GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE NO. 371
The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Between November 1997 and October 2015 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In March 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.
Stop Press: Matthew Knott & Simon Jackman
Can You Bear It? Jacqueline Maley; Alison Carabine; Ross Gittins & Duncan Fine (on Marcus Aurelius)
John-Laws-Style-Deliberate-Mistake: Step Forward Peter Consandine for Picking the Clyde Cameron/Ross Cameron Howler
MWD Exclusive: ABC Denial on Jon Stephens’ Pedophile Case Continues as Aunty’s Head of Communications Declines to Communicate & Louise (“No Comment”) Milligan Rejects “Doorstop” Interview on the Stephens Case
Report On the US Studies Centre: In Which the US[eless] Studies Centre Produces a Truly Useless Document on Australia and the Trump Administration
Nancy’s Modest Proposal: How Fridge Magnets Could Demolish Aunty’s Long-Standing Conservative-Free-Zone
Your Taxes at Work: Yet Another Writers’ Festival Leftist Stack: This Time in Melbourne
Correspondence: Gerard Henderson & Erin Vincent (on behalf of Michael Rowland and Virginia Trioli) Concerning ABC TV’s Coverage of the Pell Case
- MATTHEW KNOTT MAKES HIS OWN NEWS
Gerard Henderson attended the 2017 Lowy Lecture in Sydney Town Hall last night – the highlight of which was a sparkling address by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. During the introduction by Michael Fullilove – which was replete with third rate “jokes” aimed at mocking President Trump – Hendo took refuge in his phone.
Lo and behold – an avid reader had sent out a Twitter message from Fairfax Media’s very own Matthew Knott declaring
A bit of news from me: I'm off next month to spend a year at Columbia University in New York doing a Masters of Journalism 1/2
— Matthew Knott (@KnottMatthew) July 27, 2017
Fancy that. How inspiring. Well done – hold the first page. After all, this seems to be young Mr Knott’s biggest new-breaking story since he left the Crikey newsletter some years ago – apart from his scoops from sources close to the Commonwealth Education Department.
- A PERSONAL ENCOUNTER WITH THE US[ELESS] STUDIES CENTRE
At the end of the evening, Hendo went up to speak to an acquaintance. It turned out that she happened to be talking to Professor Simon Jackman of the taxpayer funded United States Studies Centre. Gerard Henderson A.C. (aka Always Courteous) attempted to do the courteous thing. But without much success. You be the judge – the conversation went along these lines:
Gerard Henderson: Professor Jackman, hello. I’m Gerard Henderson.
Simon Jackman: We have not met before.
Gerard Henderson: Er, no.
And that was it, folks. For more on the US Studies Centre – which got the outcome of the 2016 presidential election hopelessly wrong and which does not employ a single supporter of President Trump – see below.
By the way, do any avid readers know whether the USSC was successful in getting a $15 million extra funding hand-out from the Commonwealth government in the 2017 budget? MWD cannot find such an allocation in the budget papers. It’s possible that the Coalition has come to its senses and ceased providing extra taxpayers’ funds to Professor Jackman and his Trump-hating colleagues. Or it’s possible that the USSC has a cunning plan to get yet more taxpayer funds by another means. If you know – please advise MWD.
- JACQUELINE MALEY BELIEVES THAT BLOKES READ HER COLUMN IN THE LITTLE ROOM
It would appear that Fairfax Media columnist Jacqueline Maley has not attended Nancy’s Courtesy Classes. How else to explain her decision to commence a column on 24 June 2014 with a reference to, wait for it, (toilet) seating arrangements? This is how the piece commenced in the Canberra Times under the heading “Wash-up of news shattered: One in five men are reading these words on the loo”:
If you are a man reading this while seated in the gents’, your smartphone clenched in your non-toilet paper hand as you take some quiet time to catch up on current affairs, feel no shame. According to the Digital News Report: Australia 2017, you are typical.
