why isn’t it part of your official Senate biography?
Lee Rhiannon : Not everything is part of my official Senate biography. When I was young, I also worked at Regent Park Zoo. I’ve travelled widely. I’ve done a whole range of jobs in different countries. [In fact, Lee Rhiannon’s official biography on the Greens’ website does refer to her having “worked at the Regent Park Zoo in London” – Ed].
Hugh Riminton: But the argument is that, for a number of years, you were working for an organisation that was being funded by the Soviet Union as a communist entity, and that’s not on your official Senate biography. And there is a view that perhaps people should be aware that that is part of your past.
Lee Rhiannon : Well, firstly, I’m quite proud of my past. I have no problems in discussing any aspect of it. I think we also need to see it in the context of why this carry-on is occurring. It’s because the Greens are in the balance of power – and that’s why I’m being targeted. We’ve also seen these comments from Tony Abbott this week where he made the extraordinary statement of likening the carbon tax to socialism masquerading as environmentalism. We’re back to Cold War rhetoric that is really out of place.
Senator Rhiannon’s statement that she merely “assisted” with the publication of Survey “to some extent” is wilfully misleading.
Survey commenced publication in March 1975 – the last issue was published in July-August 1990. Bill Brown was the inaugural editor of Survey and Lee O’Gorman (i.e. Lee Rhiannon) was a frequent contributor. She was also Survey’s last editor. The final Survey editorial, published over the name of Lee O’Gorman, read as follows:
In March 1975, a new magazine started circulation throughout Australia. Survey described as a monthly digest of trends in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, was established by Sydney journalist and peace activist, Bill Brown. With a readership that stretched far beyond the progressive movement, this small but very readable publication became well-known for printing the news that in the 1970s and early 1980s was still not accessible through the mainstream media in this country.
Bill Brown, who remained as editor until 1989, when ill-health forced his retirement, worked tirelessly writing and promoting this publication. Bill and the other people who worked on Survey over the years would like to thank its readers for their consistent support. Special thanks go to the many people, too numerous to mention by name, who have assisted with regular donations, on top of their annual subscriptions, and those supporters who arranged distributions, when each issue rolled off the presses.
The July-August 1990 issue will be the last Survey. This publication, small in size, but large in content, has appeared every month for 15 years. The workers on Survey are sad to see it come to an end – a decision that was unavoidable due to rising costs and increased competition. The changed political situation in the socialist world has resulted in many more publications in this country printing the news and features that once could only be read in Survey and a few other progressive magazines. With regret for Survey’s passing and thanks to all our readers.
Lee O’Gorman, Editor
Tony Smith MP On The Soviet Funded “Survey”
Speaking in the House of Representatives on 4 July 2011, Liberal MP Tony Smith commented:
…Senator Rhiannon was a Soviet Union propagandist, not just for a couple of years as a young student but over many, many years, until she was nearly 40 years of age. In fact, she was the editor of the magazine Survey, apparently funded from Moscow. Indeed, she was the editor at its demise in 1990, under her then married name Lee O’Gorman.
That was, as everyone in this House would appreciate, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Just imagine it, Mr Deputy Speaker: all of us here—Liberal, National, Labor—rejoicing that the Berlin Wall had come down and presumably Senator Lee Rhiannon, back then, crying tears of anguish at the collapse of communist rule. You can only imagine what she would have done had she been over there on the East German-West German border. Presumably she would have had a wheelbarrow full of mortar trying to rebuild the Berlin Wall brick by brick to preserve the awful communist experiment.
At the end of his speech, Tony Smith sought leave to table Lee O’Gorman’s editorial in the final issue Survey. Leave was refused by Labor MP Catherine King.
Lee Rhiannon’s Delegation to Brezhnev’s Moscow
In 1977 Lee Rhiannon (as Lee O’Gorman) led an SPA delegation to Moscow – at a time when the Soviet Union was under the brutal dictatorship of Leonid Brezhnev. Mark Aarons, in an article titled “The Greens and Fundamentalism” which was published in the May 2011 edition of The Monthly, had this to say about Lee Rhiannon’s early political involvements:
Lee joined the SPA, attending its founding congress. She became a senior office-bearer of the youth wing, serving on the central committee’s youth subcommittee; attended Australia–Soviet Friendship Society meetings; and developed close relations with Soviet, Czechoslovak and East German communist youth groups. In 1977, Rhiannon led an SPA delegation to Moscow at the invitation of Leonid Brezhnev’s neo-Stalinist regime. Persecution of Soviet dissidents was widespread in 1977, with psychiatry routinely used as an instrument of torture. Repression of Jews and the wider population was also endemic under the most pervasive secret police regime in history. All of this became even clearer after communism’s collapse but was apparent well before 1977.
“Survey” Under Mr Brown and His Radical Daughter
Here’s a snapshot of Survey during the time Lee Rhiannon contributed to the magazine.
