Christian Kerr and Sophie Black write:

Lateline has
finally fessed up to what we have been saying for weeks – the anonymous
youth worker in their report on s-xual abuse in the indigenous
community of Mutitjulu in a June 21 broadcast is Gregory Andrews,a senior government bureaucrat in the Department of Indigenous Affairs.

In a statement aired on Lateline last night,Andrews
says he chose to remain anonymous for several reasons. “Because of the
personal costs incurred by me and my family when I spoke out during the
NT Coronial Inquest… I was threatened with violence and intimidated
on a number of occasions. This abuse extended to harassment of my
wife…”.

It’s always difficult for a journalist to make the
call as to whether a source is entitled to anonymity. Journalists
usually do so with reluctance. But as Lateline executive
producer Peter Charley originally told us when we first covered this
story, “…sometimes people come to us with information that’s too
explosive to ignore”.

In most cases journalists will then refuse even under threat of jail to name that source.Lateline held out until this article by Alan Ramsey appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend. According to the Lateline report, Andrews then “released a statement defending himself”.

But rather than just running the statement from their anonymous witness, Lateline shaped a report around him last night, including this:

STEPHEN McDONELL: Mr Andrews, who would later appear on Lateline,
was praised in the coroner’s report. The coroner said of him: “I have
rarely met a more qualified, committed and emotionally and culturally
supportive advisor, in terms of Aboriginal substance abuse, than Mr
Andrews. His work is simply outstanding.”

But did Lateline leave anything out last night? Like the fact that last week Andrews admitted to misleading a federal Senate Inquiry
into Petrol Sniffing in Remote Aboriginal Communities while
representing Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough? Andrews began his
evidence to the Inquiry by claiming he lived in Mutitjulu for about
nine months. In Andrews’s letter to the Senate Community Affairs
Committee he admits, among other things, that he never lived at
Mutitjulu.

Jones also referred to Brough’s claims of paedophile rings:

TONY JONES: “Moreover, contrary to Mr Ramsey’s assertion, Lateline
never supported the view of the Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough
that there were organised paedophile rings operating in Aboriginal
communities. The story only ever identified one paedophile.”

But
even if Andrews was not pressured to appear by Brough, his story backed
up Brough’s earlier claims on the John Laws radio program in May that
paedophile rings were operating throughout Aboriginal communities. So
are we to believe that the timing of Andrews’s statements was just a
coincidence? If Andrews did not appear to back Brough’s claims, then
Brough certainly hitched his wagon to Andrews. In fact, Lateline replayed footage of Brough making the claims regarding paedophile rings at the front end of their story.

Brough
also cited an unsigned, undated, anonymous fax that was sent to the
Northern Territory police in February of this year in an interview with Lateline
the day after the Mutitjulu story aired. That fax allowed Brough to do
some buck passing. That fax has since been linked by the National Indigenous Times to Greg Andrews.

Then there’s this PM interview with Lateline journalist Suzanne Smith the day after the story aired:

SUZANNE SMITH: …See, what the women have told me is it is
a paedophile ring, but not in our sense, it’s in an Indigenous sense.
You have a predatory paedophile who then through his ceremonial and
kinship relationships with other men and victims is protected.

So it’s not a white paedophile ring in the sense that they’ve got computers and all that sort of thing.

So when Mal Brough, after Lateline‘s Nanette Rogers story made that claim …

MARK COLVIN: … used the expression “paedophile ring”, and was …

SUZANNE SMITH: That’s right.

MARK COLVIN: … attacked for it.

SUZANNE
SMITH: He was attacked for it. But what we have found corroborates what
he said. Basically there was a paedophile and he was protected by
senior men, and we’ve also discovered that many of those senior men
have serious criminal records….

Lateline also failed to report on Northern Territory Police Superintendent Colleen Gwynne’s statements that a joint NT Police and Family and Community Services (FACS) taskforce set up in response to Lateline‘s claims about Mutitjulu has so far found no evidence of abuse and that the claims have been “overstated”.

The plight of Indigenous Australians has been clouded by politics in this matter. Whose fault is this? Lateline, which in its eagerness to tell an important story ignored the obvious
complexities and problems inherent with failing to disclose a public
servant’s identity? Andrews for insisting on anonymity? Or Brough for
using Andrews’ statements to meet his own political ends?

And who loses out? Perhaps the people who weren’t sought for a follow-up statement – the members of the Mutitjulu community?

Andrews
says he acted anonymously “so that the resulting media attention could
focus on the issue of the egregious human rights abuses being suffered
by Indigenous Australians in dysfunctional communities, not on me”.

That’s
fatuous spin. Andrews has done exactly that. The focus is on him – not
Indigenous Australians. On him and how his boss Mal Brough will respond
to this fiasco.

Peter Fray

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