The way you consume your news may not be hygienic, but it is perfectly average. Gone are the days of the gentleman-reader who donned his spectacles and settled into a chesterfield while fanning out his broadsheet. Now 20 per cent of men, according to the report, read their news with their pants around their ankles while hiding out from the housework.
Being a courteous kind of guy, Gerard Henderson is not prepared to say in what place he read Ms Maley’s Fairfax Media column last Saturday. But Hendo is prepared to say that it was a load of crap.
You see, Jacqueline Maley decided to have a go at some – but only some – former prime ministers who speak up on foreign policy matters. Namely, former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd and former Coalition prime minister Tony Abbott. She objected to recent public comments on refugees and national security by Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott respectively.
Ms Maley led her column by referencing an article in The Economist on people over 65 who are out of the workforce but still very active – as longevity increases. She depicted this lot as either Nyppies (i.e. Not yet past it) or Owls (i.e. Older, working less, still earning). Funny, eh? In the event, Ms Maley came up with the idea that Messrs Rudd and Abbott should be described as “Pests” with “no acronym required”. How witty can you get?
There are a couple of problems with this analysis. First, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott are both aged 59 – so what was the point of the 65 years old reference? And Jacqueline Maley did not criticise entries into the public debate of the 73-year-old former prime minister Paul Keating or the 69-year-old former NSW premier Bob Carr. Presumably because Ms Maley agrees with Keating and Carr but not Rudd and Abbott. Can You Bear It?
- ALISON CARABINE PRESENTS AS JUDGE, JURY AND EXECUTIONER IN THE SENATOR MATT CANAVAN CASE
This is how Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly commenced her interview yesterday with ABC journalist Alison Carabine. [I just love it when ABC journos interview ABC journos – MWD Editor] – concerning the possibility that National Party Senator Matt Canavan might have dual Australian/Italian citizenship and, as such, is ineligible to sit in the Senate.
Fran Kelly: And as we heard there the government is by and large standing pretty firmly behind Senator Matt Canavan. None the less these questions about his Italian citizenship continue to swirl about. Our political editor Alison Carabine joins us now. Alison, good morning.
Alison Carabine: Good morning Fran.
Fran Kelly: So, Senator Canavan is adamant he didn’t know that his mother Maria had signed him up for citizenship, Italian citizenship. It’s pretty bizarre this whole thing. Italian citizenship-experts are all piling in. Are we starting to see this unravel for Matt Canavan?
Alison Carabine: Look I think it could be Fran. I think for many people it would just be beyond the realm of believability that a competent adult wouldn’t have knowledge that his mother, of all people, had gifted him citizenship of another country. When you think of what that citizenship would bestow upon you – an EU passport for example – why wouldn’t you want to take full advantage? So the Sergeant Schultz defence just doesn’t seem to pass the pub test.
In this segment of RN Breakfast, the reporter is expected to comment on the news – not to say what the news should be. The fact is that Ms Carbine does have a clue as to whether Senator Canavan was aware that his mother (who was born in Australia) had taken out Italian citizenship on his behalf – and without his knowledge – when he was aged 25 years old. Moreover, Matt Canavan would only be aware of his entitlement to an EU passport if he was aware he was an Italian citizen.
In this instance the line run by Alison Carabine (ABC journalist) was exactly the same as that run by Richard Di Natale (the Greens leader). Can You Bear It?
- ROSS GITTINS JOINS THE “A FRIDGE IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN OSAMA BIN LADEN” CLUB
Did anyone read economist and Fairfax Media columnist Ross Gittins on Wednesday? It seems that your man Gittins has joined the chorus that more people are likely to die falling out of a bed/having a fridge fall on them – than from terrorist attacks. Yawn. Mr Gittins’ particular take is that more people die from terrorism than from (i) police killings, (ii) domestic violence, (iii) alcohol, (iv) homicide and (v) gun accidents. To which MWD adds that lotsa people also die from not putting enough tonic in their gin and falling on their glass.
All this avoids the fact that those who fall out of bed are not trying to murder someone or to shut down society in the short term or to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the long term. Recent Islamist terrorist attacks in Boston, New York, Paris, Brussels, Nice, Manchester and London closed down each city for a time. When did an alcoholic’s early death do the same? Or a fridge falling on someone?
