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Monday, 23 May 2005
Page: 135

Mr TANNER (9:10 PM) —If you only read Australian newspapers, you would be forgiven for thinking that in recent months the only controversy in North-East Asia regarding nuclear proliferation involved North Korea; that Hosni Mubarak, the President of Egypt, was going to hold a democratic election for the Egyptian presidency in the foreseeable future; that the United Kingdom is going to continue to maintain its level of military presence in Iraq; and that there is no evidence to support the theory that the American attack on Iraq was premeditated and that the intelligence was modified in order to fit the plan.

However, if like me you actually read some international media, you would know that the world is a little bit different and that there have been some very significant reports in recent times that do not fit the picture that I have just described. You would have read, for example, the Guardian earlier this year indicating that South Korea has been in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. You might have read last week’s Economist, where the Mubarak plan for so-called democracy in Egypt was unveiled, which requires that candidates for president will have to be nominated by 250 elected representatives in either the Egyptian parliament or provincial councils, almost all of whom currently belong to President Mubarak’s National Democratic Party—so much for the alleged flowering of democracy in the Middle East that was supposedly being triggered by the invasion of Iraq.

You may well have read the London Daily Telegraph early in March, where it was reported that the United Kingdom proposed to reduce its troop presence in Iraq from 9,000 to approximately 3,500. And, the daddy of them all, you may well have read in early May in the Sunday Times, in the Guardian or perhaps even in the Los Angeles Times, the minutes of a meeting of the heads of the British security services on 23 July 2002, in which the then head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, was quoted with respect to recent meetings that he and others had held with the Bush administration. He said:

Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

This was in mid-2002 and this was the head of British security in MI6 stating in a private meeting what was happening with the Bush administration. In other words, the entirely fraudulent nature of the rationale for the attack on Iraq was exposed by an unimpeachable source, the UK security services. It was one of the biggest stories of the year, but you would have to look long and hard to find that story in the Australian media.

I read the Australian newspapers pretty thoroughly, as most members of this House do, and I have not seen much sign of these stories. With the assistance of the Parliamentary Library, I have had a bit of a look recently. What I have found is one very oblique reference to the Mubarak story in the Australian, no report with respect to the reduction of the UK troop presence in Iraq and a couple of sketchy reports in the Age regarding the minutes from the UK security services meeting, where the angle was all about the British election and Tony Blair’s involvement.

Although all these stories are obviously inconvenient for the John Howard-George Bush view of the world, where the United States, Australia and others are selflessly and nobly spreading democracy, light, freedom and peace throughout the Middle East, I do not necessarily see their absence from the Australian media and that they are being ignored as some kind of conspiracy, even though, as I indicated, at least one of them is a very major international story—the presence of clear evidence that the policy to invade Iraq was well predetermined before any of the processes of the United Nations or weapons inspections occurred. I see these things as evidence of a very narrow, shallow and parochial orientation on the part of the Australian media, where most issues are reduced to good guys and bad guys and it is simply a headline regurgitation strategy. Material that does not fit the standard Western perspective is routinely filtered out. It is particularly noticeable that all the reports that I have referred to were covered in the British media, of which most of our international reporting tends to be derivative. In other words, even when you have major issues on key international controversies reported in the British media, they are not being adequately reported in the Australian media.

There are some rare honourable exceptions. Nicolas Rothwell in the Australian has been an outstanding reporter and correspondent on the Middle East in recent times. I could not commend his reporting on the nuances and complexities of the Middle East situation more highly. Paul McGeough is rightly commended for his very courageous reporting both in Afghanistan and the Middle East, but the media needs to wake up to itself—(Time expired)