FAIR REPORTING? - OR STONE THROWING?
by Jeremy Lee, Assistant National Director,
Australian League of Rights
On November 1st, the most vicious attack yet devised against
the League broke in the Victorian Parliament, launched by
Dr. Coghill. Within 24 hours, major articles under sensational
headlines broke in national dailies in Victoria, New South
Wales, and Queensland. On November 3rd, The Weekend Australian
carried a sensational article by Phillip Adams, which has
surely touched a new low in squalid journalistic propaganda
and character assassination. Mr. Butler had left for Canada
before the article appeared, to meet long-standing commitments.
On November 4th, Mr. Jeremy Lee prepared
the following answer to both Dr. Coghill and Phillip Adams,
which was sent to editors and journalists in all States. We
reproduce his reply as it was sent out for the consideration
of readers. We believe this material speaks for itself, and
will mark an awakening in Australia of the nature of the battle,
and the depths to which the enemies of freedom will sink.
It should be placed in as many responsible hands of thinking
Australians as possible. Extra copies are available.
November 4th, 1984
Background to the Current Controversy
Two and a half years ago, the Australian League of Rights
threw its weight behind a recently published book, viz. "Red
Over Black", by Mr. Geoff McDonald, who was expelled from
the Communist Party in 1960. "Red Over Black" made
the claim that exploitation of the Aboriginal Land Rights
movement had been a basic Communist objective for a number
of years and provided thought provoking evidence to support
that claim. Although it became a wide seller, it was never
as far as I am aware, reviewed by any national paper or journal
until March 1984, when a highly favourable review appeared
in The Bulletin. Since that time a number of developments
have projected the League of Rights, and the Land Rights issue,
into a nation wide controversy. These developments were:
1). A Statewide controversy in Victoria over the Aboriginal
Land Claims Bill, introduced by the Cain Government, and later
withdrawn after strong opposition from many quarters. Dr.
Coghill, while unable to effectively answer criticism of the
Bill, publicly held the League of Rights accountable for much
of the opposition, claiming in the process that it was a Nazi
style organisation, with subversive and anti-semitic tendencies.
These claims are not only untrue, but failed in any way to
stem opposition to the Bill he was defending so inadequately.
2). The introduction in Federal Parliament of the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (Interim) Protection Bill
by Federal Minister, Clyde Holding, which immediately ran
into the same opposition, this time on the national basis.
Mr. Holding's claim similar to that of Dr. Coghill - that
the opposition to his Bill was the result of the activities
of the League of Rights, did nothing to mute the widespread
3). The State Labor Government in Western Australia, led by
Premier Burke, came out publicly against Mr. Holding's bill,
and the general opposition to the Bill escalated to a point
where the Coalition Opposition Parties, with a recognised
reputation for vacillation and compromise, finally indicated
they might themselves take a stand on the Land Rights issue.
4). The hiring by the Federal Labor Government, on the public
payroll, of a former Communist and acknowledged Fabian socialist,
journalist Ken Gott, to be attached to the Aboriginal Affairs
Department for the sole purpose of investigating and exposing
the League of Rights, Mr. Gott was to be paid over $1,500
weekly for a six-month period for this task - an unprecedented
move to use public revenue to attack the Government's political
5) A Government inquiry as instigated into the financial affairs
of the Aboriginal Development Commission, after claims of
corruption and mis-spending, some emanating from Aboriginal
people themselves. The findings of this inquiry have yet to
6). The calling of an early Federal election, at a time when
the ineptitude and compromise of the Opposition parties, and
their patent inability to grasp the real issues because of
their own past departures from principle, has given the Hawke
Government unnaturally high opinion ratings.
7). A major attack on the League of Rights, centered on the
war record of its National Director, Mr. Eric Butler, launched
in the Victorian Parliament by Dr. Coghill on November 1st,
obviously aimed at intimidating the Opposition Parties from
speaking out on the real issue facing Australia.
8). The publication of the article by Phillip Adams in The
Weekend Australian two days later. Mr. Adams is also a
former Communist, and a Fabian Socialist, as is Mr. K.D.Gott.