This is what your man Gittins had to say about the Turnbull government’s recent statement on national security:
When Malcolm Turnbull was announcing the formation of the mega Home Affairs department last week, which he insisted was all about improving the domestic security response to “the very real threat of home-grown terrorism that has increased with the spread of global Islamist terrorism”, he said that intelligence and law enforcement agencies had successfully interdicted 12 imminent terrorist attacks since September 2014.
There’s no way of checking that claim, nor guessing how much harm would actually have transpired, but if that figure of 12 impresses you, you’re making my point. Relative to all the other threats we face, it’s chicken feed.
So Mr Gittins reckons that Prime Minister Turnbull – with a little help from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) – just might be exaggerating the terrorist threat. And that the real terrorist murders are but “chicken feed”. His evidence? Zip. Perhaps the Fairfax Media journalist should try telling the thousands of victims of terrorism in the West since 2000 that their plight is mere chicken-feed. Can You Bear It?
- THE BATTLE FOR MARCUS AURELIUS – THE AGE’S DUNCAN FINE TAKES ON SKY NEWS’ ROSS CAMERON
Could it be that The Age’s Duncan Fine is channelling Sky News presenter Ross (“I just love Marcus Aurelius”) Cameron? How else to explain Mr Fine’s introduction to his article on the dual citizenship matter which was published in The Age on 21 July :
It was Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (well before Russell Crowe in Gladiator) who said, “What we do now, echoes in eternity.” How right he was. A few simple words written 120 years [sic] ago are ringing through our political landscape today; Section 44 of our constitution has seen the removal of two senators in the last week.
First up, a fact by actor Russel Crowe. There is no evidence that Marcus Aurelius (circa 121-180) ever said “what we do now echoes in eternity”. It appears that he was verballed by Russell Crowe in the 2000 film Gladiator. In any event, MWD is of the view that it is Mr Cameron who has exclusive rights to quoting Marcus Aurelius. But now Duncan Fine has joined in the (boring) chorus. Can You Bear It?
PETER CONSANDINE SCORES ON THE CLYDE CAMERON TEST
While on the topic of Ross Cameron, thanks to all those avid readers who picked the John-Laws-Style-Deliberate-Mistake in last week’s issue.
Yes – the reference is to the Sky News Outsiders program being presented by “Clyde Cameron and Rowan Dean”. It should have referred to Ross Cameron and Rowan Dean. The one-time Labor MP Clyde Cameron died in 2008 and, consequently, was a somewhat more modern figure than Marcus Aurelius even if both have “passed”.
The first avid reader to pick the (deliberate) mistake was Peter Consandine. Well done indeed. Mr Consandine also drew MWD’s attention to the fact that, under the charismatic leadership of Peter FitzSimons’, the Australian Republican Movement changed its name to the Australian Republic Movement.
With the Red Bandannaed One leading from the front with such decisive action – it can’t be long at all before Australia has an Australian head of state.
- ABC’S JON STEPHENS’ COVER-UP CONTINUES AS IT THROWS THE SWITCH TO “NO COMMENT” ON IT’S OWN HISTORIC CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE CASE
As avid readers are aware, on Wednesday 19 July 2017 Gerard Henderson wrote to Nick Leys (the ABC’s head of communications) concerning the failure of the ABC to report an historic pedophile case – namely that in late June 2017 former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty in Gosford Local Court to a charge of historic child sexual abuse against an underage ABC male employee while on an ABC assignment in 1981. Gerard Henderson’s letter can be read here.
In this instance, the ABC’s Head of Communications did not communicate and simply ignored the letter. On Wednesday, a week after his first email was sent, Gerard Henderson wrote again to Nick Leys – as the following correspondence attests:
Gerard Henderson to Nick Leys – 19 July 2017
As you may or may not know, in late June former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14 year old ABC casual employee while on an ABC assignment near Gosford in 1981. Stephens was sentenced in Gosford Local Court to 12 months imprisonment.
