Crikey received this response yesterday afternoon from Peter Charley, the Executive Producer of Lateline in response to our item on their Mutitjulu report:

A quick note on the
tripe published in Crikey yesterday regarding the tip from a so-called
“source close to Lateline” over that program’s June 21 report on
child sexual abuse in Mutitjulu: Lateline producers are not
“sh*tting themselves” about this or any other story we’ve broadcast.
That’s not the way we behave. Through all your political
hyperventilation, don’t forget that this is a story about children being
sexually abused and the first calls to us for help over a serial, predatory
paedophile operating in Mutitjulu came from members of the Aboriginal community
there. From that bedrock, we built our story.

No one is attacking Lateline for running a story
that sheds
light on violence and sexual abuse in Indigenous communities. It’s a story that deserves to capture the nation’s
attention. But we don’t believe that questioning the politics
behind this kind of story is, in Charley’s words, “political
hyperventilation”. Instead, we believe politics goes to the very heart of this
issue.

Indigenous Australians are victims of politics – of party politics,
bureaucratic politics, media politics, interest group politics, the
politics of Indigenous communities and buck passing between the
different levels of politics.

Despite all the billions spent on Indigenous Australians, why does the
squalor Lateline has reported on still exist? Political failure.

What can fix this? Political will – the political will needed to
design, develop, implement and see through the programs and support
structures needed to deliver social justice to Indigenous Australia.

Suzie Smith, the reporter who filed the Mutitjulu story for Lateline, also responded to Crikey ‘s story with this statement:

The story broadcast on Lateline on June
21 this year exposed serious allegations about a paedophile
operating in the Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu. Six witnesses, two of whom asked to be
anonymous, made allegations about child sexual abuse occurring over an extended
period which was ignored by Australia Parks and the Northern
Territory government
authorities. Lateline comprehensively checked all the
information to ensure our report was both fair and accurate. Lateline will not reveal, nor compromise,
the identity of its anonymous sources.There are now two major inquiries covering
the issues raised by Lateline in Mutitjulu and child sexual abuse generally
across the Northern Territory. All the interviewees in our report have
given evidence to the Northern Territory Police Taskforce and will be giving
evidence to the Inquiry headed by Former Federal Police Chief, Mick Palmer. Lateline intends to continue its
reporting into these and other serious allegations.

Good. But what about the current conditions in the
community at the centre of these inquiries? “The people of Mutitjulu
are not just
furious, they’re devastated,” says Chris Graham of the National Indigenous Times.

The
Mutitjulu community have been left confused, outraged and penniless –
its
funds frozen by the very minister who leant his
face and name to the allegations – because of politics.

Politics has prolonged the suffering of Indigenous Australia. Indeed, politics could further exacerbate it.

Taxpayers are entitled to expect a return on their investments.
Political game playing has wasted their funds. If at some stage some
minister decides it is
expedient to dump Indigenous Australia in the too hard basket, what
will happen to the children of Mutitjulu?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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