Newspapers slammed for warmongering

By Karl Wilson in Sydney | China Daily
Updated: March 18, 2023

Australia's 'Red Alert' series filled with unsubstantiated claims: experts

Two of Australia's biggest newspapers are under fire after they recently carried a series of articles under the title "Red Alert", predicting that the country will be at war with China within three years.

The articles, which ran from March 7 to 9 in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, were filled with unsubstantiated allegations by "experts" who appeared to have little knowledge or understanding of China, according to analysts.

Professor James Laurenceson, director of the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney, said he was "stunned" when he read the series.

"I found the series worrying as there was no reason for it," he told China Daily.

Some analysts believe the articles were timed to coincide with the announcement in San Diego, United States, on Tuesday that Australia will build up to eight nuclear-powered submarines in the biggest defense spend in Australia's history.

While the deal is controversial for possible violation of international law on nuclear nonproliferation, the cost of the program will be more than $300 billion and form the backbone of AUKUS, the security partnership established by Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Laurenceson said the articles "might have some impact" on public perception.

Nine Media, whose main mastheads are the Herald and Age, was unapologetic for the series, which former Australian prime minister Paul Keating described as "the most egregious and provocative news presentation of any newspaper I have witnessed in over 50 years of public life".

Apart from warning Australia to prepare for a war with China, the writers called for the stationing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles in northern Australia, the introduction of mass conscription and preparations for the country to host as many as 200,000 US military personnel.

The series was presented as an "independent" review by "experts" on Australia's capabilities to fight a major war over the coming years.

The key architect of the series is Peter Hartcher, the foreign affairs editor of the Herald who has never disguised his contempt for China and its success on the world stage as an economic powerhouse.

Heading the list of "experts" is Peter Jennings, the former head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, an organization funded by the Australian and US governments along with a number of arms manufacturers. The rest comprises pro-US, anti-China commentators.

Binoy Kampmark, senior lecturer at the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at Melbourne's RMIT University, said: "Diligently and with a degree of dangerous imbecility, a number of media outlets are manufacturing a consensus for war with China."

'Paving way for conflict'

He noted that China has never been Australia's "natural, historical enemy, nor sought to be".

"But as Australia remains the satellite for the Sino-suspicious United States, its officials and their dutiful media advocates seem obligated to pave the way for conflict," Kampmark told China Daily.

In his widely distributed commentary, Keating said: "Not one of the so-called experts had any experience or expert understanding of China."

Keating added that "the extent of the bias and news abuse is, I believe, unparalleled in modern Australian journalism".

Stephen FitzGerald, Australia's first ambassador to China in 1975, said in a commentary on March 8 that the series "debauches the memory of the once-fine investigative journalism of two once-responsible newspapers".

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