Opinion | Police raids on media seem very 'suss'

RAID: Pages from Frank Packer's Daily Telegraph on April 18, 1944, as Federal officers raid the newspaper to confiscate an edition...now widely seen as a drastic over-reach of authority. (Courtesy National Library of Australia).
RAID: Pages from Frank Packer's Daily Telegraph on April 18, 1944, as Federal officers raid the newspaper to confiscate an edition...now widely seen as a drastic over-reach of authority. (Courtesy National Library of Australia).

Did you know the Feds also raided the Sunday Telegraph and seized an entire edition to stop it hitting the streets?

Not last week - I'm not talking about the raids on the ABC and a journalist's home which have rightfully stirred national anger.

I'm talking about the raid in 1944 when federal officers raided Frank Packer's Tele for "the most flagrant defiance of censorship."

What vital WWII national secrets had it betrayed?

None. The Tele had simply left big blank spaces on its front pages indicating where the censor struck ... to visually defend a free press.

The censored articles, I should note, were not about top secret troop movements; they were stories embarrassing to politicians.

This is what the bastards do: they cloak themselves in noble shrouds such as "national security" and protecting us, when it's often really about protecting them.

The 1944 raid, now recognised as drastic overreach, happened under the watch of one of Australia's greatest and most revered PMs, John Curtin - a former journo!

So...my point is...if these sort of injustices can happen under a man of Curtin's integrity, we can only imagine what a thin-skinned mob of serial liars and culture war knuckle-draggers might try.

Don't get me wrong - there should be a certain level of secrecy - loose lips can sink ships. We need to be kept safe from terror threats.

But should extreme national security laws also be used to silence whistleblowers, or to ensure Peter Dutton isn't asked awkward questions?

Journalist Annika Smethurst's "crime" was not leaking secrets to an enemy agent, it was writing about an alleged secret proposal to give Dutton drastic new security powers to snoop on Australian citizens. Us.

Worth knowing.

The government said Smethurst's story was incorrect, or total "nonsense".

Yeah, that's what we all thought as we watched the Feds spend seven hours raiding her home, rifling through her underwear drawer, bathroom cabinet and kitchen cupboards. Because her story was nonsense.

Those raids on her, and the ABC, were not something out of 1944. They felt more like something from 1984 ... George Orwell's version.

ScoMo's own Ministry of Truth kicked in: They weren't raids they were "seeking information". The AFP wasn't targeting whistleblowers, it was targeting "leakers".

But leaks are funny things.

The government leaks like a sieve when it suits it, with sensitive information often handed to journos to embarrass or wedge its political opponents. But no AFP raids.

Dutton won't fully explain why, if our national security was at such dire risk, the raids were conducted two years after the ABC reports, and more than a year after Smethurst's story ran.

Who's next? Journos who interviewed Vietnam War draft dodgers in the 1960s?

To most of us who are a bit suss, it looks like the raids were delayed to avoid causing a fuss in the lead-up to the federal election. No, no, no, say ScoMo & Co - the government receives no warning of planned AFP raids.

Yeah, that's why journos were famously tipped off by a minister's office about an impending AFP raid on the Australian Workers' Union in 2017. Because they have no prior knowledge. And did that minister have her home raided and underwear searched? Um, no.

ABC chair Ita Buttrose said the raids were "designed to intimidate".

Journalism is not a crime.

First rule of any wannabe dictator, even petty ones, is to silence a free media.

The government leaks like a sieve when it suits it. But no AFP raids.