GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 432
16 November 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: Fran Kelly Rejects Josh Frydenberg Three Times; Mark Humphries Recycles Liberal Party Joke; Trump-phobia on News Breakfast
Can You Bear It? Sarah Ferguson, Four Corners & The ABC; Laura Tingle & The Donald; Crikey & the Pacifists of WWI; Peter Fitz runs the “They all died in vain” line on Armistice Day.
You Must Remember This: Anne Davies on Warringah – but also Wentworth
Maurice Newman Segment: In which Everyone on The Drum agrees with everyone else on the ABC
The Flann O’Brien Gong for Literary Sludge: Step Forward Elizabeth Farrelly on “uncaused causes”
Documentation: Our man in Ultimo – inside Q&A’s Malcolm Turnbull program
Correspondence: Tim Fischer and Hendo on the ABC – and Trains
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FRAN KELLY’S “NO/NO/NO” DISMISSAL OF JOSH FRYDENBERG
What a lively interview with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on ABC Radio National Breakfast this morning. Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly was in the presenter’s chair.
Ms Kelly is a two-speed interviewer. There are the oh-so-soft interviews. Like the one with Kerryn Phelps, the new Independent member for Wentworth, on 5 November. It’s in the “yes/yes/yes” category. And then there is the feisty interview. Like the one with Josh Frydenberg this morning. It’s in the “no/no/no” category. Let’s go to the transcript where Comrade Kelly challenged the Treasurer on the Morrison government’s decision to consider re-locating the Australian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem:
Fran Kelly: Of course, Australia needs to make its own diplomatic decisions. But it needs to make them in the context of all our relationships too – and implications. And when we make them is important. Who is reviewing the embassy policy? The Prime Minister said it’s being reviewed, he expects to have the answer by Christmas. What’s the process going on?
Josh Frydenberg: Well the Prime Minister is working with our senior officials ensuring that we get the best possible advice. I’ll let him expand on that. But the point is, he has made a principled decision to commence this process. Let’s not pre-empt what the outcome of this process is. But let’s remember what the Labor Party’s position is, which is effectively to say: “We’re not going to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem because it may offend other countries who don’t have a relationship with Israel.”
Fran Kelly: [Interjecting] I think that’s a misrepresentation of those who are questioning the decision.
Josh Frydenberg: But you would Fran, you would.
Fran Kelly: No, no, no. That’s unfair Treasurer. It’s not just the Labor Party. Many analysts have said: “Why would you do this? – this does nothing to progress the two-state solution and in fact it could cause tensions, it could exacerbate tensions”.
The fact is that Labor Party operatives have criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to consider re-locating Australia’s embassy to Israel for the reason, among others, that Australia might upset the leadership of Muslim majority nations like Indonesia.
This is what Mr Frydenberg said when Ms Kelly hit the “no/no/no” button. And she then complained that the Treasurer had been “unfair” to her. Shucks. Some journalists who dish it out are just so sensitive to criticism – don’t you think?[I concur. Perhaps you should have placed this in your hugely popular “Can You Bear It?” segment. Just a thought – MWD Editor.]
MARK HUMPHRIES’ (SATIRICAL) REMAKE OF HIS LIBERAL PARTY JOKE
7.30 presenter Leigh Sales has the good sense to introduce comedian Mark Humphries’ contributions to 7.30 by telling viewers that your man Humphries is a “satirist”. A satirist in search of new jokes – or even a new joke – apparently.
The ABC transcripts department seems to get the message. The text of Mark Humphries’ satirical contribution to 7.30 on 1 November was headed “Behind the scenes of a Prime Ministerial video”. Last night’s satire was headed “Behind the scenes of another social media video by the government”.
A fortnight ago Tony Chauvel, video producer for the Prime Minister’s Office and the Liberal Party (aka Mark Humphries), mocked Scott Morrison. Last night it was Josh Frydenberg. Next time – perhaps Peter Dutton or, to be safe, Tony Abbott.
It seems that your man Humphries can see nothing to make fun of about the left of politics. Not even with the Greens. Despite the Greens’ decision to endorse a misogynist rapper in the Victorian State election – along with the Greens’ deep division over how to approach alleged cases of sexual harassment in NSW – should make good material for a satirist. Perhaps Mark Humphries’ problem is that Tony Chauvel only appears to produce videos for the Liberal Party.
