ISSUE – NO. 662

24 November 2023

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The big “scoop” in the media coverage of the pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel rally in Melbourne on Thursday 23 November could be found in The Australian the following day.  Namely, the quote from a vox-pop of a 16-year-old female student, wearing a hijab, who had this to say at the demonstration:

Reporter: So, what do you think the borders of Israel should be? Do you have an opinion on that?

Student: I think they shouldn’t exist at all. Yeah, after whatever they – after what they’re putting my brothers and sisters through, I don’t think they should really exist. They don’t deserve a place in humanity after what they put my brothers and sisters through. They don’t deserve a place in humanity.

Reporter: What do you think of Hamas?

Student: I think – I think they’re doing a good job. I think they should stand up for what’s right. They should protect our brothers and sisters in Palestine.

That’s pretty clear then.  The unidentified student supports the terrorist group Hamas and chose not to distance herself from its war crimes on 7 October – when Hamas terrorists invaded southern Israel. Namely, its murder and kidnapping of civilians – babies, children, women and men.  Also, she favours the destruction of Israel – a member of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, on ABC TV’s 7.30 on the evening of 23 November, Norman Hermant presented a 6-minute 40-seconds report on the Melbourne student demonstration – with two-thirds of the time devoted to students who are opponents of Israel.

The Australian reporter saw the need to highlight the pro-Hamas position of the student interviewed.  However, not so the ABC’s Norman Hermant. Here’s an extract from the discussion in which the interviewer seems to accept that supporting a terrorist movement is what every teenage student might be expected to do:

Norman Hermant:  Early on in this, there were lots of videos of the October 7th attacks and Hamas fighters, what did you make of those videos?

Student A: I think, just the mainstream media focusing on Hamas is just, is just completely taking away from what’s actually going on.

Student B: What has happened, like happened on October 7th, didn’t start there. Like 100 per cent didn’t. It’s been going on for years, and years and years. And, and the way that Israel have retaliated with this, what they’re calling a war has been killing thousands of civilians.

Norman Hermant:  Pro-Palestinian rallies have been going on for weeks across the country. Organisers call this a movement and it’s dominated by young people.

Not so. The truth is that there are many adult leftist activists who want to see the Jews driven out of Israel in accordance with the ethnic cleansing chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.


Tom Switzer, the presenter of Radio National’s Between the Lines, announced that he is leaving the program. Switzer, who is also the executive director of the Centre for Independent Studies, was never a clean fit at the ABC, where his libertarian-leaning politics were out of step with those of the staff soviets who run the joint.

He joins ABC Radio Sydney Afternoons host Josh Szeps, who leans left but is not a doctrinaire leftist, in announcing his departure from the ABC in recent days. Just when you thought the political views of ABC presenters could narrow no more.

Switzer had already missed the two most recent episodes of Between the Lines. Former BBC correspondent and current Sydney Morning Herald columnist Nick Bryant has been filling in for Switzer in recent days. It would appear he is the favourite to replace him.

Though not an Australian by birth, Bryant seems to have made his home here and has adopted the usual fixations of alienated Australians, most of whom are on the left. His 2014 book The Rise and Fall of Australia: How a Great Nation Lost Its Way, is in the same tradition as Donald Horne’s 1964 tome The Lucky Country. Horne famously described Australia as “a lucky country run mainly by second rate people”. Bryant’s book is full of his scathing assessments of members of the then recently-elected Abbott Coalition government.

Bryant’s Sydney Morning Herald output is in a similar vein – that is, when he can bring himself to take a break from Trump-bashing. SMH readers have been told that Australian politics has a case of “long-Morrison”, whatever that means. The Sydney Opera House is a perfect national symbol because it is “unfinished and incomplete” but “most Australians…think it is already great”.  You get it? – they’re fools.

