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Thursday, August 31, 2006


Alexander Downer has been Australia’s Foreign Minister since 1996 following a controversial career in Liberal Party politics which included him becoming, albeit for a short time only, the leader of the Liberal Party.

Downer is one of the most prolific of the Howard governments’ liars and the most hypocritical. His most recent example of combined lying and hypocrisy is when, in a speech to the National Newspaper Publishers’ Conference in Australia, he told his audience that:

“There were… widely-reported claims that Israel had bombed deliberately a Red Cross ambulance. In subsequent weeks, the world has discovered those allegations do not stand up to even the most rudimentary scrutiny. After closer study of the images of the damage to the ambulance, it is beyond serious dispute that this episode has all the makings of a hoax. Yet some of the world's most prestigious media outlets, including some of those represented here today, ran that story as fact - unchallenged, unquestioned.”

That was the lie. It was followed moments later in the same speech with this amazing piece of hypocrisy:

“…we who have responsibilities in government also have the right to call it as we see it - and to point out that, even in the most free of societies, the first duty of a responsible media is to get the facts straight, and to get the story right, even when that story might not necessarily conform to your own opinions or prejudices.”[1]

The reality is that Downers assertion that the incident does not stand up to even the ‘most rudimentary scrutiny’ itself doesn’t stand up to the most rudimentary scrutiny. Downer’s lie was so transparent that even Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper, The Australian, was unable to support Downer’s claims.[2] The newspaper had sent one of its own journalists to check up on the story only to find that it was no hoax and that, indeed, the ambulance in question had been targeted by the Israeli air force despite being clearly marked with a large red cross on its roof.

Downer’s clanger was so obvious that The Australian really had no option but to reveal the truth of it. Despite that, however, the newspaper tried to let Downer down as gently as they possibly could by saying that “Mr Downer may himself have fallen for the propaganda trick he is keen to warn against.”

It’s at this point that the newspaper itself becomes complicit in the lies and the hypocrisy. Downer hadn’t ‘fallen for the propaganda trick’ as The Australian newspaper suggested; far from it. Downer was actually trying to perpetuate the propaganda and had got caught out. The proof of this is in the source that Downer had used to make the assertion that the ambulance story was a lie. He had sourced the story from a pro right-wing Zionist site called which serves to propagandise news in Israel’s favour labelling ‘anti-Israel’ news stories as ‘lies’ by lying about them.[3] The point is; one would have needed to cast a fairly large trawl net across the www to have found a story that claimed the rocketing of the ambulance was not true. For a government minister to then cherry-pick that story, that one particular story out of the hundreds in the mainstream press that were to the contrary, and then use it to both perpetuate the lie and then claim some kind of moral highground by talking up ‘media honesty’ is the grossest of hypocrisies.

It is also the grossest of hypocrisies for The Australian newspaper and its editor to try and protect Downer by telling Australian’s that Downers clanger was an example of how even a senior politician could ‘fall for the propaganda trick’.

More lies and hypocrisy from one of Australia’s most prolific liars. And more lies from a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch that is very adept at spinning and perpetuating those lies and hypocrisy.

[1] Alexander Downer, ‘Foreign Policy Values and the Media’, Speech to the National Newspaper Publishers’ Conference, 28 August 2006. Available online: Accessed 31 August 2006.
[2] Editorial, ‘Red Cross rocket snares Downer’, The Australian, 31 August 2006. Available online:,20867,20308892-7583,00.html Accessed 31 August 2006.
[3] ‘The Red Cross Ambulance Incident: How the Media Legitimized an Anti-Israel Hoax and Changed the Course of a War’,, 23 August 2006. Available online: Accessed 31 August 2006.

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