The case was reported by Richard Noone in the Central Coast Gosford Express Advocate on 28 July 2017 and on Page 11 of the Daily Telegraph on 29 July 2017. Stephens’ conviction has not been reported by the ABC.
According to Mr Noone, Stephens’ victim [name deleted] reported the indecent assault to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault and the matter was taken up by the NSW Sex Crimes Squad. As you will be aware, the Royal Commission did not hold hearings into media institutions – including the ABC. Richard Noone also reported that [name deleted] has told him that he is destitute, living out of a van and experiencing mental health problems.
My questions are as follows:
▪ When did ABC management first hear of the complaint against Jon Stephens about a sexual assault on an ABC assignment in 1981?
▪ Following Stephens’ conviction in Gosford Local Court, has ABC management approached his victim [name deleted] with a view to offering counselling and/or paying compensation? If not, why not?
▪ Does ABC management propose to make a statement about this case of historic child sexual abuse within the ABC? If not, why not?
I would be grateful for a response to my queries before the close of business tomorrow evening (Thursday 20 July 2017).
Gerard Henderson to Nick Leys – 26 July 2017
Any chance of getting a reply to, or even an acknowledgement of, my email of Wednesday 19 July 2017 – concerning the ABC’s failure to report the conviction of former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens on historic child sexual abuse charges while on an ABC assignment?
I had assumed that one role of the ABC’s Head of Communications was to respond to queries from journalists, columnists and the like. Even a “no comment” response is more professional than no reply at all.
Nick Leys to Gerard Henderson – 26 July 2017
Thanks Gerard, no comment.
Gerard Henderson to Nick Leys – 26 July 2017
Thanks for your “No Comment” response to my query as to whether you would comment on my email of 19 July.
It took a mere 7 days – but it was well worth waiting for.
Nick Leys to Gerard Henderson – 26 July 2017
You’re always welcome.
So it took the taxpayer funded public broadcaster a full week to reply to a simple request for information. And then the only comment was “No Comment”. So, this is the situation as of today:
▪ Despite the fact that the ABC has covered numerous historic child sexual abuse cases (including convictions), the ABC did not report Jon Stephens guilty plea and subsequent conviction to a crime in 1981 against a 14-year-old ABC boy actor while on an ABC assignment near Gosford.
▪ ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie has advised Gerard Henderson that she accepts no responsibility for editorial decisions made by ABC editors with respect to the reportage of crime.
▪ The ABC, in full “No Comment” mode, will not advise when it first heard that a complaint had been made against Jon Stephens.
▪ The ABC, in full “No Comment” mode, will not advise whether it has adopted a duty of care with respect to the victim in this case and whether compensation has been offered or paid.
▪ The ABC’s Media Watch program is aware of the Jon Stephens case but, so far at least, has refused to draw the ABC’s double standard in this matter to the attention of its viewers.
MWD will continue to keep readers informed of the Jon Stephens’ case. In the meantime here is a visual update.
- LOUISE MILLIGAN DENIES ANY KNOWLEDGE OF THE JON STEPHENS CASE
It seems that not even intrepid ABC TV journalist Louise Milligan is interested in the Jon Stephens case. Thanks to the avid reader who sent footage of Southbank (Melbourne) based Bill Thompson – who presents himself as the self-appointed “ABC Southbank correspondent”. Here’s what happened when Mr Thompson “door-stop” interviewed Louise (“No Comment”) Milligan in Melbourne on Wednesday:
The “interview” has been slightly edited to remove matters unrelated to the ABC’s failure to report the Stephens’ case:
Bill Thompson: Geez Louise, what about Jon Stephens? Have you spoken to him or about his case, pleading guilty to abusing that boy back in the 80s? Do you know Jon Stephens?
Louise Milligan: Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about….
Bill Thompson: What about Richard Downing? The former ABC chairman –
Louise Milligan: I’m not –
Bill Thompson: – Who reckoned that sleeping with boys was what men do.
Louise Milligan: I am not the police.
