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Chris In 2010 your newspaper published an article claiming that my father, the late John Wheeldon, was for many years a “secret member” of the Communist Party of Australia while serving as an ALP senator in the Federal Parliament.1 At the time, I told you that I thought it was contemptible that you would publish such a scandalous accusation on the basis of what was very flimsy evidence. I now write in response to your recent offer to have The Australian print a reply from me to that article, “The covert comrades in the ALP”, by Mark Aarons. Thanks for the offer but I am unable to accept it. Writing a brief response for you to publish in your paper would do you and The Australian a favour, as it would give you an easy way to wash your hands of the ethical mess you have created. But doing that would disadvantage me: I can’t see you publishing anything from me other than a brief, incomplete and unsatisfactory reply. Aarons’ argument is shockingly weak, as you would have realised if you had fact-checked it before publication. He presents unsubstantiated gossip and innuendo as certain fact, and he cannot identify a single piece of direct evidence that Wheeldon was ever a member of any communist party or organisation. He even resorts to fabrication of evidence to bolster his anaemic case. My honest opinion, Chris, is that your newspaper slandered my father for a political purpose. You used Mark Aarons’ distortions of history as the basis for a partisan attack on the Australian Labor Party. Would you let me say that in the pages of The Australian? Further, John Wheeldon held a senior editorial role with The Australian for many years and is still well known to many who work there. The Australian should have known better than to publish Mark Aarons’ absurd claim that he was a communist infiltrator. I see no reason why I should let your disloyalty pass unmentioned. It is well-known that John Wheeldon, one of Australia’s earliest and fiercest opponents of the Vietnam war, had an overtly hostile relationship with ASIO’s Director-General through the 1950s and 1960s, Sir Charles Spry. In the 1970s, the Hope Royal Commission found that under Spry, ASIO’s pursuit of perceived “subversives” degenerated into a politically inspired inquiry into anyone who expressed views that challenged orthodoxy2; Spry himself would personally slip 1
“gossip and tittle tattle” to senior government officials, including bogus accusations of communist affiliations – it was “slander under privilege” for which “the evidence was just not there”, in the words of the Royal Commission’s Secretary.3 It has been common knowledge for years that John Wheeldon was, during Spry’s tenure, one of the targets of ASIO’s slanders. My basic argument is that Mark Aarons has, in writing about John Wheeldon, simply repackaged (with adornments) a bunch of gossip and tittle tattle that was discredited decades ago, and then sold it to the readers of The Australian as gospel truth. But your paper is itself a key part of the story, and its role cannot be ignored. Your boss’s boss, a fellow called Rupert Murdoch, personally hired John Wheeldon, an old friend of Murdoch’s, and Murdoch created the role of Associate Editor of The Australian for Wheeldon after his retirement from the Senate in 1981. He was your newspaper’s lead editorial writer for many years, writing for the paper from 1981 until 1995. John Wheeldon’s influence is still, to this day, felt at The Australian: he hired your foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, who has described Wheeldon as his “mentor”4. For what it’s worth, Greg said after Wheeldon’s death in 2006 that he was “a great man” of “unshakeable moral courage”5, an opinion that is at odds with The Australian’s more recent allegations. Why would you print such slurs against a man who was once a valued colleague? It’s an obvious question. You did not publish Aarons’ article because you sought the truth. The unpleasant fact is that you published it with a reckless, if not wilful, disregard for the article’s accuracy. I take it that you do not deny that you failed to fact-check or verify Mark Aarons’ claims prior to publication. It is moreover self-evident that The Australian’s decision not to test the accuracy of Mark Aarons’ claims about John Wheeldon was calculated and deliberate. News Limited’s lawyers would never have allowed you to publish an untested, unverified and unsubstantiated hit-piece such as that article while my father was alive – but the dead have no rights. A dead man cannot sue for defamation, no matter how ridiculous the falsehoods told about him might be. Your true motive for publishing these untested, unsubstantiated slurs is suggested by the very title of the article: “The covert comrades in the ALP”. You were not looking for historical truth. You simply wanted to put the boot in on the Labor Party, and if you had to defame a dead colleague to achieve that purpose, then so be it. That you had an overtly partisan purpose in printing your slurs is confirmed beyond any doubt by The Australian’s editorialising in the days immediately following publication of “The covert comrades in the ALP”. In an editorial published four days later, The Australian proclaimed that Aarons’ research was an example of “insightful, primary-source history”, and that it contained “important revelation[s]” about the connections between Labor politicians and the Soviet Union (which connections supposedly are not better understood because of “Marxist domination of university history faculties”), and that it “prompts important questions about national security and the insidious influence of communist ideology”.6 Your editorial concluded that Aarons’ work shows that fears about “communist infiltration” of the ALP were “well-founded”.
Chris, that editorial is a pile of shameless, hypocritical crap. Its only value is as a signal example of your newspaper’s low ethical standards and fraught relationship with historical truth. Your editorialist bleats about Aarons’ “revelations” of “communist infiltration” of the ALP without accounting for the fact that, if Aarons’ thesis be true, The Australian itself was “infiltrated”, and Rupert Murdoch and Greg Sheridan and the rest of your editorial team were similarly duped. Your newspaper’s decision to slander John Wheeldon, a man who was for years an honest, loyal and trusted senior member of The Australian’s editorial staff, was based on an assessment, first, that he was dead and you could therefore defame him with no adverse legal effect and, second, that trashing his good name would help you score some cheap political points against the Australian Labor Party. You refused to allow yourself to be restrained by truth, logic or common sense – or common decency. I am not so naive as to expect that you would ever let me express these honest opinions in your newspaper. Any article you would agree to publish would only be able to respond to what you have done in a superficial and unsatisfactory manner. At the same time, allowing you to publish my response would actually let you and The Australian off the hook far too easily, and I don’t see why I should do you the favour of giving you an easy out. You got your story about John Wheeldon wrong and you, Chris, have an affirmative ethical obligation to correct your newspaper’s material errors of fact. Basic journalistic ethics require that correction, as does clause 2.1 of News Limited’s Professional Conduct Policy, which states that “serious factual errors should be corrected at the first opportunity”7. Chris, it is wrong for you to seek to delegate to me your personal ethical obligation to correct your newspaper’s serious factual errors, and I will not draft a fig leaf for you to hold in front of your derelict reporting and editorialising. I will give my own response to your newspaper’s reporting and editorialising, and I will do so in my own fashion, in my own time, as I see fit, and independently of you. But it will nonetheless remain your personal obligation as editor of The Australian – regardless of what I do or do not do – to correct your newspaper’s poor journalism and to do so in the pages of The Australian itself. Now I am not saying The Australian should print a hagiography of John Wheeldon. All I am saying is that since you have of your own initiative chosen to raise the issue of the ASIO files that mention him, you are now ethically obliged, as a journalist and an editor, to provide a fair and balanced account that honestly represents those materials and that accurately describes the historical context of their production, and that you have not yet done this, and that surely you are able to do so without having me write the damn story for you. Besides, I am obviously not a disinterested observer, and thus the conclusions I present, under my own name, in defence of my father’s reputation, could be answered with: well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? I have an inherent conflict of interest in reporting on this subject, so nothing I prepare can address the issue satisfactorily or definitively. Chris, The Australian must prepare its own follow-up to its deficient reporting on the contents of the ASIO files that mention John Wheeldon – and it must do so honestly, objectively and without political point-scoring as its purpose. I would be gratified if in so doing you were to consider 3
Chris. but I am quite prepared for your research and your honest reporting to lead you wherever it may. than you have done to date.14 Clearly Baker sought to set an impossible standard for me as a means of dodging the issue of Dorling’s accuracy altogether. and Fairfax Media’s ethical standards. It was a total waste of my time.13 In one sentence he said that they would not publish it because “You have not provided evidence that challenges the basis of what we reported”. I’d imagine your newspaper’s Troy Bramston has the wherewithal to review the documentary evidence and write a balanced account. but the actual reasons he gave for rejecting my submission were incoherent. I should say. precisely how you handle this is. but it was perfectly clear that Fairfax had no interest in providing any meaningful balance to Dorling’s salacious and misleading account of history. Fairfax flatly refused to revisit the issue. The piece I prepared did not mention Dr Dorling or Fairfax. On this occasion we could extend the usual word length for letters to 300 words. The reason is that I have already attempted a similar exercise with the Fairfax press. I have made a copy of this draft article available online. a senior editor at Fairfax Media. I repeat my offer for you to write a letter to the editor which details any errors of fact in our reporting and summaraises [sic] your objections to ASIO's assessments of your father. it just gave a different and – I submit – more accurate account of the facts. and my impression is that Troy is as cautious in his conclusions as Mark Aarons is reckless in his. I submitted to Mr Mark Baker. Judith Wheeldon AM. after much toing-and-froing. Speaking through their legal counsel. and I make some general observations about Dorling and his methods. I couldn’t make heads or tails of Mark Baker’s reasons for rejecting my submission.15 Fairfax gave over 3.9 Dr Dorling has a reputation for inaccuracy and “yellow journalism”10. Mark Baker offered me less than 4 .11 We suggested that Fairfax should itself prepare a follow-up to Dorling’s reporting that would give some balance to his egregiously inaccurate account of history. rejected what I wrote and retracted his invitation to print a response from me. Mr Baker concluded: Once again. and to do better.200 words to Dr Dorling on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. He told me via email that he “was not at all happy with the manner in which you have responded”. The Age and the Canberra Times to slander John Wheeldon. Anyway. He has already conducted a similar exercise in respect of Arthur Gietzelt8. In April 2011. that there is one further reason why I decided to reject your offer to print a response from me in The Australian. for you to decide – but you are subject to a clear and unambiguous ethical obligation to do more. Fairfax Media published a pair of outrageously dishonest front-page articles about John Wheeldon by Dr Philip Dorling. In case you are interested. then in the very next paragraph he said that he would not publish it because the “draft you wrote implictly [sic] challenges the validity of our reporting”. and it ended in futility.12 Mr Baker. a careful and thoughtful response of a few hundred words that addressed a couple of the issues as best I could in the space available. My mother. towards the end of this letter (at pages 23 through 27). of course. and I immediately complained to Fairfax about Dr Dorling’s articles. who does not deny that Fairfax failed to do any fact-checking or verification of Dorling’s work before publication.what I have to say on the topic. Eventually. Fairfax finally said they would print a response written by me.
