The Australian Government was forced to lift their ban on Wilfred Burchett

Having forced the Australian Government to lift its ban on Wilfred Burchett I flew into the country with him in 1970. As News Editor of The Sunday Observer I had convinced proprietor Gordon Barton  that such an action would lift the circulation of the paper, and that a valid argument for such a course was that an individual born in Australia should always be allowed to return. Once we were in the air to New Caledonia to pick him up the government caved in.

We were surprised that it was so easy to turn the government around because we had envisioned much opposition. In the event there was only a bomb threat to our light plane phoned in by a French journalist (who warned me it was to happen) paid to do so by a correspondent from a Melbourne paper. However the real reason for being allowed to bring Burchett in from the cold was possibly his appointment, a few weeks later, with Nixon and Kissinger and his being quizzed by them on North Vietnam.

Myself and photographer Bill Veitch spent an evening with Burchett some days before the flight and we discussed his communist party membership. He denied official membership but admitted that his Paris news agency that supplied, at different times, news to official Russian and Chinese publications and slanted that news in such a way that it adhered to the propaganda policies of those countries. I argued that to do that could only be interpreted as being employed and trusted by communist countries, and therefore he was to all intents and purposes acting as a communist cipher.

I wrote the story for the Sunday Observer but the then editor, David Robie and management, decided it was inappropriate for The Sunday Observer to aid an individual who admitted to such collaboration and it was omitted from my story.


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