Bill Thompson: No I’m not trying – I don’t care if you’re the police, you’re a reporter.
Crew Member [Interjecting]: Sorry sir we’re just in the middle of an interview.
Bill Thompson: Okay, carry on.
Louise Milligan: I don’t report on every child molester.
Bill Thompson: Why don’t you report on Jon Stephens, an ABC bloke.
Louise Milligan: I’d just rather not do that in front of this person. I’d rather he step away.
Bill Thompson: Pardon me?
Louise Milligan: I’d rather if you step away. You’re steering into really difficult territory which is potentially sub judice.
Bill Thompson: Jon Stephens pleaded guilty, it’s not sub judice at all.
Interviewer: I’m sorry sir we’re just in the middle of an interview.
Bill Thompson: That’s alright carry on.
Interviewer: Would you mind just stepping back –
Bill Thompson: No I’m perfectly happy to stand here and watch you do the interview.
Interviewer: Out of respect for our work…
As avid readers are aware, Louise (“No Comment”) Milligan refuses to answer considered questions about her book Cardinal and has sought protection from her publisher. Now the taxpayer funded journalist does not like being asked questions by citizens like Mr Thompson. Worth a Walkley, surely.
US[ELESS] STUDIES CENTRE’S USELESS REPORT ON AUSTRLIA AND THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
As avid readers are aware, not one self-proclaimed American “expert” at the United States Studies Centre predicted that Donald J. Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Not one. And, according to the USSC’s chief executive officer Professor Simon Jackman, as told to Sky News last November, not one member of the USSC supports President Trump. Not one.
So, it takes lotsa front for a staff member of the US[eless] Studies Centre to be giving lectures to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about how handle the Trump administration. But, that is what the USSC did on Wednesday with the release of a paper, titled Making It Personal: Trump, Congress and Australia’s Avenues of Influence. The tome is written by Dougal Robinson – and USSC research fellow:
What particular advice does your man Robinson have to provide to the Turnbull government? Well, in a report littered with the word SHOULD, the USSC research fellow advises – as summarised as follows:
▪ The prime minister and senior ministers should compensate for the reduced effectiveness of bureaucratic communication with the United States by investing more personal time engaging key stakeholders, and should travel to Washington at least once per year.
▪ Specifically, they should focus on engaging two types of individuals: those who are close to the president with a capacity to change his thinking, and those who hold institutional power, such as senior members in Congress.
▪ They should substantially deepen their outreach to Congress, which is playing an outsized role in shaping US international engagement under President Trump.
▪ Every time Australian political leaders visit Washington, they should hold multiple meetings with key US senators and representatives, including those in the new Friends of Australia Congressional Caucus.
▪ Australian leaders should prioritise meetings with key administration figures — such as Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner — who are likely to remain influential with an often volatile president.
All that’s missing in the US[eless] Studies Centre’s advice is an instruction as to how Australian political leaders should suck eggs.
This kind of publication is not only useless. It is also counter-productive in that it implies that the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and Australian Ambassador in Washington DC do not know how to handle President Donald J Trump and do not have a clue about how the US political system works.
Also, Making It Personal is just so condescending. Here’s Mr Robinson, BA (Hons) University of Sydney, who has never worked in politics telling Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Marise Payne and Joe Hockey what they SHOULD do. Indeed, there are 40 uses of the word “should” in Mr Robinson’s 18 page document – that’s two a page.
Here’s some gratuitous advice to Dr Jackman (for a doctor he is) and his colleagues at the US[eless] Studies Centre. The USSC:
٠ SHOULD stop advising the Prime Minister how many times he should visit Washington DC each year – after all, prime minister/president meetings are negotiated between Australia and the United States.
٠ SHOULD stop pretending that senior figures in the Australian government do not know about Congress – they do.
٠ SHOULD stop advising Australian leaders to prioritise meetings with the likes of Vice-President Mike Pense and Defense Minister Jim Mattis – after all, both have already visited Australia.
