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March 25th 2014 print

Peter Smith

Even More ABC ‘Quality Journalism’

Finally, the national broadcaster has put to air Part II of its shock-horror scoop about the beastly treatment RAN sailors administer to illegal aliens on the high seas. Like Mark Scott's protestations that the ABC plays all stories with a straight bat, the segment cannot be taken seriously

abc leans left smallI dropped everything. I couldn’t miss episode two of the ABC’s masterly uncovering of Operation Sovereign Borders and the laying bare of its “secretive strategy”. A stony-faced Sarah Ferguson introduced the 7.30 segment. She was, I think, even more stony-faced than usual, presumably to show how serious and disturbing was the exposé to follow.

By the way, there is a God. Next Monday evening is free. There were only two episodes.

In case you missed the first episode; the Australian navy is intercepting people smuggling boats on the high seas and, by one means or another, ferrying asylum seekers back to Indonesian waters. As revelatory as this would have been to those of you who have not picked up a newspaper since the last federal election more has now been revealed.

What has been now revealed is burnt hands. In case you think you might have heard this before as well; put it out of your mind. Like a dog with a bone, the ABC has tracked down those on the ill-fated boat intercepted in January, all the way to the Indonesian detention centres where they are now housed. Yes, but isn’t it the same old tale of uncorroborated accusations? Piffle! By the ABC’s reckoning that’s just nitpicking.

Peter Smith’s earlier thoughts on the ABC and Operation Sovereign Borders

If repetition adds weight, as the ABC clearly thinks it does, then it bears repeating that some military personnel are alleged to have deliberately burnt the hands of three or four asylum seekers on hot engine pipes to deter them and their companions from forcing their way through the engine room to the toilet. I say three or four because one asylum seeker explained that he had fallen on the pipes when pepper sprayed in a struggle to prevent him, along with others, sabotaging the engine.

Shockingly, too, some military personnel were reported as having said ‘f**k you’ and ‘sit down’ and shouted. It was not made clear whether all of this language and voice-raising occurred while the asylum seekers were attempting to sabotage the engines or, perhaps, when they were otherwise refusing to cooperate. Whatever, it is clear that those who we depend upon to bear arms and risk their lives in our defence should be taught the virtues of polite conversation in the face of violent provocation. After all, the ABC is watching. And you can bet that any indiscretion, however minor, or flimsily based, on the part of anyone from the ADF will be reported without the least reflection on the national interest.

Predictably Scott Morrison refuted the uncorroborated allegations of deliberate hand-burning and described them as ‘outrageous’. Well he would say that wouldn’t he.

The asylum seekers said that four people on the boat had fallen overboard as they were approaching Australia. The navy personnel reported that a search had been made and no-one found and moreover that the weather had been calm when asylum seekers had made contact to report bad weather and the resulting accidents. Apparently they doubted that the reported accidents had actually occurred. The state of the weather is easy enough to check but proved a step too far for the intrepid ABC investigative reporters. And would asylum seekers lie?

Surely reporting people overboard was not a ruse on the part of the asylum seekers to sneak through the net, as it were? Well if it was, it was devilishly clever. Clever enough in fact to fool the ABC — and that’s not easy to do. Is it?

We had better be very careful as a country in our treatment of those serving in the armed forces. Of course, we should expect high standards of behaviour. But their role is to defend Australia by force of arms and bad things happen in the middle of combat, which are not easy to judge from comfortable armchairs. We can’t afford to have metro-sexuals with polite manners on the front line. The hairy Taliban are no respecters of good manners, I hear tell.

News organisations have a vital role in revealing grievous abuses where they can be shown to have occurred. However, disappointed asylum seekers have a very large axe to grind. Their unsubstantiated allegations of ill treatment by individual members of our armed forces must be put in context and cannot be taken at face value. It is not right to ferret out and give wide currency to such allegations without corroborating evidence.  It undermines the efforts of those who we depend upon to secure and defend our borders. It is irresponsible and unpatriotic.

 

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics