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Catholics lobby says letter questions ethics of public debate

Australian Political Ministry Network (PolMin) has said that a former senior public servant's letter to yesterday's Australian newspaper has raised further serious questions about the ethical quality of public debate and information.

As senior adviser to then defence minister Peter Reith, Mr Mike Scrafton was a central figure in the 2001 children overboard affair which many Australians believe determined the outcome of the last Federal Election. Mr Scrafton revealed yesterday that Prime Minister John Howard had ignored his election eve advice that children had not been thrown overboard from an asylum-seeker vessel the previous month. Howard continued to argue the children had been thrown overboard.

The Australian yesterday described Mr Scrafton's letter as the "crucial missing link in establishing the extent to which the Howard Government misled the public about the children overboard affair in the 2001 election".

In a statement, PolMin's John Sweeney said: "It is not sufficient for the Government merely to say, as it did in the case of the Children Overboard affair once the elections were over, that it was a mistake."

Dr Sweeney related the Prime Minister's lack of concern for asylum seekers as manifest in Children Overboard, to Mr Howard's "unethical" willingness to go to war, the "first preemptive strike in Australia's history".

He said: "There are too many important issues at stake: the truth, the lives and rights of thousands of Iraqis, the dignity and rights of asylum seekers, the need for international affairs to be regulated by the rule of law rather than the gun, or other, more terrible weapons."

Mr Scrafton wrote that he was prompted to speak out now after being dismayed by the Government's ill treatment of the 43 eminent soldiers and diplomats who protested against the process that took the country to war.

"PolMin and many other groups and individuals attempt to work to protect proper, transparent and democratic political processes," said Dr Sweeney. "We call for greater transparency, responsibility and accountability to the Australian people. We call for respect for democratic political process."

Political Ethics (Australian Political Ministry Network 16/8/04)

Howard was told the truth (The Australian 16/8/04)
PM nailed on children overboard (The Australian - Letters)
Steel Traps (Dr John Sweeney, Australian Political Ministry Network 16/8/04)
Scrafton ready for lie-detector test (The Age 16/8/04)
Mike Scrafton speaks live about children overboard affair (ABC Radio The World Today 16/8/04)
Election ploy bites back (The Australian 17/8/04)
PM versus the public servant: children overboard (ABC PM 16/8/04)
Piers Akerman: Shipwrecked on the shores of credibility (Daily Telegraph 17/8/04)
Howard's popularity in the poll doldrums (The Age 17/8/04)
Howard lied over 'children overboard' affair, says senior aide (NZ Herald 17/8/04)
'Overboard' Affair Shakes Up Australia (Moscow Times/AP 17/8/04)

17 Aug 2004