ISSUE – NO. 427

12 October 2018

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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.

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  • STOP PRESS: Young Mr Turnbull; Outside Outsiders; The Sydney Morning Herald’s Everest Coverage & Fairfax Media’s Ruddock Report Beat-Up

  • Great Media U-Turns of Our Time: Fairfax Photos’ Opera House Pic; Waleed Aly on the Fabric of Society

  • Can You Bear It? The Red Bandannaed One Goes to Vinnies; Wendy Tuohy Throws the Switch to Racism and Sexism & The Age overlooks the Balwyn Theatre

  • Jackie’s Pick of the Week: Peter FitzSimons’ Sexism

  • Nancy’s Courtesy Classes: The Drum’s Panelists bag Nikki Haley

  • Abbott Phobia Clinic: Amanda Vanstone & Crikey Present

  • An ABC Update: (Unanswered) Questions on the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone

  • Jackie’s Old Bones: How Four Corners Once Took Offence at ABC Chairman Richard Downing’s Modest Criticism

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The ABC, above all other media outlets, seems obsessed with the fact that Alex Turnbull, son of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, yesterday called on Wentworth electors not to vote for Dave Sharma, the Liberal Party candidate in the 20 October by-election.

For example, on ABC Radio National Breakfast this morning, Matt Bevan led with the Turnbull story in his news wrap at around 7.30 am. [Interesting, your man Bevan. I note that he has a strange way of pronouncing the word “advertisement”. I wonder how the Bevan version passes the oversight of the

ABC’s Pronunciation Police – MWD Editor.]  ABC’s The World Today still had Alex Turnbull’s (gratuitous) advice from Singapore at the top of its program at midday.

In fact all this is old news.  Alex Turnbull has already made a similar plea before.  On 27 August 2018, when he declared that it was “impossible” to vote for Liberal-Nationals “in good conscience”. [Is it okay to vote for the Coalition in bad conscience? – MWD Editor.] In any event, this is Alex Turnbull’s tweet of yesterday:

Alex Turnbull (
11/10/18, 4:51 pm

I recorded this message for the people of Wentworth. We need to send a message on climate change. This time, don’t give the Liberals your… #auspol #WentworthVotes


This was soon taken up by ABC economic correspondent Emma Alberici who put out this tweet:


Emma Alberici (@albericie)
11/10/18, 6:02 pm

Former PM’s son Alex Turnbull imploring Wentworth not to vote Liberal “We’ve had yet another leadership coup & we’ve lost another PM. The Liberal party’s been taken over by extremists on the hard right who aren’t particularly motivated to serve the general public” #WentworthVotes…

Alas, La Alberici missed the irony of the moment. In his Facebook comment,  Young Turnbull bemoaned “yet another leadership coup” without mentioning that his old man was the first Liberal MP to depose an incumbent Liberal Party prime minister in almost half a century.  It seems that Young Turnbull only advocates “stable” government when Old Turnbull is in The Lodge.

The fact that Alex Turnbull does not want the Liberal Party to win Wentworth is about as news-worthy as the fact that John Howard wants Dave Sharma to succeed.



Last night was the final 8 pm Thursday edition of Outsiders on Sky News – or “Sky News After Dark” as some refer to it.  From now on, Outsiders will be shown at 9 am on Sundays and 11 pm on Mondays to Thursdays.  This appears to have been done so that Gerard Henderson’s prophecy could be fulfilled – in that the garrulous Ross Cameron could not preside over a two hour slot at Outsiders on Sunday (at 9 am followed by 10 am). Meanwhile Hendo looks forward to watching Sharri Markson at 8 pm on Mondays and the Michael Kroger/Stephen Conroy (unorthodox) tag team at 8 pm on Thursdays.

Jackie’s (male) co-owner hopes that Rowan Dean will move his weather report into the 9 am Sunday time slot. It’s well worth watching – particularly since it so upsets the proselytising Paul Barry on the ABC TV Media Watch.

Last night, Hendo did a trial run on how to watch the new 11 pm weeknight Outsiders.  He recorded the 8 pm program and played it at 11 pm. After a couple of wines [Glasses or bottles? MWD Editor], your man Cameron commenced lecturing about Marcus Aurelius and the Peloponnesian War and some other stuff that he learnt in Ancient History at Knox Grammar all those decades ago.  A blissful sleep soon followed – woken only on occasions when the Trivago sheila made an appearance. Otherwise zzzzzz.  Outsiders After (Very) Dark – Highly recommended.


After so many Fairfax Media journalists ranted at the promotion of The Everest horse race tomorrow on the Sydney Opera House sails on Tuesday evening – it’s nice to know this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald contained a 12 page wrap-around flogging the race (which will be run tomorrow).

It was very much a SMH blokes-on morning on this occasion. The men wrote about horses and jockeys for the first 9 pages – read all about it from Kerrin McEvoy, Andrew Webster, Chris Roots and Adam Pengilly. While the sheilas got to write about – wait for it – fashion and entertainment. MWD just loved Melissa Singers’ “Best way to wear blue and white for the Everest” while Genevieve Rota wrote about what One Dimension’s Liam Payne will sing for his afternoon-tea tomorrow at Royal Randwick.

