Political Interference? 

One Man's Web > Politics and EthicsPolitical Interference?

 The Port Fairy Folk Festival was being broadcast live on ABC radio this morning, and Womadelaide (the Adelaide based World Music Festival) is being broadcast tonight.  No doubt there will be a fair bit of political comment in both places, especially at the World Music Festival. However the ABC was directed NOT to broadcast The Morning Star concert for West Papua.  This was on directive of Communications Minister, apparently after Indonesian President Megawati Secern complained to John Howard. (Reported on page 8 of the Australian February 22-3)

It was indeed a politicised concert, being supported by the Democrats, the Greens, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.... all political enemies of John Howard.  At what level was it also an important and newsworthy event, that deserved exposure regardless of its political overtones?  

It worries me that we would be worried about Indonesian sensitivities enough to interfere with the autonomy of the ABC.  

The Indonesians have occupied  Western Papua for 40 years. (Some brief history and current events can be seen on the Dutch KITLV site.) We know from East Timor the brutality and massacres of the Indonesian regime. Some of its military leaders such as General Wiranto have been charged with war crimes. Its military is deeply involved in the politics and commerce of the country. Similar events have occurred in Western Papua. Oddly, as Kopassus (special military) forces are being removed from Papua for their excesses, the Australian Government is considering upgrading relations with the Indonesian military, according to The Australian.
(Kopassus links set to be upgraded By Patrick Walters, National security editor February 27, 2003). 

One hopes that we are not set to continue and reinforce the mistakes we made over East Timor.  Or was our final recognition of the wrong in East Timor only a shrewd reading of what was bound to happen, and a smart move to give us a good arguing position over the Timor Gap oil fields.  Our actions have not been entirely friendly here lately. 

In fact Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has accused the Howard Government of dirty tricks, trying to stall ratification of the 5 billion dollar Bayu-Undan oil project to force Timor to accept smaller royalties for the nearby Sunrise oil fields.  If the agreement is not soon ratified by Federal Parliament then the Japanese companies which have agreed to buy the entire output of Bayu-Undan might pull out of the venture. "The Australians are trying to force us to give up on our claims on Sunrise. Their tactics are very clear," Dr Alkatiri said. "Australia knows that these revenues are vital for us. I am very surprised by their attitude. I never thought a democratic country like Australia would play this kind of role with a poor neighbour."
( Sydney Morning Herald Timor resents Australian tactics By Mark Baker, Herald Correspondent in Singapore February 28 2003)

It would be nice to think that even if some organisers of the concert were "stretching the truth" about ABS sponsorship, as opposed to a broadcast of the concert, that the government was big enough to tell Megawati to back off. If it's Indonesia we must not offend today, who will it be next?  Another fine statesman and democrat like Prime Minister Mahathir? And if that is OK, what about internal events in Australia?  Alston and Howard should keep their political noses out of the ABC. Perhaps they should stay right away from the ABC and go back to watching the sport on Channel Nine.



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