Australia tries hard to present itself as a beacon of so-called “Western Democracy” in the Asia-Pacific, largely in order to contrast itself with new rival China nowadays, but the reality is that the country’s reputation in this respect has been ruined by none other than its own hand after a government investigation recently concluded that its soldiers were responsible for unlawfully killing at least 39 people during the ongoing War on Afghanistan. These findings predictably led to a flurry of condemnation across the world, including from Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova who remarked that “It makes us reassess the true meaning of the official line pronounced by Canberra to protect the rules-based world order.” This in turn prompted the publicly financed Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Andrew Greene to publish a response under the title “Russia accused of ‘hypocrisy’ after attacking Australia over Afghanistan war crimes report”.
The article quoted Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) executive director Peter Jennings who claimed that Russia’s alleged actions in regards to the MH17 tragedy, Crimea, and Syria discredit Zakharova’s statement and supposedly shows “the height of hypocrisy that the Russians are prepared to go to in their sustained attack on the Western democracies.” What’s incredibly ironic about Jennings’ comment is that it might actually be him and Greene who are carrying out a sustained attack on none other than Australian democracy through this article. The ABC’s first editorial standard according to its own website is to “Maintain the independence and integrity of the ABC”, but Greene arguably violated his professional ethics by not disclosing some crucial facts about Jennings’ biography and think tank that are relevant to his audience. Had he done so, then Australians might have rightly wondered whether this expert had ulterior motives in sharing the commentary that he did.
Jennings’ official biography on the ASPI website describes his long professional career in the Australian government, in particular its Department of Defence. It notes that “Peter has worked at senior levels in the Australian Public Service on defence and national security. Career highlights include being Deputy Secretary for Strategy in the Defence Department (2009-12); Chief of Staff to the Minister for Defence (1996-98) and Senior Adviser for Strategic Policy to the Prime Minister (2002-03).” His biography also states that “Peter has previously held a number Senior Executive Service positions in Defence including First Assistant Secretary International Policy Division and First Assistant Secretary Coordination and Public Affairs.” Unaware Australians who might took the ABC’s editorial standards at face value would have therefore been under the false impression that he was an independent expert, not a former high-ranking official of the Defence Department.
In addition, Australians also weren’t informed that Jennings’ think tank is partially funded not only by the same Defence Department that previously employed him and which he was asked to comment about in Greene’s article, but also the American and Dutch embassies, as well as NATO’s Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, among others. As ASPI’s executive director, Jennings would have been aware of this financing but either he declined to disclose it or Greene was professionally negligent and didn’t bother to investigate it. The possibility also exists that Jennings did indeed inform Greene and/or Greene somehow or another found out about this, but the latter chose not to share these facts with his audience despite them obviously representing a potential conflict of interest in respect to his interviewee’s comments criticizing Russia’s alleged actions in regards to MH17, Crimea, and Syria.
Regardless of however it came about, and only Greene can account for this if publicly challenged by Australians to do so, the fact of the matter is that this journalist failed in his professional duty to the public. By either not doing his job properly like the taxpayers expect him to do as a representative of the ABC or outright violating his employer’s code of ethics for inexplicable reasons, the outcome is the same, and it’s that Australians were deceived into thinking that Jennings was an independent expert with no possible ulterior motives behind his commentary. The reality, however, is that this expert isn’t independent, but is part of the Australian military establishment. ASPI is also partially funded by his former employer, NATO, and the two foreign countries that have an interest in denigrating Russia for its alleged actions in regards to MH17, Crimea, and Syria. Whether intentional or not, this amounts not only to an infowar attack on Russia, but also on Greene’s fellow Australians.
At the very least, Greene failed to do his job properly, but an investigation should also be commenced to determine whether the worst-case scenario transpired wherein he as a representative of the ABC might have colluded with the Australian Defence Ministry via Jennings to deliberately mislead the public, perhaps at his employer’s behest or with its tacit approval. Australia’s reputation as a “Western Democracy” was seriously harmed by his actions since it wouldn’t be surprising if they raise suspicions among the public about the government’s intentions towards them. If it turns out to be the case that the ABC did indeed collude with the Australian Defence Ministry to simultaneously launch an infowar attack on Russia while also misleading the Australian public, then that means that the publicly financed media outlet violated its first editorial standard to “maintain [its] independence and integrity” and should therefore face the appropriate consequences.