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Reith gets aboard for TV's roughest ride

IF IT had been Big Brother, he would have said no.

But when the producers of the SBS series Go Back To Where You Came From approached the former Howard government minister Peter Reith, he decided it was the role of a lifetime.

''I was not interested in celebrity,'' he says of his decision to appear in the confronting show.

''I was interested because I was interested in the policy.''

As previously revealed by The Sun-Herald, Mr Reith will be one of the cast-members of the second series of the award-winning television show, along with the singer Angry Anderson, the actress Imogen Bailey, the writer Catherine Deveny, the former radio shock jock Michael Smith and the former Commonwealth ombudsman Allan Asher.

Mr Reith famously had a political brush with asylum seeker policy during the ''children overboard'' controversy of 2001. As defence minister, he, along with other government ministers, claimed boat-borne asylum seekers had thrown their children overboard, claims which were false. A Senate inquiry later found Mr Reith had played a decisive role in leading people to believe the misinformation.


Mr Reith says he was concerned his role in the affair would be ''thrown back in his face'' by participating in the show, although he admits that was probably the reason producers approached him for it. ''I am retired from politics. I don't need people throwing mud at me.''

SBS is tight-lipped about where the contestants were sent but Mr Reith said they travelled to several locations, including a refugee camp.

Asked whether his views on asylum seeker policy had changed as a result of his experience, Mr Reith said he would have more to say closer to the airing of the show.

''I went to places I had never been to before and never would go otherwise,'' he says.

The series will be shown in three parts, with an episode of Insight, hosted by Jenny Brockie.