Citizen Journalism

Posts Tagged ‘Peter Reith’

The new terrorists

In Margo Kingston, Refugees on March 3, 2013 at 1:36 PM
webdiary_0708davies (1)

Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies

By Margo Kingston
November 22, 2001
Source: Webdiary

EDITORS NOTE: I was going to write a piece about Morrison’s play this week to trap Gillard in Western Sydney with his asylum seeker ambush when I realised I already had, more than a decade ago. Looks like Abbott is copying his political father’s playbook to win the 2001 election.


Reading Frank Devine’s column in Monday’s Australian, it hit me that the vicious cycle of demonisation of “the other” had reached its illogical conclusion.

There was not a skerrick of a suggestion that terrorists were among the boat people until after September 11. Suddenly, without evidence, the link was made – by Peter Reith, Phillip Ruddock and by John Howard in the last week of the campaign. The reactionary right jumped on board immediately, repeating the claim, embellishing it, and refusing to interrogate what it meant – an implicit admission that our security checks were not up to scratch. You’d expect an upgrading of security, wouldn’t you? None was announced. And what difference would processing the boat people offshore make to the danger – most assessed as refugees and cleared by security would come here anyway? None of these questions were asked. None of them mattered.

The fear of terrorism was all too real after September 11. Naturally. Yet, from what we know to date, the terrorists entered the United States by air, with fake or real passports. They had the money to do the job without putting themselves in danger. We also know that there are more than 60,000 overstayers in Australia – people who have also broken the rules. Surely, if fear of terrorist infiltration was real, the fear would focus on our airports and the security we use to weed out fake documents. And surely it would settle on the rule-breakers already in our midst. A boat person is subject to serious, intensive security checks, so logically is much LESS likely to be a terrorist after jumping those hurdles.

But logic has no place in this debate. It feeds on itself – so much so that Howard happily released the video which proved his government had lied about its proof that children had been thrown overboard two days before the election, and busily filled our television screens and radio airwaves with his defence. In truth, truth has become irrelevant. The emotions fuelled by Howard’s campaign, and his tactics of complete identification with people’s fears, are visceral. Exposure of untruth cemented support for the misrepresenters.

Logic is unwanted. The use of it merely reminds its users of the irrelevance of their discourse. Beazley’s pleas to the public that terrorists were far more likely to arrive in suits and carrying impeccable documentation at airports than on leaky boats, his last-minute protests that it was unnecessary to lie and demonise to prove the case for border protection, had zero impact.

And so we come to Frank Devine and his condemnation of the increased Greens vote at the election due to voters “in prosperous parts of Melbourne and Sydney”.

“Prosperity has much to recommend it, as do Melbourne and Sydney. However, it is from unthreatened urban enclaves that primal Greens come, combining sanctimonious tree worship with ruthlessness.”

“The Greens are also somewhat unusual in having an organised activist wing, Greenpeace, as well as a political one. Is it going too far to make comparisons with Sinn Fein and the IRA? No further than I’m prepared to go.”

You see what he’s done through imagery? There are terrorists on board the boats. Some people have supported the party which supports the terrorists on the boats. Those voters are terrorists. We are the terrorists within. It’s a line of “thought” echoing the link made between anti-globalisation protesters and the September 11 terrorists by his daughter in the Herald a week before.

The rhetorical devices used by such columnists is simple. Set up a straw man, `the other”, speak from the position of the right-thinking, normal reader, just like the writer, and tear the straw man down. It’s emotive polemic. It eschews reason at the same time as it purports to represent reason. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Telecard Coverup

In From the Archives, Margo Kingston, Telecard Affair on January 13, 2013 at 3:48 AM

By Margo Kingston
November 24, 2000
Source: Webdiary SMH

John Howard and Peter Reith

It had to be dragged out of them, but officials from the Department of Finance today made some big admissions on the Reith Telecard affair under pressure from the Senate estimates committee.

Try as they might to dodge, waffle and prevaricate, the masters of cross-examination, Labor Senators John Faulkner and Robert Ray, shed a little bit more light on the great coverup.

The scandal broke in the Canberra Times on Tuesday October 10, nearly a year after Finance discovered the $50,000 fraud. The very next day, the Prime Minister announced that DPP Damian Bugg had decided to prosecute no-one over the fraud. He also said he had asked the Solicitor-General, David Bennett QC, to advise whether Reith was liable for the $50,000.

This reference to Bennett was made much of by Howard as proof of his good faith. Remember both he and Reith, when the story broke, said there was no obligation for Reith to pay.

Well guess what? Way back in May, Finance wrote to Reith saying it would issue him a debit notice for the full amount, based on legal advice that he WAS liable. That advice was given by a legal officer in the department. (Finance today refused to release that advice.)