Eric Butler's War Time Record
Dr. Coghill's attack in the Victorian Parliament on November
1st, and Mr. Adams' article on November 3rd, between them
make some sensational charges: they can be summarised thus:
a). that Eric Butler undermined Australia's war effort.
b). that there was damning evidence of the League's role in
subverting Australia's national security.
c). that Eric Butler, and Australia's deadly enemy, Japan,
were in League.
d). that a letter written by Mr. Jack McEwen in July 1940
is evidence of Eric Butler's disloyalty.
e). that a judicial inquiry - the Reed inquiry established
by Dr. Evatt during the war, was an indictment of Eric Butler's
f). that the League of Rights is supporting National candidates,
including Mr. Sinclair, in the imminent election.
g). that Eric Butler's paper, The New Times, was possibly
directly subsidised by the Japanese (this from Phillip Adams).
The truth could hardly be more different!
The charges made by Messrs. Gott, Adams, and Coghill (two
former Communists, and a politically embarrassed Labor spokesman
on Aboriginal Affairs) constitute the most disgraceful example
of muckraking and character assassination it is possible to
conceive. Far from "undermining the war effort", Eric Butler
served on active service throughout the war. In 1940, while
lecturing on the need for a stepped up war effort and the
need for more realistic ways of financing the requirements
of a mobilised Australia on a war footing, Eric Butler was
doing national service training along with other Australians.
All his writings and lectures were subject to censorship as
was the case generally, and officials from the Censorship
authorities attended his lectures in the usual way.
A careful reading of Mr. McEwen's letter,
cited so brazenly by Phillip Adams, will elicit the fact that
McEwen made no charges himself, but merely passed on to the
Attorney General the allegations of unnamed electors. That
no action was taken, either then or subsequently, obviously
refutes the implications of Adams' baseless accusation. But
some background is necessary.
Eric Butler lectured publicly at that time that Australia
should not allow the war effort to result in the impossible
debt situation afflicting Britain as a result of World War
I; a debt, incidentally, which Britain will still be paying,
after the year 2000. He stressed that Nazism and Communism
were twin evils, at a time when there was a big Communist
attempt to undermine the war effort, which resulted in the
internment of two Communists, Ratcliffe and Thomas, for sabotaging
the war effort. Mr. Butler's lectures led to some controversy,
obviously alluded to in the McEwen letter, which resulted
in a packed debate in the town of Tongala, where Eric Butler
refuted the ridiculous charges of a few critics, and earning
a standing ovation from the large audience. All this was reported
in the local press of the district, thus making absolute nonsense
of Coghill's and Adams' insinuations.
Immediately following Pearl Harbour,
Eric Butler enlisted full-time in the 2nd A.I.F., serving
both in Australia and overseas throughout the war, receiving
an honourable discharge at the conclusion. Throughout this
time he was writing regularly for The New Times, all
his articles being subjected to the Censor's scrutiny. He
served for a period as a Gun Officer in the Torres Strait,
and was later posted as an instructor at the famous Canungra
jungle training school, and from there to an Officer Training
School at Seymour. Thus the man who Coghill and Adams - both
of whom must have been small children at the time - allege
was "undermining the war effort" was, in fact, training fellow
Australians for combat duty towards the end of the war.
The War Time Reed Inquiry
Dr. Coghill made some remarks concerning a wartime inquiry
in 1944 in such a way as to imply the inquiry was into Mr.
Butler. But this was not so. The Reed Inquiry was into the
activities and allegations of a Mr. Angus Dean, of Hobart,
who had written on monetary reform. During the Inquiry, Eric
Butler was called as a witness, as were many others. Not only
did the Inquiry fail to condemn him in any way as Dr. Coghill
so unjustly implies - but in its findings, presented to the
Attorney General on March 6th, 1945, Mr. Justice Reed went
out of his way to compliment Eric Butler and others for their
loyalty and public concern! How strange that both Coghill
and Adams should have missed this point in their scurrilous
Section 61 of the Reed Inquiry findings
in 1945 reads:
"Practically all those who are interested in these matters
(i.e. of financial reforms) are very active in spreading their
views and engage in what without offence may be called propaganda.
Most of them devote a great deal of their time to studying
the questions in issue and are intensely interested in political,
social, and economic matters, an attitude which we venture
to suggest might very well be emulated by a great many more
of the citizens of this Commonwealth. We say at once, that
apart from slight suspicion regarding one or two individuals,
those who have come under our notice are loyal to His Majesty
the King and are actuated by a sincere desire to improve the
lot of themselves and their fellow men and to bring about
a better state of society. Quite a number of witnesses served
their country in the last war. Quite a number have sons or
relatives fighting in this war, and in some cases the sons
have lost their lives. We may give one or two examples. Mr.
