The bizarre campaign of distortion against the Greens continues with an extraordinary piece by Greg Sheridan, though one that is something of an embarrassing reminder of Sheridan’s long-standing support for the Suharto military dictatorship and its occupation of East Timor.
As with previous pieces in this genre, the modus operandi is to misquote Greens policy, take an extreme interpretation of the misquote and run with the resulting scare. There’s only a marginal difference between Sheridan’s treatment and the full-blown black helicopter fantasies being peddled by Steve Edwards.
Sheridan’s first point of criticism reads
For example, they assert that Australia should force the Indonesian Government to bring all “war criminals in its ranks” to justice by withholding military co-operation, which wildly overestimates the importance of Australian military co-operation to Indonesia.
The actual policy reads
using (along with other governments) continued military cooperation with the Indonesian military as a bargaining counter to convince the Indonesian Government to bring all war criminals in its ranks to justice before an international tribunal instead of trying them before the Indonesian-controlled Jakarta Human Rights Court.
There’s certainly room for argument as to whether Indonesia can be convinced, but it’s clear that Sheridan has misrepresented a policy that most Australians would endorse. The Greens aren’t asserting that Indonesia can be forced to act at Australia’s behest, as Sheridan claims. The rest of the article is no better – for example, a policy on Israel-Palestine is criticised because, while condemning suicide bombings, it doesn’t specifically use the word ‘terrorism’.
The Oz editorial picks up the same line and the Fin has another, rather rambling. piece from Gary Johns.
I’m still puzzled by the politics of all this. Commenters have suggested that it’s aimed at the Greens’ Senate vote, but that would mainly help Labor. Besides, devoting the opening days of a tight election campaign to a strategy aimed at marginal improvements in the Senate outcome seems misguided.
It still seems to me that the results of all this will be, first, to reduce the flow of Green preferences to the Liberals and, second, to benefit Labor at the direct expense of the Liberals. After all, there are only so many buckets you can tip in an election, even with a long campaign. By the time Sheridan and others get around to attacking Labor, a lot of people will already have tuned out.
Update: More on this from my blogtwin , Tim Dunlop