This was the Year of the Ox – a symbol that represents, among other things, honesty. But, alas, not this time round. For we have lived through a period of massive hyperbole, wilful exaggeration, calculated deception and false prophecy on an industrial scale, along with bucketloads of pomposity and invincible ignorance. As can be judged month by month.
January: On New Year’s Day, many Australians rise from their beds, surprised to be there. After all, appearing as an ABC TV Insiders panellist late last year, Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy had predicted that “Christmas, let’s be honest, will be a superspreader event”. It wasn’t. But such scaremongering false prophecy does not disqualify Murpharoo from appearing on the first edition of Insiders this year.
Retired ABC journalist Kerry O’Brien signals his virtue by declining to accept an Australia Day gong since socially conservative retired tennis star Margaret Court was to receive one. Red Kerry’s decision is widely reported on the ABC.
February: Self-identifying leftist Sami Shah, writing in his “Gadfly” column in The Saturday Paper, declares that “no one watches 60 Minutes anymore”. Within months, Shah exits the paper – bringing about a situation whereby no one reads “Gadfly” any more. Crikey’s Bernard Keane depicts Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s attempt to make the likes of Facebook and Google pay for news obtained from media companies as a “smoking ruin” brought about by a staggering miscalculation by the Morrison government. In fact, the staggering miscalculation is that of your man Keane, in that 30 deals were done worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Australian media, including the ABC and Crikey.
March: The Advertiser carries the story that Jo Dyer has been appointed director of the Adelaide Writers Week. It turns out that Dyer, in a late-night Facebook post, had accused the South Australian Liberal government of having “no f..king idea” and asserted that it “will flog off everything … to their corporate mates”. It didn’t.
Dyer subsequently announces that she will be the independent “Voices of” candidate in the 2022 election contesting the seat of Boothby, currently held by the Liberal Party. How independent can you get?
ABC News promotes an analysis article which declares “it was not a good week for either version of Scotty from Marketing”. This was written by 7.30’s Laura Tingle, who has referred to the Morrison government’s “ideological bastardry”. Quelle surprise!
April: ABC health guru Dr Norman Swan tells The Australian that becoming a media star was “never what I intended”. Yet, since soon after the pandemic began, he has constantly appeared on media platforms and participated in many a profile. Alas, Swan has never used such occasions to explain any of his many false prophecies, such as his claim of March last year that Australia’s rate of Covid-19 infection would soon be as high as that of Italy.
The International Energy Agency reports that 2021 will see a 4.5 per cent increase in coal demand over 2019 levels. This de-authorises the 2017 comment of Shane Wright that coal today is like candlesticks in the mid-19th century. Wright is Nine newspapers’ senior economics correspondent. Really.
May: Brisbane-based journalist Dennis Atkins prophesies that “there will be an election later this year” and suggests October 9 as the date. More than 600 journalists, media workers, writers and commentators urge editors and publishers to avoid what they term “both siderism” in reporting Israel. The suggestion seems to be that the media should not cover Hamas’ rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel, but only Israel’s responses. The signatories include Zoe Daniel, a “Voices of” candidate who is attempting to defeat the Liberal Party’s Tim Wilson in the Melbourne seat of Goldstein.
June: Phillip Adams tweets “I’m (sic) hereby volunteer to jab” various (alleged) right-wing-nut-jobs with his “very blunt and unsterilised jabber”. The ABC’s man in black names, among others, Miranda Devine. But the leftist feminists do not rise in her defence. Nine columnist Jenna Price advises that she is “greeting this new lockdown with love and enthusiasm”. Price is an academic who lives in the inner-city.
Excitement arises throughout the land when the publisher Hachette announces that Swan is “Australia’s most trusted doctor”. However, millions of potential clients are disappointed when they learn that Swan has not practised medicine for some four decades.
July: Crikey editor-in-chief Peter Fray describes Peter Dutton as a potential “potato prime minister”. It’s not clear where potato land might be that he could lead.
ABC TV News Breakfast presenters Lisa Millar and Michael Rowland bemoan the lack of ethnic diversity in photographs of the Australian 2021 Olympic Games team. Overlooking the fact that presenters of the main ABC programs are so pale they could fulfil the role of a white sight-screen in a red ball cricket match.
Quentin Dempster warns that “Rupert Murdoch will lead us to war with China without compunction”. Which raises the question: how many divisions has Mr Murdoch?
August: ABC Sydney presenter Wendy Harmer seems to be of the view that Murdoch has passed News Corp’s minister-for-war-with-China role down the line of command to Sky News’ Sharri Markson. Harmer tweeted: “There are few things more emblematic of the days we live in than being drawn into WWIII by Sharri Markson.”
The Spectator Australia editor Rowan Dean’s effort at political hyperbole is so all-extensive that he is the star performer with citations to Hitler, Stalin and the like. The reference is to Dean’s warning that Australia “has kind of become a nation of quasi little East German, Chinese communist, Pol Pot-style petty dictators”. That’s all.
September: On the 24th day of the month, The Australian Financial Review Magazine lists the nation’s premiers collectively as “the most powerful people in Australia in 2021”. Within less than a week, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian feels compelled to resign due to an inquiry launched by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption that is still dragging on. Election date soothsayer Atkins has another go – and foretells a possible election before Christmas.
Wannabe social influencer Jane Caro mocks followers of sport by asking “most Aussies” as to “who are the Dees?” Which suggests she knew enough to understand this is a reference to sport – the Melbourne Football Club, in fact, which goes by the name Demons (or Dees). Caro boasts that she has read “all of Gaskell”. Well done.
October: Your man Atkins looks again into his crystal ball. Amid the detritus, he sees “an election held almost certainly on Saturday November 27”. Atkins adds that “it’s going to be that kind of election where no prisoners will be taken and the wounded left by the roadside”– whatever that might mean.
From his 40ha farm in Daylesford, Victoria, political operative Simon Holmes a Court maintains “we have a hung parliament right now”. According to this view, “the Liberal Party has a minority in government and they need the Nationals to form a government”. He seems unaware that a Coalition of the two parties has prevailed for much of the past century.
November: Retired Sydney media personality Mike Carlton asks Twitter followers to “spot the difference” between the personality cults of various Dear Leaders. He illustrates the point with North Korean mass murderer Kim Jong-un judging a cooking competition and Scott Morrison powering an electric car.
Nine columnist Peter FitzSimons accepts billionaire green-left advocate Mike Cannon-Brookes’s assurance that he has done “everything” he can to limit his carbon footprint. Apart, apparently, from donating his $100m-plus Fairwater pile in Point Piper to social housing. Melbourne University’s Imogen Crump reckons “the average Australian” currently spends $1300 a year for one cup of coffee every waking day. An inner-city view of the world, to be sure.
December: The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age columnist Sean Kelly’s book The Game: A Portrait of Scott Morrison is released. Kelly is no fan of the Prime Minister. But he recounts that he dreams of Morrison. So much so that, in his dreams, people come up to him and have their photo taken with him. The real nightmare occurs when Kelly looks into a mirror and realises that his resemblance to the PM is “uncanny”. Wake up, Sean.
Meanwhile, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party runs an advertisement boasting that its leader, independent MP Craig Kelly, is a successor to former prime ministers Joseph Lyons, Billy Hughes and Robert Menzies who once led the original UAP – which has no connection with Palmer’s effort at name appropriation. As to Kelly – he’s no Lyons, or Hughes, or Menzies. He’s just into hyperbolic dreaming.