Dean served in the Navy during the last war. Mr. Partington
has lost three sons in this war. Mr. Maddern has three sons
in the 2nd A.I.F. Mr. Byers has served in the Merchant Navy
during the present war. Mr. Bruce Brown has lost a son in
this war. Mr. Eric Butler is a member of the 2nd A.I.F. Mr.
Brock is a returned soldier from the last war and is doing
military duty at the present time...."
The quite appalling allegation that the Japanese were using
The New Times for propaganda purposes, and may have
been directly subsidising its production, is a sordid untruth.
To twist this into a barb to be used against a man who was
on active service against the Japanese is unforgivable. It
can be said that, long before the outbreak of war, there had
been some interest in Japan in Social Credit, some of the
tenets of which were perverted into Japan's famous "subsidised
exports" policy that prevailed in the thirties. Any other
insinuation is nothing more than a smear of the most perverted
Dr. Coghill's suggestion that the League of Rights is supporting
Mr. Ian Sinclair by circulation of material in his electorate
is so far from the truth as to be amusing. Many Australians
in rural areas know well that the League has never had a high
opinion of Mr. Sinclair, and has been the subject of attack
by him. The League's special issue of its monthly Intelligence
Survey contains a trenchant criticism of Mr. Sinclair. Dr.
Coghill knows all this perfectly well. But with tongue-in-cheek,
he is simply using the League as a club to batter a fearful
opposition into silence, or to provoke a "knee-jerk" attack
from a Liberal or a National on the League, which can be used
for political purposes.
Ironically, this tactic - so obviously the old Left wing "guilt
by association" technique - has cowed the Opposition effectively
- and this is quite obviously the major purpose in both Coghill's
and Adams' sleazy material of the moment.
It seems to me a sad day when an individual's reputation can
be torn to ribbons for mere political gain in the way we are
seeing today. The fact that the individual now under attack
is my friend and director, who has withstood far more than
his fair share of this filth, obviously adds to my anger and
concern. But it spurs the hope that, generally, Australia's
"fair go" attitude still exists, and will eventually discern
truth from political propaganda.
Mr. Malcolm Mackerras is a very well
known Australian identity. Apart from being the brother of
Sir Charles Makerras, the eminent Australian conductor of
Symphony Orchestras, he is regarded as Australian leading
psephologist, a little known word, meaning "election expert".
He is normally studiously impartial in his electoral comment,
but there is an issue, which bothers him, and upon which he
comments heatedly, and that is the Simultaneous Elections
referendum. According to The West Australian November
6th he was brought to Perth by the Liberal Party (W.A. Branch,
we presume) to argue against the "Yes" case, which he says
"is a series of lies". Specifically here, he refers to the
"Yes" case, "as presented by the Government".
He states that he is not an apologist
for the Liberal Party, but is concerned for political stability.
He adds, and we must take full notice:
"The referendum proposal offers no benefit whatever to the
Australian people. The only beneficiaries are the politicians
in power at the federal level. "The main purpose of the proposal
is to increase the Prime Minister's power over the Senate.
"Since I believe the Senate performs a useful function as
part of the checks and balances of the Constitution, I see
no good reason why its power should be reduced. "We have already,
and very wisely, said 'no' twice before, to Mr. Whitlam in
1974, and to Mr. Fraser in 1977. We were right both times,
so let us be right a third time by saying 'no' to Mr. Hawke
in 1984 and, hopefully, Prime Ministers might learn to take
no for an answer.
Mr. Mackerras said that half
Senate elections were fixed to be held in particularly financial
years. In practice, elections for the House of Representatives
were tied to half Senate elections. "Passage of this proposal
would do away with that element of fixing and totally destroy
any element of stability and predictability. "In every major
respect, the proposal does the exact opposite of what is claimed
on its behalf by its promoters. It would make the calling
of elections easier, not more difficult. "Governments don't
give a damn about the cost of elections".
Mr. Mackerrras said. He would only be
campaigning in Western Australia because the vote in W.A.
would determine the referendums fate. We agree with all this
From "Victorian Government Notes", 42,
October 25th, 1984; Family Support Services:
The Government acknowledges the need for support service;
to enable workers with families to meet their family responsibilities.
Recently, the Premier announced, with senator Don Grimes (Minister
(Commonwealth) for Social Services) the establishment of 44
new child care centres and 38 new out-of-school programs in
Victoria. These will provide hundreds of new child care places
and jobs for child care workers".