TRUMP-PHOBIA UP WITH THE SPARROWS ON NEWS BREAKFAST THIS MORNING
What a stunning performance by Melbourne University academic Dr Lauren Rosewarne in the “Newspapers” gig on ABC TV News Breakfast this morning. The learned doctor was covering Paige Taylor’s exclusive story in today’s Australian that 40 of the 300 refugees who left Nauru to settle in the United States want to return to Nauru.
To Hendo this morning, this read like a story about refugees/asylum seekers and the conditions on Nauru. And not Donald J. Trump. But, wait for it, Lauren Rosewarne threw the switch to Trump-phobia, as the transcript attests:
Lauren Rosewarne: Let’s start with Nauru. Of the 300 who’ve been moved to the United States, 40 want to go back to Nauru. It raises questions about what is it that the US doesn’t do – or doesn’t offer – that Nauru can. So things like, good weather, job opportunities, the ability to travel. And I’m guessing “No Trump” is probably a big factor.
Michael Rowland: We’ll take that as a comment.
And so it was. And what an effort to run the line that even refugees who want to return to Nauru are escaping what many academics regard as the Trump Fascist Dictatorship. Who would have thought of that? – apart from, that is, a senior lecturer in Social and Political Sciences at Hendo’s alma mater The University of Melbourne. Worth a promotion to professor, surely.
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
FOUR CORNERS’ “BITTER END” PROGRAM MAKES AN EARLY END OF THE YEAR FOR SARAH FERGUSON AND HER COMRADES
Wasn’t that a stunning introduction by Sarah Ferguson to Monday’s Four Corners program “Bitter End” on the (very latest) crisis at the ABC – which saw the dismissal of ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie followed by the resignation of ABC chair Justin Milne. Here’s what Ms Ferguson had to say:
Sarah Ferguson: In this area of fake news and loss of faith in government across the world, the independence of institutions that represent the public interest are of critical importance. So, what are you – the public who fund us – supposed to make of what’s going on [at the ABC]?
How about that? According to one of the ABC’s leading presenters, the public needs the ABC to know what’s going on. Moreover, the ABC represents “the public interest” – as defined by the ABC. A somewhat self-serving judgment, don’t you think?
In any event, MWD just loves it when ABC journalists talk to ABC types about the ABC. ABC producers thought that the ABC’s “Bitter End” report on the ABC was so important that the program – which consisted primarily of the “she (Guthrie) said/he (Milne) said” genre was allowed to run 15 minutes over the allocated 45 minute time slot.
MWD is of the view that the non-specific allegations made by Ms Guthrie against Mr Milne should not have gone to air. Moreover, as Marque Lawyers managing partner Michael Bradley pointed out in Crikey on 13 November 2018, Ms Guthrie’s statements could be held as defamatory.
Jackie’s (male) co-owner does not have a dog in this fight – which, after all, is not unfamiliar when a chief executive falls out with the chair and the board. Judged by their interviews with Sarah Ferguson, Justin Milne presented a more plausible account than did Michelle Guthrie. Ms Guthrie’s appointment was essentially the decision of former ABC chairman James Spigelman. It wasn’t a good one – since she seemed out of her depth when it came to filling the duties of ABC editor-in-chief in addition to those of managing director. In the end the ABC board wanted Ms Guthrie to step down and she had scant support among ABC journalists.
As it turned out, after an hour or so, Sarah Ferguson fronted the ABC camera – dressed in red – and announced that “Bitter End” was Four Corners’ final program for the year. Fair dinkum. The date was Monday 12 November 2018. This means that Four Corners will not be back on Australian screens for close to three months – a larger than usual taxpayer funded Well Earned Break (or W.E.B. – in the familiar term much loved by journalists).
This raises the critical question. If Ms Ferguson’s self-serving statement is correct – and the ABC not only represents the public interest but is of “critical importance” in telling taxpayers what is going on – who will fill the gap between now and late January/early February 2019? Can You Bear It?
LA TINGLE’S SINGING ABOUT THE RAIN
Laura Tingle is the ABC TV’s chief political correspondent. So it stands to reason that she does some of the heavy lifting when it comes to leading the sneering at Donald J. Trump on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. La Tingle’s Trump-phobia was evident again on Sunday when she made her final statement at the end of the ABC TV Insiders program. Let’s go to the transcript:
Laura Tingle: Just finally, Barrie. Donald Trump’s in Europe to “celebrate” the end of the First World War. He’s created a fair bit of outrage by cancelling a visit to a very significant site because it was raining. But the French have had their own revenge by noting that in Le Monde today, that when he received the leaders of the Baltic States in April he began by blaming them for the war in Yugoslavia. Which is an easy mistake to make, really.
