Much to my chagrin, I have given that pompous permatanned prevaricator, David Flint, the attention that he and his grubby articles do not deserve. For this, I owe a debt of apology to all my republican colleagues, who deserve better from their elected officials.
LET ME TELL you why I need to say sorry.
On Sunday, I received an email from the chair of the New Zealand Republican Movement, Lewis Holden, asking the following:
"What the hell is David Flint on about? I can't find any reference to a trip by Gerry Adams to Australia."
I had been away for the weekend in country NSW and had just returned home to the Gold Coast that night. A brief glance at Flint's personal ACM website revealed an article by the old dissembler which used the ostensible guise of an upcoming Channel 7 documentary on the IRA to bring up an IRA atrocity involving some Australians. From this he quickly segued to a 1999 visit by Gerry Adams to Australia, during which Adams had apparently publicly expressed support for an Australian republic.
According to Flint in this article, he had called on the ARM at the time to denounce Adams’ “intervention”. Why the ARM would need to do that is unclear because a statement is just a statement, not an intervention. Furthermore, any statement by Adams was bound to be counter-productive to the republican cause, which is why, I’m sure, the ARM ignored it (if they did). Flint was just seeking to tarnish the ARM in his typical fashion. He knows very well that the ARM is a peaceful organization that has never had any connection with the Irish nationalism, the IRA or Gerry Adams.
"...in tacitly accepting the support of a foreigner intimately associated with a terrorist campaign the victims of which included Australians, the standing of ARM was seriously damaged in the eyes of many Australians."
Flint's underhanded tactics were quite obvious to me as soon as I read the article. His modus operandi has always been to juxtapose various "facts" or events together in such a way that a pattern and meaning is formed in the mind of the uninformed that is, of course, utterly false. In this case, his aim was to suggest guilt by association.His methods are infuriating and unfair, but I should not have been surprised as I had seen them many times before.
For instance, in a recent article, on his personal website, Flint alleged that republicanism in Australia was rooted in racism and Marxism because there were some in the pre-federation republican movement that were advocates of a white Australia and because Labor had some Marxist members in the 1950s (apparently). It was a long bow to draw, even by Flint's standards, but still it didn't stop him making the following gutter slur:
“With the confirmation that Australian politics was infiltrated by the republican communists up to the eighties, the obvious question is did it magically stop there? To what extent is the current republican movement made up or supported by former proponents of a Marxist peoples’ republic?
At the time, I wrote an article calling on Flint to apologise and then resign for making this statement. No luck. He is still out there making his hateful and malicious accusations.
In another piece of artifice, Flint exaggerated the cost of a republic tenfold by including many things that would not need to be paid for in any reasonable republic. And over and over again, Flint repeately alleges in every public statement he ever makes that the ARM has as part of its policy the changing the Australian flag, though of course the ARM absolutely does not advocate changing the flag and hasn't done since the early 1990s. The list goes on and on.
Some may say that David Flint has no qualms about stretching the truth, or even making things up, when it comes to an Australian republic because, in his heart at least, it is justified in the interests of some greater good. That perhaps he feels it is part of his job in protecting the Queen's realms. Unfortunately, this is not supported by other evidence of Flint dissembling outside of the republican debate.
For instance, in 1999, David Flint was the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Authority when it initiated the infamous 'cash for comment' inquiry into the practices of Alan Jones, John Laws and other broadcasters at Sydney radio station 2UE. Prominent ABC journalist Chris Masters, in his bestselling book 'Jonestown', paints a stark portrait of Flint's approach to ethics and truth, even while he was holding down this important statutory position.
