Issue 125

GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 125

17 FEBRUARY 2012

“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”

Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.

“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time.

Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep. For example, peruse the correspondence he’s published

in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask:

“Hendo, are you OK?”

– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.

“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago

I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”

– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011

“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails

are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s

Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.

Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”

– Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.

“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”

– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.

“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”

- Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)

“We’d better be careful what we say, just in case Gerard’s offsider pooch Nancy is keeping an eye on us for his delightfully earnest Media Watch Dog”

- Tom Cowie of The Power Index, Crikey 20 January 2012

ABC’s Double Standards –  Soft on Lee Rhiannon But Tough On Julia Gillard

● New Feature: What ABC Types Think of the Liberals – Jonathan Green

● Can You Bear It?  Tim Soutphommasane’s Fact-Free Age Debut; John Buchanan’s Socialist Gramsci Moment Remembered

● Nancy On the  Couch: Concerning Bonge’s Veneration of Mr Oakes &

Dennis Glover’s Nostalgia for Any Labor Leader But the

Successful Hawke and Keating

● Hyperbole of the Week:  Andrew Fowler Sees Stalin in Darling Harbour

● Correspondence:   Gerard Henderson & Andrew Zammit on Islamist Terrorism

AUNTY – AND THE TALE OF TWO INTERVIEWS: SOFT ON LEE RHIANNON/TOUGH ON JULIA GILLARD

Lee Rhiannon, the Greens’ Senator for New South Wales, was interviewed on the ABC RN Sunday Forum program last weekend.  The interviewer was Jonathan Green, who has a familiar media background for a journalist on the taxpayer funded ABC. Mr Green worked for the left-of-centre The Age, then he became editor of the left-of-centre Crikey newsletter, then he became editor of the ABC on-line publication The Drum. Jonathan Green is a nice bloke, but he is a man of the left.

Then on Monday, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, was interviewed as part of the ABC Four Corners program “The Comeback Kid”.  Born in England, Andrew Fowler is but one of the ABC’s many left-of-centre journalists.

Julia Gillard was grilled at length on Four Corners about her association with the ALP operatives who moved against Kevin Rudd last year.  Andrew Fowler’s questions were hostile and his demeanour unfriendly. Moreover, he suggested consistently that the Prime Minister was refusing to answer his questions and, by implication, unwilling to tell the truth.

However, Lee Rhiannon was not grilled on RN’s Sunday Extra about her relationship with Soviet Union operatives for some two decades. Jonathan Green’s questions were asked in a friendly manner and were not repeated when the interviewee declined to give a straightforward answer.  No mention was made of the fact that Senator Rhiannon did not break her connection with the pro-Moscow propaganda sheet Survey until mid-1990 – when she was 39 years of age.  Around this time she changed her surname from O’Gorman to Rhiannon and joined the Greens.

Julia Gillard  and Four Corners

Without Julia Gillard, Andrew Fowler had nothing much at all.  Despite all the hype, Four Corners had little to show for its investigations. The only interviews it aired were with Troy Bramston (a one-time Kevin Rudd staffer), former Labor Minister Con Sciacca (who left the House of Representatives in 2004), trade union leader Joe de Bruyn, former Labor senator Graham Richardson (who left the Senate in 1994), former Labor MP Brett Raguse (who left the Parliament in 2010), Labor operative Bruce Hawker, the Labor MP for Page Janelle Saffin and the Labor MP for Bruce, Alan Griffiths (who was incorrectly described in the program as holding a Queensland seat).

Clearly, without Ms Gillard, Four Corners did not have much of a story. Actor Rhys Muldoon, who is a friend of Kevin Rudd, said on Sky News’ The Contrarians program last Friday that he was interviewed by Four Corners for three hours.  Yes, three hours.  But Andrew Fowler and his producer did not use a word of the Muldoon interview.  [Are you sure that this interview ever concluded?  It might be still underway in the bowels of the ABC Studio in Ultimo – Ed].

In the lead-up to the 1996 election, Four Corners did a program on the then prime minister Paul Keating.  He refused to be interviewed – telling his associates at the time that he did not see the point in offering himself up to Four Corners, only to be mugged.  Clearly Mr Keating had a clearer idea of how the ABC operates than does the present Prime Minister and her media advisers.

