Media Watch: TT’s false facts fuel fear

Episode 37, 24 October 2011

With the government’s policy in chaos, a hundred and thirty-eight more asylum-seekers arrived at Christmas Island over the weekend. But why is it such a huge political issue?

Partly, at least, because many Australians believe that boat-people are being treated far too generously.

If you’ve just watched Sarah Ferguson’s 4 Corners report on the effects of detention, you might find that hard to believe. But far more people watch Seven’s Today Tonight. And get a very different picture.

According to TT, asylum-seekers and refugees live in luxury, costing the taxpayer squillions. Two weeks ago, they served up this:

Kylie Gillies: First tonight our investigation into how the Government is putting out the welcome mat for refugees. We’ve gone inside the so called ‘refugee resort’ where there’s no wire fencing, there’s no bars, and the inmates live in four star luxury…

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

See that? $400 a week. What was that figure based on? We aren’t told. But later in the report, we’ll see this:

Secret camera: how much do you get?

Refugee: Same as all the people. About $400.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

We’ve talked to that person. Media Watch has blurred his face. Today Tonight didn’t. As we’ll see later, he has good reasons not to want to be identified. But he told us:

I was talking about Centrelink payment. I get $400 a fortnight .

Mohammed, Statement to Media Watch, 21st October, 2011

A fortnight. Not a week. Today Tonight have now told us that the graphic was

An error in the editing.

Craig McPherson, Executive Producer, Today Tonight, 17th October, 2011

In the editing? Pull the other one. As we’ll see later, one of your interviewees says the false information was given to her too.

David Ecclestone’s report supposedly dealt with how asylum-seekers and refugees are treated. Yet it barely mentioned the detention centres where most unauthorised arrivals are locked up for months and years. Instead, we got this:

Voice: this is a two-bedroom apartment

David Ecclestone: Today Tonight has found asylum seekers put up in a four star hotel like this one, awaiting judgment on their immigration status.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Today Tonight ‘found asylum seekers’ at the Virginia Palms Motel in Brisbane in July last year.

It hasn’t been used to house them since June this year. No motels are currently being used as detention centres anywhere in Australia…

Which isn’t to say that they won’t be soon, now that the Malaysia solution has collapsed. The Department of Immigration’s Sandi Logan told us…

A place of alternative detention is selected based on what is readily available, readily accessible and suits the department’s needs at the time for long-term accommodation for families and unaccompanied minors.

Sandi Logan, Department of Immigration, 14th October, 2011

It’s all about families with kids. It’s not about luxury. But on with the show…

David Ecclestone: they even have a Facebook page. What better way to spread the word about the land of plenty to those back home?

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Like the motel footage, this is old stuff. When Today Tonight showed that refugee’s Facebook page, in July last year, we got in touch with him.

We’ve concealed his identity. Today Tonight did not.

He told us that the photos on the beach at the Gold Coast were taken during an excursion while he was in detention. But most were not…

David Ecclestone: Others are taken to Sydney Olympic Park, Luna Park, and the Melbourne Aquarium.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Those pictures of him, said the owner of the Facebook page, were taken

when i realesed from detention. like sydney olympic park and aroun opera house.

Email to Media Watch, 8 July, 2010

Today Tonight has told Media Watch that its

contacts in the immigration department … maintain they were all taken while in detention.

Craig McPherson, Executive Producer, Today Tonight, 17th October, 2011

As if ‘contacts in immigration’ would know better than the subject of the photographs.

But the most damaging misinformation was still to come.

David Ecclestone: The Australian government don’t want you to know the locations of their makeshift detention centres. Manned by 24hour security, they’re in permanent lockdown.

Secret camera: I didn’t tell you but they’re those refugees. Ohh right, from? Boat people.

Reporter: But we spoke to them.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Really David? I seriously doubt it. That mysterious figure was filmed outside the Virginia Palms Motel last year. The interview was first broadcast in July 2010.

Secret camera: I didn’t tell you but they’re those refugees. Ohh right, from? Boat people.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 7th July, 2010

As we said, that motel no longer houses asylum-seekers. This man was filmed in the last month or so, in an entirely different location in Brisbane

Secret camera: Are you a refugee are you?

Refugee: I came to Australia by boat yes.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

He is not in detention at all. He’s been accepted as a genuine refugee, given a permanent visa, and is free to live wherever he can find a place he can afford.