٠ SHOULD employ at least one academic who anticipated that Donald J. Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton in November 2016 and
٠ SHOULD employ at least one academic who broadly supports President Trump and his administration.
And finally, the US[eless] Studies Centre SHOULD stop publishing such useless sludge as Dougal Robinson’s Make It Personal.
ON HOW CONSERVATIVE FRIDGE MAGNETS MAY DEMOLISH THE ABC’S CONSERVATIVE-FREE-ZONE
Due to overwhelming demand, and with a little help from American psychic John Edward, this hugely popular segment will continue – even though Nancy (2004-2017) has “passed”. You see, according to the teachings of your man Edward, Nancy is not really dead – but has merely passed to the Other Side, from where she is able to send messages. Including her very own modest proposals for the Media Watch Dog blog, which she co-founded with her male and female co-owners in 2009.
As avid readers are aware, this increasingly popular segment of MWD is inspired by the Anglo Irish satirist Jonathan Swift’s proposal to relieve the plight of the Irish under British control by certain suggestions which he proffered in his writings. As a consequence of such irreverence, your clergyman Swift (1667-1745) never attained his due rank within the Church of Ireland (i.e. the Anglican Church in Ireland). But that’s another story.
As avid MWD readers know, the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without one prominent conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. This seems to have emerged from the fact that like-minded people pick like-minded people. Since there are no prominent conservatives within the ABC, no prominent conservatives are appointed to key positions.
Writing in The Guardian Australian on 21 July, Amanda Meade described a recent ABC staff meeting in the following terms:
The newly formed audio studios division led by Kellie Riordan held a feedback session with staff in which attendees were asked to sit in a ring and select a plastic toy from the centre of the group that most represents how they feel and speak “through” it….
A spokesman for ABC Radio confirmed: “ABC Radio recently invited staff in Sydney to a feedback session about podcasting. Given some of the staff were not familiar with each other, objects including toys were used as an icebreaker. This is a common training tool to kickstart discussions and is used at other organisations for similar purposes. At no stage was any staff member asked to use an object to provide feedback.”
Now, here’s A Modest Proposal – via Nancy on the Other Side.
ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie should get 16 key ABC managers to assemble in one room. Get them to sit in a ring and select a personality fridge magnet of the personality that most represents how they feel and speak “through” it. The fridge magnets should include such personalities as Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Frederick Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara along with such conservatives as Edmund Burke, Michael Oakeshott, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Robert Menzies, John Howard and Joan of Arc.
Assuming that ABC managers would first choose, and “speak through”, the likes of Marr, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin, Mao, Castro and Che – then the only fridge magnets remaining in the circle would be conservatives. Then some managers would have to “speak through” Burke, Oakeshott, Churchill, Reagan, Thatcher, Menzies, Howard and Joan of Arc.
This would provide an opportunity for the ABC managers to use the conservative fridge magnets to kick start discussions about conservatism and to discover that not all conservatives are clerical fascists. It might even lead to an appreciation of conservatives in the ABC’s Conservative Free Zone and the possible appointment of conservatives at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.
A Modest Proposal – here’s hoping it works.
STARRING – THE 2017 MELBOURNE WRITERS’ FESTIVAL AS A LEFTIST STACK
Question: What’s the definition of a Writers’ Festival?
Answer: It’s an occasion when taxpayer funded members of the inner-city Sandalista Set get a bucket load of taxpayers’ money and use it to invite their leftist ideological comrades to a leftist love-in where people pretend to be devoted to literature.
The Melbourne 2017 Writers’ Festival will be held from 25 August to 3 September. Its main (taxpayer) funded sponsors are Creative Victoria, Melbourne City of Literature and the City of Melbourne.
As avid MWD readers know, November 2017 is the centenary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in what was Russia and became the Soviet Union.
Fairfax Media’s The Age is also a MWF sponsor. So, not surprisingly, the soviet that runs the Melbourne Writers’ Festival has chosen – yes – “Revolution” as the theme for this year. This is how The Age’s Jason Steger explained the format last Saturday under the heading “Ten days that shake Melbourne”.
Revolution and resistance are at the forefront of an unmissable Festival, writes Jason Steger.