Some Liberal and National MPs see the ABC as pro-Labor.  Not so.  Rather, the ABC invariably criticises both the Coalition and Labor from the left.  ABC types are closer to the Greens and its agenda as well as to that of the left of the Labor Party.

Lee Rhiannon and RN Sunday Extra

The Rhiannon and Gillard interviews of last week demonstrate the point.  Every question from Andrew Fowler to the Prime Minister was hostile or at least critical.

Compare and contrast Jonathan Green’s soft interview of Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon.  Let’s take the following question, where  JG gave Rhiannon a “free kick” by using the are-you-a-member-of-the-Communist-Party question once favoured by the discredited anti-communist Joe McCarthy. Let’s go to the transcript:

Jonathan Green: Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?

Lee Rhiannon:  I was not a member of Communist Party.  But I was a member of the Socialist Party and I worked on a whole range of issues with my colleagues around international disarmament, women’s rights, issues to do with unemployment – and I continue to see that these are important issues.

This is a cop-out of the kind that Julia Gillard was not offered by Andrew Fowler on Four Corners. The facts are known – by Jonathan Green and others.

▪ When Lee Rhiannon joined the Socialist Party of Australia in 1970-71, it was the pro-Soviet Union part of the communist movement.   In 1968, the Communist Party of Australia (led by Laurie Aarons) finally split with its communist controllers in Moscow. W.J. (Bill) Brown, Freda Brown – and others – subsequently broke away from the CPA and formed the SPA in 1970-71.  The Browns were Lee’s parents.  Bill Brown and Freda Brown remained loyal to the Soviet Union and Joe Stalin until their deaths. The story is told, among other places, in Mark Aarons’ The Family File (Black Inc, 2010).

▪ From around 1970 until the collapse of the European communism in 1990, Lee Brown – who became Lee O’Gorman by marriage and Lee Rhiannon by deed poll – was associated with the SPA, which received funds from the Soviet Union.  Lee O’Gorman edited the pro-Moscow journal Survey for some of this time including its final edition in 1990.

▪  Lee Rhiannon refuses to answer questions as to whether her travels to communist Eastern Europe in the 1970s and 1980s were funded – in whole or in part – by the Communist regimes in East Germany and the like.

▪  Senator Rhiannon also refuses to say whether she studied at the Lenin School in Moscow in 1977. The Lenin School was a training ground for pro-Moscow communists the world over.

On all these matters, JG let Senator Rhiannon off the hook.  Earlier in the interview, he did ask her about Christian Kerr’s recent articles in The Australian which – based on ASIO’s now released files – demonstrated that she was contacted by Vladimir Alekseev in 1970, the KGB’s man in the Soviet Embassy in Australia.  However, JG’s questioning was soft – of the: “Were you a KGB informer?” genre. Senator Rhiannon replied in the negative.

WHAT ABC TYPES REALLY THINK ABOUT THE LIBERALS – FEATURING JONATHAN GREEN

While on the ABC, let’s inaugurate the “What ABC Types Really Think About The Liberals” segment – which was promised in the first issue of MWD for 2012.  See Issue 122.

On 11 January 2011, Jonathan Green appeared on the ABC TV The Drum program. Compere Tim Palmer [he’s yet another ABC leftie, isn’t he? – Ed] introduced the issue of a controversial neo-Nazi festival, which was planned for the Gold Coast in Queensland.  The festival in question was called the “Hammered” and its organisers included such white supremist groups as “Blood and Honour”.

During the studio discussion, Jonathan Green declared: “We shouldn’t trivialise this folks, it’s nasty.”  Quite so.  However, when it was put in the discussion that if the event had not been criticised no one would have known about it, Jonathan Green agreed – declaring :

It would be just another day on the Gold Coast and everyone would think it was an LNP fundraiser.

So, first up Green said that the “Hammered” neo-Nazi festival should not be trivialised.  And then he said that it was a bit like the Liberal National Party fundraiser on the Gold Coast.  Meaning that there was not much difference between Gold Coast Liberals and neo-Nazis.

During the same program, Jonathan Green compared “the John Howard leadership” style with that of the dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria.  According to Green, both men held the view that if they step down “it will be at the will of the people”.

