June 4th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Gross desserts on the sex-education menu

CANBERRA OBSERVED Suggested parallel less a Murphy than a furphy

EDITORIAL Obama rewards Vietnam: a particularly nasty regime

ENVIRONMENT Land sinkage, not rising sea levels, the real threat

LIFE ISSUES Who am I? Baby's first memoir

SOCIETY Haircuts and tattoos: new rebels get funky

LIFE POLICY Queensland abortion bill is out of step with voters

SEXUAL POLITICS Gay 'marriage' and the given in human procreative behaviour (part 1)

RURAL LIFE Some of the reasons why farmers need a new bank

It's a queer theory that says kids can transgender (Part Two of two)

MUSIC Digital sonics by no means free of glitches

CINEMA Action movie lacks punch: X-Men: Apocalypse

BOOK REVIEW Tragic betrayal

BOOK REVIEW Great reformer or great dictator?

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Suggested parallel less a Murphy than a furphy

News Weekly, June 4, 2016

Media commentators lost no time in comparing the recent Australian Federal Police raids on the office of Senator Stephen Conroy with the infamous Lionel Murphy raid on ASIO in St Kilda Road in Melbourne in 1973.

Murphy’s Law:

“Book ’em, boys”.

In the second week of the election campaign AFP officers raided Labor Party offices in Melbourne over the alleged leak of documents from the ever-controversial national broadband network (NBN).

Officers searched the Treasury Place office of former communications minister Stephen Conroy, who was the architect of the former government’s broadband policy.

In the pre-midnight raid up to 10 plain-clothes officers also used search warrants to enter a Brunswick house believed to be the home of a Labor staffer, according to reports.

Two staffers for Labor’s communications spokesman, Jason Clare, one of whom is a former staffer to Senator Conroy, are believed to have been targeted by the raids. One of the staffers is also a key operative in Labor Party campaign headquarters.

Shadow finance spokesman Tony Burke said the raids were in relation to allegations about documents, which he claimed revealed that the NBN rollout was slower and more expensive under the Coalition than under Labor.

“There are allegations floating around about documents that were leaked from the NBN,” Burke told media. “And there’s no doubt the leaks that came from the NBN caused immense damage, immense damage to Malcolm Turnbull when they showed the cost blowout of the NBN, the fact that it was slower, the fact that it was going to be delayed.”

The Turnbull Government disputes Labor’s claims on the NBN rollout and instead boasts that its rollout has been far superior to the former government’s at a much lower cost – $30 billion in fact. In May 1 million Australians will be connected to the network, with the NBN meeting its operational milestones over the past eight quarters.

News of the success of the rollout under Mr Turnbull as communications minister and as Prime Minister is something the Opposition is desperate to dispel.

Mr Burke suggested that the government was acting on the NBN leak for political reasons when it had done little about previous leaks.

It is worth recalling the circumstances of the Murphy raids, now a black-and-white image outside the corporate memory of the majority of voters.

Lionel Murphy, attorney-general in the Whitlam government, decided without any warning to execute raids on the intelligence organisation because he believe it was withholding information from the newly elected government relating to a group of Australian-based Croatian fascists called the Ustasha.

Incredibly, Murphy himself participated in the raids, questioning ASIO officers for hours as police removed documents. Murphy believed ASIO to be indifferent to the threat of Ustasha because he believed it was only interested in Soviet espionage.

Ultimately, the raids did result in a royal commission into ASIO that made the organisation more accountable.

However, at the time the raids contributed to the impression of an impulsive and callow government prone to conspiracy theories, with erratic ministers in charge.

Hence the desire of today’s media to run footage of the 1973 raids alongside footage of the AFP taking material from the home of former minister Conroy.

At the time of the 1973 raids ASIO officers accused Murphy of being a KGB agent. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was to later call the ASIO raids his greatest mistake.

The above detailed recollection of the ASIO raids has been made to put the NBN raids in perspective. Labor is trying to portray the Turnbull Government as equally chaotic and conspiratorial.

Writing in the ABC’s The Drum, freelance journalist and former Howard government staffer Paula Matthewson said: “The AFP raids were a flashpoint for progressives who are increasingly unhappy with Malcolm Turnbull. But while they may be punishing him in the polling, many other voters would have been left nonplussed by the events of last week.

“Not only did the raid dramatically pit the physically intrusive powers of the surveillance state against the high morals of an apparent whistleblower, it was a reminder that Malcolm Turnbull had snatched away the dream of fibre-optic cable to every Australian home when he was Tony Abbott’s communications minister.

“Turnbull might have been forgiven for this apparently heinous crime if he had delivered on other progressive issues once becoming Prime Minister. But no, the PM also disappointingly squibbed on gay marriage, the republic, climate action and asylum seekers.”

The AFP will likely continue their investigations into the alleged leaks, which have been a serious ongoing problem for NBN Co, but Labor has produced not a skerrick of evidence to suggest that the raids were part of a government-directed plot against the Labor Party.

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