Comrade Bryant’s 8 June 2023 column was essentially a long list of incidents he believes have hurt Australia’s reputation on the international stage. In the same column, he warned that a No result in The Voice referendum could tag Australia as “an Alabama of the South Pacific”. Talk about hyperbole.  On 26 September, before the referendum, Bryant warned that Australia is in danger of splitting into Yes and No Australia. Then the Israel-Hamas war and other stories pushed The Voice referendum out of most Australian’s minds. Which demonstrates that virtually all prophets are of the false genre.

Tom Switzer’s Between the Lines  will be missed.  Sure, it was rarely promoted by the ABC, and its principal time slot – 5pm on Saturdays – was unattractive.  But Switzer was a knowledgeable presenter and a good interviewer who encouraged a number of significant figures to come on to his show.  Including Australians, British, Americans, Irish, Canadians, Israelis, New Zealanders and more besides.

Jenna Clarke reported in The Australian on 24 November that an ABC source had said that Switzer’s “editorial decisions for the show were beginning to upset the sensibilities of some staff and even Friends of the ABC”. Why?  Because Between the Lines heard from some whose voices are rarely, if ever, heard on the ABC.  Namely, conservatives who members of the ABC soviet want cancelled.

It is not common knowledge – but, in the ABC, it is executive producers who primarily determine what “talent” will be invited onto the program. Tom Switzer advocated for political diversity.  This is not a common position in the taxpayer funded broadcaster for either executive producers or presenters.


ABC TV’s News Breakfast program is frequently boring, invariably twee and tends to focus on worthy, rather than newsworthy, topics.  But Media Watch Dog follows it for a while each weekday morning because it provides such good copy.

Take the “Newspapers” segment, which occurs shortly before the 7am news bulletin, for example.  Some of its guest commentators are virtually unknown. Of the ones who are identifiable, most seem to come from leftist or left-of-centre newspapers (The Guardian Australia) or law firms (Maurice Blackburn Lawyers) or think tanks (The Australia Institute).  It is rare, indeed, when a conservative gets a slot – and such think tanks as the Centre for Independent Studies, Institute of Public Affairs, Robert Menzies Research Centre (in Sydney) and the Robert Menzies Institute (in Melbourne) have been cancelled.

In short, ABC News Breakfast is nearly as predictable and boring as ABC TV’s The Drum.  And just as unbalanced.  It is as if the powers-that-be at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster believe that ABC viewers (if viewers there are) cannot be trusted to form their opinions about what they hear and need to be “learned” by the comrades as to what is information – as compared to what is misinformation or, indeed, disinformation.

Take the appearance of Inala Cooper, a director at Murrup Barak, the Melbourne Institute for Indigenous Development at Melbourne University, on Monday 20 November. As far as MWD is aware, Ms Cooper has no particular knowledge of Israel and Gaza in particular, or the Middle East in general.  However, she chose to comment on the Israel/Hamas conflict in her (selective) account of the morning newspapers. Let’s go to the transcript:

Lisa Millar: Happy Monday to you. Uh, very busy weekend, and certainly on the streets of Melbourne and Sydney with the pro-Palestinian protests. We’re gonna start with that this morning.

Inala Cooper: Yes, indeed. And we saw in news overnight that the UN had coordinated evacuations for premature babies out of Gaza into an Egyptian hospital. And yes, big protests over the weekend in capital cities. Police in Melbourne reported about 15,000 people at the State Library, but organisers said it may have been many more. And the main message of folks gathering to protest is for a ceasefire. The article in The Guardian Online had a comment from Nasser Mashni calling the political reaction to the ongoing bombardment of Gaza as a vote-changer. This is a really significant comment, and a very, very big call to the Australian government to do more to bring about a ceasefire.

Michael Rowland: You do get the sense there is an international groundswell building for a ceasefire or pause, given what we’re seeing in Gaza. This is taking nothing away from the butchery by the Hamas terrorists on October the 7th in Israel. But there has to be an endpoint at some stage.

Inala Cooper: And look, we’re looking at – The Guardian’s reporting 12,000 deaths, Palestinian deaths. And this is in such a short period of time. Thousands across the globe are grieving those deaths – and a ceasefire is, in my personal opinion, the way forward. We all want to see a peaceful resolution to this war and I think those protests will remain. They’ll keep up, I think, until we see real action.