16 Having said all of that. when John Wheeldon was the subject of what could fairly be described as a McCarthy-esque smear campaign by ASIO and its director-general. ASIO’s methods of collecting and reporting intelligence were systemically flawed. fool me once. Half a century later. misrepresenting evidence in an effort to score partisan political points. Sir Charles Spry. During the 1960s. and replaced by omnibus inquiries into all views (and people espousing them) that challenge orthodoxy…17 This compromised ASIO’s ability to do its job: All of this investigation has gone on at the expense of counter-intelligence work… It is hard to escape the conclusion that ASIO accepted the soft options… until quite recently. recalcitrance and manifest bad faith has no doubt coloured my decision to reject your very similar offer. It is my opinion that ASIO has pursued radicals beyond what is required to obtain security intelligence relating to subversion. protest meetings and demonstrations were covered minutely. Among other criticisms. Of course I dismissed this meaningless “offer” out of hand.10% of that – a couple of paragraphs – to give a comprehensive response not only to Dorling but also to the ASIO files themselves. As I say.19 5 . ASIO could not be taken seriously as an efficient organisation. I have indicated by way of endnotes when I have made materials referred to in this letter available online. still less an effective security organisation. In 1977. Mr Justice Robert Hope of the New South Wales Supreme Court issued the Fourth Report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security – known as the Hope Royal Commission. we find The Australian mindlessly repeating ASIO’s well documented errors. as ASIO under Sir Charles Spry did before it. I am happy to share with you the following assessment that I have prepared in good faith and to the best of my ability. The touchstone of subversion has frequently been lost sight of. As a wise man once said. shame on you – can’t get fooled again. and Spry himself misrepresented evidence – at least recklessly. The causes are complex but include the following: (a) Poor leadership over many years. great attention was paid to every part of the protest movement. and. Justice Hope concluded that ASIO during the 1960s was more concerned with “counter subversion” (the pursuit of perceived domestic enemies) than counter-intelligence (the pursuit of foreign spies): Particularly during the Vietnam war. Now the fact that ASIO under Spry acted improperly in pursuit of those who challenged political orthodoxy is not in serious dispute. I’d be gratified if you would take my views into account.18 And much of the blame rested with the leadership: ASIO’s morale has been very bad. the Hon. and probably intentionally – in order to achieve improper political objectives. *** My view is that The Australian’s conduct today is a pathetic repeat – the mirror image – of a shameful series of events in the 1960s. my aim has been to facilitate wherever possible independent scrutiny and review of my research. My annoyance at Mark Baker’s arrogance. It is based on my personal knowledge to some extent but primarily on a review of the primary documents and historical accounts.
many times crossed the professional line from being intelligence agents to political actors and much of what they did. much of this was no more than slander under privilege. He was speaking to ABC Radio two days after The Australian published “The covert comrades in the ALP”. his was a hard act to beat. particularly against dissent and not just dissent involving communists but a much broader penumbra of dissenters. against the whole of the underdeveloped areas of the world. Bizarrely. speaking entirely without notes on a subject such as the Vietnam War.20 Echoing the Hope Royal Commission’s conclusions. As we found with later and more detailed enquiry.That is unambiguously a reference to the time at which Spry was Director-General. Wheeldon offered his judgment on the war: By our participation in this war we are having the worst of all possible worlds. as would any sensible government – I exclude the present Australian Government – act in the best interests of its own people. Wheeldon was a very fierce opponent of the Vietnam war from very early on. this is what one commentator on historical subjects has recently said about ASIO’s conduct during the Vietnam war period: They many. We are making not the slightest difference to the outcome of the war. 6 .21 Those are Mark Aarons’ words. Jim McClelland. who for far too long was Director-General of ASIO. George Brownbill. was in my view politically motivated. For one thing. spoke on the occasion of the public release in 2008 of the Commission’s public records: A close reading of our Fourth Report will see references to the practice of the late Charles Spry. let alone in The Australian’s brain-dead editorialising – no doubt because to do so would have made clear the weakness of Aarons’ analysis and thus undermined the strength of The Australian’s partisan assault on the ALP. the evidence was just not there. of slipping little bits of gossip to the prime minister or attorney-general. described Wheeldon as a “verbal pyrotechnist” with a “formidable intellect”: In full flight in the Senate. a few months after taking his Senate seat. That is. We are setting ourselves against the great mass of the people of South Vietnam and against the whole of South East Asia – indeed. We are making not the slightest difference to future policies that might be followed by the United States Government which will. harsh and gravely unjust. Not one major country in the underdeveloped parts of the world supports the policy of America or Australia in South Vietnam. The ASIO files disclosed numerous cases where gossip and tittle-tattle about people and their so-called ‘Communist sympathies’ was recounted to certain figures in the Menzies governments and then revealed in some cases under parliamentary privilege.22 In March 1966. one of Wheeldon’s Senate colleagues. Secretary to the Hope Royal Commission. Now if ASIO was suspicious of those with views that challenged orthodoxy. then John Wheeldon would have induced a paranoid fever in Spry. none of Aarons’ well-founded scepticism of ASIO’s methods during the 1960s is reflected in “The covert comrades in the ALP”.
. In November 1965. In March 1969.28 Wheeldon was. and as they are so concerned about various persons attempting to evade military service. he told the Senate that “at the present time there is an organised campaign of intimidation. or in some way disloyal to Australia?27 Sir Charles Spry may not have welcomed the fact that ASIO itself was a frequent subject of Wheeldon’s attention during the 1960s.. he asked the Senate: Will the Leader of the Government consider suggesting to those Government senators who are of the age for military service but who have not yet seen military service that.23 Senator Wheeldon was often sarcastic and cutting in his remarks. on learning that the Special Branch of the Victoria Police Force had security dossiers on 250. and here too sarcasm was one of his preferred rhetorical devices. Hansard shows Wheeldon repeatedly asked questions of Government ministers about ASIO’s methods and objectives. he felt that he was constantly required to defend his patriotism. This conflict is causing much suffering to a certain section of the Australian people and is bringing not one single benefit to the Australian nation. subversive. there was little distinction between advocacy of civil liberties and outright subversion. they themselves volunteer for service in Vietnam so that persons who are reluctant to serve may be inspired to follow their brilliant example?24 As an opponent of the war. he told the Senate: It is very difficult indeed to have a rational discussion on this subject because of constant allegations which are made against those people who do not share the ideas of the government. He was regularly mocked by Government senators for daring to ask why Australia 7 . he asked the Attorney-General how many similar dossiers were held by ASIO: I ask this question not so that the names of all these thousands of people will become public knowledge but so that the few remaining patriotic citizens will be able to take due precautions in future in their dealings with fellow Australians. The easiest way to acquire one's bona fides as a patriotic citizen is to urge that somebody else be sent off to Vietnam. We are sending them to death inside Vietnam in a futile and useless conflict. on the principle that example is more effective than precept.We are depriving a number of our citizens of an opportunity to lead useful lives. plainly one of Parliament’s most consistent libertarians at a time when. moreover. In October 1968.25 In a lengthy March 1969 speech on defence policy and the conflict in South East Asia. and as the Australian Government reluctantly or otherwise has agreed to follow this course of action… will the Minister on behalf of the Government issue an apology to the Australians who have been advocating in the past those very policies and… were accused of being unpatriotic.000 people. sneering and McCarthyism against any person who wishes to disagree with the policy of the Government in relation to Vietnam”. in the minds of some.26 From November 1968: I wish to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question: As the United States Government has now announced that it intends to stop bombing North Vietnam and to enter into direct negotiations with the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front.
which he strongly upheld”. who was driven from Congress in the 1840s on account of his opposition to the United States’ war against Mexico. He is an author who has written about incidents which in themselves I suppose would be regarded as rather revolting. who was gaoled for sedition on account of his opposition to Australia’s role in the First World War.37 In a searing address in September 1969. If they would suggest that. for decades.33 He quit the Liberal Party over Menzies’ Communist Party Dissolution Bill.32 The son of a bank manager. But his opposition to political orthodoxy was never that of a revolutionary.banned so many books and films of serious artistic and literary value.34 As the political commentator Don Whitington said: [Wheeldon] decided the men behind the Liberal Party were not the freedom fighters he had fondly imagined them to be. Wheeldon was in no way a supporter of the Soviet Union or its methods. by age 20. He cited Lloyd George. which. John Wheeldon was a lawyer with a passionate commitment to the democratic institution of Parliament.30 Wheeldon was also one of the earliest advocates for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.35 The historical precedents that he used to defend his patriotic opposition to the Vietnam war reveal much about his ideological outlook.29 At times his rhetoric seemed calculated to provoke those of more orthodox dispositions. I must confess that I have read a number of his works while I was not in this country. is easily the more outstanding statesman”. He cited Abraham Lincoln. then the only thing I can say is that I am no more morally corrupted now than I was before I read those books. he joined the Western Australia branch of the Young Liberals when he was 17 (in 1946). He was. he spoke 8 . Wheeldon cited Charles James Fox.31 He advocated reform of divorce laws and abolition of the death penalty. He spoke out vehemently and immediately against the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. who was assailed for his opposition to Britain’s involvement in wars against revolutionary France in the 18th century: he described Fox as “one of the greatest Prime Ministers of England and one of the greatest liberal thinkers England has ever produced”. who was assailed for being a less enthusiastic imperialist than Disraeli: with hindsight. Wheeldon considered “a direct attack on democratic liberties. These were John Wheeldon’s heroes: democratic parliamentarians who constituted a vocal but loyal and patriotic opposition in times when the government of the day embarked on wrongheaded policies. He cited Gladstone. the man who was accused of lack of patriotism. but just another group of hard-headed businessmen protecting their vested interests. he was the state President. said Wheeldon. There may be those who would suggest that I am at the present time rather morally corrupted. “one sees that Gladstone. who was “almost lynched” for his opposition to Britain’s part in the Boer War but who was ultimately remembered. While he was opposed to US and Australian involvement in Vietnam. Wheeldon did not back down from his position that Australia had “ludicrously oppressive censorship laws”. In a March 1969 Senate speech36. and the position he held decades ago on the reform of drug laws would still be considered radical today. as Kim Beazley would later put it. despite many failings. a principled defender of Australia’s constitutional federalism. He cited John Curtin. He spoke to the Senate in May 1967 about the banning of books in Australia in the following terms: De Sade is a controversial author. as having been “a great patriotic Prime Minister of Great Britain”.
As Prime Minister Howard would later say of him: He was a very fierce opponent of the war in Vietnam.40 On the other hand. John Wheeldon believed his greatest achievement in parliament was his involvement in a report on human rights in the Soviet Union which gave exposure to a range of significant humanitarian issues.39 During the Vietnam war. is completely consistent with his belief in democratic institutions of liberal government. Wheeldon criticised the United States over the Vietnam war. He probably knew as much about US history and politics as any Australian. the former Senator Barry Cohen. in relation to the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. He ensured that I was born in the United States so that there could be no doubt that I was a natural born citizen under the US Constitution. and he was a very fierce opponent of the acquiescence of the Whitlam government. It is safe to say that whatever criticisms he made of US foreign policy from time to time. When the Government talks about wheat and wool sales it talks about “mainland China” but when it talks about the war in Vietnam it talks about “Communist China”. he was a prodigious critic of the Soviet Union and the totalitarianism involved. collectively speaking. He was a passionate believer in the principle of self-determination which. He was completely consistent over the course of decades in his opposition to what he considered colonialism or imperialism. but that was because he considered it a bad war – and not because he wanted a communist revolution in the United States or anywhere else.38 He was no more enthused by China.to the Senate of “the sort of imperialism for which unfortunately the Soviet Union has become notorious ever since its attack on Hungary in 1956. in my view.41 9 . an action which was repeated last year in its brutal attack upon the people of Czechoslovakia”. He visited the US almost every year. whoever was its proponent. when I interviewed him for a radio program in the early 1980s. Wheeldon sarcastically lambasted the Government for shipping steel to China while Australia was fighting Chinese-supported forces in South East Asia: [The government parties] say that we are involved in the war in Vietnam in order to stop the downward thrust of Chinese Communism. anyone who witnessed his performance at the Chester A. no Australian was a stronger or better informed admirer of the American political system than Senator John Wheeldon. I remember that on one occasion. sometimes for months at a time. Arthur Society’s quiz nights could attest to that fact. The only t-shirt I ever saw him wear was a faded “McGovern for President” shirt. his affection for the United States was real. and in his wallet when he died in 2006 was his accreditation for the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach. but at the same time they say that it is quite in order for supporters of the Government to make very large sums of money from trading with China…. the Fraser government and the Hawke government in the incorporation of East Timor into the Republic of Indonesia. He married an American. His colleague. he gave me a memorable blast. says Wheeldon failed to share the enthusiasm of some of his ALP colleagues for what Mao had achieved: To say that John was less than impressed by stories of “The Great Leap Forward” was to put it mildly.