What does Fairfax Media’s Jacqueline Maley and the Fairfax Media feminist collective think about such gender binary?   MWD will let you know if Hendo finds out.


The leak of the selective parts of the recommendations of the Religious Freedom Review (chaired by former attorney-general Philip Ruddock) to Fairfax Media resulted in a real beat-up. See, for example, The Age’s Page One story on Wednesday by Jewel Topsfield titled “Religious Freedom: Push for gay rejection”. This is how Ms Topsfield’s report commenced:

Religious schools would be guaranteed the right to turn away gay students and teachers under changes to federal anti-discrimination laws recommended by the government’s long-awaited review into religious freedom.

However the report, which is still being debated by cabinet despite being handed to the Coalition four months ago, dismisses the notion religious freedom in Australia is in “imminent peril”, and warns against any radical push to let businesses refuse goods and services such as a wedding cake for a gay couple.

It seems that Fairfax Media’s intrepid reporter was unaware that the Ruddock Report recommends that the existing laws with respect to discriminati8on be tightened – not relaxed.  This was made clear in the article in The Conversation  yesterday by Liam Elphick, Amy Maguire and Anja Hilkemeijer.

Also Fairfax Media overlooked the fact that the current provisions were introduced by the Gillard Government’s amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act in 2013. This is what the then Attorney General Mark Dreyfus QC had to say when introducing the legislation:

The introduction of the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status into the Sex Discrimination Act, in conjunction with the existing complaints provisions of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986, will provide a complaints mechanism for people who consider they have been discriminated against on these bases. The Australian Human Rights Commission will be able to investigate and attempt to conciliate such complaints.  The bill also amends existing exemptions as appropriate to reflect the new grounds. This includes exemptions for religious bodies in relation to employment and the provision of education that have been in place for many years. These exemptions will continue under this bill and encompass the new grounds.’

There is no record of any Fairfax Media journalist objecting to the current legislation when it was introduced. Nor any suggestion that it amounted to a “push for gay rejection”.  Which suggests that Fairfax Media has one rule for the Labor Party and another for the Coalition.



On Saturday, Fairfax Media commenced its campaign against the decision of the NSW Coalition government – supported by the NSW Labor opposition – to allow the Sydney Opera House to promote next Saturday’s Everest horse race at Royal Randwick Racecourse by means of a light projection.  The campaign went on in the Sun-Herald and Sunday Age the following day.  And on again in the SMH and The Age on Monday. Ditto Tuesday, Ditto Wednesday. On Page One of the Saturday SMH, the world heritage listed building was even referred to as the “Sacred Opera House”.

How strange, then, that the “Spectrum” in last Saturday’s Age (proprietor Fairfax Media) carried a prominent advertisement for how to order from Fairfax Photos – under the heading “Bring the Story Home”.  And what particular pic – from Fairfax Photos dating back to early 1900s – did Fairfax Media managers choose?  Well, the photo of the “NO WAR” sign painted (not projected) on the Sydney Opera House to protest about Australia’s commitment to the Coalition of the Willing which invaded Iraq in 2003.

So according to Fairfax Media’s Saturday newspaper in Sydney – it’s wrong to project lights on the Sacred Opera House for around ten minutes on one night of the year. However, according to Fairfax Media’s Saturday newspaper in Melbourne, the crime committed by those who painted the illegal graffiti “NO WAR” on the Opera House in 2003 is part of Australia’s “Story” as recorded by Fairfax Photos – and well worth buying, framing and placing on the wall.

This suggests that it’s a “Story” when the Green Left activists damage the Opera house with difficult to remove paint when demonstrating against John Howard’s government. But it’s a desecration when a Racing NSW promotion is (legally) beamed on the Opera House for a few minutes once a year.


And then there is the case of Waleed Aly – the Monash academic who presents programs on Network Ten (The Project) and ABC Radio National’s (The Minefield). It seems that Dr Aly (for a doctor he eventually became) reacts in different ways to the torn fabric of various cities.

In his oh-how-angry-am-I rant to camera on The Project on Tuesday – as the barrier draw of several horses was flashed on the Sydney Opera House’s sails – the Melbourne-based academic had this to say:

Waleed Aly: The point is, this place [i.e. the Opera House] belongs to all of us and if you flog them off to the highest bidder you tear up the fabric of a city. The politicians on either side just can’t see what the fuss is about. In the community we might have differing views on the Opera House. But if we don’t realise that co-opting our most famous national icon to promote a big money horse race that didn’t even exist two years ago was always going to piss off a lot of people, then you would have to be seriously out of touch.

Dr Aly then revealed that he had written letters of protest – apparently of the “We warn the Kaiser” genre – to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley. All four supported the light show.  So angry was Angry Aly that he included pins carrying the dollar ($) sign in his missive for them to place on their lapels. Really.

