Apologising to Shaoquett Moselmane – a touch of courage needed

Courage to say sorry to anyone wrongly offended is an invaluable quality in personal relations and in the cement which builds a dignified civil society, but courage and dignity is still absent in the treatment of NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane.

Shaoquett was suspended from the ALP in mid year, returned to the State Parliament in September and on Thursday November 22 was readmitted to the ALP.

Humiliation and false accusations have been heaped on Shaoquett despite the AFP repeating that, following raids on his home in June, he was never a suspect nor a person of interest. Those raids were allegedly justified on the grounds that the Labor MP might have been influenced by a certain foreign interference, code for supposed Chinese interests.

The stereotyping of Shaoquett had begun in April when journalists and shock jocks demonised Shaoquett as though he was a foreign agent. Sky News’ Peta Credlin had broadcast ‘If we really have foreign agent laws, why isn’t Moselmane being looked at?’

With his taste for sensation, Sydney Morning Herald’s Nick McKenzie wrote in mid June that the early morning presence of large numbers of police raiding Moselmane’s home was evidence of ‘one of the most significant raids in recent ASIO history.’

The massive injustice surrounding the treatment of someone repeatedly told he was not suspected of any wrong-doing has been compounded by the failure of Shaoquett’s accusers to say sorry.

It is difficulty to know why journalists who had rushed to judgement can’t find the courage to admit being wrong. When Shaoquett returned to parliament in September, the SMH and The Australian reported his return but referred to his presence in parliament under the shadow of a continuing investigation.

Why the fifty cents each way fence sitting when earlier they had reported as though this principled politician was a threat to national security. The same cowardly search for a sort of ‘man for all seasons’ explanation has been given by the AFP whose recent letter to parliament says they are ‘neither confirming nor denying Mr. Moselmane’s status with regard to the investigation.’

Lack of courage and principle is all too apparent in the conduct of the leader of the NSW Labor Party, Jodi McKay. On April 3 during a bullying session with Ray Hadley of Radio 2GB, the shock jock demanded of Ms McKay, ‘Can you shut him ( Moselmane) up?’ McKay, perhaps trying to placate Hadley, ‘ Ray, his actions have been appalling.’

On April 7, Shaoquett resigned as Assistant President of the Upper House of the NSW parliament and was subsequently suspended from the ALP.

Six months later following further negative publicity but repeated AFP insistence that the MP was suspected of nothing, Shaoquett has been readmitted to the Labor Party and with characteristic generosity plus no sign of rancour declares he is happy to be back and looks forward to continuing to work for constituents, not least the most vulnerable.

On November 12, leader McKay declares that following a meeting with Shaoquett Moselmane, she welcomes him back to the parliament and to the ALP, but there’s no sign of an apology which, if it had been given, would have significantly changed public perception of this leader.

Instead, the parliament, the public and anyone who cares about civility, courage and dignity in Australian society are given more of the fifty cents each way, man or woman for all seasons technique. To her credit Jodi MCKay said she looked forward to working with Shaoquett in the future but added, ‘If new information arises in the future, I will be prepared to take appropriate steps.’

Will all the head kickers and false accusers please apologise to Shaoquett Moselmane. It is not too late.

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Stuart Rees OAM is Professor Emeritus, University of Sydney, recipient of the Jerusalem (Akl Quds) Peace Prize and author of the new book “Cruelty or Humanity”, Bristol: Policy Press. A human rights activist, poet, novelist, and Founder Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation.

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