as a teenager.Wheeldon once described himself as a “19th-century Liberal with social democratic tendencies”. Nowhere in Wheeldon’s private or public speech will you find a word in advocacy of the overthrow of a democratic government. ASIO’s files show that on at least two occasions Sir Charles Spry personally used patently unreliable evidence in futile efforts to tar John Wheeldon as disloyal. contrary to what my high school history textbook said. in early 1968. I am aware of three accounts – each consistent with the others – of what transpired at the meeting between the spymaster and the prime minister: First. are of central significance to any analysis of the ASIO files that mention Wheeldon – but none of this history is so much as mentioned by Mark Aarons. ASIO’s efforts to undermine John Wheeldon came to a head.42 He was in no way a revolutionary – throughout his career. Spry’s repeated attempts to smear Wheeldon. Her father was a member of the Communist Party. Aarons explains that the “Bolshevik Revolution was the [Aarons] family’s inspiration”. and the circumstances and consequences of their abject failure.45 Wheeldon took his appeal of ASIO’s decision directly to the prime minister. and Spry had formulated a ludicrous theory – unsupported. The fundamental and irreconcilable difference in outlook between a parliamentary democrat such as John Wheeldon and a self-proclaimed lapsed communist revolutionary such as Mark Aarons could not be clearer. Stalin or Mao. there was no such thing as the November “revolution”: November 1917 was a Bolshevik coup d’êtat. and nor will you find anywhere a word in admiration of Marx. according to Spry’s own notes of his discussions with Gorton. by any actual evidence – that Werner’s father was the conduit for the passage of confidential Australian defence information to Gus Hall. Greg Sheridan. by contrast. “The Prime Minister expressed the view that the case against her [Werner] was pretty slim”. Trotsky. whether of the Left or the Right. has written that his family of communists “belonged to the revolutionary tendency and opposed the ‘reformists’ who wanted to introduce socialism gradually through parliamentary elections”. Despite the fact that Wheeldon was without question a patriotic Australian and a committed democrat. he was what communists such as Mark Aarons would contemptuously refer to as a “bourgeois reformist”. Spry objected to Werner’s admission to the country on the grounds that she posed an unacceptable threat to national security. when Prime Minister Sir John Gorton – a good friend of Wheeldon despite their sharp political differences over Vietnam and other issues – overruled Spry when Spry sought to prevent Wheeldon’s American fiancée (Judith Werner. not through violent upheaval.44 Things were very different in the Wheeldon family. USA. the triumph of a violent and intolerant clique. He believed in gradual improvement of society’s flaws through the democratic process. I remember when. Lenin. the leader of the CPUSA. did: He was a passionate opponent of totalitarianism. I first studied Russian history: my father sternly instructed me that. Spry was called on to explain to Gorton his reasons for seeking to deny a visa to Judith Werner. It is as if it never happened. and then an abrupt halt.43 Mark Aarons. and on 12 September 1968.46 10 . I can’t put it better than your foreign editor. to the best of my knowledge. née Shaw) from entering Australia. from beginning to end.
She is now an Australian citizen.51 She had achieved minor celebrity in France for her 1963 existentialist novel. the Anglican girls’ school on Sydney’s north shore. which – the file is far from clear – may have been precipitated by the termination of her employment at the embassy and her resulting forced departure from Australia. published in English translation as The Gift of Indifference. and that Gorton had “no time” for public servants – such as Spry – “who acted as a law unto themselves”. Here is the background to the other incident in which Spry took complaints about John Wheeldon to Gorton:50 In March 1967.52 Somehow she crossed paths with John Wheeldon. Gorton was quoted as judging ASIO under Spry’s leadership in the following terms: I found ASIO. you should take a look at my file…”. in the little I had to do with it. Whatever the precise words Gorton used to convey his lack of confidence in Spry’s precious file. as well as his conclusions: according to Hancock. “But.47 Third. and in 2006. Ms Arnaud came to ASIO’s attention when she suffered what appears to have been some sort of emotional breakdown. She was a journalist and writer by occupation.- Second. she went on to have a distinguished career in education. according to my father. According to ASIO’s files. sir. she was made a member of the Order of Australia for services to education. a young Frenchwoman. At the time. and ASIO’s file left him “unimpressed”. A threat to national security? Not so much. who was later told by Gorton himself what had transpired. Spry pleaded with Gorton.49 Thanks to Gorton. Hancock says Gorton thought ASIO’s effort was “petty”. to be completely sort of stumble bums. They would tell you things and then say it’s not right… I gave up relying on them for anything. it is beyond doubt that Gorton had a dim view of Spry’s methods. The prime minister “would have none of it”.48 Decades later. Judith Werner – who would be my mother – was allowed to come to Australia in 1968. her boss – the cultural councillor of the French embassy – was “dissatisfied with her work” and thought she 11 . he was recently separated from his first wife and had not yet met his second wife (my mother). to which Gorton responded: “I don’t want to see your fucking file”. and she has lived here ever since. in 2005. Ian Hancock. 11 March 1967) described her as a “vivacious” graduate of the Sorbonne who had previously edited a woman’s programme on Radio Luxembourg “covering subjects from films to fashion”. there was a clear distinction in Gorton’s mind between a left-winger and a traitor. on the recommendation of the Howard government. Cecile Arnaud. according to Gorton’s biographer. John Wheeldon. Gorton “brusquely dismissed” the spy chief and his file on Judith Werner. An article in the Canberra Times announcing her arrival (“Novelist keen to ski”. She was not a diplomat: her ASIO file explicitly notes that she was “in no way a regular member of the French Foreign Service”. before retiring as headmistress of Abbotsleigh. radio and TV section. Recently declassified ASIO files show that the September 1968 encounter between Spry and Gorton over my mother’s visa to Australia was in fact the second time in only a matter of months that Spry had taken files of dubious quality and integrity to Prime Minister Gorton with a view to damaging Spry’s perceived political opponent. As Judith Wheeldon. came to Canberra to work in the French embassy as an assistant in the embassy’s cinema.
and “she had in fact been rude to Dr Daryll Killeen who had complained”. my mother and I had a very pleasant dinner with Ms Arnaud in Paris. and 1 February 1968 was the date that he left the Senate to assume his seat in the House of Representatives. what relationship John Wheeldon had with Cecile Arnaud. On arrival in England. 53 Her interaction with members of the Australian public who made inquiries about French cinema “had been most unsatisfactory”. 61 Spry says that Wheeldon “questioned her on French atomic experiments.58 This was an important day for Gorton: he had become prime minister less than three weeks earlier. and immediately after the spy chief had acquainted Gorton for the first time with the procedures for “organisational and functional control” of ASIO. with a French diplomat. There is no public record of what she actually told ASIO under interrogation. following Harold Holt’s disappearance. Spry’s note for Gorton claimed that John Wheeldon had discussed French politics with Ms Arnaud. and that he "often turned the conversation" to “Marxist literature” – a rubric that could presumably include the works of Sartre. I had no idea at the time that their friendship had once been the source of so much feverish excitement at the highest levels of Australia’s security apparatus. As part of his briefing on the Arnaud affair. In the mid-1980s. (I don’t know.“seemed to be psychologically unbalanced”. and that Wheeldon “may be a recruited agent”. the suspected KGB man. my father.59 It seems from this note – which remains heavily redacted – that Spry had no evidence or useful information to point to other than what Ms Arnaud had said under interrogation. on 1 February 1968. they were certainly friendly and kept in touch for years to come. Some months after her departure.55 ASIO immediately brought Ms Arnaud in for interrogation. according to ASIO’s records. but the files seem to suggest she claimed to have had some sort of relationship with John Wheeldon. literature and foreign policy to constitute evidence of a threat to Australia’s national security. In fact. and don’t particularly care.56 This was early August 1967. ASIO’s transcript of her call to the Soviet diplomat suggests some emotional intimacy between them. de Beauvoir. it seems that Spry raised the Arnaud affair with Gorton on the very first occasion that he briefed him as prime minister.54 ASIO noticed Ms Arnaud when she made distressed calls to a suspected KGB officer at the Soviet embassy in Canberra over telephone lines ASIO was monitoring.57 She had spent an eventful 150 days in Australia. Spry gave Gorton his version of what Arnaud had said under interrogation. she checked into a psychiatric hospital.62 But it is not at all clear from the file why Sir Charles would consider their discussions of politics. and with Stenin. Spry gave Gorton a “top secret” document marked “NOTE FOR PRIME MINISTER”. but their actual relationship is far from clear. their plans and France’s use of atomic power”. He never tried to hide his friendship with her from anyone. 12 .) Ms Arnaud left Australia for England days after being interrogated. but the spy chief considered that sufficient for him to inform the prime minister that Ms Arnaud was "probably recruited” by Soviet intelligence prior to her arrival in Australia and that he regarded John Wheeldon’s “part in these activities as consistent with those of at least a collaborator” with Soviet intelligence. Genet and Camus.60 As evidence of Wheeldon’s espionage.
and who was soon to check into a psychiatric hospital. through discussions with the relevant ASIO case officers. And also bear in mind that the transcript of what Ms Arnaud actually said has never been made publicly available. this is the closest Spry’s note gets to evidencing espionage: During the month of April. it is entirely silent on the sort of espionage assistance Ms Arnaud could actually provide the Senator. The spy chief’s ludicrous theory flopped. There appears to have been no follow up by Gorton of any kind. there are “considerable doubts” about Ms Arnaud’s truthfulness that were not reflected in the file prepared under Spry’s direction. However.65 The 1974 Minute Paper reviews the Arnaud file. The Minute Paper concludes that. and specifically refers to Spry’s briefing of Gorton on 1 February 1968. His conduct is even more troubling in light of a recently declassified June 1974 ASIO Minute Paper. Spry’s note to Gorton does acknowledge that “WEELDON” [sic] was “more interested in the progress of [Arnaud’s] relations with the ambassador… than in the political nature” of any information she could obtain64. It does not explain why on earth the KGB would use an Australian federal parliamentarian as the spyhandler for an assistant in the French embassy’s cinema department. “in retrospect”. It was the dampest of damp squibs. Spry was at least careless with the facts. but that only emerged later. and marked “TOP SECRET”. WEELDON [sic] asked [Arnaud] if she could discreetly make photocopies in the Embassy. and thus our knowledge of what she was asked by ASIO and what answers she gave is based entirely on what can be gleaned from the unredacted portions of the note that Spry himself prepared. It is disturbing that Spry would level such grave charges against a member of Parliament on the basis of such silly evidence. addressed to the Deputy Director-General of ASIO. She replied that this was possible as she had access at any time and the use of the equipment. ASIO’s own internal review of the Arnaud affair conducted some years after Spry’s departure clearly shows that Spry briefed Sir John Gorton on the basis of a flawed and misleading file. which supports my assessment that Spry had embarked on a gossipy smear campaign based on innuendo. rather than anything that could be considered a serious or sensible counter-intelligence operation. In other words. But maybe I have it all backwards: the file is really quite mysterious on these points.Indeed. WEELDON [sic] never said what sort of documents he wanted photocopied. By ASIO’s own reckoning. or even who was supposed to be spying on whom. 13 . as was inevitable. Bear in mind that Spry’s evidence – as incoherent and unconvincing as it is – is nothing more than unsupported hearsay gathered during the course of an interrogation of a clearly distressed foreign national who had just been fired from her job and was now being investigated by Australia’s spy agency. and I honestly cannot even begin to understand exactly what Spry’s theory was. and certainly withheld material information from the Prime Minister.63 Perhaps “WEELDON” wanted Ms Arnaud to make him a free copy of the latest edition of Cahiers du Cinema? While Spry’s file is long on casual innuendo and unsupported speculation. Senator Wheeldon was never so much as asked to give a response to Spry’s claim that he was a Soviet agent.