A ten minute light show can “tear up the fabric of a city”. But what about a terrorist attack?  Well, according to your man Aly, citizens have to get used to this particular (deadly) light show. This is what Waleed Aly wrote in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013:

…we handle terrorism. Gone is the triumphalist rhetoric of the ”War on Terror”, with its ridiculous promises of a terrorism-free world and the ultimate victory of freedom over tyranny. In its place is a far more sober, pragmatic recognition that terrorism is a perpetual irritant, and that while it is tragic and emotionally lacerating, it kills relatively few people and is not any kind of existential threat. (Sydney Morning Herald, 19 April 2013).

So there you have it.  A light show promoting a horse race “tears up the fabric of a city” like Sydney.  But bombs that kill people are a manifestation of a “perpetual irritant” which cities (like Boston) have to get used to.


 Can You Bear It


“Fitz on Sunday” was its usual (lightweight) best in Fairfax Media’s the Sun-Herald on 30 September 2018. There was The Red Bandannaed One’s “Joke of the Week” (no doubt, per courtesy of the internet).  As for the lead story – well it seems that Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton has revealed in his recently published memoirs titled On Air  that 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones once commented that he had a “very tight” buttock. Well, fancy that.

Then there was Fitz’s report that 100 people had turned up at the Middle Harbour Yacht Club to protest against Tony Abbott – who, as it turned out, was somewhere else. How newsy is that?  The Red Bandannaed One even praised the grammar of the sandal-wearing Lower North Shore luvvies – in particular for correct punctuation on their sign “Time’s up, Tony” – rather than “Times up Tony”.  Well, now. You see, your man Fitz learnt at Knox Grammar where to place a comma. Then “Fitz on Sunday” finished with the following piece:

Worthy Spring Clean

Next Saturday, you will hopefully see Sydneysiders carrying huge bundles of clothes to their cars and heading down to Vinnies, Red Cross shops and Salvos Stores to donate.  It is part of a “Big Spring Clean” event, with 1000 charity op shops taking part.  The brainchild of Jon Dee, the idea is to clean out people’s wardrobes of their unused clothes and get them in the hands of people who are desperate for them.

That was Sunday 30 September 2018. Less than a week later, on Thursday 4 October 2018, ABC News carried the following report by Amy Bainbridge:

Charities want consumers to think twice before making an impulse buy at a fast fashion store after new figures reveal it is costing millions of dollars to send unusable donations of cheap clothing to landfill. “If you wouldn’t lend it to a friend, or give it to a friend … don’t donate it,” Omer Soker from the National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations (NACRO) said.

Cheap, mass-produced clothes are often in no shape to be handed down so Australian charities are forced to dispose of them and new figures reveal that is having a devastating impact on their budgets. Australian charitable recycling organisations are spending a staggering $13 million per year sending unusable donations to landfill.

“There is a phenomenal amount of stuff and a lot of that is garments [and] textiles,” Mr Soker said. “If it was all quality stuff, that would be one thing, but a lot of it is fast fashion. Fast fashion has no intrinsic value in the fibres; it’s not designed to last.  It really should be called fast-to-landfill fashion, because unfortunately that’s what it is.”

So there you have it.  On Sunday 30 September, Fitz told his readers (if readers there are) that – on Saturday 6 October – they should take all their used clothes to Vinnies, Red Cross Shops and Salvo Stores.  However, on Thursday 4 October the National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisations urged Australians not to dump all their used clothes at charity outlets.

Mr Soker had a point.  What, for example, would Vinnies be expected to do with – say – a thousand red rags posing as bandannas in their bins?  Can You Bear It?


Jackie’s (male) co-owner – whose early years were spent in the Melbourne suburb of Balwyn – always takes an interest in his old home town.  Which is why Hendo always reads Wendy Tuohy’s “Talking Point” column in The Age each Saturday. Here is how her piece commenced last week – it was titled: “Radio resistance Melbourne’s shame”:

In Melbourne, we flatter ourselves as being down with diversity, up with inclusion, open to change and, to quote the ex PM, culturally “agile”. We are the home of deconstructed coffee and the DIY avo toast (at $16 a pop), a place where no one bats an eyelid about having to pop down the shops for some tamarind to make tonight’s tea.

We spruik ourselves not only as the country’s great multi-cultural success story but as boasting such spectacular cultural richness it doesn’t even matter we don’t have the sexy harbour. Yet our collective response to a not-even-that-confronting change of hosts on our loved national broadcaster’s breakfast show has exposed just how closed-minded many of us are.

Sami Shah and Jacinta Parsons, both of whom I have met briefly, should have been welcomed with open arms by an audience which has long complained there is not enough variety in the kind of person given a full-time show on the ABC.

Sure, Sami has an accent (which gives his jokes a special extra something, if you ask me), and Jacinta came from a “music station”, and they both replaced the city’s most adorable professional grump [Red Symons]….