To sum up.   According to Jonathan Green, the LNP in Queensland bears a certain resemblance to the neo-Nazi movement.  And John Howard’s attitude to resignation bears a certain resemblance to that of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

That’s what one ABC type thinks of the Liberals.  Next week – Waleed Aly.

CAN YOU BEAR IT?

▪ Tim Soutphommasane’s Fact-Free Inauguration at The Age

It seems that The Weekend Australian’s loss is The Age’s loss also.

Until recently, Dr Tim Soutphommasane (for a doctor he is) was a regular columnist for The Weekend Australian – writing the “Ask the Philosopher” column.  The series was light on facts but long on theory.  Well, it seems that Dr S is no longer with The Australian. Last Monday The Age announced that “Tim Soutphommasane, a political philosopher at Monash University and Per Capita, will write regularly for The Age.”

Fancy that.  As if “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra” does not have enough leftist or left-of-centre columnists already.  Well, it’s now got yet another one.

Dr S’s inaugural Age column was titled “In the grip of the quick fix” – to which the following sub-heading was attached: “We citizens must accept some blame for our politics of instant gratification”. In a total of 815 words, Dr S. only made four empirical references to individuals or organisations – all in the first two paragraphs. There was one mention each of (i) the Labor Party, (ii) the Coalition, (iii) Kevin Rudd (iv) Tony Abbott and (v) Andy Warhol.

That’s all, folks.  Julia Gillard appeared in Dyson’s illustration which accompanied the Soutphommasane columns but the Prime Minister’s name did not appear in the article.  The column was all factless words and sound – meaning not every much at all.  For example, at one point Dr S. wrote:

Like other Western societies, we live in a culture of unrestrained desire, material and otherwise.  We have become rapacious consumers – of food and fashion, sex and entertainment.

Really. Go on.  Do we really live in a culture of unrestrained desire?   Whatever happened to Victoria Police?  And is there so much food and fashion and sex and entertainment – outside of Monash University and the Per Capita think tank.  [Don’t tell me the financially challenged Guardian-on-the-Yarra is paying real money for such tosh – Ed]. Tim Soutphommasane appears to believe that being a political philosopher means that you never have to possess facts. Can you bear it?

Self Declared Socialist John Buchanan  As ABC’s Lone Expert on Queensland Mining Strike

On Wednesday, the ABC PM program covered the strike at BHP Billiton’s Mitsubishi Alliance mines in Queensland.  This is one of the most significant industrial disputations in recent Australian history.

Annie Guest was given the task of covering the story for the ABC.  So who did she interview?  Well, first up, Ms Guest interviewed Stephen Smyth – he is district president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

And who did Ms Guest go to for expert, independent advice?  Sydney University “industrial relations expert” academic Dr John Buchanan, that’s who.  This is what John Buchanan had to say:

John Buchanan: So I think it’s that kind of threshold philosophical issue about what’s the balance between the parties and the workplace and it doesn’t matter whether you have the Fair Work Act or the WorkChoices Act, there will always be a contest over the management prerogative and that’s what we’re seeing here. Look obviously the Government’s going to watch any dispute but I think once again it’s important not to see this in political terms; it’s a real problem in Australia that IR immediately becomes a matter is it pro-Labor or pro-Liberal. This is essentially a workplace dispute about how does the workforce deal with managers.

So, in other words, there’s no real problem.  This is the very same John Buchanan who in a speech at Politics In The Pub in Sydney on 18 February 2005 declared that he was an out-and-proud socialist who “could hardly talk to his friends” so great was his disappointment when John Howard defeated Mark Latham at the 2004 Federal election.

Drowning his sorrows in the Pub in early 2005, John Buchanan called for “militants in the workplace” to be supported. Moreover, he identified himself with the Marxist revolutionary Antonio Gramsci.  Your man Buchanan is well-qualified indeed to provide expert commentary in the ongoing struggle between what he sees as capital and labour.  [Why does nice Mr Scott tolerate this in his capacity as ABC editor-in-chief – when the position of the socialist Gramsci lover Buchanan could be balanced by hearing the views of someone who is not a Gramascian socialist? – Ed].

Can you bear it?