mostly of Senator WHEELDON.68 Now. Mark Aarons makes this bold assertion: Both Wheeldon and [Tom] Uren became ministers after the 1972 election. and that it was unrealistic to consider otherwise. to the best of my knowledge.71 This particular claim offers a perfect test of Aarons’ reliability. ASIO’s imprecations against John Wheeldon ceased when Spry departed. arousing ASIO's deep suspicions about communist influence in the Whitlam government.Spry announced his retirement as director-general not long after his run-in with Gorton over Judith Werner’s visa. Of course. Indeed. ASIO closely scrutinised Bill Hartley. Chris.. An ASIO officer’s report titled “Action for Privacy Committee” describes Wheeldon’s appearance at a public meeting in June 1977: Senator John WHEELDON addressed the audience and said that he believed there was a need for ASIO. mentioning Sir Charles Spry by name. Instead. And Gorton himself frequently told the story of his run in with Spry over my mother’s visa. Wheeldon mostly came to ASIO’s attention only inadvertently.70 Ian Hancock discussed it at length in his biography of Gorton. so did Wheeldon’s attitude towards ASIO. Kim Beazley Jr specifically referred to Gorton’s defence of Wheeldon against ASIO in speaking to a parliamentary condolence motion following Wheeldon’s death in 2006. covering a couple of decades – shows that in the post-Spry era. and of ASIO’s tendency under Spry’s leadership to blur any distinction between those who were politically unorthodox and those who were in fact disloyal to Australia. the history of Spry’s antagonistic relationship with John Wheeldon is not obscure. a fervent PLO supporter who came into frequent conflict with the pro-Zionist John Wheeldon. My view is that the evidence clearly indicates that ASIO’s suspicion of John Wheeldon was the product of Spry’s fevered imagination. and Wheeldon was thus tangentially mentioned in several ASIO reports on Hartley. as a supporter of Israel. then that does little to advance The Australian’s chosen narrative of communist infiltration of the ALP. nowhere can the contrast between Mark Aarons’ interpretation of the historical record and mine be more clearly seen.. who continued to defend the role of ASIO… Senator WHEELDON’s comments clearly were not expected by the Committee and this is the reason for attempting to close the meeting. and.69 The Sydney Morning Herald. 14 . including a number of reports suggesting that Hartley was preparing counter-demonstrations to protest Wheeldon’s support of Israel. So Spry’s name does not appear once in “The covert comrades in the ALP” or “A secret tale worth uncovering”. a review of John Wheeldon’s slender ASIO file66 – about fifty-odd pages.67 And just as ASIO’s attitude towards Wheeldon completely changed following Spry’s departure. also discussed the incident. in its obituary for John Wheeldon. He spoke highly of Mr Justice WOODWARD [Spry’s eventual successor as Director-General of ASIO] and frequently re-iterated his view that ASIO was essential to Australia’s security… Senator WHEELDON said that he had not always held this view but had changed his mind… Some members of the audience asked questions for about thirty minutes. if the truth happens to be that Spry personally led a witch-hunt for an ALP senator which failed because John Gorton had concluded that Spry was an unreliable stumble bum.
in printing Mark Aarons’ article. In fact. specifically mentioned by Prime Minister Howard in the parliamentary condolence motions following Wheeldon’s death74 as well as in his newspaper obituaries75. and this is a trust that he abuses. to support Mark Aarons’ claim that John Wheeldon aroused ASIO’s deep suspicions about communist influence in the Whitlam government. but it contains not a single footnote or reference. I have reviewed John Wheeldon’s ASIO files. “The covert comrades in the ALP” is an edited extract from Mark Aarons’ 2010 book The Family File. So let’s cut to the chase: does Aarons’ theory stand up? First of all. and well into the 1970s. if The Australian had bothered to fact-check his article before publication. but it was while John Wheeldon was in New York City as part of Australia’s UN delegation that he renewed his friendship with Mr Murdoch. then how is it that in 1980 John Wheeldon was made a Parliamentary Advisor to Australia’s permanent delegation to the United Nations?73 Why did not anyone from the spy agency have a word in Prime Minister Fraser’s ear in 1980 to ensure that John Wheeldon was barred from appointment to such a sensitive posting at the height of the Cold War? Of course. But it is a demonstrable lie. you would have discovered that he cannot point to a single piece of evidence in support of his assertion that ASIO had “deep suspicions” about John Wheeldon in the 1970s. Now.On the other hand. which led to Murdoch offering him that senior editorial position at The Australian76. If it were true instead of a lie. and I have pressed him to support his claim that John Wheeldon was the subject of ASIO suspicion when he joined the Whitlam ministry: he is completely unable to back up what he said in print. it is a patently ridiculous lie that The Australian should have detected and should not have published. Thus his readers must take everything that he says about the contents of the ASIO files on trust. But it is fatuous for The Australian. or elsewhere. And it is a material lie. to pretend to ignore the fact that John Wheeldon was an advisor to Australia’s UN delegation late in his career: not only was his diplomatic role a matter of public record. and there is absolutely nothing in those files. 15 . not “after the 1972 election”. as you know. you would have picked up on the fact that Wheeldon was appointed to the ministry in 1974. for if Aarons is correct in saying that ASIO had “deep suspicions” about John Wheeldon that persisted until the Whitlam era. Mark Aarons does not mention the well-known fact that Wheeldon was an advisor to Australia’s UN delegation in New York City during the term of the Fraser government. To have done so would have rendered his tale of persistent ASIO suspicion of Wheeldon incoherent. Aarons states explicitly that ASIO’s suspicion of Wheeldon continued after Spry’s tenure. it would deal a significant blow to my interpretation of the record. But it’s worse than that: even if you had merely asked Mark Aarons to list the documents he claims to have relied on in the course of his research. I have had extensive email communications with Mark Aarons.72 His book refers repeatedly to the ASIO files as well as various other primary and secondary historical documents. presented in support of the conclusion that ASIO’s suspicion of John Wheeldon persisted after Sir Charles Spry’s departure. I can only conclude that this particular claim is a pure fabrication – a lie.
P. but it is impossible to tell who is responsible for the specific assertion that John Wheeldon was “an undercover member of the C. In no way is Wheeldon the focus of either the report or what the officer said the agent had said that Dowding had said about John Wheeldon. there is a section entitled "Source's comments". someone had edited Aarons’ words to make them pithier: ASIO established his connection with the CPA in mid-1960 as ‘an undercover member of the CPA’.. that it is all entirely true.”.A. In The Family File. as is the identity of the source. In other words.77 When The Australian printed “The covert comrades in the ALP”. It is only in this eleventh paragraph that Wheeldon’s name is mentioned. it’s also probably an exaggeration to begin with. to each other piece of evidence that Mark Aarons puts forward in support of his claim that John Wheeldon was a "secret member" of the CPA. the file Aarons cites as proof of Wheeldon’s CPA membership consists of (anonymous) hearsay upon (anonymous) hearsay upon hearsay. But Mark Aarons insists. where the following appears: Source stated that DOWDING was probably exaggerating the situation concerning the degree of organisation of the illegal Apparatus planning in W.79 The name of the ASIO officer who prepared the report is redacted. rather. without qualification.A. together with some unsubstantiated hearsay commentary from an unknown person. they are what the unknown ASIO officer said that the unknown source had said when reporting what one Keith McCallum Dowding was said to have said about John Wheeldon. Underneath these eleven statements that the officer said the source had attributed to Dowding. If you actually look at those files – all of which I have made available online – you can see that the so16 . for the sake of completeness and as briefly as possible. How does that work? The fact is that Mark Aarons simply cannot be trusted to report the ASIO files accurately. The paragraph cited by Mark Aarons is the last of eleven summary statements attributed to Dowding.A.78 What your readers were not told is this: The text referring to John Wheeldon that Aarons cited in The Family File is taken from a June 1960 ASIO case report. Aaron's first piece of evidence is derived from an internal ASIO file.A.. according to the ASIO officer’s account of what his agent said that Dowding had said. he wrote as follows: ASIO established his connection with the CPA in mid-1960 during an investigation into the 'illegal apparatus’: Those concerned with the lower level responsibility in the I. As you can see from the copy of the file that I have made available online80. the words that Mark Aarons cited are not the words of the ASIO officer who prepared the report. So the entire thing is not just triple hearsay with two levels of anonymity and no evidence to support it.P.I will now respond.. [“Illegal apparatus” of the CPA] were still in the process of being selected but amongst those who had given assistance was John WHEELDON who is an undercover member of the C. and even then only in passing.
or are made by ASIO officers in respect of sources’ reports. Peter Dowding. Kim Beazley Sr. so far as practicable. As a matter of fact. I don’t think either of those associates of Keith Dowding is a communist. especially with those running agents. who was unsuccessfully challenged by Dowding for the pre-selection for the seat of Swan in 1958. baseless speculation. for the simple reason that it is patently unreliable. He may not be. either. and it very well may have been commentary added by the anonymous case officer or the anonymous source.82 I stress objectivity because there is a tendency. the ASIO report does suggest that some unknown person. as wall as careful checking with any available collateral material. was a very good friend and close political ally of Wheeldon’s. so whatever friendship or association existed between the two men was short-lived. and for whatever it’s worth. the passage that Aarons cites conveys much less information than a casual reader might think. to think that their agent “must” be reliable. should be obtained or retained by ASIO as a check against what the ASIO officer in due course reports the source has told him. The officer says the source said that Dowding said that Wheeldon had given unspecified “assistance” to Dowding. but reading this document more than half a century after the fact there is no way to know who is responsible for the words “John WHEELDON who is an under cover member of the C. Moreover.. so the fact that John Wheeldon. He may be a clever liar. It is entirely plausible to suspect that it is just gossip. In any event. accepting even "lower level responsibility" in the CPA's apparatus. The statement is not attributed to Dowding himself. of A. had at some point in time expressed the view that John Wheeldon was an “under cover member” of the CPA. for some unknown reason.. was a well-known senior member of the Western Australian ALP. I have no idea – but he was certainly a prominent member in good standing of the ALP. The report of the ASIO officer about what the source has told him itself involves issues of reliability. but without. or it may be nothing but pure. This is what Justice Hope reported in the Royal Commission about ASIO’s use of agent’s reports such as this one: Testing the reliability of the source’s report is a matter calling for the exercise of considerable judgement. as a young ALP man.81 Dowding himself may have had pro-Soviet leanings – maybe Dowding was himself a secret communist. my mother tells me – and I mean no disrespect to the Dowding family – that my father “could not stand” Keith Dowding. Other 17 . innuendo and hearsay that would not be admissible as evidence in any court of law in the civilised world. rather than the unknown author's mere supposition. and there is nothing to suggest that it was a statement based on personal knowledge. Keith Dowding. To be sure. Dowding was also Janet Holmes à Court’s Sunday school teacher.”.called “evidence” he relies on is just gossip. On the other hand. It is anonymous and unsubstantiated and given without any supporting evidence or any basis for assessing its reliability. no foundation is provided for the statement – none.P. and the father of the future premier of Western Australia. also knew Dowding doesn’t make Wheeldon a communist. any notes which are provided by sources. on the other hand. it appears. It is for this reason that. So what if that is true? At the time – 1960 – John Wheeldon was a young lawyer with political aspirations.