Hold it there.  Where does Wendy Tuohy live?  Is she suggesting that the Melbourne suburbs are replete with culturally agile types (like her) who are into deconstructed coffee, self-applied avocado on toast and tamarind puree on something or other?  Hendo doubts if this would be the rage in Broadmeadows, Clayton – or perhaps even Balwyn.

All the deconstructed coffee/DIY avo toast/tamarind stuff was a (self-indulgent) lead-in to Ms Touhy’s dressing down of her fellow Melbourne comrades for not listening in sufficient numbers to the ABC Melbourne Radio 774 Breakfast Show with Ms Jacinta Parsons and Mr Sami Shah.

In an intellectually fashionable identity analysis, Wendy Tuohy reckons that ABC Melbourne listeners have tuned out because Ms Parsons is “a woman with a different and warm radio voice” and Mr Shah “is a brown man”.  So it’s all about identity.  Groan.

It turned out that last Monday’s Age Letters Page – usually the preserve of the leftist Sandalista Class – carried five letters on the Tuohy piece. Surprisingly, all were critical of her analysis.  MWD was particularly impressed by the thought of a resident of Balwyn:

Wendy Tuohy has a gall criticising Melburnians for not, in her words “accepting Jacinta and Sami”. She tries to drive the feminism and race card together. Without her realising it her story reveals why Melburnians aren’t crazy about the ABC breakfast radio duo, she writes “Sami has an accent, (no problem here) which gives his jokes a special extra something”.

There lies the answer do we want to hear a comedian trying to make funny jest with every line uttered? There are comedy clubs that people can choose to attend to hear “special jokes with an extra something” or there are radio stations that present great breakfast programs and we can choose to tune in, or not.

Pieter van Wessem, Balwyn

And that’s the point.  Sami Shah is a better stand-up comedian than he is a breakfast presenter (covering news and current affairs that is frequently not funny). Wendy Tuohy castigated Melburnians – declaring that they “should be a bit ashamed” for not embracing ABC Radio Melbourne Breakfast-after-Red-Symons.  But as Age correspondent Russell Harrison wrote on Monday: “Perhaps many find the presenters uninteresting, the topics trivial and the banter juvenile.” Quite so.  Yet The Age’s “Talking Point” columnist reckons the program’s poor ratings are all about race and gender.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Balwyn, it appears that neither Wendy Tuohy nor any Age journalist/columnist lives in the suburb which lies between Kew and Box Hill. Otherwise, Fairfax Media’s Melbourne newspaper would be aware of its main attraction.

East Saturday, The Age’s Spectrum section – titled “The Good Life: Your Weekend” – includes a piece on Melbourne’s suburbs and why Age readers should visit them.  Last Saturday, the focus was on Balwyn. Here are The Age’s “6 Reasons to visit Balwyn”.

▪ Each Monday the Balwyn Library puts on Remember When? Balwyn.  It includes a history of the suburb along with a “projection of images of the old clock-like traffic signals on Whitehorse Road and of long-gone businesses”. How exciting is that?

▪ The Upstairs Chinese restaurant in Belmore Road – “the food is well prepared from the siu mai pork dumplings to the crouton-covered deep-fried crab claw”. Only in Balwyn, it seems.

▪ Miranda Gardens including the 1937 constructed Beckett Gardens Observation Tower on Yarrbat Street. According to The Age, “this historically designed expanse could be described as a small version of the Royal Botanic Gardens”. Yes – a very small one.

▪ Belmore Organic Meats on Belmore Road. Danny Sakkas’ meat is “ethically raised” and gives “back to the environment”. Really.

▪ The Art to Art Gallery on Bulleen Road – which has four exhibitions a year and is located “in the downstairs of a family home”.  The artists are up-and-coming and the art is carefully selected and framed ready to hang”.  Just like Sir Roger Casement, it seems.

▪ The Koonung Creek Reserve which contains a small native lily.  It’s only metres from the Eastern Freeway – but, clearly, gives lotsa space for a lily or two to grow.

Er, that’s it.  Did The Age miss anything?  Well, just the best reason to visit Balwyn. Namely, the Balwyn Theatre – now called the Palace Balwyn – at 231 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn.  It opened in 1930 and survived the advent of television in the mid-1950s. Yet The Age does not regard the Balwyn Theatre as a reason to visit Balwyn.  Can You Bear It?



Due to overwhelming demand, this segment has returned.  Originally titled “Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week”, it has morphed into Jackie’s Pick-of-the-Week. Reflecting the fact that Nancy has “passed” to what American psychic John Edward calls the Other Side.  The aim of this segment is to detect abnormal – or paranormal – behaviour among Australian journalists.

On Sunday, Fairfax Media’s Sun-Herald in Sydney led Page One with a story titled “BACKLASH: Architect’s son slams ‘desecration’ of the Opera House amid growing chorus of opposition to advertising The Everest race on famous sails. Pages 2-3. Peter FitzSimons Back Page.”

