Where are our troops?
That was a month ago and just about the last we ever heard of them. The three ships that left Australia have now arrived in The Gulf, but as far as the Australian public goes they might almost have fallen off the map. It's all very peculiar. The day he farewelled SAS forces on their way to The Gulf, the minister for defence Senator Hill was asked -
Reporter: Senator, the troops are going with great fanfare, what assurances can you give that there will be proper media coverage of Australia's involvement in the gulf.
Senator Hill: What assurances can you give me? You're the media.
Reporter: [indistinct] laughter
Senator Hill: A lot of media have already pre-deployed but not many Australian media I noticed. (24 January 2003)
And there's a simple reason for that, minister: you're not letting them. American journalists are already with American units in the Gulf and their reports are now wall to wall on American television. But Canberra hasn't allowed our journalists anywhere near our forces.
Senator Hill: "We will, as we have done in the past support the Australian media in their efforts to do that, if that is their wish and as you probably know there has been some discussion between defence and media representatives in that regard and we do understand the need for a public to have the right to evaluate circumstances as they develop."
Unhappy discussions. The Dept of Defence had hired mega law firm Clayton Utz to draw up a stricter agreement for journalist to sign before they're given their accreditation. Following resistance from the ABC, News Ltd and Fairfax, more work is being done on that document, and last Friday, the military gave the press the amazing news that,
"all journalists intending to cover coalition operations must seek accreditation from US Central Command HQ in the Gulf"
The Australian, 22-23 February 2003
So the Americans will be running not just the war, but the media too.