The cowardly conduct of the media, government and AFP

Jun 9, 2023
Shaoquett Moselmane looking to camera - valedictory speech to NSW parliament . Image: Supplied

When former NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane was vilified, his home raided and false claims made by a journalist who wanted to promote himself, no apology was given, no restoration made. Instead, the victim became the guilty party, punished for something he did not do. Sounds familiar?

These practices occurred between April 2020 and November 2022 when NSW Labor leadership opposed Moselmane’s nomination for an Upper House position, in effect punishing him for being the central character in a controversy contrived by powerful others.

In early 2020, fear of Covid fomented anti-Chinese sentiment and foreign interference legislation encouraged journalists to demonize anyone who did not appear patriotic. Depicted as a China sympathizer because he had complemented the Chinese government on its handling of the Covid pandemic, Moslemane became a target.

Between March 31 and April 10 2020, I counted 32 articles and radio broadcasts attacking Shaoquett for alleged disloyalty to Australia, 12 from the Daily Telegraphy, 10 from the Sydney Morning Herald, 7 from Sky News and Radio 2GB, 2 from Jewish News.

An apology and reparation to an appallingly wronged individual and to his traumatized family are long overdue. So too diagnosis of the unethical culture which enables lying and cowardice to persist unanswered, and vilifiers left unaccountable.

Within this culture and the consequent demonizing of Shaoquett Moselmane, the main unethical, and bullying actors should be named. The record reads like a charge sheet in a court of law.

Radio shock jock Ray Hadley from Sydney’s 2GB set the tone and found a willing ally in Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Sky News’ Peta Credlin joined in. The recently lionised Sydney Morning Herald journalist Nick McKenzie played an influential, disgraceful role. Contenders for cowardice awards include former leader of the State ALP Jodi McKay, leaders of the AFP and ASIO.

In his April 2, 3 interviews, Hadley displayed his expletives. Moselmane was ‘this jerk’, ‘a train wreck’, ‘unworthy traitor‘, ‘a Chinese PR spokesperson’. Interviewed by Hadley, Minister Dutton endorsed the shock jock’s views. ‘You can’t have allegiance to another country and pretend to have allegiance to this country at the same time.’

In a broadcast on April Fool’s Day 2020, Peta Credlin declared that since Moslemane entered parliament in 2009, ‘Well this bloke had, you know nine or so sponsored trips to China to do you know, God knows what …If we really have foreign agent laws, why isn’t Moslemane being looked at?’

The truth that none of these visits to China were sponsored did not matter. The stage was set for journalists and politicians to persecute an alleged Chinese and Palestinian sympathizer.

Hadley demanded that Labor leader Jodi Mackay expel Moselmane from parliament. On the basis of media caricatures, she responded that her colleague is, ‘a rather regrettable fellow’, ‘whose actions have been appalling.’ On April 7 2020, Moselmane resigned from his Upper House position. and is expelled from the Labor Party.

Revelations from an FOI request show that by early June in Canberra, government departments, the media section of the AFP and almost certainly ASIO representatives, discussed the idea of raiding Moslemane’s Rockdale NSW home. A warrant for the raid was issued at 10pm on June 2. By 6:00 am the next morning a large media contingent camped outside Moslemane’s home waiting for the 6:30 am arrival of 40 members of the AFP plus sniffer dogs and later forensic officials.

Who decided it was necessary to raid Shaoquett Moselmane’s home and for the media to precede and accompany the Federal police?

Despite the AFP telling Moslemane that he was not a suspect, Sydney Morning Herald journalist Nick Mackenzie wrote that Moslemane must be guilty of something, albeit with claims unlikely to ever be admissible in a court.

Apparently excited by witnessing the arrival of Federal police, McKenzie wrote ‘Multiple sources have confirmed that this scrutiny has dramatically escalated over the last few months, morphing into one of the most significant investigations in ASIO’s recent history.’ To imply that suspicion of Moslemane was warranted, McKenzie quoted Neil Fergus, ‘a veteran intelligence and security expert’, who claimed, ‘The investigation is unlike anything Australia has seen since the cold war’.

To substantiate the stigmatising, McKenzie inferred that Moselmane’s support for Palestinians justified the derision thrown at him. Readers were told that Shaoquett Moslemane’s speeches on the Israeli/Palestine conflict attracted headlines and claims of anti-Israel bias from the Jewish community and from Labor politician Walt Secord. The Australian Jewish News condemned Moslemane for having dared to criticise the controversial IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. McKenzie did not reveal that he was a fervent Zionist supporter of the Israeli governments’ policies.

At Senate Estimates meetings in April of 2021, Senator Kim Carr failed to discover who tipped off the media about the Police raid on Shaoquett’s home. In response to Carr, AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said he did not know but the media’s presence was ‘very disappointing to say the least.’

On June 19, Minister Dutton appears to have been briefed on the raid and ASIO briefed Jodi McKay. When Carr asked if that was when Dutton first knew of the planned raid, Kershaw performed the usual ducking, weaving act and answered ‘I’ll have to take that question on notice.’

Powerful individuals have hidden behind claims about national security. They have persecuted and traumatised a highly principled citizen and his family but have not had the courage to admit anything. Instead of holding abusers of liberty to account, cowardly journalists have facilitated abuse.

It is not too late to say sorry and thereby restore the reputation of a highly principled person whose political career was ended by this controversy. A chorus of Ray Hadley, Peter Dutton, Peta Credlin and Nick McKenzie could give their apologies and restore public hope that the amoral culture which encouraged abuse of Shaoquett Moselmane and his family has ended.

That outcome would require courage and might look like a form of reparation.

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