Reith said no. Instead, he sent Finance a cheque for $950 a week later, which he claimed was the cost of calls made by his son Paul, to whom he unlawfully gave the card details to make private calls. On October nine, the day before the story broke, Finance again wrote to Reith demanding he pay up as legally required. Read the rest of this entry »

The small matter of prosecution on the Telecard Affair.

In From the Archives, Margo Kingston, Telecard Affair on January 9, 2013 at 12:50 AM

By Margo Kingston
Source: Webdiary SMH
October 16, 2000

Mr Peter Reith – Telecard Affair

To fill you in on DPP Damian Bugg to date.

His brief statement of last week made no mention of whether he would charge anyone apart from Reith and son but the Prime Minister’s office advised us today that Mr Bugg had decided not to prosecute anyone, including X and Y.

Solicitor-General David Bennett QC, briefed by John Howard to advise on civil liability, has reserved his position on whether Miss X or Mr Y are civilly liable. He says Miss X’s actions ”would, at first sight, give rise to an action against her for unjust enrichment”. She could also be ”liable to Telstra for deceit”. Of Mr Y, he says that on any version of events ”he acted dishonestly”.

So the question is, why won’t Bugg prosecute Y or X for fraud?

Attorney-General Daryl Williams QC, as his is wont, won’t say anything except that Bugg is an independent statutory officer and all answers must come from him, if he choses to make them.

But Peter Reith – God bless his soul – has effectively demanded criminal action against Miss X and Mr Y. He’s a lawyer, too, and he doesn’t seem to have a problem with the fact that his son Paul, who lived in the same house as Miss X but denies giving her the Telecard number and PIN, would have to take the stand.

He also doesn’t seem to have a problem with what the public’s reaction might be to the pollie and his son, who are at the head of the chain of events which led to the fraud, not being charged while the non-pollies further down the chain were. Read the rest of this entry »

More on the Reith Telecard affair

In From the Archives, Margo Kingston, Telecard Affair on January 8, 2013 at 6:49 AM

By Margo Kingston
Source: Webdiary SMH
Date: October 30, 2000

Main players in the Telecard Affair.

On Friday, October 20, the pollies perks minister Senator Chris Ellison awoke to the Herald’s publication of an explosive document which raised yet more questions about his administration during the Reith Telecard blowout.

We obtained the document on Thursday, and on the same day, I wrote to him as follows:

Senator Chris Ellison,

Special Minister of State,


Dear Sir,


I request answers to the following questions by close of business today.

(1) When did you first become aware that present or former staff of Mr Reith had been using Mr Reith’s Telecard?
(2) What action did your take upon learning of this unauthorised use of Mr Reith’s Telecard?
(3) On what date were your first informed that the Australian Federal Police would be called in to investigate?
(4) On what date did you inform Mr Reith that police could be called in?
(5) On what date did you inform the Prime Minister that police could be called in?

Yours sincerely,


Chief of Staff, Sydney Morning Herald Canberra bureau Read the rest of this entry »

Tracing the Telecard affair

In From the Archives, Margo Kingston, Telecard Affair on January 8, 2013 at 4:18 AM

By Margo Kingston and Mike Seccombe
Source: Webdiary SMH
Date: October 22nd, 2000

Peter Reith Telecard Scandal $50,000


Tuesday, October 10

The Canberra Times reveals a Federal Police investigation into Peter
Reith’s $50,000 phone bill after he gave his number and PIN to son Paul
for private calls. Howard says Reith revealed the fraud to him in May,
nine months after Reith was told, and that he accepted legal advice
from Attorney-General Daryl Williams to send the file to police. Howard
says he wouldn’t give his Telecard to a family member but “I certainly
don’t regard that as a hanging offence”.

Howard says he doesn’t know how the fraud went on for five years and
that it doesn’t matter because “I don’t think people use Telecards any
more”. (Special Minister of State Chris Ellison – the man in charge of
politician’s perks – later reveals that 210 of the 224 MPs have
Telecards.) Howard kept the fraud secret because it was only “an
allegation”. He pre-empts a decision by the Commonwealth Director of
Public Prosecutions, Damian Bugg, QC, whether to prosecute, saying
Reith’s delivery of his Telecard details to Paul was not fraud.

Reith says he “personally stopped using the card in about 1994”.
(Finance sent Reith a new card in a double-sealed envelope for security
on September 9, 1993.)

Reith tells Parliament his son was interviewed by police in July
and “strongly denied” passing on the Telecard details. He admits that
he breached a determination of the Remuneration Tribunal that Telecards
must only be used “personally, to make telephone calls on parliamentary
or electorate business”. He confessed this “quite openly to the PM”. He
tells Parliament that in 1994 he told his son that “if you have some
particular reason to contact me, this is a means that you can use to do
so”. Read the rest of this entry »