With all the recent coverage of Turnbull’s telephone encounter with Trump, I missed a story run on 1 February 2017 on page one of Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph which friends have just drawn to my attention. It alleged that in 2010 as Prime Minister I imposed “the same type of visa bans” as President Trump has just done in the United States under his Executive Order of 27 January. This “news story,” not even classified as a comment piece, is utterly false. (http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/us-politics-trumps-visa-ban-just-the-same-as-kevin-rudds-tactics/news-story/eada2c68147e8e4394705623a77163d1)
President Trump’s “Executive Order: Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States” imposes a blanket ban on seven majority Muslim countries (Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen), preventing all citizens from entering the country. It was based explicitly on the potential security threat that immigrants from these countries may pose to the national interests of the United States. The legality of this order is now being tested in the US courts after a US Federal Court judge issued an injunction against implementation, and subsequently upheld by the US Court of Appeal following a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
In 2010 my government implemented a temporary freeze on asylum applications from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, not all citizens, for a period of three and six months respectively. Furthermore, these were based exclusively on official departmental advice that the security concerns in both countries had changed at that time, reducing the risks to local peoples, risks that would otherwise have caused them to seek asylum in other countries including Australia. These measures were neither proclaimed nor conceived as anti-terrorism measures. These Australian measures were similar to reviews that were then concurrently being conducted by the UNHCR concerning changing conditions within these countries. And this review was for the UNHCR’s own asylum seeker processing purposes.
At the time of announcement, then-Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans stated that “The decision has been made in the light of the changing circumstances in both Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Evolving country information from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan is likely to have a significant effect on the outcome of assessments as to whether asylum-seekers have a well-founded fear of persecution within the meaning of the Refugees Convention.” Our position was aligned with the notion that conditions may be improving in the countries in question.
There are seven reasons why the Telegraph’s story is factually wrong. These are listed below. I would appreciate them printing them as my response to their misleading story, or by providing evidence which disproves each of these. I’m not holding my breath. But it does give them time to send it to their friends in the government to draft a reply for them.
The core documents are:
President Trump’s “Executive Order: Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States” can be accessed here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states
Our policy announcement can be accessed here: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressrel%2F0U1X6%22
Fact Number 1:
President Trump suspended the entire US refugee visa program for 120 days. [Sec. 5 (a)]
My government never did this.
Fact Number 2:
President Trump has suspended refugee visa admissions from Syria indefinitely. [Sec. 5 (c)]
My government never suspended refugee admissions from any country indefinitely.
Fact Number 3:
President Trump has reduced the overall refugee visa cap to the US by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000. [Sec. 5 (d)]
The Labor government never reduced the overall refugee visa cap. In fact, Labor later increased the annual intake by 50%, from 13,750 to 20,000.
The conservative government under Abbott later cut this number back to 13,750.
Fact Number 4:
President Trump has banned all citizens from seven Muslim majority countries (Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen) from entering the US for 90 days.
Source: Fact Sheet: Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry To The United States (https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/01/29/protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states)
My government never banned all citizens of any country from entering Australia.
There is a massive difference in the scope of these measures: between banning all citizens from seven countries entering the US, and a temporary suspension of asylum seekers from two countries from applying for visas to enter Australia.
Fact Number 5:
President Trump’s blanket ban targets seven majority Muslim countries, inferring a problem with Islam.
My government never imposed a ban in relation to either citizens or asylum seekers from any country or countries based on race or religion. In the case of the temporary suspension of visa applications from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, Afghanistan is a Muslim country, whereas Sri Lanka is Buddhist.
Fact Number 6:
President Trump has announced his measures against seven Muslim countries as “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry to the United States.”
My government never announced nor conceived of its temporary measures in relation to asylum seekers from Afghanistan or Sri Lanka as a measure to protect Australia from terrorist attack. As noted above, our decision was taken on the expert advice of officials that security circumstances had significantly changed in both countries warranting a reappraisal of previous government policy on protection visas for their nationals.
Fact Number 7:
As for these particular allegations from the Daily Telegraph of Labor double standards, it should be noted that on 10/04/2010 this same publication attacked the two measures announced by my government, as ammounting to a “non-policy.” In fact, they noted that “Also of interest is that the Government will not reject asylum seeker claims; instead, it will merely suspend them.”
It is peculiar that the Telegraph would now pay such attention to what they considered then as inconsequential. But, then again, consistency has never been the Telegraph’s strong suit, particularly if it means bashing the Labor Party and supporting a Liberal National Party government.
A number of the Murdoch papers continue to deal in factual inaccuracy. I have listed just three recent cases so far on Facebook as they relate to me. Heaven knows what they do to the people who do not have a social media platform to try to defend themselves. So why do they do this? As Murdoch newspaper editors have boasted privately to me over the years: “Because we can.”
Second, because Murdoch owns 70% of the Australian print media, and in my home town of Brisbane has a total monopoly, they know they can get away with it.
Third, they know the Press Complaints Council is a toothless tiger when it comes to policing journalistic standards.
Fourth, because they are not held to account for upholding such basic standards as asking for comment from people attacked in a story, in the case of this Trump story they did not bother to ask my office for comment before publication. This would have enabled us to have time to put these facts before them.
Fifth, and most importantly, people, corporations, universities, members of parliament, have learned to fear these same Murdoch papers over the years if you dare challenge the accuracy or fairness of their stories. In fact, they have created a culture of fear so that people refuse to stick their heads up. This is bad for our democracy. These guys are just as likely to launch a campaign against you on a long-term basis to teach you a lesson not to complain again. It’s a part of a bullying culture, reinforced by their monopoly position, towards people who have the temerity to challenge them on facts, or oppose their editorial line. Which is why papers like the Daily Torygraph in Sydney and the Courier Fail in Brisbane will continue to do the same to people like me and others who don’t just meekly bend the knee.
My prediction is that the Daily Telegraph’s response to this posting on Facebook, if it responds at all, will be to attack it as resembling the social media attacks of Trump himself on parts of the US media. The Brisbane Courier Fail has already tried that one. But as you can see, this 1500 word posting is not exactly a 140 character twitter attack. It’s a point by point factual response to the basis of the Telegraph’s original story for which they did not ask for my response before publication in the first place.
PS. For those not following the news coverage here in the US, the single largest media backing for the Trump Administration in the United States is Murdoch’s Fox News.