in fact.89 In other words. as well as its relevance. Mark reports. Sam knew [Wheeldon's] real status. I do not see how ASIO can place reliance on its agent reports…. and that Stanton sensed this discomfort and made no further mention of my father. a certain Roy Stanton asked Sam Aarons if he had considered asking "Don (John Murray) Wheeldon [sic] to join the Party". Credibility assessments apparently tend to be made subjectively. Appended in the files to this summary transcript is a "comment from source" to the effect that Sam Aarons was "slightly embarrassed" by Stanton's request and "didn't appreciate" that Wheeldon's name had been brought up.90 Sam died in 1971. 18 . Mark Aarons tersely summarises this as follows: As CPA state secretary. and the reliability of their reports.information. but was edited out of “The covert comrades in the ALP” – is taken from an ASIO summary transcript of a conversation Mark’s uncle. Sam's response was that "he was not sure of that set up and as far as he was concerned WHEELDON was quite alright where he was.84 It is my impression that little attention has been devoted by ASIO to testing objectively the credibility of its human sources. yet he wantonly ignore Justice Hope’s clear warnings about the reliability of unsupported agent’s reports. headlined "SOVIET EMBASSY – CONTACT WITH MEMBERS OF FEDERAL PARLIAMENT". including agents. and without having regular assessments made of the agent operations. from independent sources. This tortured interpretation of the evidence is frankly just silly. is needed to establish objectively the truth of any and every agent report. the credibility of information. In fact. Mark Aarons considers that a transcript of a senior CPA member (Sam Aarons) telling a fellow CPA member (Roy Stanton) that John Wheeldon was not a CPA member is evidence that John Wheeldon was. had in 1963 at the Belmont. branch of the CPA88. In the transcript. when Mark was twenty. Instead. It is highly unlikely that Mark and Sam ever discussed John Wheeldon. Such a procedure is fraught with dangers…85 ASIO’s use of intelligence is unprofessional and more attention needs to be paid to assessing the reliability of sources. Aarons simply assumes that whatever is contained in the files that mention John Wheeldon must be true.86 Mark Aarons holds himself out as a reliable interpreter of ASIO documents. In addition he was not reactionary and had quite a good line". Mark makes it clear in his book that he barely knew Sam Aarons: "sadly. even if there is not a single piece of supporting evidence.83 [Emphasis in original] Without checking information supplied by agents against independently verified information. a CPA member. This was two years before the single occasion on which Mark met my father. That he considered this meaningless anecdote worthy of inclusion in his book shows just how weak indeed is Mark Aarons’ evidence. WA. The third piece of evidence Aarons provides is taken from a 1967 ASIO report. Sam Aarons. The second piece of evidence of John Wheeldon’s “secret membership” of the CPA that Mark Aarons provides – this is in his book87. I rarely spent much time with him". on the basis of a judgment by the “agent master” about the character of the agent.
In 1973 I saw your father by chance in Martin Place. as I would know. Given that the whole point of The Australian’s reporting was to show that Wheeldon was a "secret member" of the CPA – a “covert comrade” – the clear insinuation is that John Wheeldon talks to Soviet diplomats and his loyalty to Australia is questionable.. He quietly informed me that he was thoroughly disillusioned with the ALP and that he intended resigning to become the first communist senator. "How are you. A few years later he did the opposite: instead of declaring his long-time communist affiliations. Wheeldon’s response to this – "Oh well. But who is actually compromised in this intercepted conversation? John Wheeldon asks Beliaev if the class struggle is being won "around the corner there". We had a delightful and very friendly conversation for about half an hour. The fourth piece of evidence Aarons cites in his book is a conversation Aarons supposedly had with my father. Your father expressed great disappointment in the direction of the new government and told me that.Aarons cites from this report a summary transcript of a telephone conversation my father had with a certain Vladimir Georgievich Beliaev. his real allegiances lay with my party (I was then a CPA member). After leaving the Senate in 1981 he became an editorial writer for The Australian. Aarons described the encounter further as follows: In the early 1970s my father told me that he had a very close and warm friendship with your father. the insinuation Aarons wishes to convey is clear: John Wheeldon was too chummy with a Soviet official. in 1973. and knowing what my father had said about him. deception and betrayal. presumably a reference to the Soviet Union. Quadrant. stopped him and introduced myself. comrade". it seems reasonable to assume that this was not the first conversation between the two men in which a lack of confidence in Soviet propaganda had been expressed. and also contributed to the anti-communist magazine. What is noteworthy is not Wheeldon’s typically provocative question. I fail to see how this snippet of conversation supports the claim that John Wheeldon was a “covert comrade”. At this time I was already working at the ABC and we talked about what was happening in the Whitlam government. He went on to say that he was so disillusioned with the ALP and the Whitlam government that he was seriously 19 . In an email to me. but rather Beliaev's monosyllabic response: "No". who was also very close to the Communist Party of Australia (CPA).92 But within the context of Aarons’ tales of perfidy. First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy: Senator WHEELDON spoke to BELIAEV.91 Aarons provides no commentary on this particular item. As Aarons tells it in his book: I only met Wheeldon once. Wheeldon went to the Right. and said. we will be some day" – suggests that he was wryly amused but not surprised by Beliaev's response. and WHEELDON then replied. "How is the class struggle proceeding round the corner there. other than to state (quite correctly) that "Wheeldon was an amiable and very witty man with a dry sense of humour".. BELIAEV replied that he was well and WHEELDON then asked. "Oh well we will be some day". are we in front?" BELIAEV said no. Here we have the First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy conceding to a cheeky Australian federal parliamentarian that the class struggle is not being won in the Soviet Union.93 Aarons was 22 in 1973.
He didn’t disclose his damaging revelation when my father was writing for Quadrant or for The Australian. or former Labor colleagues (although he told me that the Labor Caucus made him feel nauseous)… 20 . intelligent. Instead. Chris. a good friend of my father and a prominent figure in the ALP and the trade union movement. No one else is on record as ever having had a remotely similar conversation with John Wheeldon. If he was truly a communist. this was something he never said at any time to his wife of several decades. both of whom invited them to Parliament House for a talk. And Aarons himself has admitted to me by email that “Perhaps your father was pulling my leg about becoming the first communist senator. The fifth piece of evidence cited by Aarons that Wheeldon was a “covert comrade” is a 1971 ASIO report. the former Liberal Party parliamentarian. or to any other family member. or for that matter to his card-carrying communist father-in-law with whom he bitterly argued. as Aarons “would know”. I accept that my father may have expressed to Mark his disappointment in the ALP – he openly expressed that disappointment to anyone who would listen – but the suggestion that he might have said to Aarons that he was. has remarked: [Wheeldon] was above all a free spirit – irrepressible. wrote in Quadrant that the “idea that John Wheeldon toyed with becoming a communist senator sounds and is fanciful”. outspoken. but during the thousands of hours I spent discussing politics with my father over the course of decades he never suggested anything to me that was remotely consistent with what he supposedly told Mark Aarons on the sole occasion he met him. I have no trouble in believing that he had long talks with Laurie Aarons of the Communist party. Michael Easson. But so what if John Wheeldon once had a cup of tea with Laurie Aarons at Parliament House? What on earth does that prove? As Peter Coleman. The report apparently offers no analysis or conclusions but rather contains the following purely factual account: On Wednesday September 29th. Bill Wentworth.considering leaving the ALP and openly joining the CPA to become the first communist senator.R. that Mark Aarons sat on this story for 37 years. or ever having heard him declare an allegiance to the CPA or any other communist organisation.. Aarons very conveniently waited for several decades. but I did not think so at the time”. No one.94 Aarons’ account of this conversation held 37 years earlier beggars belief. wellinformed and very funny. just as he did with Bob Santamaria (to whose magazine he contributed). I was only two years old in 1973.H. or while he was an advisor to Australia's delegation to the United Nations in New York City.96 Bear in mind. until John Wheeldon had died and could no longer contest Aarons’ account or sue for defamation. According to AARONS they were taken to the Dining Room for a cup of tea… Altogether AARONS and TAFT were in Parliament House for about an hour and a half.95 It is Mark Aarons against the world. truly a communist is absurd. and he didn't disclose it while my father was a federal minister. 1971 Laurie… AARONS and Bernie… TAFT… were selling “Tribune” at the People’s Parliament in Canberra. when they were approached by Senator… WHEELDON and Tom… UREN M.
why. and given their previous position to think that everyone is a communist.He was always ready to engage anyone in debate. 98 In a July 2010 interview with Jeff Sparrow of Slow TV99. of agents' reports on Tom Uren's membership. each from 1960. should we pay any particular merit to [ASIO’s] assertions about who in the Labor Party was a Communist and who wasn’t”? Aarons’ response to this question is fascinating: Well. a secret member. “given that level of inaccuracy. As Aarons put it in an article in The Australian a few days after you published “The covert comrades in the ALP”: [I]n Uren's ASIO file I found one agent's report claiming he had been a CPA member from 1948 to 1958. ASIO's coverage of the CPA at this time was ubiquitous. Each of these reports is much less detailed than the ASIO report on 21 .97 Indeed. It is crucial to note that Mark Aarons is absolutely certain that Tom Uren – who joined Laurie Aarons and John Wheeldon for that infamous cup of tea at Parliament House – was never a communist. who you mentioned. Sparrow asked Aarons. I am absolutely convinced that Tom Uren was not a member. mentions explicitly that he was a member for ten years. They are an extraordinary important primary source. “littered with suppositions.. and that would seem to be correct. If that were true there most certainly would have been other reports from that period. but like all primary sources you need to evaluate each document and try to give what is in that document due weight. it was put to Mark Aarons that historical ASIO files are “notoriously inaccurate” and. if not hundreds.102 So there are exactly two reports. Well if that was true. which tangentially refer in an off-hand manner to John Wheeldon as a member of the CPA. and. The cup of tea at Parliament House is. with slander and gossip of the worst kind”. I think that there is an art form in itself to the interpretation of ASIO files. it would have been impossible to hide Uren's "membership" from ever-present agents and telephone bugs. of the Communist Party. and one other anonymous report from 1960 – perhaps overlooked by Aarons – which states without any context or substantiation that “WHEELDON and FORD have been reliably reported as members of the C. as in similar files. the only meeting between the two men recorded anywhere in the ASIO files. What comes through is that if you have an agent who is close to somebody. “Expressions like ‘a reliable source’ are used by ASIO inexactly”. And the only document in his file that says that he was. as Justice Hope noted.”101 No evidence is offered in support of this statement. and that his shop was used as the propaganda depot for the local party branch. And there is none. there would be dozens..P. there is little indication that John Wheeldon and Laurie Aarons ever spent much time together at all. each anonymous and totally lacking in foundation or documentation. My mother tells me that she recalls my father telling her once that he had met Laurie Aarons on a couple of occasions. The official record substantiates Uren's denial. of A. to the best of my knowledge.100 But all there is in John Wheeldon's ASIO file is the Dowding report. as Sparrow put it. you need to try and evaluate the authenticity and professionalism of what that agent is saying… If we take someone like Tom Uren.
so long as it suited your ideological agenda? I have asked Mark to explain why the standard of proof that he applies to Tom Uren does not apply to John Wheeldon. The sixth and final piece of evidence Aarons provides is as follows: Both Wheeldon and Uren became ministers after the 1972 election. and sign your member’s ticket. if not hundreds" of ASIO agents reports on John Wheeldon's CPA membership that Mark Aarons insists must exist if Wheeldon was in fact a secret member of the CPA? Did you ever ask Mark that question? Or did you just publish whatever garbage he handed you. or that he otherwise ever engaged in any activity that would amount to membership of a communist organisation. affirm your willingness to abide by the party’s rules. that it is not even clear what he means when he writes that John Wheeldon was a “secret member” of the CPA. arousing ASIO's deep suspicions about communist influence in the Whitlam government. or elsewhere. and used it as the basis for a partisan attack on the ALP. or that he ever paid dues to the CPA or any other communist group. That’s the entirety of what Mark Aarons relied on as proof of John Wheeldon’s secret membership of the Communist Party of Australia. and when pressed. while he is absolutely certain that Tom Uren was not. there is not a single human being – living or dead – other than Mark Aarons who claims to have heard John Wheeldon declare himself to be a member of the CPA or any communist organisation. there is no evidence anywhere – none – that John Wheeldon ever attended a communist party meeting of any kind. Mark Aarons’ case is so incoherent. or that he ever carried a member’s ticket. Chris. but he has refused to answer me. of the Communist Party of Australia or of any other communist organisation. this claim is nothing more than a lie. To the best of my knowledge.Tom Uren that Aarons has referred to: the Uren report at least proposed specific dates of Uren’s membership of the CPA and referred to specific acts that Uren supposedly took in connection with this alleged CPA membership. Yet for some reason Mark Aarons is absolutely certain that John Wheeldon was a secret member of the CPA. You commence membership when you pay your dues. which requires neither holding a membership card nor attending meetings. he tells me via email – but not his readers or The Australian’s – that when speaking of John Wheeldon he has used his own private definition of party membership. And The Australian unquestioningly accepted and republished everything that Aarons said.103 As noted above. tell me please where are the "dozens. But nowhere is there a single piece of evidence either in John Wheeldon’s slender ASIO file. that would be admissible in a court of law that suggests or indicates that Wheeldon was ever a member. then how can you be said to be a member of the party? Membership of a political party consists of undertaking specific acts. Chris. In an email to me. So far as I am aware. 22 . But again this is just silly – if you don’t attend meetings or carry a membership card. But Aarons has no evidence that John Wheeldon ever did any of these things. secret or otherwise. Aarons said that Wheeldon was “a CPA member who could never openly attend meetings or formally carry a membership card”. or that he ever pledged allegiance to the CPA or any communist group.