▪ March 1979 Survey runs an article titled “Stalin – an historical materialist analysis” on the occasion of “the centenary of J.V. Stalin on December 21, 1979”. The fact that Stalin killed millions of Soviet citizens is not mentioned.
▪ April 1979. Lee O’Gorman writes an article about an International Year of the Child conference in Moscow. She comments:
Moscow has merit as a venue for this important conference. The delegates will be meeting in a land that has already implemented the ten principles of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
▪ Jan-Feb 1982. Survey publishes an article on communist Poland which criticises both the Catholic Church and the CIA but says nothing about the repression engaged in by the communist regime in Warsaw.
▪ June 1982. Survey publishes “Why socialism means real freedom” – which depicts Brezhnev’s Soviet Union as an example of “democracy or common rule by the people”.
▪ April 1985. Lee O’Gorman writes an article praising technology in the Soviet Union.
▪ July-August 1985. Lee O’Gorman writes an article defensive of Bulgaria and suggests that Ali Agca, who was convicted of attempting to murder Pope John Paul II, was framed in order to defame the communist regime in Bulgaria.
▪ August 1986. Survey runs a special (and favourable) feature titled “Soviet Life Today”.
▪ September 1987. Survey runs an article titled “West lags behind Soviets in human rights implementation”. The article contains no criticism of the repression of human rights in the Soviet Union.
▪ October 1987. Survey runs two views on Stalin. Ivan Karasev writes that “Stalin did a great deal for his people”. The alternative view by Alexander Samsonov, while critical of the Stalin’s personality cult, claims that “Stalin did make a contribution to the building of socialism” in the Soviet Union.
▪ December 1987. Lee O’Gorman writes an article entitled “Peer pressure helps youth give up smoking in the GDR”. She found time to praise East Germany’s anti-tobacco campaigns but not to condemn the brutality of the Stasi, East Germany’s dreaded secret police.
Lee Rhiannon’s Left-of-Centre Critics : Mark Aarons and Michael Danby MP
Most of Senator Rhiannon’s considered critics come from the left-of-centre in Australian politics – with the obvious exception of Liberal Party MP Tony Smith.
Michael Danby, the Labor MP for Melbourne Ports who is Jewish, has drawn attention to Lee Rhiannon’s support for the Soviet Union during Brezhnev’s time when the Communist Party leadership in Moscow was avowedly anti-semitic. Danby, who has a consistent record of opposing totalitarian regimes of both left and right – wrote an article on The Punch website on 26 August 2011 titled “Whether she likes it or nyet, Lee Rhiannon was a Stalinist”, in which he commented:
Now, some people will say that it’s hypocritical for me to criticise Senator Rhiannon when there are people in the Labor Party who have similar pasts. It’s true that many people who grew up in the Vietnam War era were radicalised as students and joined Maoist, Trotskyist or anarchist student groups. But most of them rapidly grew out this youthful phase and became moderate social democrats – some, such as Christopher Pearson, who supported the Khmer Rouge in his youth, have even become conservatives!
Senator Rhiannon’s case is different. She grew up not as a wild student radical, but as a dedicated member of a pro-Soviet Communist Party. When the CPA tried to free itself from Stalinism, she followed her parents into the breakaway pro-Soviet SPA. She loyally supported all the crimes of the Soviet Union during that time. And this was not a passing phase for her. She remained a senior and active member of the SPA until well into her 30s. She only abandoned communism when it had visibly failed as a useful vehicle for left-wing politics. She then joined the Greens, which is now the main vehicle for left-wing politics in Australia.
People should not be punished for the follies of their past. We should forgive and forget. But as Mark Aarons pointed out…forgiveness must be preceded by repentance. Christopher Pearson has expressed his shame over his support for the Khmer Rouge, and that should be accepted. Labor figures such as Michael Costa have made similar statements. But Senator Rhiannon has expressed no such regrets. She says she is no longer a communist, and I accept that. But she has not said that communism is and always was a false and pernicious doctrine which caused the deaths of tens of millions of people, and is still causing oppression and misery in China, Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba.
Australians would have liked to have known what Senator Rhiannon now thinks about certain events of the 1970s and ‘80s which took place while she was an enthusiastic supporter of the Soviet Union. What does she now think of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? What does she now think of the suppression of Solidarity and the imposition of martial law in Poland? What does she now think of the Berlin Wall, and the shooting of people trying to escape across it to freedom? What does she now think of the persecution of Andrei Sakharov, Nathan Sharansky and Yelena Bonner? What does she now think of the anti-Semitism of the Brezhnev regime? I’m sure I’m not the only person who’d like to know.