The reference was to the decision of the NSW government – premier Gladys Berejiklian – to allow the projection of lights on the Opera House for around ten minutes on Tuesday night advising the barrier draw for tomorrow’s The Everest horse race at Royal Randwick Racecourse.  That’s all.

It is MWD’s contention that when it comes to cultural matters – it’s a case of horses for courses (as the cliché goes). Willy Hall, the son of the architect Peter Hall who finished the Opera House after the original architect Jorn Utzon quit the project, expressed the view that the light show was a “desecration”.  On ABC’s The World Today (8 October), ABC journalist Angus Randall seemed to agree with the view that what was going on amounted to “the battle for the soul of the Opera House”. But, fortunately, not a battle for the foundations of the building – which remain firmly in situ.

In MWD’s contention,  this was just another post-modernist event which coincided with the shredding of (anonymous) street artist Banksy’s painting Girl With Balloon just after it had sold for around $2 million at Sotheby’s auction house in London last Friday (UK time).

Alas, not all the Sandalista Class Down Under is into post-modernism.  Not, in any event, when horse racing/gambling is involved and Radio 2GB’s Alan Jones is on the side of Racing NSW.  It seems that Sydney’s luvvies got the post-modern vibe when the Opera House bore the (projected) colours of the Australian Rugby and Cricket teams and celebrated a Samsung photo competition along with the victory of “Yes” in the same sex marriage postal survey.  But a horse race? – not on your nelly.

The campaign against the light-show was led by Fairfax Media and the ABC (in the red corner). News Corp’s Daily Telegraph (in the blue corner) supported the move. What was surprising turned on the fact that Fairfax Media and the ABC embraced the errant sexism of Peter FitzSimons – whose views dominated the opposition to the deed on Sunday and beyond – and were even quoted with approval by MWD fave Barrie Cassidy on Insiders last Sunday.

The Red Bandannaed One’s “Fitz on Sunday” Sun-Herald column last weekend was titled “Horses for courses, Premier, or billboards, but not our sails”.  It commenced: “Oh, Gladys, how could you?”

How rude and sexist can a Fairfax Media columnist get?  The name of the NSW Premier is Gladys Berejiklian.  In Fitz’s entire column, the NSW premier’s surname was not used.  Not even once. Others mentioned in the story got their full name – Alan Jones, Sydney Opera House chief executive Louise Herron, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Ann Sherry and Racing NSW’s Peter V’Landys.

But not Ms Berejiklian. Instead there were five references to “Gladys”. Really.

[Interesting. I note that the Fairfax Media/ABC driven Sandalista Class which does not approve of gambling likes to refer to the Opera House as “Our Opera House”.

Yet the fact is that the Sydney Opera House was financed by gamblers who bought tickets in the NSW Lottery which paid for the construction of the building.  It was not financed by taxpayers or by business.  In fact, its birth is due to essentially middle class and working class Australians who enjoyed a gamble.  At the time, Protestants – particularly in NSW – opposed gambling.  So it’s fair to say that the Opera House came about due to the gambling of Catholics and non-believers. The Red Bandannaed One was educated at the Methodist/Uniting Church’s Knox Grammar which opposed gambling.

[Surely this item should have been a contender for your hugely popular “Can You Bear It?” segment – MWD Editor.]



As avid readers are aware, the late Nancy (2004-2017) did not die. She merely “passed” on to the Other Side. Hence MWD has been able to keep in touch with her – with the help of the American psychic John Edward. And so, Nancy’s “Courtesy Classes” continue – albeit from the “Other Side”.


As avid readers are aware, MWD fave and ABC TV The Drum presenter Julia Baird insists that her program is all about respectful conversation.  So, how’s this oh-so-respectful dialogue going? – MWD hears you cry.

Well, here’s how the respectful conversation went on Wednesday – when Sarah Dingle was in the presenter’s chair and the panel composed Michael Biercuk (director, Qantum Central Laboratory, Sydney University), Kathryn Greiner, Uniting Church minister The Rev. Avril Hanna-Jones and Adam Liaw (cook, writer and television producer). Only two members of the panel got involved when discussion turned on President Donald Trump’s announcement that Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, had decided to resign from the post at the end of the year. Let’s go to the transcript:

Sarah Dingle: Michael, I know you have thoughts on that, what are they?

Michael Biercuk: Well look, she [Ambassador Haley] was widely described in the media in the last day or so to be the only adult in the room. That she clearly was a capable ambassador. She engaged as a diplomat in a way that others like John Bolton might not be inclined to do. I think it is a little disappointing that the media coverage has more or less lauded her so much, really just ignoring the fact that she’s a hard-line conservative who happens not to be an avowed kleptocratic, autocrat or white supremacist. Um, you know, that, we have very low bars these days –

Sarah Dingle: All those are, generally considered to be good things?