as noted above. If Fairfax were a responsible news organisation. Again. his competence and honesty have been called into question on numerous occasions. in April 2011 the Fairfax press ran a pair of articles about John Wheeldon on front-pages across Australia. Third. he gets his hands on official documents. with whom he entered into an arrangement that apparently gave him some sort of exclusivity to Wikileaks material. he is especially known for investigative journalism efforts to discredit the government 23 . according to Merchant.110 I can only imagine that Mr Baker tolerates Dr Dorling because Dorling’s instinct for the sensational and his willingness to bend the truth in pursuit of a story sells papers. and how irresponsible it is for them to give Dorling free reign.109 He receives other documents directly from government on the basis of freedom of information requests. And it seems the AFP has on a couple of occasions suspected that he has obtained official documents illegally. it seems they were seeking to trace the source of some leaked documents. Dr Dorling then proceeds to misrepresent their contents for salacious and sensational effect. Australia’s Deputy Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. As noted above. By his own admission. Second. it would realise how dangerous a buffoon such as Dorling is to their reputation. having obtained his documents. although. specialising in analysis of official secrets.104 Dr Dorling has a background. The AFP raided his house again in 2008 in another apparent quest for leaked documents. and. Stephen Merchant. Merchant explained that the original articles pertaining to DSD's alleged involvement in spying on the minister were penned by Canberra Times journalist Philip Dorling. he has never been charged with any offence. He has received many documents from Julian Assange.105 The AFP had raided his house as part of what Dr Dorling describes as a “witch-hunt”.108 Dr Dorling’s method is simple: First. is no stranger to yellow journalism. he became “quite unemployable” in Canberra after he was “set upon by the Australian Federal Police” in 2000. Dorling. Mark Baker of Fairfax told me that Dr Dorling is “an employee of Fairfax and a very experienced and highly-regarded one”. spoke to US embassy officials to “emphatically deny” the substance of some adverse reporting by Dr Dorling: Merchant intimated the episode was a fabrication by a journalist [Dr Dorling] known for distorting the truth… Mr. Fairfax is quite okay with Dr Dorling’s methods. contrary to Baker’s assertion that Dorling is “highly regarded”. In a recent email to me. Dr Dorling routinely misleads his readers. no charges were laid.Unfortunately. Dr Dorling set himself up as a journalist in 2008. According to a 2009 US embassy cable that was released by Wikileaks. I think Fairfax’s tolerance betrays poor judgment. Fairfax Media’s Dr Philip Dorling had picked up Mark Aarons’ slippery ball and ran with it. it is not only The Australian that has acted dishonestly in its recent reporting on John Wheeldon.107 Unable to find work in Canberra.106 No charges were laid. he then hoards the documents and does what he can to prevent any independent scrutiny or review of his work.
It is self-evidently dishonest and unethical for Fairfax not to disclose to its readers the inherent conflict of interest that arises when a journalist such as Dr Dorling reports on events in which Dr Dorling himself plays a central role. “US calls Assange ‘enemy of state’”.. I read in your newspaper. especially with regard to defense and intelligence issues. and I find it disappointing but unsurprising to hear of Baker’s breezy attitude towards Dorling’s ethical lapses as regards reporting on the WikiLeaks cables. is the fact that Fairfax allowed Dr Dorling himself to report on this very cable some months earlier. He quite specifically accused Dr Dorling of “yellow journalism”."111 The contents of this cable only came to light when Wikileaks itself made it available in August 2011. Dorling cherry-picked the cable to make it appear as anodyne as possible. Dorling’s thesis is that documents he had obtained show that the “US military 24 . Chris. it seems that Dr Dorling sometimes misleads through simple incompetence rather than intentionally. and Baker seems to have no issue with Dr Dorling’s conflicted reporting. To be fair.(regardless of the party in power). on 14 December 2010. As the headline suggests. Mr. The result is the same. [but] other aspects of the press articles pertaining to the 16-year relationship between Fitzgibbon and Australian based. but has buried such admissions at the end of long pieces. Instead of telling his readers the truth. Here is how Dr Dorling reported on that cable: Mr Merchant also criticised Fairfax journalists. ‘‘Mr Merchant was deliberate and emphatic in stressing the history of sensational media reporting. and Dorling did so without so much as mentioning the sharp personal criticisms levelled directly against him. which he described as an example of “outright fiction in the form of ‘mischief making’”. specifically drawing a line between a media culture of selective "leaks" versus outright fiction in the form of "mischief making. however: he deceives his readers and misses the true story. in reporting on the cable Dorling selectively quoted the document in order to avoid any indication that he had been personally criticised and so as to generally present himself and his reporting in the least unfavourable light. Instead. however. he has been flippant about Dorling’s defects as a journalist. Merchant was deliberate--and emphatic--in stressing the history of sensational media reporting. He's begun admitting in his more recent articles that he was wrong about the DSD angle. that Mark Baker had defended Dr Dorling’s reporting on this cable. What is truly amazing.113 If that is the case. published in the Sydney Morning Herald under the headline. Merchant did not criticise “Fairfax journalists”. and Merchant “made a point of differentiating this episode”. then Mr Baker obviously does not understand the basic ethical obligations of a journalist. He's been proven wrong in several of his investigative journalist forays. In my dealings with Mr Baker. he criticised exactly one Fairfax journalist – Dr Philip Dorling.. And Merchant did not merely refer to a general history of sensational media reporting. A typical example of Dr Dorling’s bungling is his 27 September 2012 effort. Chinese born Helen Liu aka Liu Haiyan remain noteworthy.’’112 That is an egregious and wilful misrepresentation of what the cable said. He made a point of differentiating this episode from other stories.
One would have thought that a serious news organisation would want to get this story right. the US government’s theory. misrepresent their contents and then try to hide them from inspection – when he decided to write about John Wheeldon.114 Dorling’s article is sheer bunkum and twaddle.116 It reflects poorly on Fairfax Media that their designated expert on all things WikiLeaks – Dr Phillip Dorling – has such a shaky grasp of the basic facts relating to the situation. as reflected in the documents that were the subject of his article. more competent journalists had accurately reported about the case more than a year and half earlier. Manning knew that the information communicated could ultimately be made public by WikiLeaks and thereby indirectly made available to “the enemy”. it had already been common knowledge and the subject of a great deal of press comment around the world for more than a year and a half – since March 2011.e.115 It is well known to people who have been following the story that the controversial legal theory underpinning Manning’s prosecution is an argument that when Manning gave material to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. is not that Assange or WikiLeaks are themselves the “enemy” for the purposes of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Dr Dorling’s only detectable motive was prurience and sensationalism. as a reading of the relevant statute makes clear.has designated Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as enemies of the United States – the same legal category as the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban insurgency”. Fairfax papers around Australia published not one but two articles by Dr Dorling that were based on his analysis of the recently released ASIO files that I discussed above relating to Sir Charles Spry’s 1 February 1968 briefing of John Gorton about Cecile Arnaud and John Wheeldon. indirect communication with the enemy. Aarons probably set out to boost the reputation of his father Laurie at the expense of my father. At the time Dr Dorling wrote his article. Contrary to Dr Dorling’s assertion. 25 . which is a capital offence. Julian Assange is not the “enemy” referred to in the charges laid against military personnel who have given information to WikiLeaks. namely that the US government might consider a leak of a military secret to any person (whether Wikileaks or The New York Times) to amount to indirect communication with the enemy. Dr Dorling’s entire article is based on ignorance of the law and what other. Dr Dorling intentionally misrepresented the substance of the ASIO files and failed to disclose material that did not support his chosen narrative. to be precise – that Manning has been charged with the offence of “aiding the enemy”. On 23 April 2011. based on abject ignorance of widely reported aspects of the legal theory behind WikiLeaks-related prosecution of Private Bradley Manning. i. he is merely the conduit for the information passing to America’s enemies. Thus in an effort to grasp a sensational but false story – US calls Assange an enemy of the state!!! – Dr Dorling and his handlers at Fairfax completely missed the less sensational but much more important true story. al Qaeda or the Taliban. which includes not only direct communication with the enemy but also. So it is absolutely untrue to say that the US has designated Assange or WikiLeaks as an “enemy of the state”. Dr Dorling followed his standard MO – get some documents. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are the enemy.117 Just as Mark Aarons had done before him. But neither Aarons nor Dorling could be said to have acted in furtherance of anything that could be considered a serious or good faith exploration of the real and substantial issues raised by the ASIO materials.
unethical and untrustworthy. Gorton’s defence of Wheeldon against Spry was explicitly discussed in an obituary that Fairfax itself published for John Wheeldon in 2006. The 1974 Minute Paper destroys the entire foundation of Dorling’s silly theory. dishonest. by 1977 ASIO itself considered Spry’s claims to be unworthy of even a mention as part of a review of Wheeldon’s file. Gorton’s position as regards Wheeldon and Spry is very well known: Wheeldon was Gorton’s friend.118 Fourth. Chris. Dorling does not acknowledge that it has been known for years that Spry had tried to smear John Wheeldon. a person used to identify and study individuals who may be recruited as intelligence sources – an agent-navodchik. It is prominently located in Ms Arnaud’s file. Dorling is a coward: he would never have dared to make such a preposterous accusation during my father’s lifetime. Second. or that it is also common knowledge that Sir John Gorton defended John Wheeldon against Spry. Dorling concludes: Certainly Wheeldon's involvement with Arnaud appears consistent with the role of an intelligence ''talent scout''. Dorling presents every statement attributed to Ms Arnaud as certain truth. nowhere in the thousands of words Dorling spends discussing John Wheeldon across two articles does he even mention the Hope Royal Commission or its adverse findings against Sir Charles Spry. I strongly urge him to commence a defamation action against me so that we can settle it in a court of law – but I’ll just list a few points: First. but Dorling dishonestly implies that ASIO as of 1977 still thought there was something to it. and Dorling deliberately ignored it when he was writing his hatchet-job. 26 . this is what Dr Dorling tells his readers: Whether Gorton was tempted to exploit the affair to embarrass the Labor Party is not known. Clearly. in the operational parlance of the KGB. Third. Dorling unquestioningly assumes the validity of Spry’s failed smear job. but it was ignored by Dorling. What a ridiculous statement from this wanna-be James Bond. As discussed above. That is utter drivel.119 He does not tell his readers that this review does not so much as refer to Spry’s accusations against Wheeldon. Thoroughly embracing Spry and his discredited methods. Instead. Dorling makes a misleading reference in his articles to an August 1977 “records review” by ASIO of Wheeldon’s file. and he dishonestly fails to acknowledge the existence of the June 1974 ASIO Minute Paper discussed above. that was an unjustified overreach by federal security authorities – a “witch-hunt” as he put it. and Gorton thought Spry was an unreliable “stumble bum”.Strangely. Instead. I won’t waste your time with a detailed rebuttal of each of Dorling’s misstatements – if he disputes the reasonableness of my characterisation of him as incompetent. Dr Dorling would have us all believe that when the Australian Federal Police twice obtained search-warrants for his own premises. But he nonetheless presents every last smear and innuendo contained in the ASIO files that mention John Wheeldon as truth.