How do we know? We tracked him down. He told us…

I was sitting outside the place where I live waiting for a friend and I was approached by a man. He said he was waiting for a taxi. He did not tell me he was a reporter. …He asked me ‘are you a refugee and how long have you been in this country’? I told him I am from Iran

‘Mohammed’, 21st October, 2011

So the man was being secretly filmed and recorded by a Today Tonight producer – in any other state than Queensland, that would be illegal.

He says he wasn’t told he was talking to a journalist. That would be against the journalists’ code of ethics.

Then his face was shown on national television, without his permission. That is grossly irresponsible.

It is not right for them to put me on television and show my face because it could cause a problem with the Government in my country in Iran. … When I was in Iran I was shot in my chest, a bullet went in my chest …I am very scared and am worried for my family.

Mohammed, 21st October, 2011

Today Tonight‘s Executive Producer, Craig McPherson, assured us…

Naturally we don’t want to put anyone’s safety in jeopardy.

Craig McPherson, Executive Producer, Today Tonight, 17th October, 2011

Really Craig? Then how about asking them before you put their faces on the screen? Or are you too busy showing what a luxurious life they lead?

Voice: how much do you get?

Refugee: Same as all the people. About $400.

Voice: Have you been here for long? How long?

Refugee: 5 months. It’s not too bad. But it could be better.

Margaret Thomas: Pensioners would be disgusted if they knew. I’m sure they don’t know what’s going on with all these boat people and what this government’s giving them.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Hullo? That refugee actually gets a bit over two hundred and forty dollars a week Newstart allowance and just under sixty dollars a week rental allowance – normal benefits available through Centrelink to any Australian resident. Almost half his total income goes in rent.

I pay $140 a week for a room. We have shared bathroom, shared kitchen and shared toilet. There are 14 other refugees living on the same floor.

Mahommed, 21st October, 2011

The lap of luxury, eh?

But Today Tonight‘s entire report was aimed at fuelling the myth that refugees are given extraordinary treatment.

Margaret Thomas: Well what have they contributed to our country? Nothing. And they’re giving them more money than we get.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

And where did Margaret Thomas get that idea? Well, she says, from Today Tonight. She told us that the reporter had …

…showed me on his phone the video of that bloke saying he got $400 a week. Now that just got me very angry. …

I didn’t know he was getting $400 a fortnight. I think that’s very sad and Channel 7 should not do that…I would have preferred to have been told the truth

Margaret Thomas, 15th October, 2011

Gee, so would we.

Here’s the truth. Asylum-seekers in detention get no cash benefits. Once given visas, refugees, whether or not they arrived by boat, get the same Centrelink benefits as everyone else.

Is it surprising that so many people are concerned about boat people, when they’re fed inflammatory nonsense like this by one of the most popular programs in Australia?

Creative Commons Licence

Content in this work by TAB  is ©Media Watch Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC – TV) and  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

UPDATE by Jonathan Holmes at ABC’s The Drum

22 thoughts on “Media Watch: TT’s false facts fuel fear

  1. How can it be legal to twist the truth like that?
    Do the cretins at channel 7 care that their misrepresentations of refugees are very likely to lead to racism and violence towards people who least deserve it?

    Fucking hell, I really can’t believe they can get away with stuff like that, don’t journalists have a code of ethics?

  2. If they are members of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, yes. Whats the bet though none of Trolling Tonight’s so called “journalists” are members

  3. Just wrapped that in two weeks probably the best two shows on television at the moment (in The Hamster Wheel and Mediawatch) have both smashed the Asylum Seeker issue media coverage with such hilarity. It’s such a breath of fresh air from all the other complete shit that we get fed on free-to-air TV.

    It’s easy to watch TT or ACA and just laugh through it thinking ‘who in their right mind would believe this garbage’ but it actually infects the heads of some lesser informed, good meaning people. We were driving at work the other day past this compound looking place in the middle of the suburbs and the old Aussie battler I work with piped up with

    “You know who lives in there? Bloody boat people! Four hundred bucks a week they get and I’ve worked fifty years for this country and for what!?”.

    Now he’s not a bad bloke, I’m sure he would feel compassion towards their cases on an individual basis but because he and the bulk of the population just lap up the TT/ ACA ‘stories’ we get surrounded my these ill-informed knob heads who vote and teach the shit to their kids and spout it off to their pub friends and work colleagues (evidently).

    It’s downright dangerous to have this toxic cloud of misinformation just floating about. People get riled up for no reason when we should be doing all we can to welcome such a small but vulnerable and displaced group.

