The truth takes second place in the ABC 7.30 interview of Labor backbencher Shaoquett Moselmane
On Tuesday (25 August) the ABC’s 7.30 broadcast an exclusive interview with Shaoquett Moselmane, the first interview the NSW Labor backbencher has given since Federal Police raided his home and parliamentary office in an investigation of alleged foreign interference.
In a straight-forward introduction the 7.30 reporter Paul Farrell said Moselmane was elected as a Labor member in the New South Wales Parliament’s upper house in 2009 and served with the modest profile of an opposition backbencher. He said that changed when Federal Police and ASIO began investigating whether one of his part-time staffers was working covertly on behalf of the Chinese Government.
Farrell asked: When did you first learn the Federal Police was investigating allegations of foreign interference within your office?
Moselmane replied directly: When they knocked on my door. When they knocked on my door at home and I opened the door and there’s federal agents and wanting to search my house and I asked what for. He said something about foreign influence. It makes it appear that my home is a centre for espionage. It was really shocking and mentally stressful on me, my family, my dad next door.
The interview deteriorated quickly from there. The state parliament opposition backbencher with no insider foreign affairs role was asked if he accepted that ASIO had made public warnings about the possibility of foreign influence. When he replied that he wasn’t aware of 2016 public warnings, Farrell shot back: “but Mr Moselmane, you can’t have been ignorant of the way China does attempt to influence politicians in Australia.”
Farrell then pointed to a February essay Moselmane wrote and had published in Chinese praising China’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He accused Moselmane of saying: “The obsolete scum of white Australia was re-emerging.”
Moselmane immediately denied saying anything of the sort, pointing out that it would be stupid of any member of Parliament to say such a thing.
What was extraordinary about this exchange was that Farrell then revealed that 7.30 knew that Moselmane had said nothing of the sort!
“7.30 also commissioned two independent translations of the essay,” Farrell said. “They indicate he was referring to outdated White Australian prejudices re-emerging.”
The original document and translations flashed briefly on the screen but were impossible to read. Two grabs showed the perfectly reasonable comment: “Obsolete White Australian policy” or “The Obsolete White Australian doctrine.”
So where did Farrell get the “scum” reference from and why did he use it?
I put these questions to him and received the following response from an ABC spokesperson: “The claim that an opinion piece written by Mr Moselmane included use of the words “obsolete scum of white Australia” has been previously reported, for example in this Sydney Morning Herald report. As is set out in our online story, we put the claim to Mr Moselmane and, off the back of that exchange, we made clear our translations revealed the piece had referred to outdated “white Australia” prejudices re-emerging, which aligned with his description.”
So the false translation goes back to an SMH/Age report written by reporter Nick McKenzie.
McKenzie is becoming something of a specialist in trumped up Chinese conspiracy stories. It was he and Sixty Minutes who in November last year claimed to have found a Chinese spy who had betrayed his country to defect to Australia.
McKenzie said Wang ‘William’ Leqiang was the first Chinese operative to blow his cover in Australia and claimed Wang had revealed a trove of insider secrets from within Beijing’s intelligence operations, providing details on how major political interference operations are being run in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.
But from the start the claims looked suspicious and the slightest touch of journalistic scepticism would have found them to be so. All the information in the Sixty Minutes broadcast sourced from Wang was widely known and required no insider knowledge.
Shortly after McKenzie’s “scoop” The Australian reported that the intelligence agencies had concluded that Wang “is not the high-level operative-turned-defector he claimed to be.”
In my email to Farrell I said he had accused Mr Moselmane of being under Chinese influence because Moselmane has made a number of comments praising China and had received some small hospitality benefits.
I asked if he would be investigating other Australian politicians who praised, for example the United Sates, and received significant benefits including fully funded trips to the United States? Would he “expose” them as being under foreign influence?
The ABC’s spokesperson said the program did not accuse any politician of being under foreign influence.
And you can take it as read that no matter the funding from US weapons manufacturers, energy companies or sponsored trips to study at “think tanks” the ABC will not be exposing the recipients of such benefits and accusing them of being under foreign influence.