It’s true that there is an unverified report that in a meeting in Washington in April with the leaders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia President Trump may have confused the Baltic States with the Balkans. However, there was nothing wrong with Donald Trump’s use of the word “celebrations”, rather than “commemorations”, to describe the end of the First World War. The words are synonyms – which even a literary pedant should understand.
It seems that on Saturday night (French time), there was much ado on Twitter about the cancellation of President Trump’s planned visit to the Aisne-Marne American War Cemetery at Belleau. But, on the available evidence, this did not turn on Donald Trump’s (alleged) hostility to rain. After all, United States’ political leaders have access to umbrellas and all that.
According to reports, President Trump’s scheduled visit to the site of the Battle of Belleau was cancelled on account of bad weather. The President’s helicopter, Marine One, was grounded by the Marine Corps. Moreover, it appears that the US Secret Service decided that Donald Trump should not visit the site by car (a two and a half hour trip each way) since the security involved would have created traffic chaos in the area around Paris.
But to the ABC’s chief political correspondent, it was all about President Trump not wishing to walk in the rain. Can You Bear It?
CRIKEY! : CRIKEY COLUMNIST WANTS TO FLY WHITE FLAGS ON ARMISTICE DAY
While on the topic of World War One, did anyone read the piece by RMIT lecturer Binoy Kampmark in Crikey on Tuesday – titled “Remembering the peace-maker: what the Armistice commemorations forgot”. This was essentially an argument that, on Armistice Day, we should honour the memory of “the peace activists of the Great War” and erect memorials in their honour.
It’s true that some of the peace activists and conscientious objectors in 1914-1918 were very, very nice chaps and ladies. But it’s also true that when Imperial Germany invaded Belgium and then France, the approach of the peace movement of the day was – “So, the Kaiser wants Belgium and France; let’s give it to him with our (pacifist) regards”. It’s not at all clear that unilateral surrender facilitates long-term peace. Dr Kampmark (for a doctor he is) is an academic. Can You Bear It?
THE REDBANDANNAED ONE THROWS THE SWITCH TO “THEY ALL DIED IN VAIN” NOW THAT THE CENTENARY OF THE GREAT WAR IS OVER
While on the topic of the First World War, pacifism and all that – did anyone read Peter FitzSimons’ piece in Fairfax Media newspapers on Sunday? The Red Bandannaed One’s column was twice the length in the Sun-Herald as it was in the Sunday Canberra Times. At least Fairfax Media’s editors in the national capital had the sense to cut Fitz’s piece in half.
Fitz, who has had a lot of success writing piss-poor histories on WWI, appears to have thrown the switch to the “They all died in vain” line – now that the centenary of 1914-1918 is over. He commenced his column by referring to the “famed Australian military historian Professor Bruce Scates of Monash University”. For starters, Professor Scates is not that famous [Professor who? – MWD Editor]. What’s more, your man Scates’ essential view is that the Great War was a futile exercise. Needless to say, the learned professor does not say what should have happened when Germany declared war on France – apart, it seems, from France surrendering.
At the end of his (unoriginal) piece, Fitz indicated that he had no satisfactory answer to this question – why did Australians die in WWI and for what? He concluded by quoting from former Labor Party prime minister Paul Keating – who, presumably, Fitz also regards as in some way as a “famed military historian”:
…I go a fair bit of the way with PJK – Paul Keating – in his assertion five years ago today at the Australian War Memorial that: “The First World War was a war devoid of any virtue. It arose from the quagmire of European tribalism. A complex interplay of nation-state destinies overlaid by notions of cultural superiority peppered with racism.”
According to this view, in 1914-1918 there was “no virtue” in defeating Imperial Germany since, among other reasons, the conflict was a European phenomenon. This was not what Australians thought in 1914 – including senior Labor Party leaders. Moreover, Germany had possessions in the Pacific and a victory for the Kaiser in 1918 or earlier would have adversely affected Australian security. Fitz and his bestie PJK seem completely unaware of this. Can You Bear It?[Er, no. Not really. I understand that the Red Bandannaed One was seen in the NSW Parliament on Wednesday sans red bandanna. I note that there has been a significant fall in support for a republic under Fitz’s watch as chair of the Australian Republic Movement. Quelle surprise! – that many Aussies are not following the lead of a middle-aged millionaire journo who wears a red rag on his head and goes around verbally attacking political and/or social conservatives. – MWD Editor.]
YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS
“You Must Remember This” is based on the chorus line in the song As Time Goes By which was popularised by the film Casablanca. It is devoted to reminding the usual suspects of what they and/or those they supported once wrote or said.
- THE GUARDIAN’S ANNE DAVIES – ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL IN WARRINGAH AFTER A STUMBLE IN WENTWORTH
Did anyone see the piece on Wednesday by Anne Davies in the left’s online house journal The Guardian? Headed “Targeting Tony Abbott: inside the micro- campaigns to unseat the former PM”, it commenced as follows:
If the posters popping up around Manly and sales of anti–Tony Abbott T-shirts are any gauge, the member for Warringah has a fight on his hands.
“There’s a huge amount of grassroots activity. Organisations are popping out of the ground everywhere. And we are finding each other,” says Louise Hislop, the convenor of Voices of Warringah.
Anne Davies’ sources included “one couple” plus “one of the leaders of the campaign who asked to be anonymous” plus “they”. Impressive, eh? There was also a reference to Mark Kelly who has sold a total of 150 “Time’s up Tony” T-shirts since March – that is about four a week. There are over 100,000 voters in the electorate. Which means that Mr Thomas has lotsa T-shirts to sell if he is to make an impact on the campaign. Then there is a Nathan Thomas who “has reactivated his organisation People for Warringah”. It seems more accurate to say that People for Warringah has been brought back from the dead – a resurrection rather than a re-activation, to be sure. The Guardian’s journalist continued:
Importantly, all the groups are caucussing to ensure that they get the best independent candidate or at least prevent a Melbourne Cup field. The groups plan to hold their own informal preselection process in coming weeks.
The education campaigner Jane Caro came out of the blocks early and the Northern Beaches mayor, Michael Regan, hasn’t ruled himself out. But there are rumours of even more high-profile candidates in the wings who will require little introduction to the electorate. The internal debate is now about whether to announce the candidate before Christmas, or to wait until closer to the election.
In fact, as avid MWD readers are well aware, Jane Caro has not left the blocks in the Race for Warringah (See Issue 430). Indeed, she has not decided whether to go on the track. And, on Ms Davies’ own admission, your man Regan “hasn’t ruled himself out” – which means that he has not ruled himself in either. It’s a long way short of a Melbourne Cup field at this stage.
For the rest, Anne Davies suggested that the Get Up! and Stop Adani leftist movements are in the field against Tony Abbott plus millionaire Alex Turnbull along with “several wealthy Liberal supporters”. Isn’t it odd that The Guardian socialists are lending support to the anti-Abbott millionaires rather than a middle class suburbanite? What would Karl Marx have said?
So there you have it. Tony Abbott might be challenged by a high profile Independent in Warringah next year – but, then this might not be the case. You read it first in The Guardian.
By the way, this is the very same Anne Davies who wrote in The Guardian on 4 October 2018 that the Labor Party’s candidate Tim Murray might win the Wentworth by-election of recent memory. Here is what she had to say:
Wentworth, in Sydney’s east, has voted Liberal for the last 60 years. In 2016, Labor won just one booth: Kings Cross. It would take a very angry electorate and a lucky confluence of preferences to see Murray win. It also doesn’t help that the high-profile independent – local GP and marriage equality campaigner, Kerryn Phelps – is preferencing the Liberals ahead of Labor.
But strange things happen in by-elections. With 16 candidates, two well-known independents, and an electorate still smarting from the unceremonious dismissal of former member Malcolm Turnbull by his own party, it’s just conceivable that Labor could sneak in or at least give the Liberals a fright.
So, on 4 October 2018, Anne Davies thought it was “just conceivable” that Labor’s Tim Murray could win Wentworth. On 20 October 2018, Labor polled 11.5 per cent of the primary vote – behind the Liberal Party’s Dave Sharma (43.1 per cent) and Independent Kerryn Phelps (29.2 per cent). Anne Davies is The Guardian’s expert on politics in NSW.