  4. I may be wrong about some things however judging by the information coming from the stupid Govt up here, the “asylum seekers” are provided with ciggys free of charge. They are also held in hotels, firstly the Asti Motel, now the Airport Hotel. An Immigration staff member has been stabbed, mattresses burned, hotel rooms trashed, & detention centres have had damage along with fences being brought down at HMAS Coonawarra.
    I can understand some of the negative feeling WITHOUT the media fueling it. My opinion is my own and I don’t make a point of screaming it out however I do understand both sides. The fact that the innocent are blamed for actions of a few crims sucks but do we toughen up or do we swing open the gates…only time will tell

    • Baseless rumours for the most part. Also the asylum seekers are not criminals and should not be treated as such. They are entitled to at least a basic level of comfort while their claims are being assessed and a swift resolution one way or the other.

      No one in the Australian community is being disadvantaged because we we receive a handful of asylum seekers arriving by boat each year. Far more asylum seekers and refugees arrive by plane.

      There is no “both sides”. Asylum seekers would not even be an issue if not for the dog-whistling started by Howard when he came close to losing the 2001 election.

      What we are seeing is the truly hideous underbelly of racism amongst Australians. That is cause for much concern.

      • Immigration detention centre worker stabbed:

        As far as the good ol’ argument “more asylum seekers arrive by plane”, it’s beside the point. Australia definitely should take on refugees, that is not the issue. The issue with boat arrivals is that we don’t necessarily know who they are, that’s why the claim processing takes so long. Arrivals by plan have passports etc, so we know who they are/if they have a genuine case for refugee status. If you want your claim to be processed quickly, don’t destroy your identifying documents on the way here.

        Personally, I think that if a detainee is found to have committed a crime, particularly something as serious as stabbing a guard, they should be deported to their country of origin instantly. If they have come from such awful circumstances, then waiting in the safety of a detention centre while their claim is processed shouldn’t be that much of a problem.

        • You are saying that in the case of incarcerated asylum seekers (who have done nothing wrong by the way), if a crime is alleged to be committed by one of them, that person should immediately be deported without any sort of legal proceedings?

        • Not if you are seeking asylum. Even ASIO refers to asylum seekers coming by boat as “irregular maritime arrivals”.

          An illegal immigrant is usually a tourist or student visa overstayer. The vast majority of these are white Europeans.

        • I didn’t actually say that, I said “if an detainee is found to have committed a crime, particularly something as serious as stabbing a guard”. Please don’t put words in my mouth. Obviously there should be a legal process for determination of guilt, but guilt was established beyond reasonable doubt, they should be deported. Probably not for really petty crimes, but certainly for a serious assault such as stabbing an immigration worker.

        • They usually are though mitigating circumstances such as the mental illness brought on by needless incarceration may well preclude deportation.

          We cannot find evidence of a large number of incidents of unprovoked violence of incarcerated asylum seekers towards guards. Then again I wouldn’t particularly rely on Serco to keep accurate records, which they are supposed to do as part of their contract. One of the proceedings which must be followed when there is a critical incident is that the police need to be informed. Often that is not done until an incident has escalated beyond an easy solution.

  5. In Darwin it’s not baseless rumour. That’s the point of what I was saying. I also pointed out that opinions are like arseholes for want of a better explanation :).
    I don’t think I am hard done by which is why I have no problem however check out Darwin. ATB is good at getting to the root of issues so…Cheers

  6. I’m no authority or even in receipt of all the facts but, like just about everything else in life, there are two sides of the story. There are genuine refugees arriving by boat without documentation and there are genuine piggy-backing free-loaders pretending to be seeking asylum. There are peaceful people patiently waiting to have visas processed and there are criminal agitators who are happy to vandalise and abuse the facilities.
    You would have to be a heartless ignoramus to deny the former at least their basic rights and needs. Likewise, you would be an irresponsible ignoramus to allow the latter the chance of residency. Unfortunately, the media exposure has tended to polarise most people as pro, or anti, immigration/asylum-seeking whereas the real problem exists in sorting out the wheat from the chaff.

    • We are yet to see any credible information pointing to “piggy-backing freeloaders”. A tiny number of asylum seekers get their claims refused, and this could be on a number of grounds. The vast majority are found to be genuine refugees.

    • There is a slight bit of truth to that claim but very little.
      Last year 75% of Asylum Seeker claims turned out to be genuine, Whilst that does mean that a majority portion are legit people in need there are a small handful that do get on board thinking they get that very treatment.

      Even Bob Brown said it himself during the election campaign “Sure if they’re not genuine refugees send them back”

      Having said that though in no way should that mean the ones that are should have to suffer for the ones that are not.

  7. Pingback: Ellie Turner Covers Huge Breaking News Story on Asylum Seekers « anti-discrimination

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