NANCY ON THE COUCH TALKS TO INKY – A CONTINUING SERIES

● About Paul Bongiorno’s Veneration For Laurie Oakes

Nancy Asks :  I was always told that journalists were a sceptical lot – even cynical at times.  But turning on Meet the Press on Sunday, I heard Paul Bongiorno refer to the “venerable Laurie Oakes”. During Mr Bongiorno’s time as a Catholic priest, the term “venerable” was used to refer to a person who was worthy of veneration because of saintly disposition. Could the Bonge mean this about Mr Oakes – or did he mean to use the word “vulnerable”?

Inky Responds :  Fear not, my child.  Journalists are cynical – but only about all professions except journalism.  Mr Oakes and Mr Bongiorno may be commercial rivals but, as leaders of the Parliament Press Gallery, they are venerable types who take themselves seriously. Come Judgment Day, I’m sure that Laurie and Bonge will sit on either side of the Creator – with Mr Bongiorno at God’s left hand.

About Dennis Glover’s Dislike of Labor’s Successful PMs

Nancy Asks :  I saw that self-proclaimed Labor speech-writer Dr Dennis Glover had an article in The Australian on Wednesday where he criticised the fact that in the ALP the “Hawke-Keating era has become the measure of all things”.

I went all-a-tizz when Dr Glover reminded me of “the romantic legacy of the past Labor leaders Scullin and Chifley taking on the money power”. As I recall, Jim Scullin in 1931 – like Gough Whitlam in 1974-1975 – lost control of the economy.  Also, Ben Chifley’s 1947 decision to nationalise the private trading banks made possible Robert Menzies’ victory in 1949 and, if implemented, would have led to a fall in living standards.

Left of centre types like Dennis Glover just love such Labor failures as Scullin, Chifley and Whitlam – but want to distance themselves from the successful Hawke/Keating Government. Why is this so?

Inky Responds:  Dr Glover is a fellow at Per Capita left-of-centre think tank.  With some leftie types, nothing succeeds like failure.  To them, symbolism is where it is at – or was at.

All that matters to Dr Glover and friends is that Scullin and Chifley wanted to take on “the money power”.  The fact is that, under Scullin, Australia would have defaulted on its debts in the early 1930s. And if Chifley had nationalised the banks, all borrowers would have had to rely on just one bureaucracy-controlled bank for loans.  But Scullin and Chifley wanted to take on “the money power” and this excites our Dr Glover.  He’s not worried about the workers who held managerial, teller and administrative roles in the private banks.

HYPERBOLE OF THE WEEK

AS JUDGED BY LUKE & LEIA: ANDREW FOWLER SCORES WITH SOVIET COMPARISON

The inaugural winner of this prestigious gong was Mike Carlton for his comment (reported last week) that Rupert Murdoch is “now ga ga”.  This set high standards for this week.  Fortunately Four Corners journalist Andrew Fowler came to the rescue with his “The Comeback Kid” special last Monday.

Let’s go to that part of the transcript where the Four Corners reporter berated the Prime Minister for “delivering a frontal assault on [Kevin] Rudd’s legacy” at the ALP national conference in Sydney last December:

Andrew Fowler : There are those who said that you should have shown more grace in dealing with the legacy of Kevin Rudd when you spoke at the ALP National Conference in Sydney last December. What’s your response to that?

Julia Gillard : I have spoken on a number of occasions as Prime Minister about the great things that Kevin Rudd did when he held the office of prime minister. I’m not interested in this, you know, media cycle – and some of the kind of psychoanalysis that goes on along with it. You know, as Prime Minister, I get things done.

Andrew Fowler : With Rudd airbrushed from the list of Labor prime ministers, it was like watching a stage-managed Soviet rally – where the most fearful party members were expected to clap the hardest. Rudd also barely got a mention in the video history of Labor’s achievements, though he’d steered Australia through the global financial crisis and brought the party back from Opposition after 11 years.

How about that?  According to Four Corners’ star reporter, the ALP 2011 national conference in Sydney was just like a “stage managed Soviet rally” in the days of Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev or Leonid Brezhnev.  Those comrades destined for the gulag or firing squad would clap the loudest.  But it would all be in vain.

