Christian Kerr and Sophie Black write:

Yesterday ALP Senator Trish Crossin, a member of the Senate
committee for the Inquiry into Petrol Sniffing in Remote Aboriginal
Communities, tabled a letter from
Gregory Andrews, the senior bureacrat at the centre of the Mutitjulu
Lateline storm, that admitted to misleading
Parliament, a revelation that came to light a fortnight ago, but one that Tony Jones and Lateline have not yet reported. “Unsubstantiated accusations either by
public servants or through shows such as Lateline do nothing to
assist or arrest the strife and the dysfunctionality in these
communities,” Crossin told Parliament ,”…In my mind, the ABC, courtesy of Lateline and Mr Tony Jones, has seriously eroded the
creditability of Indigenous people.”

Jones told Crikey that Andrews was
“a passionate public advocate for change at
Mutitjulu” and “a key player in the
debate about what was going on in Mutitjulu.” Later that day, Crossin told Parliament this:

…it became evident to me in the last two
months that the Senate had been misled by Mr Andrews. In fact, on 18
July I put out a press release calling on him to correct the record. I
understand and accept that he did and I want to thank him publicly for
doing that. In this job I find that public servants who choose to
mislead the Senate are not helpful, nor do they do their minister or
their government any service by being dishonest in their evidence…

Tony Jones has dismissed Crikey’s claims about Lateline’s Mutitjulu coverage as
the stuff of conspiracy theory. But what about the holes in Lateline‘s story? Crossin continued:

understand ‘a story is a story’ for some reporters, but I
have to say that in my estimation the creditability and
the high professionalism enjoyed in this country by Lateline have been severely diminished. … I notice, Tony
Jones, that you did not actually repeat that or seek to
qualify the unsubstantiated accusations on your show. The Northern Territory Police’s press release suggested
that they had viewed hundreds of people and had not yet
come up with any evidence. Where is the balance in
the reporting here? Where is the attempt to get out to
the community and to provide another side to the story?

What we tend to do is see
on national television wild accusations which are
unsubstantiated but then not qualified by the ABC. I seriously think that the reporting behaviour of this show
needs investigating.

I am grossly disappointed by the lack of
impartiality of the ABC in relation to this, and I do not believe that their behaviour in the last two months
has done anything to try and arrest the gross
dysfunctionality in some of these communities or the lack of
attention to petrol sniffing in this country.

Senator Andrew Bartlett ended with this thought, “There are aspects of the way this story was
handled by Lateline that I think are less than ideal … Frankly,
I think the mainstream media, including the ABC, and mainstream politics, including us,
are simply not structured in such a way as to deal
effectively with some of the very serious challenges that
Indigenous communities have to face. … But I would
also emphasise that we have to guard against double
standards and against each of us, from our different
perspectives, using scenarios that arise purely to
advance our own political, ideological or philosophical
barrow of the day.” – probably don’t need this (too long already, 470 words, so can’t add too much.. but it is a nice thought)

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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