Revolution is in the air. This year’s Melbourne Writers Festival is focusing on uprisings past, present and – who knows? – perhaps future, and the ideas that drive them. It was John Reed who captured events 100 years ago in St Petersburg (then Petrograd) in his book Ten Days that Shook the World. Next month, with umpteen guests and 300 events, the Festival aims to provide ten days that shake Melbourne.
The focus is not on that one hugely significant revolution – think of more recent uprisings in different countries and cultures, and protest movements such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy. Writers of every sort play their parts in movements of change; have always been there in the crucible of “new ideas” [sic].
“We want to look at what’s happening, the sense of developing crisis in the world today and the politics of despair,” Festival director Lisa Dempster says. “Explore how literature could be a platform for new ideas. We want to interrogate the big issues of the moment”.
So in the guest list you’ll find a striking mix of novelists and thinkers, activists and protestors, poets and advocates of change, new ideas and challenges to the status quo.
How about that? According to Comrade Steger, the 2017 MWF is inspired by the Bolshevik admiring John Reed and will include the views of supporters of such contemporary protest movements as Black Lives Matter and Occupy. Festival director Lisa Dempster claims that she wants to explore “new ideas”. But the old ideas on offer are essentially left-wing ideas. At a glance, it’s difficult to find more than a couple of conservatives who will be performing at the 2017 MWF.
This is what Jason Steger had to say about the Australian contingent:
Local guests include Robert Dessaix, Tony Birch, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Tom Keneally, Christos Tsiolkas, AS Patric, Hannah Kent, Stan Grant, Tony Jones, Clementine Ford, Maxine Beneba Clarke, George Megalogenis, David Marr, John Safran, Ellen van Neerven, Steven Carroll, Robert Drewe, Omar Musa, Chris Musa, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, and Yassmin Abdel-Magied. [Interesting. I thought that Ms Abdel-Magied was fleeing this clerical fascist depotism and seeking intellectual freedom of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? Perhaps she’s flying to London via Melbourne and giving a parting sermon to her Melbourne-based Sandalista supporters while in exit mode – MWD Editor]
Double Miles Franklin winner Kim Scott (Benang, That Deadman Dance), Noongar man from Western Australia, delivers the Festival’s opening address in which he considers questions of history, identity and connection to language and land.
You can bank on provocation emerging from the special polemics gala in which Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Jane Caro, Stan Grant, Tony Jones and Omar Musa will put forward their unique ideas to make our society better for all.
Julian Burnside also has a MWF pulpit this year. As has Susan Carland and Sarah Ferguson and so on. It seems that the only way that conservatives will find themselves at Federation Square location is if they get lost moving from the Melbourne Cricket Ground to the Southern Cross Railway Station and end up in Sandalista Central.
So there you have it. John Reed just loved the communist dictators Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin. Jason Steger, a key member of The Age’s (literary) soviet, just loves John Reed. And Festival director Lisa Dempster just loves Occupy Wall Street supremo Micah White who is a special MWF guest.
As to the Middle East – well, only the view of Israel critic Robert Fisk will be heard. Say no more. [Okay – MWD Editor.]
This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson about something or other. And Hendo, being a courteous and well-brought up kind of guy, replies. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its avid readers.
There are occasions, however, when Nancy’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order. Publication in MWD invariably follows. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply. Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record – and in the public interest, of course.
As MWD readers are aware, The Guardian Australia’s deputy editor Katharine Murphy put out the following tweet on 6 June 2014 at 4.33 pm – when that issue of MWD was “hot off the press”. Here is Ms Murphy’s tweet: “Without in any way wanting to breach anyone’s human rights or free speech – why do people write emails to Gerard Henderson?” It’s a very good question. Thankfully, not everyone follows Katharine Murphy’s wise counsel – not even Ms Murphy herself (See MWD Issue 297).
