Grubby Political Vendetta: How The Daily Telegraph Conned The Australian Press Council To Dismiss An Australia First Complaint

The editor of The Daily Telegraph newspaper has carried out a private deception of the Australian Press Council.

The (Saturday) Daily Telegraph for March 3 2007, ran some heavy criticism directed both at Australia First Party and its New South Wales chairman, Dr. Jim Saleam. The article, written by Joe Hildebrand was entitled "Bikini Nazis Hit The Beach To Stir The Pot". The article referred to Australia First as "white supremacist" (sic) in character, Saleam as a "former neo-nazi" and through its headline suggested a political video used in the Cronulla election campaign, was "Nazi" in tone.

A complaint was made to the Australian Press Council. Surprisingly, The Daily Telegraph agreed to print a retraction of sorts.

As time unfolded, the newspaper withdrew its offer and the matter proceeded to hearing. As it was, the Press Council dismissed the complaint, albeit in a way that it said it was "regretable" that Dr. Saleam was not given an opportunity to reply once the decision had been made not to print the clarification. Any reasonable reader, examining the judgement as published prominently in The Daily Telegraph would have concluded that the matters at issue were under contention - which was fair enough in context.

The newspaper was represented in person by Mr. David Penberthy, its editor. Mr. Penberthy said he was sorry for the "error of judgement" that led to the offer of a clarification. He could not explain why the offer was made. He insisted the journalist, Mr. Hidebrand, had acted properly that it was open to say what was said and that no rule of the Press Council was breached.

However, what was concealed from all was who Mr. Penberthy was in relation to Dr. Saleam. In the 1980's Mr. Penberthy was a Trotskyite student at the University of Adelaide. He was actively involved in a major Trotskyite front group and was present during an iupsurge in the activism of the former National Action organization of which Saleam was the national chairman. It was at this time that a number of incidents occurred at the university, including one where Trotskyite students tried to assault a nationalist activist there - but who came off second best. We wonder indeed if Mr. Penberthy was one of those students, or at least - close to them as friends and 'comrades'. We must therefore ask whether Mr. Penberthy could have any essential objectivity? Is this why Mr. Penberthy could not explain why the offer to clarify the Hildebrand article was made? Was this why Mr. Penberthy asserted the validity of the article?

Over time, Dr. Saleam has developed a criticism of the Australian Press Council rules of complaint. It is reasonably the position that 'truth' is not the essential yardstick of the quality of an article and that the Coucil has no real method to determine 'truth'. It is also the case that the motives of journalists or even editors are not considered in the construction of their stories (sic), that their motives to misrepresent their subjects cannot properly be demonstrated by the complaints process.

The present clash demonstrates that media is hardly fair in Australia, that information will be suppressed if it impacts upon the propaganda credibility of a major press organ. The judgement of the Australian Press Council has fallen prey to a con job. The circumstances show that political vendettas are carried on through the big business press.