Michael Biercuk:  – you know, even a rotten apple looks pretty good in a field full of manure…. The fact is, if you look back at her track record as a politician, it’s not something that I personally think we should be embracing as leadership qualities. She strongly supported voter ID laws that are designed to combat the non-issue of voter fraud in the United States. There’s no evidence that this actually exists. It’s widely believed to be a tactic used to suppress minority vote. She is a strong supporter of easing regulations on the ability to carry concealed weapons – she thinks it should be even easier in her State and obviously in other places. She fought against government, Federal government support, for health care for poor people and expansion of the Medicaid system. She fought against subsidies for insurance policies for poorer people, helping them buy health care, probably because it was linked to Obama. And frankly she has proven herself quite the opportunist. Right?

She was very strongly against Trump as a candidate before she was for him. And uh, you know, that’s not who I personally think we should have in leadership positions.  And I certainly don’t think we should look at her so uncritically when we talk about her as the adult in the room.

Adam Liaw: I think you just described the majority of the Republican Party though. You know. [laughter all around] All of these policies –

Michael Biercuk: That’s a fair point.

Adam Liaw: – are pretty straight down the line Republican policies and nobody was for Trump before they were against him [sic] or the other way around….

[What can your man Liaw be on about here?  Is he really saying that “nobody” was against Trump before they were for him? What can this mean? – MWD Editor.]

So, Sarah Dingle – standing in for The Drum  presenter Julia Baird – said nothing when Professor Biercuk described Ambassador Haley as a “rotten apple”  who “looks pretty good in a field of manure”. Where is feminist solidarity when you need it? What would Ms Dingle say if, say, broadcaster called Dr Baird a “rotten apple”.

Michael Biercuk and Sarah Dingle – Off to Nancy’s  Courtesy Classes for you.


This (hugely popular) segment is devoted to helping out public figures – including journalists – who have contracted a serious dose of Abbott-phobia. Sufferers of this condition present as normal individuals who become temporarily unhinged when confronting the real or spoken or written word about Tony Abbott. Some attempt to blame their own particular Valley of Tears on Australia’s 28th prime minister – while others lose their sense of judgment with respect to Tony Abbott or his family. It’s a complicated condition.  That’s why Nurse Jackie’s here to help. All the way from Gunnedah – with a Diploma in Wellness.


Amanda Vanstone is the kind of “progressive” Liberal Party member who appeals to Fairfax Media and the ABC.  Which could well explain why she has a column in Fairfax Media newspapers and presents Counterpoint on ABC Radio National.  She also appears frequently on ABC TV’s The Drum.

Ms Vanstone, who was a minister in John Howard’s Coalition government, proudly states that she is a “liberal” and not a “conservative”. So Counterpoint does not disprove MWD’s contention that the ABC is a Conservative-Free-Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. For two reasons.  First, Ms Vanstone is not a conservative.  Second, Counterpoint is not a prominent program.

On 1 October 2018, Amanda Vanstone concluded a column in the Sydney Morning Herald and elsewhere on the current controversy at the ABC as follows:

Interference…is not the same as criticism. Independence doesn’t mean the right to be wrong or biased. There can be no problem with anyone, government of the day or otherwise, complaining when something is wrong. It doesn’t matter what side of politics you’re on. What happens when you complain is what counts. To bounce complaints away as being political interference is unwise.

Almost any business will tell you that the way you handle complaints is critical. Being upfront and admitting an error can actually win over critics. Being defensive and refusing to admit to errors can lose you friends. The only person who looks stupid is you. It seems this message hasn’t sunk in at ”Aunty”. In more than 20 years in politics I had occasion to complain to the ABC a couple of times. I can’t say they were great experiences. I nearly sued them a few years ago, but knowing they have deep pockets (yours and mine) I decided to let it go. In that sense, I didn’t do the right thing. I complained recently and regard the response as risible rubbish.

It’s odd, really, that those who are quick to jump on the slightest error of others contort themselves to avoid admitting their own.

If you think I’m biased because I’m a Liberal, ask Graham Richardson what he thinks. Frankly, getting the ABC to admit error is like getting Tony Abbott to admit his errors. It might not sit well with some ABC staff to realise that they have a few things in common with Tony, but they do. They too are never wrong and they too think it’s all about them. Despite the noise from protesting staffers and media commentators, despite the temporary hiatus at the top, the vast majority of the good people at the ABC have been keeping calm and getting on with their jobs.

It’s great to have Amanda Vanstone in the cart of ABC critics.  But what’s Tony Abbott got to do with it? – especially since Ms Vanstone left politics before Mr Abbott became prime minister.  In a column that ran for 900 words, Amanda Vanstone only named two names.  Only two.  Namely, Graham Richardson and Tony Abbott.  She did not even name former ABC operatives Justin Milne and Michelle Guthrie.  Mr Richardson was mentioned once – Mr Abbott was mentioned on two occasions.

How strange that Amanda Vanstone apparently cannot write a column criticising the ABC without bagging the former Liberal Party prime minister as well.  Ms Vanstone offered no evidence that Mr Abbott claims that he is “never wrong” or that he thinks that everything is about him.  It seems that Amanda Vanstone wanted to assure the ABC that while she is occasionally critical of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster she is always critical of Tony Abbott.