MAURICE NEWMAN SEGMENT OR HOW EVERYONE AGREES WITH EVERYONE ELSE ON THE TAXPAYER FUNDED BROADCASTER
Due to unprecedented demand, the rebooted Maurice Newman Segment gets another run this week. As MWD readers will know, this (hugely popular) segment is devoted to former ABC chairman Maurice Newman’s one-time suggestion that a certain “group think” was prevalent at the ABC. And to former ABC managing director Mark Scott’s belief that there is no causal relationship between the political beliefs of ABC presenters, producers and editors and what they say (or the talent they commission) on ABC television, radio and online outlets.
In other words, Mr Newman believes that the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster should be pluralist — while Nice Mr Scott reckons that it is just fine 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.
Formerly this segment involved a playoff between one-time ABC TV Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes and Maurice Newman. However, shortly after handing over the Media Watch presenter’s chair to Paul Barry, your man Holmes conceded — at least with respect to ABC Radio — that the likes of Andrew Bolt and Gerard Henderson were correct in maintaining that the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster’s output was overwhelmingly leftist (see Jonathan Holmes’ column in Fairfax Media on April 5, 2016 and also MWD Issue 329).
Consequently, Jonathan Holmes was retired from the Maurice Newman Segment and replaced by Nice Mr Scott, who never spoke a critical word about his ABC when he was ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief. Now read on.
On ABC’s The Drum Everyone Agrees With Everyone Else About the ABC
As avid readers are aware, on 28 July 2018, ABC TV The Drum’s co-presenter Julia Baird wrote in her Sydney Morning Herald column that The Drum’s online audience objects to “having to listen to different opinions”. By this she meant that the ABC’s leftist listeners cannot tolerate hearing alternative views. Dr Baird mentioned “a concerted Twitter campaign”. She was referring to the left’s intolerance with respect to conservatives appearing on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.
In her column, Julia Baird declared that The Drum is committed to diversity and stated: “One recurring problem is finding strong conservative voices to come on the show”. In passing, she wrote that “a large number of prominent conservative commentators” will not appear on The Drum. But Julia Baird named only seven such people. This suggests that The Drum’s executive producer has a very small contact book.
The fact is that some conservatives are simply not asked to appear on The Drum – presumably because its staff do not want to put up with the opposition to debate from the leftist trolls who camp out on Twitter and complain when they hear something with which they disagree.
Take Tuesday’s program, for example. In the segment on university funding, all members of the panel agreed with the guest – University of Western Sydney Assistant Vice Chancellor of Strategy and Policy, Dr Andy Marks – that the Coalition was being beastly to the universities when it comes to funding. By the way, Dr Marks (for a doctor he is) was described as a F.O.P. – i.e. Friend of the Program. How sweet. The panel comprised Marie Coleman (chair of the National Foundation for Australian Women), Quentin Dempster (former ABC staff elected Board member, now with The New Daily), Jane Stanton (Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand) and Kate Mills (The Business Mills).
When it came to the ABC, former ABC operative Quentin Dempster was offered a free kick by presenter Ellen Fanning to attack former ABC chairman Justin Milne. He did so with a vengeance – piling into the Coalition government in the process. Then the other panellists joined in the oh-so-familiar Drum “debate” in which everyone agrees with everyone else in a left-of-centre kind of way.
Needless to say, Marie Coleman agreed with Quentin Dempster who agreed with Marie Coleman who agreed with Jane Stanton who agreed with Kate Mills who agreed with Quentin Dempster who agreed with Ellen Fanning who agreed with Marie Coleman who agreed with Quentin Dempster who agreed with himself. Or something like that.
And Julia Baird reckons that The Drum desperately seeks out a diversity of views – in spite of the left’s opposition to political pluralism. What a load of absolute tosh. There are plenty of potential panellists who disagree with Quentin Dempster’s take on the ABC. It’s just that they rarely, if ever, appear on the public broadcaster – which is a Conservative Free Zone.
Maurice Newman: 3
Nice Mr Scott: zip
THE FLANN O’BRIEN GONG FOR LITERARY OR VERBAL SLUDGE
Due to overwhelming popular demand, the Flann O’Brien Gong returns this week. As avid MWD readers will be aware, this occasional segment is inspired by the Irish humourist Brian O’Nolan (1911-1966) – nom de plume Flann O’Brien – and, in particular, his critique of the sometimes incoherent poet Ezra Pound. Your man O’Brien also had the good sense not to take seriously Eamon De Valera (1882-1975), the Fianna Fail politician and dreadful bore who was prime minister and later president of Ireland.