The hyperbolic Mr Fowler lacks a sense of proportion.  In the Soviet times, the likes of Kamenev, Zinoviev and Beria were purged or murdered.  And what about Kevin Rudd’s supporters in Sydney last December?  Well, apparently they did not get invited, after the conference, to the PM’s favourite Chinese noshery in Sydney’s Chinatown. Just like the Soviet Union, to be sure.

CORRESPONDENCE

GERARD HENDERSON AND ANDREW ZAMMIT RE ISLAMIST TERRORISM IN AUSTRALIA

On 8 February 2012, Gerard Henderson’s weekly Sydney Morning Herald column was titled “Threat from enemy within makes anti-terrorism laws indispensible” (see here).  The article focused on the long-term effects of Malcolm Fraser’s “Lebanon Concession” – a decision made by the Fraser Government in 1976 to allow Lebanese to settle in Australia under the refugee and humanitarian intake – in spite of the fact that they were not refugees in the accepted meaning of the term.

In his column, Gerard Henderson quoted briefly from the paper written by Monash University academic Andrew Zammit titled Explaining Australia – Lebanon Jihadist Connections. (http://law.anu.edu.au/COAST/events/APSA/papers/194.pdf)

Dr Zammit corrected one error in the article – his letter was published in the SMH on 9 February 2012:

Flaws in arguments over Muslim terrorism

Gerard Henderson’s use of my paper on Australia-Lebanon terrorism connections has some errors.

First, Henderson cites me as referring to 33 terrorism convictions. My paper actually referred to 33 prosecutions, not convictions. There were some acquittals, and the 33 did not include non-jihadism-related terrorism charges, such as the three Tamil Tiger supporters charged in Victoria.

Second, he accurately quotes me as saying “while Lebanese-Australian Muslims make up 60 per cent of those charged over alleged jihadist activity, they constitute only 20 per cent of all Australian Muslims”. However, I pointed out we should be hesitant to draw firm conclusions from this sample given how small it is, and that further research was needed. I also stressed that the activities of such few people can’t be used to justify generalisations about Lebanese-Australian Muslims as a whole.

Also, Henderson is correct to point out that the “Lebanon concession” – the Fraser government’s expanded intake of Lebanese civil war refugees in 1976 – was poorly implemented and that Lebanese Muslims often had little support on arrival. However, the findings in my paper do not support Henderson’s argument that the “Lebanon concession” was wrong altogether. The paper did examine Lebanese immigration during the civil war period and consequent social disadvantage; it did not state that convicted terrorists were necessarily children of those who arrived during the “concession”, which was only a short-lived episode in a large-scale immigration intake. In any case, it’s a stretch to argue that Australia should not have given refuge to thousands of people fleeing a brutal civil war because of a couple of failed terrorism attempts decades later.

Andrew Zammit Global Terrorism Research Centre, Monash University

The follow-up correspondence between Gerard Henderson and Andrew Zammit is published below – in the public interest:

Gerard Henderson to Andrew Zammit – 9 February 2012

Andrew

I refer to your letter in the Sydney Morning Herald on 8 February 2012 – in response to my column of the previous day.

I acknowledge that, in my column on 7 February 2012, I should have cited your paper “Explaining Australia – Lebanon Jihadist Connections” as referring to the prosecutions, not convictions, of Muslim Lebanese Australians on terrorism-related charges.  Otherwise, I believe that I accurately reported your paper.

With reference to the final paragraph of your letter, I make the following observations:

▪ You refer to Malcolm Fraser’s Lebanon concession of 1975-1976 “as a short-lived episode in a large scale immigration intake”.  This is a misleading comment – since it overlooks the impact of family reunion under Australia’s immigration policy which took place after, and as a consequence of, the Lebanon concession.

The facts speak for themselves – and can be ascertained with reference to James Jupp (ed) The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, its People and their Origins and Nahib Kabir Muslims in Australia: Immigration, Race Relations and Cultural History.

In Muslims in Australia, Dr Kabir wrote:

Large-scale migration of Lebanese Muslims began after the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon in 1975.  They have been referred to as “quasi-refugees”, because they were not accorded refugee status or services but the usual requirements were temporarily relaxed to allow them entry.  The number of Lebanese-born Muslims continued to increase from 3,407 in 1971 to 6,974 in 1976; 15,572 in 1981; 20,108 in 1986; and 25,539 in 1991.