he was only interested in maximising the sensational impact of his slanderous attack on John Wheeldon’s integrity. even if John Wheeldon did have a physical relationship with Ms Arnaud. Philip Dorling is an unethical coward. Dorling’s facile slanders are simple to demolish. falsely describing Ms Arnaud as a “diplomat” adds some lustre to his breathless tale of cloak-and-dagger shenanigans. His only political view on issues such as divorce or adultery was that regulation of private household matters was in no way the business of the secular state. Of course I never heard another word from him. which is far from proven. So contrary to Dr Dorling’s salacious insinuations. he lied to his readers and obscured facts in order to minimise the damage to his own reputation. 27 . in no way did this relationship amount to a betrayal of anyone. when he must know that there is no basis in the evidence to say that with certainty. I actually had a telephone conversation with your reporter Sid Maher sometime after Dorling published his hit-pieces on John Wheeldon. when her ASIO file makes it abundantly clear that she was no such thing. or even to discuss the issues with any degree of diligence or honesty. when he reported on declassified documents in which Senator John Wheeldon was mentioned. I consider his deliberate efforts to evade scrutiny of his research to be inconsistent with responsible journalism. Dorling repeatedly implied in his articles that John Wheeldon was a liar and a moral hypocrite. Clearly he had no interest in giving a balanced account. he again lied to his readers and obscured facts – but this time in order to bolster his fatuous claims of a “sex-espionage scandal”. Dorling repeatedly says that Cecile Arnaud was a “diplomat”. And I am absolutely disgusted. John Wheeldon was separated from his first wife and had not met his second wife when he met Ms Arnaud. that you and your newspaper have allowed this incompetent. Chris. and he explicitly says that Wheeldon was involved in a “in a sex-espionage scandal”. dishonest buffoon to defame John Wheeldon with impunity. despite referring to me by name in one of his articles. Sixth. or a lie. Of course. On the other hand. Dr Dorling made no effort to obtain my views on the matter. or scandalous behaviour of either a public or personal nature. Dorling’s insinuations that Wheeldon was a hypocrite are despicable and cowardly. yet The Australian has not made the least effort to defend the reputation of its former senior editorialist. Seventh. Dorling’s sensational and salacious intent is as obvious as his disregard for the truth. Eighth. Further. When he reported on the classified US embassy cable in which he himself was mentioned. Wheeldon was not a scold. Dr Dorling has refused even to tell me what documentary materials he used in preparing his articles.120 I cannot conceive of any honest explanation for how Dr Dorling got such a basic fact wrong. I am not saying that there was no affair – I don’t know what happened – but I do say that it was dishonest for Dr Dorling to represent to his readers that the files established this as a certain fact.Fifth. and Sid said he would get back to me about doing a story responding to what Dorling had written about The Australian’s former Associate Editor. Dorling says that John Wheeldon “quickly embarked on an affair” with Ms Arnaud.
I am depressed and appalled by what this whole affair says about the state of journalism in Australia today. It is hard to imagine a more serious set of charges that could be levelled against a public servant. he took what can fairly be described as a very intellectually honest position.121 Kim Beazley Jr agreed: He was a politician of a completely different era. Faulkner went on to say that “John Wheeldon did not apply his extraordinary talents with discipline and dedication” and that he “did not fulfil his political promise”. You – the Australian print media – have made Wheeldon out to be a charlatan and a traitor. and nor am I saying that it is wrong to speak ill of the dead.Chris. what chance does any ordinary citizen have when you – the print media – will so casually defame a man such as John Wheeldon? While I thoroughly disagree with the concept of press regulation.125 Faulkner’s criticisms strike me as entirely appropriate sorts of things to say about a public figure – a politician – when summing up his career for the benefit of Hansard. opinion… He thought about every issue on its merits”. Both Fairfax Media and The Australian have portrayed John Wheeldon as a fundamentally dishonest and deceptive man who lied about his political beliefs for decades. I understand the sentiment of those who are repelled by your wanton disregard for the truth and feel that you – the print media – can not be trusted to deal honestly with important issues.124 I am not suggesting that Wheeldon had a perfect reputation. 28 . with a completely different standard of intellectual honesty and an absolute determination to be his own man and to speak his own mind. Wheeldon “would be considered more a dilettante. undisciplined. And this about a man who was himself a senior journalist and politician. Although I naturally did not share all of his positions on the issues on which he spoke. less than engaged in the political process and more carping than constructive in his criticism of colleagues and party”. or even the career-advancing. Prime Minister Howard told Parliament after John Wheeldon’s death: [John Wheeldon] was in every sense of the word an independent intellect. and said that he was “never a man to hold a fashionable. 123 As noted above. Senator John Faulkner. There has not been the least attempt by any of you to engage seriously or honestly with the underlying documents or the issues raised. when speaking to the Senate’s condolence motion.122 Tony Abbott said he was a man “of rare moral courage” who “annoyed lesser men because he thought that truth was more important than diplomacy”. Greg Sheridan spoke of Wheeldon’s “unshakable moral courage”. and a personal friend of Rupert Murdoch. but by all accounts he was particularly regarded for his intellectual honesty. said that as his political career lengthened. He was a human being and he had his faults. And your slanders of John Wheeldon are all the more degrading of what passes for serious political discussion in this country in that it is hard to think of any Australian politician who has had a better reputation for frankness and honesty in his conduct and in his political speech than Wheeldon did. You could not predict him. You and Fairfax have insinuated that he was effectively an agent of the Soviet Union.
and I cannot begin to convey my disgust that The Australian would be such an enthusiastic participant in the whole fraudulent performance. 126 My aim here. of all men. but it is outrageous that he should be so grossly defamed. Peter Coleman said it best: It is disappointing that The Australian has remained silent on the revival by the Fairfax papers of the scandalous allegation that the late John Wheeldon — for 14 years The Australian’s principal adviser on foreign affairs and one of Rupert Murdoch’s sources on Australian politics — had been a Soviet spy. Indeed. or to argue that adverse yet honest press coverage of public figures is inappropriate. I disagreed with Wheeldon on many issues. discredited evidence to do so. not to mention the Murdoch press…. it is just contemptible that a pair of hacks like Mark Aarons and Dr Dorling would have set out to slander John Wheeldon. is not to say that my father was beyond reproach. Chris.127 It’s over to you now.But Senator Faulkner also acknowledged that Wheeldon “held strong views and beliefs and he had the courage to express those views… He was his own man”. NY 10036 United States of America Mr Kim Williams Chief Executive Officer News Limited 2 Holt Street Surry Hills NSW 2010 Mr Paul Kelly Editor-at-Large The Australian 2 Holt Street Surry Hills NSW 2010 29 . if not the world: a Soviet agent in the Senate. as dishonest. in the Whitlam ministry and in the United Nations. Wheeldon must have been one of the greatest spies in Australia. and that they would have used such pathetic. Chris. but rather to point out that the claims of your newspaper and of the Fairfax press that Wheeldon lied for years about his true beliefs and true allegiances contradicts his universal reputation among his colleagues. Yours faithfully James Wheeldon cc: Mr Rupert Murdoch Chairman and Chief Executive Officer News Corporation 1211 Avenue of the Americas New York. if you follow the Fairfax papers. At a time when honesty in politics is in such short supply.
danbymp.au/national/the-labor-senator-the-french-consort-and-the-kgb-20110422-1drjf. The Sydney Morning Herald. Available online at: http://www.au/national/spies-lies-and-archives-20110422-1drfm.au/national/senators-redsinbeds-foreign-affair-20110422-1drj3.com.au/pm/content/2010/s2945312.com/doc/133796755/Greg-Sheridan-Wheeldon-Obit “A secret past worth uncovering”. the Fourth Report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security (“RCIS”). Available on the internet at: http://www. Vol III at paragraphs 491 – 492. 22 April 2011.theaustralian. The Saturday Age.gov.com/recent/1548-assange-more-bazza-mckenzie-than-bakunin.theaustralian. Available online at: http://www. Available online at: http://www. by Philip Dorling.com. This article had the all caps strapline: “REVEALED: SECRET ASIO FILES EXPOSE AUSTRALIA’S OWN ‘PROFUMO AFFAIR’”. The Australian.au/help/editorial-code-of-conduct See for example “Former ALP minister Arthur Gietzelt's alleged secret life”.html “Spies.scribd.com. paragraph 491 Fourth Report of the RCIS. on the occasion of the public release of the records of the RCIS.com/watch?v=KjmjqlOPd6A Fourth Report of the RCIS.smh.naa.youtube. by Philip Dorling. See http://www.com/doc/134563028/Article-for-Fairfax-20-June-J-Wheeldon Email from Mark Baker to James Wheeldon.com. 22 April 2011. spies and Labor senator exposed in security files”. at paragraph 719.pdf and at http://www.theaustralian. 1 May 2011.smh.com. Available online at: http://www. paragraph 492. Available online at: http://www. Fourth Report of the RCIS. The Australian. intelligence remembered”. 5 July 2010.html “Sex.theage.au/collection/publications/papers-andpodcasts/intelligence-and-security/rcis-brownbill. The Australian. Email from Mark Baker to James Wheeldon.theaustralian. Vol III. See “The RCIS – An insider’s perspective”. Vol III. the French consort and the KGB”. Available online at: http://www. See http://www. 24 June 2011.html#ixzz2PJQIt4sR 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 - 10 See. Vol III. former Secretary to the RCIS. PM. The Sydney Morning Herald.Endnotes 1 “The covert comrades in the ALP”.au/news/features/former-alp-minister-arthur-gietzelts-alleged-secretlife/story-e6frg6z6-1226547567267 The headlines chosen by Fairfax for these articles hints at the sensational impact that was sought: “The Labor senator.au/national-affairs/fairfax-got-its-facts-wrong-reporting-from-wikileaks-cable/storyfn59niix-1225972992028 http://www. lies and archives”. Transcript available online at: http://www. ABC Radio.cablegatesearch. 22 April 2011.scribd.com.com. an address by Mr George Brownbill. by Philip Dorling. for example: http://www. for example.htm 30 . Email from Mark Baker to James Wheeldon. by Greg Sheridan.gov. editorial. 26 May 2006.theage. Available online at: http://www.php?id=09CANBERRA336 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Email from James Wheeldon to Gail Hambly.html “A complete original with wit and wisdom”. general counsel of Fairfax Media.au/news/National/Wheeldons-wit-intelligence-remembered/2006/06/02/1148956534878.com.aspx Interview of Mark Aarons by Mark Colvin. 3 July 2010.au/national/sex-spies-and-labor-senator-exposed-in-security-files-201104221drgh. by Mark Aarons. The Australian.theage.au/collection/publications/papers-and-podcasts/intelligence-and-security/rcis-brownbill. See for example http://www.theaustralian. Available online at: http://www. 5 January 2013. Available online at: http://www. The Sydney Morning Herald.net.aspx “Wheeldon’s wit. 2 June 2006.html “Senator's reds-in-beds foreign affair”.com.au/opinion/editorials/a-secret-past-worth-uncovering/story-e6frg71x-1225888697123 See http://www.smh.abc.com. 7 July 2010. 29 June 2011.com.naa. 22 April 2011.net/cable. by Troy Bramston.au/frontpage/2011/04/23/frontpage. 29 June 2011.au/opinion/the-covert-comrades-in-the-alp/story-e6frg6zo-1225887087909 See. The Saturday Age.html http://www. by Philip Dorling.