My challenge to Senator Rhiannon was to tell us clearly and honestly about her political past. This went unanswered. Her brief, emotional reference to all the criticism of her determination to tear out the pages of her history, like they used to from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia in the 1930s after Bukharin or Zinoviev were purged [was to accuse her critics of McCarthyism style politics]…
What Australians wanted to hear Senator Rhiannon say was that she had repudiated communism, not just as a tactical convenience but as a matter of conviction; and that she regretted the harm caused by her years of advocacy and activism for the Soviet Union. Senator Rhiannon did none of these things and the Australian people will judge her accordingly.
In her self-serving autobiographical note titled Responding To Attacks On My Family And Political Background – which Lee Rhiannon posted on her website – the point was made that “we all have a past”. This criticism was directed at AWU national secretary Paul Howes who, as a teenager was a self-declared Trotskyist and a contributor to Green Left Weekly.
On 11 July 2011, Paul Howes wrote to Lee Rhiannon in the following terms in response to Rhiannon’s criticism of him:
For your information I’m happy to outline my political background. At the age of 14 I joined the Resistance. I remained a member until the age of 16 when I decided that the ideology that I had rather foolishly subscribed to was (to borrow a phrase) dead, buried, cremated.
Unlike you I was never employed by any group receiving funding from dictatorships like the Soviet Union. I never supported nor defended the murderous regimes of the former Soviet Bloc and indeed for that brief period whilst I was a member of Resistance I then still opposed Stalinism and the representatives of that ideology in Australia; your alma mater the Socialist Party of Australia.
Senator, I am always happy for you to speak about my political background, after all I have come to terms with it and have written-off my brief flirtation with far-left politics as a folly of youth. I suggest if you were more open about your background you would too be more comfortable speaking about it, and wouldn’t have to resort to mistruths and lies to smear others, to cover up your own reluctance to finally admit that the ideology you followed for so many years is flawed and wrong.
In The Family File, Mark Aarons wrote how his friendship with Lee Brown did not survive their profound disagreement over her support for the Soviet Union in the late 1960s and early 1970s:
I could not conceive of someone of my age and experience supporting Moscow’s politics. Friendship persisted, however, and I continued to visit Lee’s home. This grew less frequent as I became more uncomfortable with the tenor of her politics. On a visit in early 1974 I mentioned that the ABC Radio National program Lateline, for which I worked as a producer, had interviewed Mick McGahey, a communist official of Britain’s miners’ union, about a strike that had brought down the Tory government. Lee’s response convinced me that our friendship was finished, as she aggressively praised McGahey’s endorsement of Moscow’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.
In his essay, in The Monthly, Mark Aarons depicted the essential problem with Lee Rhiannon’s present political predicament as turning on the denial of her past. He pointed out that her past could be dismissed as mere history “if Rhiannon had admitted her youthful errors and moved on”. However:
…nowhere does she acknowledge how dreadfully wrong she was about the Soviet Union, nor express regrets for her gullible admiration of this abominable system. In failing to deal with her history honestly, Rhiannon places a question mark over her suitability for any leadership role, especially in a party supposedly built on integrity.
Lee Rhiannon’s Human Rights Contradiction
These days Senator Rhiannon is perhaps best known for her leadership role in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. She maintains that her support for the BDS movement is indicative of her general support for human rights.
The problem with Senator Rhiannon’s human rights advocacy is that it is built on a double standard. She has never supported a BDS campaign against the former East Germany or such contemporary dictatorships as Cuba and Syria.
On 6 September 2011, following one of Senator Rhiannon’s regular litanies about human rights, Professor Douglas Kirsner wrote to The Australian in the following terms:
What are Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon’s credentials for her claim that she regularly speaks out against human rights abuses (Letters, 2/9)?
Did she boycott any communist countries when they were committing some of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century? When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring, did Rhiannon boycott the Soviets? No, she joined the Socialist Party of Australia, a pro-Soviet grouping that split from the Communist Party of Australia after the CPA abhorred the Soviet actions.
Did she boycott the Soviet Union when it was administering psychiatric abuse such as electro-shocks to its dissidents? No, she led a delegation to Moscow. She even made an appearance in Soviet Woman.
Not even in the dying days of the Soviet dictatorship did she protest about human rights abuses.
Rhiannon leads a movement that singles out Israel for boycott. Yet Rhiannon never boycotted or distanced herself from the communist regime she supported for decades.
– Douglas Kirsner, Caulfield North, Vic
That’s the problem with Senator Rhiannon’s political persona. Her contemporary advocacy of human rights in inconsistent with her two decades spent supporting communist regimes in Eastern Europe which repressed human rights. And she will not apologise for her communist past or even acknowledge that she was a barracker for Leonid Brezhnev and other Soviet followers of Lenin and Stalin.
Put simply, Lee Rhiannon (nee Brown) advocates transparency for others – but not for herself or the Brown family. When it comes to Bill Brown, Freda Brown, Lee Rhiannon/O’Gorman/Brown is into serious denial.
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Until next time.
This page was updated on Friday 16 September 2011