GERARD HENDERSON AND ERIN VINCENT re THE ABC’S REPORTAGE OF THE GEORGE PELL CASE
On Wednesday, on the morning of Cardinal George Pell’s appearance at the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court, the ABC TV News Breakfast interviewed ABC journalist Louise Milligan about the case. That was on 26 July. On 17 May Ms Milligan had told the very same program that her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017) was not objective – in that it had been written “from the complainants’ point of view”.
So, Louise Milligan does not regard her book on Cardinal Pell as objective. But the ABC TV News Breakfast program regards Louise Milligan as capable of objectively in reporting the Pell case. How about that? Now read on:
Gerard Henderson to Erin Vincent – 26 July 2017
Do you really believe it is fair and professional to have Louise Milligan as a commentator on the George Pell charges? – as occurred on News Breakfast this morning.
Ms Milligan is no authority on the Catholic Church – so she is no better equipped than many others to discuss the consequences for the Catholic Church of the Pell case.
As Louise Milligan herself acknowledges, her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell is not an objective work. She told News Breakfast on 17 May 2017 that Cardinal is written “from the complainants’ point of view”. Gerard Windsor – a critic of George Pell – has described Louise Milligan’s book as an “attack” motivated by “animus” (The Weekend Australian, 11 July 2017).
Cardinal also contains a number of factual errors. Moreover, Ms Milligan refuses to answer reasonable questions from me about Cardinal and has sought protection from her publisher Louise Adler at MUP. I am not aware of any other high-profile author who refuses to answer straight forward questions about a published book.
I know that the ABC invariably gets defensive in response to criticism. However, I look forward to a response.
Cc: Gaven Morris, Director of News, ABC
Erin Vincent to Gerard Henderson – 26 July 2017
Ms Milligan was interviewed on the program in her role as an ABC reporter. The segment was straightforward reporting, in which she provided some factual background to the case and was asked what happened outside the court in the morning, what was expected to happen in the hearing and how long the process is expected to take. In addition, she made a short comment noting that the event is a significant one for the Church. Everything she said was either factual or demonstrably reasonable analysis and was delivered in a measured and impartial manner.
Given the context, it was entirely appropriate for News Breakfast to interview a reporter who was at the scene and who possessed a knowledge of the background to the case.
We note your views on her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, however, as you know it was published by MUP and we cannot comment on it. In relation to Ms Milligan, she is a respected ABC reporter who in her work for the ABC has always acted professionally and impartially. ABC News has complete confidence in her ability to report on the trial in an accurate and fair manner.
Thank you for your interest in the program.
Gerard Henderson to Erin Vincent – 28 July 2017
Thanks for your prompt reply to my email of 26 July 2017. It’s a rare event these days when an ABC manager, producer or presenter deigns to answer a viewer’s critique.
In response, I make the following comments:
▪ Since Louise Milligan has acknowledged that her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017) was written “from the complainants’ point of view” and, consequently is not objective – consequently, she should not present as an objective reporter when commenting on the George Pell case for ABC TV.
▪ It is not reasonable to expect that Ms Milligan can truthfully present herself today – in your terminology – as delivering analysis which is “factual” and “demonstrably reasonable” when her book Cardinal, which was published as recently as May, has been described by Gerard Windsor (a Pell critic) as an “attack” motivated by “animus”.
▪ It is true that Cardinal was published by MUP. However, it is also true that – as the author herself has acknowledged – much of what appears in Cardinal was researched while on ABC assignment. Moreover, Ms Milligan has admitted to using her ABC email account when researching Cardinal. In short, the ABC was central to the writing of Cardinal.
▪ In my view, a professional journalist who played such a vitriolic role in the lead-up to charges being laid against George Pell should recuse herself or himself from reporting this case. However, I accept that the contemporary ABC does not adopt such a high standard.
▪ Your comment that the ABC cannot comment on Cardinal is surprising. After all, Ms Milligan received numerous soft interviews about Cardinal on the ABC – including News Breakfast – often by ABC journalists who had not read the book (since its publication was brought forward). It seems that the ABC is seeking cover for the howlers and poor scholarship in Cardinal by maintaining that MUP is solely responsible for the content of an ABC author’s book.
cc: Gaven Morris
Until next time.