Lisa Millar: Could we turn to another story….

And that was it. Inala Cooper made no reference to Hamas’ war crimes in murdering civilians, including babies, and taking civilian hostages on 7 October. Or to the pro-Israel demonstrations that occurred in Melbourne and Sydney on the same day as the pro-Palestinian ones to which she referred.  Or to the fact that Nasser Mashni is on record as calling some Jews “filth”.  However, she quoted twice from The Guardian Australia and seems to believe that the Australian government can bring about a ceasefire in the conflict.

Also, Ms Cooper produced no evidence to support Nasser Mashni’s assertion that the NSW Labor Government or the Albanese Labor Government is destined to suffer a net loss of votes because of its refusal to call for a complete ceasefire in Israel’s defensive war against Gaza which commenced when Hamas broke an existing ceasefire on 7 October.

This was not news commentary.  This was the one-sided advocacy of an activist. For the remainder of the week, no one put a pro-Israel perspective in News Breakfast’s “Newspapers” segment.

Can You Bear It?


Media Watch Dog just loves Nine Entertainment’s “CBD column” which appears in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald from Tuesday to Friday.  Primarily because it has little to do with the kind of business that takes place in Melbourne’s Collins Street or at Sydney’s Barangaroo which, shall we say, can be a bit boring. Rather, “CBD” resembles a gossip column presenting as something else.

Take “CBD” on Thursday 23 November. For example, the Kishor Napier-Raman/Noel Towell duo initially reported that – well, here it is:

It’s a few months until Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, but the behind-the-scenes politicking for this event is a year-round affair. Leftist “queer liberation” organisation Pride in Protest were incensed on Monday when their man on the Mardi Gras board, Timothy “Skip” Blofield was stood down as a director. Blofield’s crime? True to his name, he’d skipped too many meetings.

That news was sure to move markets, don’t you think?  There follows the day’s political “scoop”.  The Labor Party’s Surry Hills branch in Tanya Plibersek’s electorate in Sydney is about to consider passing a motion critical of the Albanese government’s position on the Israel/Gaza war.  It’s not sufficiently anti-Israel, it seems.  What’s more, the ALP’s Marrickville branch in Anthony Albanese’s electorate is likely to follow the Surry Hills lead.  Stand by for a fall in the Australian dollar.

Moreover, “CBD” readers (if readers there still are) were told that Richard Curtis’ 2003 Christmas-themed “ultimate romantic comedy has dated so horribly” that, well, it’s out of date. The reference is to Love, Actually.  In spite of this, “a contingent of Independent, Greens and minor party federal MPs” have “riffing on the movie’s schtick for invites to their festive gathering this year”. Hence their tagline is “Crossbench, Actually”.

Really.  Can this be the case?  More importantly. Can You Bear It?


Come to think of it, Nine’s CBD column has about as much to do with business in the Central Business Districts of Melbourne and Sydney as ABC TV’s (increasingly boring) The Drum has to do with political balance.

Take the program that aired on Tuesday 21 November, for example.  Ellen Fanning was in the presenter’s chair and the panel comprised MWD fave, leftist Amy Remeikis (The Guardian Australia), Lizzie O’Shea (Maurice Blackburn Lawyers), Sisonke Msimang (Centre for Stories) and Naomi Simson (business owner).

The panel was tasked to discuss the first 18 months of the Albanese Labor government. Ms Fanning introduced the first topic – namely the (alleged) “sense of an afraid and slightly grumpy country in the wake of The Voice referendum” along with the suggestion that Australia was a divided state.

Comrade Remeikis was invited to speak first.  She blamed Australia’s alleged discontent on the Peter Dutton-led Opposition. How very Guardian.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Amy Remeikis: …I don’t know how much the government can necessarily address that [division] when you also have an Opposition, for political reasons, have been exploiting a lot of that divide. And I don’t say that from a partisan point of view. I say that from watching what is happening in politics. In Peter Dutton, we have an opposition leader who is borrowing from the Tony Abbott style of opposition, which is to divide and conquer. And he has found in this time of cost of living crisis, a population that is quite open to being angry and to being divided. And when you don’t have a lot of things that the government can do to bring people in, this is the result of what we’re seeing.