The Flann O’Brien Gong for Literary or Verbal Sludge is devoted to outing bad writing or incomprehensible prose or incoherent verbal expression or the use of pretentious words.
STEP FORWARD ELIZABETH FARRELLY ON “UNCAUSED CAUSES” WITH REFERENCE TO THE SUN
On 3 November 2018, Elizabeth Farrelly had this to say in her Sydney Morning Herald column headed “This ancient wisdom is magical and logical” For those in need of a translation of the work of Dr Farrelly (for a doctor she is), the article was about the sun. The column included the following sludge:
Of all the forces in our world the sun is the closest to an uncaused cause. Of course we speculate about its causes and origins, about how the laws of physics operate within it, but so vast is the sun, so removed, so bountiful and so immune to our destructive behaviours (that by now impinge upon almost every other aspect of nature) that it alone seems almost godlike.
Even water, though essential and collectible like sunlight, is altogether planet-bound, local in nature and limited in quantity – so limited, indeed, that I have learned to do a day’s dishes in a litre-and-a-half of the stuff.
The sun sits outside all that, forwarding to us, in boundless quantities and with no expectation or possibility of return, its measureless gift of life. This, surely, is a god thing.
Which is why to harvest the sun photovoltaically is to become a god, Phoebus Apollo, lassoing this great bounty for use as free fuel. The Arabic word “karam” (or “divine generosity”) is usually associated with philosophical discussions of the “uncaused cause” and it is this sense of unbounded goodness that I find so touching about sunlight.
Go on. Unfortunately she did – like a garrulous writer who has spent too much time in the sun. And on and on and on – as literary sludge begot literary sludge. Believe it or not, the SMH pays for this.
By Flann O’Brien
of Ezra Pound
My grasp of what he wrote and meant
Was only five or six %
The rest was only words and sound —
My reference is to Ezra £
Inspired by your man O’Brien, this is Jackie’s literary effort for today:
of Elizabeth Farrelly
My grasp of what she wrote and meant
Was only five or six per cent
All that tosh about God and Sun
But as to meaning there was none
DOCUMENTATION: MWD EXCLUSIVE
OUR MAN IN ULTIMO – AN AVID MWD READER REPORTS ON HOW Q&A IS PUT TOGETHER
Lotsa thanks to the avid reader who sent MWD this note on the Q&A special with Malcolm Turnbull which aired at 8 pm on Thursday 8 November. The report demonstrates how the program is controlled by executive producer Peter McEvoy, presenter Tony Jones and other Q&A staff.
Q&A, which commenced in 2008, was modelled on the BBC 1’s Question Time program. However, it differs to the extent that the audience’s questions on Question Time are spontaneous – whereas most of the questions on Q&A are called by the presenter and audience members are expected to stick to the scripted questions which have been approved by the Q&A team. On Question Time any potential defamation problems are prevented by the fact that it is pre-recorded and airs an hour after filming is complete.
In last week’s MWD, attention was drawn to the fact that Malcolm Turnbull was not questioned about the fact that the Coalition lost 14 seats under his leadership in the July 2016 election. Nor was the former prime minister questioned about the Liberal Party’s poor performance in the Longman by-election on 28 July 2018 when it polled a mere 29 per cent of the primary vote.
MWD avid reader’s report explains why Mr Turnbull did not face such hard questions – they were not suggested or approved by the Q&A team.
And so it came to pass that Malcolm Turnbull’s attention – and that of the Q&A audience – was not drawn to the fact that he lost the prime ministership because he lost the support of a majority of his colleagues who did not believe that he could win the 2019 election. Instead the former prime minister suggested that a majority of his colleagues were stark raving mad to depose him on 24 August.
Over to the avid reader who explains how Q&A is put together.
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Last week I attended the Q&A special featuring Malcolm Turnbull. Being avid reader of Media Watch Dog I thought other readers would appreciate an insight into how the Q&A producers select audience members based on political allegiance and determine the questions asked by selected audience members.
To become a Q&A audience member you need to apply on-line identifying yourself, your gender, your age and whether you are a member of a political party. You are also asked who you would vote for in a House of Representatives election. The options are the Coalition, ALP, Greens, undecided and other. One Nation doesn’t rate a mention. For the Malcolm Turnbull episode I was subsequently asked who is my preferred Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull or Scott Morrison, presumably because I nominated as a Coalition voter.
