On Rundle and fatwas

Gerard Henderson writes: Re. “Silence of the Gerard” (Monday). I note that Guy Rundle, my favourite Marxist comedian, claims that my (alleged) “fatwa against Tim Uren had to be abandoned”. Rundle is referring to the documentation in my Media Watch Dog blog of Tom Uren’s one-time support for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

Rundle claims that “Uren wrote a couple of positive things about the Cambodian revolution, at a time when reports on the horrors of the Khmer Rouge rule were few, and frequently disbelieved”. This is disingenuous. On Australia Day 1978, Tom Uren, along with 25 left-wing comrades (including Jim Cairns), sent a telegram addressed to “Prime Minister Pol Pot of Kampuchea” stating that he “supported the national liberation struggles of both Vietnam and Kampuchea”.  This was standard left-wing fare at the time. In September 1978 Gough Whitlam said that he did not believe the “stories that appear in the newspapers about the treatment of people in Cambodia”. Yet by the end of 1977 the Cambodian killing fields were literally littered with corpses and Pol Pot was widely recognised as a mass murderer.

The fact is that the likes of Uren and Cairns supported Pol Pot’s victory in 1975 and continued to support his regime up to the time when Vietnam invaded Cambodia in December 1978. As Milton Osborne documented in a recent speech to The Sydney Institute, the Khmer Rouge atrocities were known the West as early as July 1975.  Uren, Cairns and Whitlam — among others — were in denial. Rundle is still in denial today. It is true that, following Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia, the ASEAN nations — along with the governments in Washington DC, London and Canberra — continued to recognise the old regime.  Malcolm Fraser’s government was influenced in this matter by the strong stance taken by Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, who was nervous about Vietnam’s military intentions in the region.

For personal reasons, I ceased working for Kevin Newman (a junior minister in the Fraser government) in December 1979. When John Howard and I visited the Cambodian refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border in 1985, we took a conscious decision not to visit any of the camps controlled by the Khmer Rouge and went instead to those run by the non-communist opposition to the government in Phnom Penh, the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front.  These camps were supported financially by, among other nations, the United States.

In recent years, I have met in Australia with representatives of Hun Sen’s government, which was effectively installed by Vietnam in early 1979. As Rundle should know, Hun Sen was once a Khmer Rouge commander before he split with the Pol Pot faction. There were not easy choices for the West when the communist dictatorship in Vietnam conquered the communist dictatorship in Cambodia.  All I know is that unlike Tom Uren and Jim Cairns, I never barracked for the Khmer Rouge. Nor did Malcolm Fraser or John Howard. Sure in the knowledge that my favourite Marxist comedian is an avid Media Watch  Dog  reader, I will resume my so-called “fatwa” against the late Tom Uren next Friday.

Guy Rundle will reply tomorrow.

Greens have gumption

Geoff Edwards writes: Re. “Do the Greens have the stomach to be a real political force?” (yesterday). Yes, Toby Ralph, the Greens may be a party of protest, but if so they are not solely responsible. What do you expect, given the torrent of abuse that News Corp rains upon them every day, or the wall of denial that business has erected to insulate itself from the evidence of climate change, environmental decline, rising social mistrust and failed free trade policies? And that’s only mentioning a few Greens Party causes. Save your critique until business invites a few Greens supporters onto major boards.

And sneering at the Greens’ economic credentials is a very boring theme. There is indeed a strategy for a relatively painless transition from coal — just google BZE — but with mates like Maurice Newman leading our political leaders up policy dry gullies, how would they ever know? Further, the Greens’ rejection of the petrol levy was based on the government’s determination to hypothecate that revenue into yet more grand freeways, blind to feeble benefit-cost ratios and the entrenchment of consumption of imported fuel. If you think that building future stranded assets is wise economics, it is you who has been sniffing pixie dust.

Peter Fray

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