Journo challenges Sheridan on truth

The knives are out in the history wars, reports Michael Koziol.

Foreign editor of The Australian, Greg Sheridan.

ABC Foreign Correspondent journalist Eric Campbell has declared war on The Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan, labeling him “an empty ideologue with utter disregard for truth”.

Taking to Twitter, Mr Campbell has challenged Mr Sheridan to substantiate comments made in a September 15 opinion column in The Australian, wherein Mr Sheridan claims “a significant section of the ABC are peddling an entirely false version of the Cold War”.

That falsehood stems, he says, from an “aggressive hostility to Catholicism” and a political lexicon that supported Soviet foreign policy and Pol Pot.

“It’s grossly offensive to see fellow correspondents besmirched by someone who sees world affairs through the prism of ‘70s student politics,” Mr Campbell tweeted. “Who in the ABC is praising communism or the Soviet Union? Provide evidence or retract.”

Mr Sheridan’s opinion column was a response to David Marr’s Quarterly Essay, “Political Animal”, which among other things examined Tony Abbott’s time at Sydney University in the late 1970s. Mr Sheridan and Mr Abbott were friends and members of the Sydney University Democratic Club. The club was affiliated with the National Civic Council, a catholic political unit founded by the anti-Communist and social conservative ALP deserter Bob Santamaria.

Foreign editor of The Australian, Greg Sheridan.

Mr Sheridan accuses Mr Marr of “wildly overestimat[ing] Santamaria’s influence over Abbott”, of lacking in facts and evidence, and of “inaccuracies in basic matters”. He also accuses the ABC’s Four Corners of using only a tiny fraction of the interview he gave them on Mr Abbott’s time at university. “I knew as I spoke that certain sentences could never be be [sic] broadcast on Four Corners given its ideological commitments and hostility to Abbott’s Catholicism.”

Mr Campbell, who attended the University of New South Wales in the late 1970s and edited its student magazine Tharunka in 1980, has described Mr Sheridan’s column as libel and has called on him to provide evidence or retract it.

Mr Campbell was in Vienna and not available for an interview, but gave permission for Honi Soit to quote from his Twitter account. At the weekend, he said he would attempt to contact Mr Sheridan personally on Monday, the day this issue of Honi went to print.