So, it’s all Peter Dutton’s fault, said Comrade Remeikis when, er, “not speaking from a partisan point of view”. Then Lizzie O’Shea weighed in. She immediately criticised, wait for it, Peter Dutton and the Opposition – but predicted that there are long-term economic consequences for the Coalition “adopting this kind of divisive politics…electorally they will end up paying a big price” for such negativity.

Then Sisonke Msimang entered the discussion and criticised Peter Dutton.  Quelle Surprise!  Ms Msimang commented “that we’re all talking about Peter Dutton” – while talking about Peter Dutton.

At this stage, Ellie’s (male) co-owner headed off for a Gin & Tonic to release the boredom of hearing three panellists say essentially the same thing. When he returned, the discussion had turned to AI where Comrade O’Shea made this allegation:

Lizzie O’Shea: We also have frontier techs that are, that have been developed…AI that are potentially extremely damaging, that we don’t necessarily know the full capabilities of – an obvious one is things like weaponry. So we are seeing the development of artificially intelligent weaponry being used in places, you know, it’s now being used in places like Israel against the civilian population in Gaza to commit an accelerated genocide. You know, these are real problems that have a huge impact on humanity.

So, there you have it.  Ellen Fanning said nothing when Lizzie O’Shea accused Israel not only of genocide but of deliberate “accelerated” genocide.  There is no evidence that, in its retaliatory war, Israel is attempting to kill all Palestinians in Gaza or anywhere else.  If it were, Israel would not be advising civilians to move away from intended targets.

Here Comrade O’Shea gave the impression of channelling Hamas propaganda.  But neither presenter Ellen Fanning nor any panel member challenged O’Shea’s false statement. In short, no other view was heard. That’s what passes for debate and discussion on The Drum. Can You Bear It?


A number of avid Media Watch Dog readers have commented that the ABC TV Insiders program (presenter David Speers, executive producer Samuel Clark) has spent insufficient time analysing the Israel/Gaza War and its impact on Australian society.

For example, the attack by the Hamas terrorist organisation on Southern Israel commenced on the morning of Saturday 7 October (Israel time) – and was news in Australia on the evening of Saturday 7 October. However, the Insiders program of Sunday 8 October barely covered what was already a huge international news story.  A dramatic example of what journalists are wont to call “burying the lead”, if ever there was one.

In the meantime, it is timely to focus on what Karen Middleton, The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent, had to say on the Insiders program on 19 November after fellow panellist Phil Coorey introduced the topic of the appalling examples of virulent anti-semitism which have taken place in Australia since the demonstration at the Sydney Opera House on 9 October. It was the occasion where members of the pro-Palestinian demonstration which included Green-Left types chanted “Gas the Jews”.

Soon after, Karen Middleton threw the switch to moral equivalence. Here’s what she had to say in a long comment on the Insiders’ couch:

There is a problem with anti-semitism. There is also a problem with Islamophobia. Now, I know people get upset when you mention both of those things in the same conversation at the moment. Because when we talk about anti-semitism in the current context, it’s about one horrific event, and the things that have flowed from that.

When we talk about Islamophobia, it’s about an undercurrent of Islamophobia that has existed in this country for a long time…. There is no doubt that anti-semitism has spiked and is on the rise in this current context. And I think everyone has to be so careful with their language to not be inflaming any of this.

This is arrant nonsense.  No group of Australian Jews and/or supporters of Israel are intimidating Palestinian Australians by driving vehicles bedecked with the Israeli flag from the likes of Coogee in Sydney or Caulfield in Melbourne to intimidate Muslims outside a mosque in, say, the northern suburbs of Melbourne or the western suburbs of Sydney.

These convoys of vehicles and bikes, intentionally or otherwise, are channelling the actions of the vile Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the late 1930s who  marched into London’s East End with the intention of intimidating the local Jewish population.

