Lateline anchor Tony Jones defends his program’s June 21 broadcast on s-xual abuse in
Mutitjulu:

I know about conspiracy theories. I just
never thought I’d end up in one. I’ve got Alan Ramsey to thank for
that. Well, Ramsey and Crikey’s Christian Kerr and The Australian’sCaroline Overington and some strange character who’s said to work out of a basement in Canberra called Chris Graham.

At no time before he published his jeremiad did Alan even attempt to speak to anyone associated with the Lateline
program and, judging by his jottings, he appears not to have seen the
accused story or the 25 minute interview with the former Mutitjulu
doctor that followed.

Despite the seriousness of Ramsey’s allegations The Sydney Morning Heraldhas refused Lateline
any right of reply on its letters or op-ed pages. Denied that simple
remedy I have taken this opportunity to answer some key questions:

1. Why did we include Gregory Andrews in our story?

First
of all there was a clear public interest. During his 18 months working
with the community Andrews had become a passionate public advocate for
change at Mutitjulu, which he described as a dysfunctional place in
which serious human rights abuses frequently occurred. …It was in
Andrews’s testimony to the coronial inquest that the allegation was
first made that young girls, addicted to petrol, were being paid petrol
for s-x by older men. In summary, Andrews was a key player in the
debate about what was going on in Mutitjulu.

2.) Why did we agree to grant him anonymity in the story and conceal his identity?

It’s
important to know that by the time Andrews came to our attention he had
left his job at Mutitjulu and been recruited into the Office of
Indigenous Policy Co-Ordination in the Federal Department of Indigenous
Affairs. He is a now a senior public servant but not, as some believe,
a staffer of the minister, Mal Brough.

Andrews had originally
agreed to grant an on-camera interview to Suzanne Smith …but he then
decided not to go ahead with the interview… Now, suspicious minds may
argue that Andrews was being silenced by his own department. A moment’s
reflection would tell you, if that’s true, it puts paid to the Ramsey
conspiracy theory that the whole interview was an attempt “get his
minister off the hook”.

Having come this far, Suzanne Smith
was determined not to lose the interview. But Gregory Andrews had had
second thoughts about doing the interview because of serious concerns
for the safety of his family if he were to appear on the program…
Still keen to include Andrews’s perspective, Suzanne Smith finally
offered to protect his identity.

3.) Why did we describe him as “a former youth worker”?

I
concede this was a misjudgement, though a minor one. It’s one of those
issues that conspiracy theorists use to build their house of cards. And
they have done so. In retrospect, “former project worker” would have
saved us a good deal of trouble. The issue was to avoid a descriptor
that would clearly identify Andrews.

The Ramsey charge against Lateline is that we
colluded in a cover-up to get the Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough,
“off-the-hook” after he made his live to air claim that there are paedophile
rings operating in aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
Yet the simple exercise of reading the transcripts would reveal that we did not find that Brough was right.

Read Tony Jones’s full account on the website.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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