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Tag Archives: New Matilda

Winning back trust

When Greg Hunt appointed Gregory Andrews to be our first ‘Threatened Species Commissioner’ in July last year, few people other than Chris Graham at New Matilda paid any attention.

Andrews has a very dubious past. On June 21, 2006 he appeared on a Lateline story, entitled ‘Sexual slavery reported in Indigenous community’. He was incorrectly described as a “former youth worker” and his identity was hidden.

At the time, Andrews was an Assistant Secretary in the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, and was advising then Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, on violence in Central Australian Aboriginal communities. Andrews told Lateline Aboriginal men were trading petrol for sex with young girls, and that children were being held against their will and traded between communities as “sex slaves”.

Andrews cried during the interview, saying he had made numerous reports to police but had withdrawn them in fear for his safety.

This was revealed to be a lie. No such reports were made and a lengthy police investigation found “no evidence whatsoever” to support Andrews’ claims.

Andrews also had to apologise for misleading a 2006 federal Senate Inquiry in Petrol Sniffing in remote Aboriginal communities. Andrews told parliament that he lived in Mutitjulu for nine months, when in fact he lived 20 kilometres away, at the five star Ayers Rock tourist resort. He also told Senators: “Young people were hanging themselves off the church steeple on Sunday and their mothers were having to cut them down.” Police confirmed at the time that no child has ever hung themselves from the Mutitjulu church, nor has a mother ever had to cut her child down.

The woman who blew the whistle on Andrews’ lies, Tjanara Goreng Goreng, was later convicted of leaking government information, sacked and bankrupted. Andrews was a key witness in the case.

Greg Hunt was aware of all this when he appointed Andrews who was, at the time, managing implementation of biodiversity conservation programmes, including management and evaluation of National Landcare Programme and 20 Million Trees initiatives.

One reason for this story resurfacing is the image of Andrews’ old boss and architect of the Northern Territory Intervention, Mal Brough, walking alongside Malcolm Turnbull during the leadership spill, an image which sent a chill down the spines of Aboriginal Australians.

Speculation is rife as to what role Brough will play in Turnbull’s new cabinet. One rumour was that he wanted health. Chris Graham conjectures that Brough may be interested in the environment portfolio. Mining giant Adani has employed David Moore, Brough’s ex-chief of staff, as one of its key lobbyists. Or perhaps defence, being an ex-military man.

We will know soon enough if Brough is to be promoted. It seems a judge finding that he abused the judicial process for the “purpose of causing significant public, reputational and political damage to Mr Slipper”, and the disgraceful debacle where Julia Gillard was described in very unflattering sexist terms on a menu at a Brough fundraiser, have done nothing to hinder his political resurrection.

If the government wants to win back the trust of the people, promoting liars and cheats is not a good way to start.

 

Why can’t journalists ask the obvious questions?

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

We are all frustrated at the lack of scrutiny afforded to our politicians, and in particular to the government’s repeated claims that we have a debt crisis. Why is it, however, that there don’t appear to be any journalists in the mainstream media who have the gumption to simply ask; “Prove it”? One of our readers has circulated a letter to the independent media sites (The AIMN included) asking that we continue to pose the questions that the mainstream media avoids. The reader, James Fitzgerald, makes a lot of sense.

I sent this to the Guardian Australia this morning, and to the ALP and the Greens as well as New Matilda, The Hoopla and Crikey in the hope that someone (or everyone) runs with it. The journalism sentiments apply to you, too:

Hello, thank you for being a part of the Australian free press.

I see, year after year, election after election, from the conservatives and from the progressives, massive sweeping and dour statements about the inherited economy following an election. I would like to make two points to your editorial staff and your journalists in the hope that they will consider these when framing questions aimed at our (generally) economically conservative, politicians:

1. When a government is claiming a huge and unsustainable, inherited debt, how about they provide a list, to the community, of what the borrowings are for and who the borrowings are from? We can then make more informed decisions about the responsible way to service these debts. As it is, we get a load of sweeping statements proclaiming catastrophic debt (and deficit) accompanied by absolutely no details. It is incredibly arrogant of politicians to think that if they tell us finances are bad (or great?) they have no need to provide supporting information. Please request your editorial staff and journalists to question politicians about this and openly challenge politicians to provide correct information supporting their sweeping assertions? A simple list of borrowings, who they are from and what they are for, will allow much better democratic decisions to be made.

2. Can you also encourage your editorial staff and journalists to question why politicians appear to place more importance on a healthy economy than they do on a healthy society? To my understanding, a healthy economy will naturally follow-on from an established and healthy society. Commerce is (merely) a tool of society, so it should stand to reason that if society is strong, healthy and prosperous the economy will naturally follow. Please question politicians about what social benefits their economic decisions will provide (and to whom).

A wonderful man called Ian Plowman, when confronted by a decision, teaches us to ask: What is the benefit for our grandchildren’s grandchildren?

Again, thank you for your contribution to the spread of balanced, truthful and inquiring information in Australia and the world. I will also send emails with these two ideas to progressive politicians and to some independent, online news outlets so that they may ask the same questions of Abbott, Hockey and Cormann. They may also ask Abbott if he knows what brand of cigars the other 2 smoke when celebrating?

Best wishes,

James Fitzgerald

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