As James Jupp’s The Australian People makes clear, between 1971 and 1981 the proportion of Muslims among the Lebanese population in Australia increased from 14 per cent to 31 per cent – that is, it more than doubled.

The exponential increase in Lebanese Muslims in Australia was a consequence of the Fraser Government’s Lebanese concession.  During 1976-1977 there was a net migration of some 12,000 Lebanese to Australia – in the early 1970s the number of Lebanese coming to Australia had declined.

The large increase in Lebanese Muslims in Australia 1976-1977 had a knock-on effect – as those who obtained Australian citizenship brought out their often quite large families under the family reunion scheme.

▪  In your SMH letter you wrote that “it’s a stretch that Australia should not have given refuge to thousands of people fleeing a brutal civil war because of a couple of failed terrorism attempts decades later”.

You have no evidence for this assertion. Maronites were targeted by Muslims in the Lebanon Civil War of 1975-1976.  Virtually no Lebanese Christians sought refuge in Australia at the time.

The Lebanon Civil War of 1975-1976 took place primarily in Beirut.  Yet the Lebanese who arrived in Australia, as a consequence of the Lebanon concession, were primarily from the poor rural areas in the north and south of the country.  There is no evidence that these Muslim Lebanese were victims of a brutal civil war. As Dr Kabir has written, they were not “refugees” in the accepted use of the term.

In conclusion, I should state my belief that academics and commentators who take part in the public debate should be frank.  I admired the honesty of your “Explaining Australia-Lebanon Jihadist Connections”.  However, I believe that in your SMH letter you fudged some issues.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Andrew Zammit to Gerard Henderson – 9 February 2012

Hello Gerard,

Thanks for your email. First, I naturally agree on the need for frank and honest debate. My letter was not dishonest and did not fudge anything, I simply disagreed with you on some points and I think you stretched the evidence in my paper beyond breaking point. We are both honest people who agreed on several facts and differed substantially on interpretation.

Actually we agree on quite a few areas (such as on how some leftists are absurdly over-the-top in their criticisms of the security services, and how the judicial system has performed well with regards to terrorism). But I now turn to where we disagreed.

To your points:

▪ You refer to Malcolm Fraser’s Lebanon concession of 1975-1976 “as a short-lived episode in a large scale immigration intake”.  This is a misleading comment – since it overlooks the impact of family reunion under Australia’s immigration policy which took place after, and as a consequence of, the Lebanon concession.

Good point, my letter did not address family reunion, so the impact of the concession goes beyond those arriving during 1975-76.

However, while the figures you cite do show that the Lebanese Muslim population grew rapidly from 1976, that do not not show what proportion resulted from the concession and subsequent family reunion. I concede I don’t know what number of Lebanese Muslims there would be in Australia had the concession not occurred.

But the point is your column would have given the reader the impression that my paper showed the terrorism attempts resulted from the concession. My paper did not do that. I do not know the dates or means of arrival for many of the jihadists’ parents. The paper also broadly discussed Lebanese immigration during the civil war; it did not distinguish between that which occurred because of the concession and that which didn’t. For both those reasons, I needed to point out that out to the reader that my paper itself did not support your arguments about the concession.

I’d like to stress that the letter was not intended to rebut every argument you made about the concession, but to clarify they were your arguments and not mine. It was to correct an oversimplified interpretation of my paper that could result from your column.

▪  In your SMH letter you wrote that “it’s a stretch that Australia should not have given refuge to thousands of people fleeing a brutal civil war because of a couple of failed terrorism attempts decades later”.

You have no evidence for this assertion. Maronites were targeted by Muslims in the Lebanon Civil War of 1975-1976.  Virtually no Lebanese Christians sought refuge in Australia at the time.

The Lebanon Civil War of 1975-1976 took place primarily in Beirut.  Yet the Lebanese who arrived in Australia, as a consequence of the Lebanon concession, were primarily from the poor rural areas in the north and south of the country.  There is no evidence that these Muslim Lebanese were victims of a brutal civil war. As Dr Kabir has written, they were not “refugees” in the accepted use of the term.