Black Inc.com/clq2knf See. 3 November 2010.com/cck5c4m “WHEELDON. p. Available online at: http://tinyurl.htm The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate. Available online at: http://tinyurl. 2010. in The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate. Available online at: http://tinyurl. 54. ex-Labor. Hodder. The Family File. Available online at: http://tinyurl.com/doc/133796755/Greg-Sheridan-Wheeldon-Obit Mark Aarons. Ibid. 10 September 1969. ex-Liberal.scribd. p.com/cpqf4s9 Senate Hansard. The Sydney Morning Herald. 30 March 1966. Wheeldon’s 1997 address to the Samuel Griffith Society. for example.com/cb6njsk Senate Hansard. 1988.scribd.G. 27 March 1969. 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 31 .gov. 9 October 1968.22 “John Wheeldon.com/doc/133778819/Cecile-Arnaud-Hartmann-ASIO-File Arnaud File. Senate Hansard of 27 August 1968. Ann Millar and Geoffrey Browne (eds). Available on the internet at: http://www. Available online at: http://tinyurl. Available online at: http://www. by James McLelland.com/doc/133776920/Hansard-Houseof-Reps-Condolences The Witless Men. I have uploaded a copy of the Arnaud File as made available through the naa. 30 May 2006. 18 November 1965. pp 190-192 See Notes of Discussion: Prime Minister. 19 March 1969. 12 September 1968. by Barry Cohen. For ease of reference. Available online at: http://tinyurl.html This file (the “Arnaud File”) is accessible through the National Archives website. Mr J. GORTON / Director-General of Security. p 517. Senate Hansard. The Drum Opinion. Available online at: http://tinyurl. Available online at: http://www. p ix. for example. “In defence of I.com/d2x33p9 “A complete original with wit and wisdom”.scribd. 2010. University of New South Wales. 2002. ex-Labor. House of Representatives Hansard. “Federalism: One of Democracy’s Best Friends”.net. Quoted in Peter Butt.. is still a moving target”. 26 May 2006.abc. p.com/bm3m9f5 Senate Hansard. Available online at: http://tinyurl. Arnaud File. 1975. p.com/doc/133776928/Hansard-SenateCondolences “John Wheeldon.au/papers/html/volume8/v8chap9. pp 192. See. ex-Liberal.scribd. 24 April 1986. 6 September 1967.com/clq2knf Senate Hansard. Available online at: http://tinyurl. Vol 3. 24 April 1986. Available online at: http://www. John Gorton: He Did It His Way.com/doc/133778069/Spry-Memo-12-September-1968 John Gorton: He Did It His Way.au/unleashed/40694.com/cqqkbae Senate Hansard. is still a moving target”. Available online at: http://tinyurl.com/d937sbg Senate Hansard. Arnaud File. Sun Books. Spry”. 34.samuelgriffith. For a thorough discussion of this incident. p 78 Senate Hansard.com/d2x33p9 Senate Hansard. 41. 41. Available online at: http://www. by Bobbie Oliver. The Australian.scribd. 17 May 1967. Available online at: http://tinyurl. see Ian Hancock.com/bw4vwub House of Representatives Hansard. by Greg Sheridan.au website at the following address: http://www. Available online at http://www. Penguin Books. The Sydney Morning Herald. p 75. pp 515-6. pp 517-8. 5 November 1968. Arnaud File. 30 May 2006. Vol 3. Don Whitington.org.com/cvtmxl4 After the Party. John Murray (1929-2006)”. by James McLelland. Senate Hansard. Available online at: http://tinyurl. 19 March 1969. Available online at: http://tinyurl.com/ca88yc4 The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate.
scribd..smh. p 3. “The covert comrades in the ALP”.html?page=fullpage “The covert comrades in the ALP”. See for example Arnaud File at pages 29-31. Volume III. Available online at: http://www. Ibid. at paragraph 219. ibid. Spry Note. 18. p 302. The following account of Keith Dowding’s career is taken from “Crusader for politics of good”. See.. A heavily redacted version of Spry’s note to Gorton is contained in the Arnaud File at pp 29-31.smh. Available online at: http://www. 30 May 2006. See for example Arnaud File at p. available online at: http://www. obituary. Spry Note. p 3.55 56 57 58 59 See for example Arnaud File at pages 66-68.html Ibid. Vol 3. obituary.com/doc/133776920/Hansard-Houseof-Reps-Condolences See for example “Erudite senator from the Whitlam days”.au/news/obituaries/crusader-for-politics-ofgood/2008/10/06/1223145260054.scribd. p 28. I have made a less heavily redacted version of the note (the “Spry Note”) available online at: http://www.com/doc/133776928/Hansard-SenateCondolences “Erudite senator from the Whitlam days”. Available online at: http://www. 30 May 2006.com/doc/133785471/Sam-AaronsASIO-File Sam Aarons File. Ibid. The Sydney Morning Herald. at paragraph 221. p 3. The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 May 2006.com. Available online at: http://www. Spry Note.com.scribd. ibid. House of Representatives Hansard. for example. at paragraph 582.au/news/obituaries/erudite-senator-from-the-whitlamdays/2006/05/28/1148754869322. Arnaud File.html?page=fullpage The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate.com.com/doc/133781898/John-Wheeldon-ASIO-File See for example the Wheeldon File at p 15. Spry Note.scribd. at p 520.scribd. obituary. Ibid.smh. This Minute Paper is contained in the Arnaud File at p 14. RCIS Fourth Report. p 2. I have made this file (the “Sam Aarons File”) available on the internet at: http://www. The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate. The Wheeldon File at p 21. I have uploaded the Minute Paper separately at: http://www. The Sydney Morning Herald. The Family File. at paragraph 722. 2010. 29 May 2006. ibid. Black Inc. House of Representatives Hansard. p 3. 7 October 2008.au/news/obituaries/erudite-senator-from-the-whitlamdays/2006/05/28/1148754869322.com/doc/133780635/Spry-Note-forGorton-1-February-1968 Spry Note. Available online at: http://www. The Family File. at p 520.com/doc/133781371/ASIO-Minute-Paper-24-June-1974 I have John Wheeldon’s ASIO file (the “Wheeldon File”). as made publicly available through the National Archives’ website. at paragraph 179. 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 32 .scribd.
html See Dorling’s address to “Recordkeeping Roundtable” referred to in endnote 105 above. 17 July 2010.co. The Sydney Morning Herald.com. Quadrant.87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 The Family File.theaustralian. 27 September 2012.org/cable/2009/04/09CANBERRA336.au/technology/technology-news/how-i-met-julian-assange-andsecured-the-american-embassy-cables-20101210-18sxj. The Family File. Available online at: http://www.smh. Available online at: http://www. by Charlie Savage. “The covert comrades in the ALP”.com. Available online at: http://www.au/national/fitzgibbons-fall-declared-a-blessing-in-disguise20101213-18vjw. p 302.theaustralian. Available online at: http://www. See the Wheeldon File.uk/australia/6163618/australian-notes-92/ Mark Aarons. 23 September 2008.smh. Peter Coleman. p 303. 6 July 2010. Michael Easson. Available online at: http://www. The Family File p 304.au/magazine/issue/2010/9/red-confession-with-a-twist Email from Mark Aarons to James Wheeldon. The Age. by Philip Dorling. 11 December 2010. “Secrets.au/national/secrets-lies-and-perils-of-a-whistleblower-20120217-1tecx.html “Fitzgibbon’s fall declared a blessing in disguise”. p 40. 14 December 2010. 106 107 108 109 “How I met Julian Assange and secured the American embassy cables”.html Email from Mark Baker to James Wheeldon. says WikiLeaks cable”.com.spectator. The Australian. Available online at: http://www. p 47. Available online at: http://www. The Sydney Morning Herald. 6 July 2010. RCIS Fourth Report. 18 February 2012. whistleblowing. Email from Mark Aarons to James Wheeldon. Available online at: http://www. access to information and the behaviour of governments”.html See for example the following detailed report published in The New York Times on 2 March 2011.com. “Australian Notes”. The Family File. by Sid Maher. The Australian. 31 August 2011. See Sam Aarons File.scribd.com. p 302.au/opinion/political-news/us-calls-assange-enemy-of-state-20120927-26m7s. at p 2. Transcript of talk by Dr Philip Dorling from a “Recordkeeping Roundtable” panel discussion. p 302.html “Fairfax reporter was often ‘proven wrong’. 110 111 “AUSTRALIAN DEPSEC DENIES DSD INVESTIGATED DEFENSE MINISTER FITZGIBBON”. 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 “Philip Dorling on leaks.au/opinion/holes-in-carrs-revisionist-history/story-e6frg6zo-1225888685802 Available online at: http://blip. The Sydney Morning Herald.theage.html “Police raid journalist’s home”. Available online at: http://www. 27 March 2013.tv/slowtv/mark-aarons-on-his-family-file-3935335 Ibid.com. by Philip Dorling and Nick McKenzie. dated 3 April 2009. lies and the perils of a whistleblower”. Available online at: http://wikileaks.au/media/fairfax-reporter-was-often-proven-wrong-says-wikileaks-cable/storye6frg996-1226125913098 “US calls Assange ‘enemy of state’”. some 19 months before Dorling’s muddle-headed analysis of the same issue: “Soldier faces 22 new WikiLeaks charges”. “Red Confession with a Twist”. The Family File. Wheeldon File.smh. The New 112 113 114 115 33 . September 2010. “Covert comrades in the ALP”. p 40. Available online at: http://www. February 29 2012. The Spectator. archives. 7 July 2010. See endnote 9 above. The Sydney Morning Herald.quadrant.au/news/national/police-raid-journalists-home/2008/09/23/1221935609095. The Family File. US Embassy cable released through WikiLeaks. Vol III at paragraph 581.com.org.com/doc/133791999/Philip-Dorling-on-Leaks-Whistleblowing-Archives-Access-to-Information Philip Dorling. by Philip Dorling. “Holes in Carr's revisionist history”.smh.
Available online at: http://www.com/doc/133776920/Hansard-Houseof-Reps-Condolences House of Representatives Hansard.scribd. Arnaud File at p 41. 30 May 2006. Available online at: http://www. 30 May 2006. 117 118 “Erudite senator from the Whitlam days”.uk/australia/6919253/australian-notes-52/ 34 . Available on the internet at: http://www.spectator. 30 May 2006.com/doc/133776920/Hansard-Houseof-Reps-Condolences “A complete original with wit and wisdom”.html?pagewanted=all See endnote 9 above.scribd. by Bill Keller. 119 120 In her ASIO file. a “novelist” and a “secretary” – but never once as a diplomat.nytimes. Ms Arnaud is variously described as a “journalist”.co. obituary.nytimes.York Times.com/2013/03/11/opinion/keller-private-mannings-confidant. Available online at: http://www.com/doc/133796755/Greg-Sheridan-Wheeldon-Obit Senate Hansard.com/doc/133776920/Hansard-Houseof-Reps-Condolences House of Representatives Hansard.com/doc/133776928/Hansard-Senate-Condolences Senate Hansard. 13 June 2006. “Australian Notes”.com/doc/133776928/Hansard-Senate-Condolences 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 Peter Coleman. 29 May 2006. In fact the file expressly states that she “was in no way a regular member of the French Foreign Service”. The Australian.scribd.html?page=fullpage The ASIO security review document can be found in the Wheeldon file at p 20. Available online at: http://www. by Greg Sheridan.html?_r=2&ref=us&&pagewanted=all 116 See for example “Private Manning’s Confidant”. 10 March 2013. Available online at http://www. Available online at http://www. Available online at: http://www. a “writer”. House of Representatives Hansard.com/2011/03/03/us/03manning. 26 May 2006. The New York Times.scribd.au/news/obituaries/erudite-senator-from-the-whitlamdays/2006/05/28/1148754869322.scribd. 2 March 2011. Available online at http://www. The Spectator. 7 May 2011.smh.scribd. The Sydney Morning Herald. Available online at: http://www. 13 June 2006.com.
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