Chapter 22  ......Feeding the Piranha

To those on the outside, reading their newspapers and watching the news bulletins on the television, the untold story of how the media descend on the privacy of the individual, when that individual raises a matter of national importance, passes unnoticed. Yet it deserves to be told.

In the days that followed the meeting, namely May 25, 26 and 27, the telephone at the Whiteside home seldom stopped ringing. Remember, this was a private residence and its occupant an ordinary citizen with no recall to ‘expense accounts’. to be paid for by the public purse or private company. His ‘crime’ had been to sail into unchartered waters that even academics, found to inhibiting to venture into, despite their deep concerns. Professionally better qualified, they had remained silent while an ordinary member of the public had opened up the whole ‘taboo’ subject. Little wonder that the media reigned in on the man who dared to speak out. Here was the golden opportunity to ‘open up’ this whole can of worms. They had only to ring and this man would tell them all they wanted to know. Whiteside the innocent, obliged. Here is an extract from my diary of those who called on those first three days;

Tom Doherty, Radio Tweed; Gold Coast Bulletin;

Auckland Star; Good Day, Australia; Sunday Herald, Sydney; New Zealand Press Assn; Sunday Program; Sydney Morning Herald; 2NCR; the Australian; GCⅲulletin; Brisbane Sun; the Courier-Mail as well as a whole army of well wishers, who really made the job a lot more difficult. Two calls during this time were quite vindictive, laced with accusations of racism . At first I found these sort of calls a little difficult to understand, but as the forced campaign moved on I came to realise that many Australians had a sympathy with the Japanese and honestly believed that I was opposed to them as a people.

There were those in the media who reported pretty much as I had said; there were those who threatened to turn the whole thing into a complete circus. Given that as a complete novice I had gone to the extent of supplying thirty copies of the original speech , which consisted of 14 pages, to ensure that what I had said would not be misconstrued; the result was nothing short of appalling. The smoke of concern had been whipped into the flames of destruction. When the Gold Coast Bulletin led with the front page story that the ~Japanvasion‘ fighters might go to the polls, I began to realise that the genuine concern of the people was going to be buried under the weight of illuminating copy that would sell newspapers. Journalists had a field day. They gave their own views of what was being said and exercised license that should not be tolerated. If as servants to the chronicler of the day, they place interpretations on events that distort the true message, then they not only create mischief , but deprive future historians of an accurate record of events of the times. So angry was I at this new turn of events, I had the Bulletin print the whole speech at a personal cost to me of $1200, which they promptly buried in the middle of the Saturday edition. No wonder that I expressed the view that I believed that I was being coaxed out onto a limb, only to have it cut behind me. As it so happened the late Russ Hinze, resigned from parliament, the night of the Foreign land Ownership meeting. Hedley Thomas writing the front page story on the Bulletin is quoting me as having said that I would consider taking the fight into the forth coming by-election . This was absolute rot. The meeting planned long before Russ’s resignation never ever canvassed the idea of political involvement. The idea that was touted that night came from the scenario of Russ’s vacated seat and the political hot potato that had ben thrown into the ring . Thomas as a reporter asked a question among a sea of questions that came from a battery of journalists from all round the world. On the night the question of political involvement had never been considered and to put that sort of hypothesis to a man fresh from a quite sensational meeting, whilst he was trying to handle astute and seasoned journalists, smacked at sensationalism instead of what he was there for, substance. That the issue was to involve me in an election, had everything to do with journalistic license and very little to do with intent. Thomas planted the seed and to this day I regret that he did. Calls came from all over Australia; calls that more often than not had to be returned. Sometimes radio stations would tie up the phone, whilst you were on stand-by waiting to be interviewed. Worst still was the long delay, often up to half an hour, when the interview was finished. You would be waiting to take other calls or make them only to find that the line was still tied up to the station. No amount of talking about this, ever resolved the problem. If the call was yours then stiff cheese, you paid the bill. One morning I was called at five-thirty to do an interview with Terry Willessee. The venue was out in the freezing cold at the base of the Golden Gate building; the road traffic was noisy and as I strained to fathom what Willessee was saying, I had to contend myself with a small monitor. Remarkably the interview came out well. Willessee ended the interview turning to Kerri-Anne Kenneally, with suitably raised eyebrows. The gesture I found quite out of place in view of the fact that I had been dragged out of bed to Surfers Paradise in a taxi that the channel refused to pay for. To this day, I stand the cost of channel sevens excesses. In all the associations I had with the press and the visual medium, the cost to this ordinary citizen proved to be quite horrific. One or two people realising the tremendous burden this was placing on my wife and myself actually offered to pay our telephone bills during this period. In a period of three months, our account ballooned out to a staggering $1250, when I approached the people concerned I was told to drop the issue as it would break me if I didn”t. The two ‘friends’ were real estate agents, who they claimed were ‘very concerned at the Japanese activities’. Sugishita, had warned me to be careful of his people, but for my money, it was the Australians who were could not be trusted.

Only once did the media ever extend a courtesy. Although I had assisted television crews from Denmark, New Zealand and Japan, had spent endless hours with the press and faxing off facts and figures to newspapers all over Australia, only one felt obliged to repay a little kindness. Katsuhiko Futamara, the Sydney Bureau Chief of the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun who once asked for a half hour interview and stayed for four hours, took my wife and I to dinner at the ANA hotel. Futamara, was not only a gentleman in an industry that sported the dog pack mentality, but he also served to underscore the culture and civility , that I found sadly lacking in this country. Both Futamara and Dr Bungo Ishizaki, were charming people. The fact that they were Japanese was completely irrelevant and that, from one to whom people from the Prime Minister down had tried to brand a racist.

Chapter 23