The following is a short extract from Masters' book:
"On the opening day, panel members were obliged to declare any contact they might have had with the parties concerned before the inquiry. Chairman David Flint explained that he had normal industry contact with 2UE Chairman John Conde. He painted a picture of insignificant contact with Alan Jones, saying that they had once been introduced and that a month earlier, Alan Jones launched a book including a chapter by David Flint. 'Apart from saying good morning to Mr Jones and his reply to me, there was no contact and no discussion'. The Chairman did not publicly declare his private view that the 2UE breakfast broadcaster [Jones] was a pen pal and soul mate. The stream of correspondence, as he later described the letters between himself and Jones, which were a clear challenge to his independence, went unmentioned at this time.
"But his objectivity was in question anyway. David Flint stood prominently alongside Alan Jones as a pro monarchist in the biggest public issue of this time, the republican debate. Professor Flint had also attended James Packer's October wedding at a time when the ABA was investigating the Packer family's stake in the Fairfax group.
"Soon after the public hearings began the matter was settled by an astonishing own goal by David Flint. The ABA Chairman and Convenor for Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy left observers open-mouthed when he when he went on John Laws' show to defend an attack by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke and to promote the 'No' vote. When he went against the advice of his own Authority and did it again, allowing himself to be interviewed by another broadcaster under investigation, Howard Sattler, David Flint was unsavable. On 8 November David Flint got to his feet and announced that in order to avoid the distraction, destabilisation and delay of a proposed High Court challenge, he would stand down, even though he was confident he had done no wrong."
So, despite being clearly caught out fabricating the truth, Flint refused to admit guilt or apologise. It is a familiar tale.
Back to the current case. As I mentioned, Flint was clearly trying to infer that the ARM, by not denouncing Adams, was in some way associated with the IRA, Gerry Adams and thereby the murder of those poor unfortunate young Australians. The implication of the article is that the ARM was, or is, a front for the IRA.
In my view, Flint had stooped to a new low, which was quite an achievement for him.
What did I do? Well, since Flint had no references in his article, Lewis seemed to have not been able to find any reference to the event, and because I was in London for much of 1999 and had never heard anything about Adams' visit, I rashly sent Flint the following brief yet intemperate email asking for facts:
"When did Gerry Adams come to Australia in 1999 and when did he ask Australians to vote ‘Yes’ to the referendum. No-one seems to be able to find any record of either event. Are you quite mad, an habitual liar or just an idiot?"
On Monday, Flint gleefully splashed the email across his personal website. Somehow it also found its way into the Australian's Strewth column which caused even more joy and excitement on Flint's website.
The reality is that I was unfair to David Flint as he is far from being an idiot. What he is, in fact, is a duplicitous, arrogant dissembler, who will do or say almost anything, no matter how revolting, untrue or unfair to try to prevent Australia from reaching its destiny as a truly independent nation: an Australian republic.
I should not have sent Flint the email and for this I apologise. Not to Flint, of course, but rather to millions of Australians who eagerly and expectantly await the coming Australian republic. If I have, even in a small way, damaged our cause by any adverse media received today through my hasty and ill-mannered email, I very much sincerely apologise.
The fact is, I work hard trying to bring on an Australian republic as media director and Queensland branch convenor of the ARM. Recently, I have been putting in about 40-50 hours a week towards this goal, completely unpaid, because I believe that Australia can only reach its true potential and manifold destiny by becoming a republic. Luckily, many people are also passionate about this and support the ARM in this labour of patriotic love.
These republicans deserve the best from their spokespersons. By drawing attention to Flint's ridiculous article on his absurd ACM website, accessed by probably about 10 people in the entire world, I have given it more attention than it would ever otherwise have received. Now perhaps some people will read his vicious innuendo and reach the wrong conclusion: the untruthful one that Flint is endeavouring to create. I certainly hope that is not the case.
I will try harder in the future.
I have said sorry, though I feel my actions were infinitely more honourable and excusable than those of David Flint. Unfortunately, we can not expect any apology from David Flint. As my friend Joseph Cotta once said, "expecting Flint to apologise would be like waiting to see a unicorn in Hyde Park".
- Chris Masters, 'Jonestown': Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, 2006