Many Australian Jews feel that they are unsafe within their own society.  MWD is not aware that Australian Muslims feel the same – since no one is shouting that they should be murdered and no one is travelling across a capital city to where a majority of Muslims live, to demonstrate against the Palestinian Authority or even the terrorist organisation Hamas.

Karen Middleton’s moral equivalence on Insiders – which was not challenged – was just fudge.  The Saturday Paper’s political correspondent should know better. Can You Bear It?

Due to overwhelming popular demand, the Flann O’Brien Gong returns again this week. As avid Media Watch Dog readers will be aware, this occasional segment is inspired by the Irish humorist Brian O’Nolan (1911-1966) – nom de plume Flann O’Brien – and, in particular, his critique of the sometimes incoherent poet Ezra Pound. By the way, your man O’Brien also had the good sense not to take seriously Eamon de Valera (1882-1975), the Fianna Fail politician and dreadful bore who was prime minister and later president of Ireland for far too long.

The Flann O’Brien Gong for Literary or Verbal Sludge is devoted to outing bad writing or incomprehensible prose or incoherent verbal expression or the use of pretentious words.


There was enormous interest exhibited by avid Media Watch Dog readers in Ellie’s (male) co-owner’s suggestion that the Canadian psychologist and author Jordan Peterson might, at times, verge on the, er, incomprehensible.  As Hendo recalls,  your man Peterson came to fame not so long ago with the advice to “Clean Up Your Room”. And thus a contemporary philosopher was born –  in between clean sheets, so to speak – and now preaches to his disciples invariably without the use of personal names, places, dates and the like.

Now, this is a clear message After all, many people have rooms and most know what cleaning their rooms means.  However, for what it is worth, it is not clear that – if asked why she won the 400 metres for women at the 2000 Olympics – Cathy Freeman would reply: “Because I had a clean room”.   But there you go.

Dr Peterson (for a doctor he is) was one of the stars at the recent Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) conference in London. When asked about the occasion on The Bolt Report on 30 October 2023, with special reference to the suggestion that there seems to be a concerted attack on Western civilisation rather than an appreciation of it – your man Peterson gave one of his 3 to 4-minute answers.  Here we go with a slightly abbreviated transcript:

Jordan Peterson: …We can create a deeper hell than any we’ve ever managed to, to produce in the past, which is really saying something. But I would say, by the same token, we could produce a world that’s much better than anything we could have ever dreamed of. And that that’s an equally likely outcome, assuming that that’s what we decided to aim for. And so and I also think that things are changing fast enough now. So, we will see the consequences of that decision play out in the lifetime, in the near lifetime of people over the next few decades.

Now, you might say, well, which of those two likelihoods is most likely to make itself manifest? The hell we could produce? Or the comparative, you know, promised land of abundance and opportunity? And I would say that depends, and I really mean this and believe it, that depends on the decision of every single person who’s currently alive. You know, if we all aim up and we do what’s necessary to to make aiming up a reality, then we have an unlimited horizon in front of us. But if we are foolish and frightened and tyrannical, and narcissistic and ungrateful and sinful, for that matter, then we could make things pretty damn miserable. And we could do it fast.

Jordan Peterson: …And so, part of the vision of ARC, too, is a vision of subsidiarity.  And that’s an ancient concept. It’s really the basis for a sophisticated conservatism.  And it’s predicated on the notion that true identity is to be found in the adoption of a hierarchical social mode of being so – take responsibility for yourself.

In other words, according to The Thought of Peterson, subsidiarity is really yet another example of the need for rooms to be clean. As far as Ellie’s (male) co-owner can recall, the term “subsidiarity” was popularised by Pope Leo XIII in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum – and embraced by Pius XI in his 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. Subsidiarity entails that – in Pius XI’s words – “it is an injustice and a grave evil…for a larger and higher organisation to aggregate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower bodies”.

Sounds fine, in theory.  The only problem here is that subsidiarity is rarely practised – including in the Catholic Church, which is an elected monarchy where power resides at the top and not distributed downwards. On this earth, at least.