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Jackie (Dip. Wellness, Gunnedah Institute) Comments:

It seems that Patient Vanstone is suffering from the onset of Abbott-phobia.  I note that she managed to get through 75 per cent of her column on the current row at the ABC without mentioning Australia’s 28th prime minister.  But then the symptoms kicked in.  This could have resulted from a recovered memory about Mr Abbott (allegedly) refusing to admit an error.  Or it could have been caused by Ms Vanstone having nothing left to say and caught with a whole para to write.  In case it is the former, I would recommend that the patient consume enough red wine to forget about Tony Abbott for at least a fortnight – that is, before writing her next Fairfax Media column.


Unlike its readers’ comments segment (where contributors provide some kind of name), Crikey’s  “Tips and Rumours” section appears with editorial approval.  The various anonymous writers sound off – per courtesy of Crikey editor Bhakthi Puvanenthiran.  This contribution titled “Tony Abbott chased out of everywhere” took MWD’s interest.  It appeared on 2 October 2018 and commenced as follows:

Man Abbott town. Just as John Farnham was fond of endless “farewell” tours, former prime minister Tony Abbott, now that he’s achieved his life’s ambition of making the Liberals unelectable, has been on more of a “please retire” tour….

So according to Crikey’s “Tips and rumours”, Tony Abbott is (i) “chased out of everywhere” and (ii) has achieved his “life ambition of making the Liberals unelectable…”.

In fact, Mr Abbott has a strong body of support within Australian society. Moreover, he is one of the four Liberal Party leaders who have led the Coalition to victory from opposition by defeating the Labor Party at an election.  The quartet are Robert Menzies (1949), Malcolm Fraser (1975), John Howard (1996) and Tony Abbott (2013).

Tony Abbott has never had a life ambition to make the Liberals unelectable.  Crikey’s anonymous correspondent just made this up. Moreover, there is no evidence that the Liberal Party is unelectable.

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Jackie (Dip. Wellness, Gunnedah Institute) Comments:

I note that the anonymous Crikey contributor commenced his/her/non-binary piece as follows: “Tony Abbott apparently not welcome anywhere…”.   This suggests a condition of projection. Crikey, which does not welcome Mr Abbott anywhere, projects its conviction on to the world at large. Even to the Abbott family, apparently.  As to the claim that the Liberals are unelectable – well, that’s wish-fulfilment. I would recommend lotsa Gin & Tonic for this patient.  If he/she/non-binary is having trouble sleeping, a reading of a bundle of Crikey editor-at-large Guy Rundle’s collective works usually does the trick.




As avid readers are aware, such ABC supremos as Julia Baird, Annabel Crabb, Ellen Fanning, Richard Glover and Leigh Sales have denied that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone – without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. However, none have been able to name the name of one prominent conservative in the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

Issue 411 (22 June 2018) carried Gerard Henderson’s email to Dr Baird asking if she was able to provide the name of a prominent ABC presenter, producer or editor who holds one or more of these positions:

▪ It was good for the United States and the world that Donald J. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton at the November 2016 US presidential election.

▪ Australia should follow the Trump administration and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

▪ Israel is entitled to use live ammunition to defend its border against Hamas on the Israel/Gaza boundary.

▪ Marriage is a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others (According to the recent voluntary postal ballot, close to 40 per cent of Australians hold this view – it’s not clear if even 5 per cent of ABC employees would agree with this proposition.)

▪ Abortion is wrong.

▪ Australians should support the border protection policies enacted by John Howard and Tony Abbott in government. Including turning back the boats and off-shore detention for all asylum seekers.

▪ Australia should remain a constitutional monarchy.

▪ Advocates of renewable energy grossly exaggerate the consequences of climate change and falsely blame CO2 emissions for any global warming that can be identified.

▪ Coal fired power stations are a reliable and relatively cheap form of electrical generation for Australia and other nations.

▪ Governments should immediately abandon subsidies for such renewable industries as solar and wind.

(Spoiler Alert: no such person was identified by Julia Baird.)

Now let’s look at the questions raised by Paul Kelly in his column in The Australian on 3 October 2018. Here are the questions he raised about what he termed the ABC’s “prevailing culture”:

The ABC, of course, is different to most media organisations in its size, the numbers of journalists and media professionals, its geographical spread and its multiple TV, radio and digital outlets. It cannot be a monolith and it is not a monolith. Yet the sense of a prevailing culture cannot be missed.

Let’s ask some questions: Didn’t the ABC display a strong preference for same-sex marriage? Wasn’t it critical of border protection measures to stop asylum-seeker boats? Doesn’t it favour strong action on climate change and criticise governments for not being sufficiently ambitious? Doesn’t it project support for renewables and faster efforts to phase out fossil fuels? Wasn’t the ABC distinctly unsympathetic to the policy of corporate tax cuts? Wasn’t it hostile towards reform of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and unsympathetic to free speech arguments? Doesn’t it push for a referendum on an indigenous voice to parliament and criticise government over this? Isn’t it uncritical of social spending programs and critical of cuts to such programs in the cause of fiscal discipline? Isn’t it more ­focused on inequality than economic growth and more supportive of government intervention over market forces?