I am aware they were not “refugees” in the strict sense of the term – they were not legally required to prove that they had a well founded-fear of persecution, hence the “concession” – but it does not follow that they weren’t fleeing the civil war. The country was in civil war at the time they left; it seems a clear connection.

If a civil war broke out in Sydney and related tensions without outright violence arose between political factions in other cities, I’m sure many Australians would leave. To suggest people emigrating from a country in civil war aren’t “fleeing” because you haven’t seen evidence that they themselves were directly victimised is to set an incredibly high bar.

As we just discussed above, you were also referring to the family-reunion immigration occurred in subsequent years. In the later years the war was raging across Lebanon and it is certainly reasonable to regard those later waves as fleeing.

I’m unable to answer as to why Christian Maronites may not have come to Australia during the 1975-76 period, but it does not follow that Muslims who came at that time weren’t escaping the civil war. It may have something to do with the Maronites having had a historically strong position in Lebanon and that Syria intervened on their behalf (until Hafez al-Assad changed sides later).

As you note, thousands of Lebanese came to Australia as a result of the concession, even though we don’t know exactly how many. Had the concession not occurred, they may well have been forced to stay in Lebanon, and endure a civil war that ended up killing hundreds of thousands and maiming even more. By objecting to the concession as a whole (as opposed to its poor implementation) you are suggesting that Australia should not have let them in. Therefore I can’t see how to interpret your argument as anything other than saying Australia should not have given refuge to thousands who fled this war.

That’s not dishonesty, it’s a sincere disagreement, and I’m entitled to point out to the readers that my paper itself did not suggest the concession was wrong.

On a personal note, I believe strongly that for all its problems in implementation, allowing a greater intake of Lebanese people as broadly-defined-refugees should be judged as the right thing to have done, given the hellhole that Lebanon turned into. You may disagree and that’s fine, but I was distressed to see my examination of some terrorist networks (involving a few dozen people) used as an argument against it, and was entitled to express that objection.

Again, the letter was not saying “Henderson misquoted me” but “my paper did not support certain claims Henderson made.”

A couple of further points. I very much believe sensitive issues like these Lebanon-Australia terrorism connections should be examined and discussed, but it’s vital we be aware of the limited nature of the evidence at hand, of how complex radicalisation and terrorism is, and therefore to be very careful in what judgements we draw. Hence the very cautious conclusion to my paper. I would be similarly concerned if a leftist made too much of my argument that there is some evidence disadvantage played a role in radicalisation.

Obviously you can’t put all the paper’s caveats into your column – op-ed’s aren’t required to be packed full of academic nuance and would be boring if they were – but those caveats are very important and I needed to point them out to the reader. Australia needs calm, informed discussion about terrorism, and I’m concerned my research will instead get hijacked by the culture wars.

Disagreements aside, thank you for reading my paper and I’m glad you found it informative.

Kind regards,

Andrew Zammit

Gerard Henderson to Andrew Zammit – 10 February 2012

Andrew

Thanks for your note. I do not intend to continue the correspondence.

However, I make one final point. I did not rely on your Explaining Australia-Lebanon  Jihadist Connections paper in coming to my conclusions about the Lebanese concession.

I wrote about the Lebanese concession in my Sydney Morning Herald column in 2006 and again in 2007 (ie after the New Year Day’s release of the 1976 Cabinet records). I also covered the topic in my 2007 Policy Exchange pamphlet titled Islam in Australia. I quoted this pamphlet in my column on Tuesday.

No member of the Lebanese community in Australia – Muslim or Maronite – has challenged the facts surrounding the Lebanese concession as set out by me.

Finally I should remind you that the Fraser Government itself abolished the Lebanon concession in November 1976 since the policy was regarded as a shambles.

Over and out

Gerard Henderson

Andrew Zammit to Gerard Henderson – 10 February 2012

Hello Gerard,

Thanks for the reply.

My letter was not intended to imply that you had relied solely on my paper in your arguments. It was to clarify to the reader that they were your arguments and not mine, as my paper was more limited in scope and did not specifically address the concession or distinguish between concession-related and non-concession-related Lebanese Muslim immigration.

Regards,

Andrew

* * * *

Until next time.

'2012