The ABC, The Navy And The Truth

EDITOR’S NOTE: Don’t trust what you read on the Web! While the letter below was widely attributed to a serving naval officer, the truth is that it is actually a direct cut-and-paste of The Australian‘s editorial from January 23, 2014. While this post will remain for the record in Quadrant  Online’s archives, it has been taken down from the home page.

The letter below, said to have been written by a serving and very senior RAN officer, is doing the rounds via email and social media, including an appearance on Facebook’s Liberal National page. Just now, Quadrant Online has no way of checking — it is the wee hours in Melbourne as this post goes up — if it is actually the work of the man whose signature it purports bear, so we will not publish his name until authorship is confirmed.

All the same, there is no doubt as to the truth of writer’s observations about the ABC’s coverage of Operation Sovereign Borders, its consistently atrocious reporting, and the damage agit-prop can do when garbed as “serious journalism” and paraded self-righteously before the world.

Letter from a Naval Officer

ran shipTHE ABC’s coverage of the border protection issue has become increasingly tendentious and divorced from reality. After more than a decade of campaigning on the issue, it now seems determined to deny reality in a desperate attempt to justify its long-standing unofficial line- that Australia ought to allow its borders and immigration system to be overridden by asylum seekers who arrive on people smugglers’ boats. Day in and day out, the national broadcaster’s news and current affairs programs run unsubstantiated allegations against our defence forces and government over the implementation of Operation Sovereign Borders or repeat unfair criticism from international agencies and domestic human rights activists.

Even worse, the ABC then damages our national reputation by rebroadcasting these reports into our region on the Australia Network. And all the while the ABC doesn’t seem capable of mentioning the obvious fact, that the operation seems to be working with no boats arriving into Australian custody for more than four weeks. The Australian wonders how long Tony Abbott can sit back and watch ABC managing director Mark Scott continue with his hands -off approach, allowing the Green /Left activism of his journalists to override the charter obligations of the national broadcaster.

His reporter in Jakarta – surely one of the most important postings for the organisation – is the inexperienced George Roberts, who constantly finds and files criticism of Australia and allegations against its service personnel, seemingly without countenancing the veracity of the claims or the domestic political considerations of Indonesian authorities. Yesterday, Roberts reported unproven claims that Australian navy personnel mistreated asylum-seekers by forcing them to grasp a hot engine in a boat turn-back operation, causing “severe” burns. An “exclusively” supplied video showed minor hand damage.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison categorically denied the claims and later reports suggest the burns occurred before the vessel was intercepted, possibly as the vessel was sabotaged. Our navy personnel have, after all, saved the lives of hundreds of asylum-seekers. ABC bulletins also ran strongly with strident criticism from New York -based Human Rights Watch, labelling Australia’s measures “abusive” and accusing the government of “demonising” asylum-seekers.

The national broadcaster continues to provide uncritical amplification of this predictable venting, setting itself as the moral conscience of a nation with a brutal government and insensitive populace. Again, throughout these self-loathing reports, the government’s apparent success in breaking the people smuggling trade seems lost. Mr Scott, who frequently takes to Twitter to praise his staff, doesn’t seem to demand they resort to some straightforward reporting of the salient facts.

Perhaps the ABC might even consider the issue from the perspective of Australia’s national interest. If it can concern itself daily with the sensitivities and objectives of the Indonesian government, then taxpayers are entitled to expect a national broadcaster can also comprehend and recognise our own nation’s interests and objectives.The ABC is not alone in this juvenile pursuit. Fairfax newspapers and much of the Canberra press gallery follow suit. Antipathy towards strong border control has become a self -identifier for those who wish to be seen as worldly, compassionate and progressive. They have invested much of their own credibility in repeating Labor Party and Greens claims that it would not be possible to turn back people-smugglers’ boats.

Now that the difficult and dangerous work of our Service personnel suggests the Coalition’s policies can work, just as they did more than a decade ago, the media and political critics face the choice of either admitting their prognostications were wrong or working to undermine the policy and create a sense of disorder. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised they prefer the latter. Perversely, the more they protest and decry the Abbott regime as brutal and unfair, the more it will help to dissuade potential customers. We can only hope so. Because if the current trends can be entrenched so that the trade stops and the people- smugglers are put out of business, lives will not be put at risk, thousands will be spared the trauma of detention, billions will be saved and Indonesian relations will be put back on to an even keel.

Oh, and Australia can continue to accept its generous quota of refugees based on need rather than price, through orderly processes.


(name withheld)



2 thoughts on “The ABC, The Navy And The Truth

  • Geoffrey Luck says:

    A succinct and accurate description of the ABC’s philosophy, and its failures in reporting, especially on Indonesia and particularly on this episode. That said, it would have been more helpful if a serving naval officer could have added facts about what is still an obscure event.

  • Sos says:

    that’s right

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