As to the learned doctor’s advice that those who aim for the promised land will be happier than those who settle for narcissism, sin and all that stuff – over to Ellie (Bachelor of Catastrophe Studies at the Canberra [Bubble] Institute who has the additional status of a junk professor) for comment:


Literary Criticism
By Flann O’Brien
of Ezra Pound

My grasp of what he said and meant
Was only five or six %
The rest was only words and sound —
My reference is to Ezra £


Inspired by your man O’Brien, this is Jackie’s literary effort for today:

Literary Criticism
By Ellie
of Jordan Peterson

My grasp of what he wrote and meant

Was only four or five per cent

Except to denounce hell, good Lord

The reference is to your man Jord.

Media Watch Dog’s Five Paws Award was inaugurated in Issue Number 26 (4 September 2009) during the time of Nancy (2004-2017). The first winner was then ABC TV presenter Emma Alberici.  Ms Alberici scored for remembering the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 whereby Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union.  And for stating that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had effectively started the Second World War, since it was immediately followed by Germany’s invasion of western Poland (at a time when the Soviet Union had become an ally of Germany). Soon after, the USSR invaded eastern Poland in accordance with the protocols of the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

Over the years, the late Nancy’s Five Paws Award has become one of the world’s most prestigious gongs – rating just below the Nobel Prize and Academy Awards.


As avid readers are aware, Media Watch Dog has been interested for years in the ABC’s proclaimed commitment to diversity.  Noticing, in the process, that for the most part the ABC managers who call for greater diversity are well-off, white guys who have no intention of giving up their well-paid gigs in order to achieve greater diversity at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

Moreover, the ABC’s self-proclaimed quest for diversity does not include political diversity. Hence the ABC remains a Conservative Free Zone without one conservative presenter or producer for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

With respect to diversity, MWD’s  attention has been drawn to the ABC’s 2023 Annual Report which advises that the number of Indigenous Australians employed by the taxpayer funded public broadcaster should be 3.4 per cent – but is only 3.3 per cent.  Really. Meanwhile, the number of conservatives on prominent ABC programs has neither decreased nor increased – remaining at zero.  But you will not find this in the ABC’s Annual Report for any year.

Thanks to the Dandenong reader who drew MWD’s attention to this letter published in The Australian on 7 November 2023.  It was written by David Salter of Hunters Hill – a MWD fave of leftist bent. As readers will recall, Comrade Salter was executive producer of the ABC TV Media Watch program when it was presented by Stuart Littlemore – and is not a political conservative.  The Man from Hunters Hill had this to say:

PC priorities

The new chief content officer of the ABC, Chris Oliver-Taylor, says there is insufficient diversity and inclusion in the broadcaster’s output and workforce (“Key exec says ABC lacking diversity”, 3/11). Further, he believes the corporation needs to set employment targets to redress this perceived imbalance. The notion that ABC staff should be appointed in proportion to their presence as subgroups within the general community is preposterous. Would Oliver-Taylor select members of a symphony orchestra on that basis, or the players in a cricket team? It is irrelevant whether his staff are male or female, gay or straight, Indigenous or European. What matters is the quality of their work and whether they understand and accept the principles of public broadcasting.

The parallel claim that bringing more “diversity and inclusion” into the ABC’s output would increase its declining audiences is equally fanciful. There is no evidence that minority groups prefer to watch or listen to programming targeted at them. Yet the chief content officer declares this goal to be “an absolute priority”. That a senior executive at the national broadcaster seems so determined to put political correctness above the pursuit of excellence is disturbing.

David Salter, Hunters Hill, NSW

David Salter – Five Paws



Ian Macphee is a familiar Liberal Party type – or, rather, a familiar ex-Liberal Party figure. Born in 1938, he won Liberal Party pre-selection and became the Member for Balaclava, now Goldstein, at the May 1974 election.

As Media Watch Dog recalls, before entering politics, your man Macphee worked in the employer part of the old Industrial Relations Club and was headed for an undistinguished career.  Until, per courtesy of the Liberal Party, he got elected to parliament and became a minister in Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition government in 1979.

Mr Macphee retired in February 1990, having lost pre-selection to David Kemp.  Ian Macphee was last seen, in a political sense, campaigning for the Teal Independent Zoe Daniel in the May 2022 election – and bagging the Liberal Party, without which he would be scarcely remembered today.  Very Malcolm Fraser, don’t you think?

But MWD digresses.  On Monday 20 November 2023, The Guardian Australia – editor Lenore Taylor – ran a piece by Macphee headed “Australia’s political opportunists have stoked hysteria and robbed refugees of their humanity”.  No surprise that the article praised Malcolm Fraser (who turned on the Liberal Party in his final years) and bagged John Howard (who has always publicly recognised that he owes his political success to the Liberal Party).

Macphee looked back in happiness at a time in Australia’s politics that never existed. Here’s how this article in the leftist The Guardian  commenced:

There was a time in Australia when refugees were heroes. In the late 1970s, when thousands of Vietnamese refugees settled in Australia, the then Fraser government publicised their “stories of hardship and courage”. They were presented as individuals with names and faces, possessing great resilience and ordinary human needs. Giving these brave people – nurses, teachers, engineers among them – and their children sanctuary made sense.

It’s true that, unlike his predecessor – Labor’s Gough Whitlam – Malcolm Fraser was generous to refugees fleeing from the communist victory in South Vietnam in late April 1975.  However, the reason why they presented “as individuals with names and faces” is that the overwhelming majority of Vietnamese refugees came to Australia from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps in the region with valid visas on Qantas planes.  Very few arrived by boat claiming refugee status. During the entire period of the Fraser government, 2059 people (including crew) arrived in Australia by boat.  This was a mere fraction of the number of refugees who were settled in Australia during this period.

In other words, the Fraser government – unlike the Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments – did not have to deal with unauthorised boat arrivals, claiming refugee status, who had destroyed their identity papers. Let’s return to the Macphee mythology:

As Fraser’s former minister for immigration and ethnic affairs, I have watched with dismay the shift in Australian public attitudes to refugees over the past two decades, since the Howard government began to pedal hard on the issue, depicting people seeking asylum as a threat to the Australian way of life. The humanity and individuality of refugees has been lost in political opportunism, as dog-whistling slogans stoked the hysterical, sometimes racist elements of public discourse.

What’s missing here is any acknowledgement of the fact that it was Paul Keating’s Labor government that introduced mandatory detention for unauthorised arrivals in Australia in 1992. Not John Howard.

Certainly, the Howard government took harsh measures against unauthorised boat arrivals, introducing off-shore processing in 2001 – this was after some 12,000 asylum seekers arrived in Australia on some 180 boats between 1999 and 2001.  This policy was softened after the election of the Rudd Labor government in March 2007 – which led to over 51,000 asylum seekers arriving on Australian shores during the period 2007-2013, along with many tragic deaths by drowning.

During his final time as prime minister, Kevin Rudd re-introduced off-shore detention for any unauthorised boat arrivals.  When Tony Abbott became prime minister in September 2013, he toughened this policy and unauthorised boat arrivals stopped, by the introduction of Operation Sovereign Borders involving the interception at sea of people-smuggler boats.

Towards the end of his Guardian Australia column, Macphee wrote:

As minister for immigration, I saw how Australia welcomed thousands of Vietnamese refugees. Refugee facilities were settlement centres not detention centres.

The reason that Australia had refugee facilities, not detention centres, in the period December 1979 to May 1982 when Macphee was immigration minister, turned on the fact that there were few unauthorised arrivals. He did not face the problem that commenced in the early 1990s. Macphee blames John Howard for pedalling hard on the asylum seeker issue but ignores the fact that, in time, a similar position was adopted by the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments.

Lenore Taylor and her comrades at The Guardian Australia would be well advised to do some fact-checking before publishing such historical sludge – in which Ian Macphee has a clear “recollection” of a situation which never occurred.



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Until next time.

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