MWD is happy to run a refutation of one or more of Paul Kelly’s questions.  Over to you Comrades Baird, Crabb, Fanning, Glover and Sales.

Paul Kelly concluded his column with the suggestion that the ABC “is the strongest force for progressive [i.e. left wing] politics in the country”.  Quite so.  This, in fact, is what ABC presenter Jonathan Green boasted about in his tweet when he spoke about the ABC’s “house style” – which he depicted as moderately small “l” liberally and “socially progressive” (i.e. left wing).



The inability of ABC staff to take criticism – from within or outside the organisation – is a matter of record.  This was demonstrated most recently in the reaction by ABC economics correspondent Emma Alberici to the criticism of the Turnbull government and commentators alike to her howler-filled analysis concerning company tax.  It was former ABC chairman Justin Milne’s comment to former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie that Ms Alberici should be dismissed for so fundamental an error that formed part of the ABC controversy of recent memory.

When digging through some old files this week, Jackie’s (male) co-owner came across some newspaper clippings from August 1973 concerning then ABC chairman Professor Richard Downing and Four Corners.  Here’s how the piece in The Australian of 14 August 1973 commenced:

Staff morale was decidedly lowish at ABC headquarters in Sydney yesterday following Graham Williams’ exclusive interview with the new chairman, Professor Richard Downing, in Saturday’s Australian.

Public affairs staff were shocked and bewildered at criticisms made by Professor Downing in the interview. The chairman singled out for criticism a recent Four Corners segment on the late Arthur Calwell.  He said the item had failed to put Calwell in perspective because it emphasised his links with the Catholic Church, whereas his own memory of Calwell was first as an Australian, second as a Labor man and only in a minor way a churchman.

Four Corners staff reacted angrily yesterday, saying his statement betrayed a gross misinterpretation of the item or else almost complete misinformation. “The item pointed out that Calwell was one of the last of the old-style Irish-Catholic politicians who once predominated the party.” Said one Four Corners man. “It traced the way that the influence of men like Calwell had waned in the Labor Party, pointing out that the composition of the Whitlam Cabinet was very different from the Irish-Catholic Chifley Cabinet. For the new chairman to say that the item was about Calwell’s Catholicism was to completely miss the point of it.  It was about the Labor Party and the influence of Irish-Catholics in it.”

Richard Ivan Downing (1915-1975) was an economist who studied economics at the University of Melbourne under such prominent economists and economic advisers as Douglas Copland and L.F. Giblin. In 1954 Richard Downing was appointed Professor of Economic Research at Melbourne University. Richard Downing was a Melbourne-based Australian Labor Party supporter and would have had an informed opinion about Arthur Calwell, who led the ALP from early 1960 until early 1967 and was a Melbourne resident.

Professor Downing was appointed chairman of the ABC by Gough Whitlam’s Labor government in June 1973 – remaining in this position until he died suddenly on 10 November 1975.

In view of Professor Downing’s background and contacts, it seems (and it seemed) reasonable that he would have a view on Arthur Calwell and the Labor Party – and was entitled to express it.  But the team at Four Corners thought otherwise and took offence.  So what did the learned professor do?  Well he backed down and apologised – as The Australian reported on 15 August 1973:

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s new chairman, Professor Richard Downing, yesterday apologised for his recent criticism of ABC staff. He made the apology in Adelaide when commenting on a report that his criticism of a recent Four Corners profile on the late Mr Arthur Calwell had shocked programme staff. “I’m very sorry if I’ve upset anyone at the ABC”, said Professor Downing. “I certainly did not mean to create any kind of furore – it’s really a matter of what I said in a newspaper interview being put in perspective.”

Four Corners’ staff were reported to be angry at Professor Downing’s charge that the Calwell profile failed to put the Labor politician in perspective because it emphasised his links with the Catholic Church.

Professor Downing said before flying on to Perth, his criticism was an attempt to quote an example of how best the ABC could preserve its independence by handling controversial subjects in a proper perspective.

“I was asked to give a specific example of keeping things in perspective and I just happened to choose that particular programme. I didn’t mean to upset anyone,” he said.

So there you have it. In August 1973 the then ABC chairman upset the staff collective (or soviet) at Four Corners – by merely suggesting that a program on the ALP should have focused less on the fact that its leader before Whitlam was a Catholic of Irish background.

Then – as now – journalists at the taxpayer funded broadcaster spend their professional lives criticising individuals and organisations.  However, they throw the switch to defensive when anyone criticises them.

[How frightfully interesting.  I note that then – as now – there was an air of anti-Catholic sectarianism at the ABC, to which even an atheist like Richard Downing took exception. – MWD Editor.]

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Until next time.


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