Q&A says that they ask these questions because they want to ensure the audience represents a wide-cross section of the voting community. Based on your answers to these questions you are selected as one of the lucky ones to attend Q&A at Sydney’s Ultimo studio. You may bring a guest who must also register.
All audience members, including guests are encouraged multiple times to submit questions for consideration by the Q&A team. The producer emails audience members with a list of topics and accompanying comments to help prompt questions. The suggested topics prompted for the Malcolm Turnbull episode are set out below.
On the telecast night, audience members shortlisted to ask questions are identified and allocated particular seats. The floor manager liaises with the director, sound and camera operators for easy identification of questioners.
A warm up comedian, Tommy Dean appears out front to get the audience in the mood. He acknowledges that his first two jokes miss the mark. Nothing personal against Tommy but the audience is here for a serious program, not a comedy act.
About five minutes before telecast Malcolm walks on stage to warm and sustained audience applause. You could feel a genuine respect for him as an ex-prime minister from the entire audience, no matter what their political loyalties.
Tony Jones next appears, again to warm applause. His “one liner” on Luke Foley also fails to elicit laughter from the audience. No profanities though, unlike Tommy.
Malcolm understandingly appears nervous and takes a couple of sips of water. This is a first step in shaping his prime ministerial legacy. As the countdown commences Tony wishes Malcolm good luck with a handshake and the show begins.
Over the next sixty minutes, 16 audience questions are asked. Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, the host asked 20 questions. This aspect epitomises a major shortcoming of the program. It is highly controlled by the host and the Q&A executive producer, Peter McEvoy. They are the ones who really shape the line of questioning.
Questions are supposed to be short, sharp and to the point rather than long commentaries. (Something that Canberra Press Gallery journalists do not adhere to at National Press Club speeches).
There are a few “Dorothy Dixers” and a couple of curly questions which depending on your point of view are either answered confidently or have Malcolm shuffling in his seat. Arguably, the highlight of the evening was when a questioner concludes their question saying “Mr Turnbull…….You had the opportunity and you blew it. What do you have to say to the Australian public ?” As Fran Kelly says, “Ouch”.
All things considered the evening is a success for everyone. The audience members get their Andy Warhol inspired 15 minutes of fame, the guest survives relatively unscathed and the host knows that his profile will be boosted with extensive national press coverage prior to commencing his end of year WEB. [i.e. Well Earned Break].
Signed – An Avid MWD Reader
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The Q&A’s Final Suggested Questions To The Studio Audience
From: Q & A <QandA@your.abc.net.au>
Date: 8 November 2018 at 09:23:03 AEDT
To: Undisclosed recipients:;
Subject: Still time for YOUR questions!
We’re looking forward to seeing you TONIGHT at 7pm (for 8pm live Broadcast) at the ABC Studios – 700 Harris Street, Ultimo for a very special Q&A with the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
It’s time to send in your questions! There’s a lot to cover.
Liberal women – the coup against Malcolm Turnbull became a flashpoint for the Liberal Party’s “women problem”. Women Liberal MPs called out the “bullying” by the numbers-men pushing to bring Turnbull down. Julia Banks declared it unacceptable in modern Australia and announced she’d step away from politics. Julie Bishop went to the backbench after MPs failed to support her despite her popularity with voters. Meanwhile Barnaby Joyce is angling to return as Deputy PM despite unresolved sexual harassment claims against him. What’s the ex-PM’s perspective?
Rupert’s role – According to an exclusive ABC report, Malcolm Turnbull suspected that News Corporation was mounting a campaign to oust him and complained to Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch had reportedly remarked to fellow media mogul Kerry Stokes, who was at odds with Murdoch over getting rid of the PM, that “Malcolm has got to go.” It is understood that Stokes and Malcolm Turnbull were in close contact in the last days before the coup. Are media moguls still deciding who should be PM?
Trump setback – The US mid-term elections have seen the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans improved their Senate numbers. Malcolm Turnbull established a workable relationship with the US President after a rocky start. The latest results will challenge Trump’s power. What will it mean for Australia?
Unfriendly fire – Scott Morrison’s announcement that Australia might move its Israel Embassy to Jerusalem derailed the Liberals’ Wentworth by-election campaign and offended our neighbours Indonesia. Malcolm Turnbull was despatched to Bali by the PM to help heal the rift, and took the chance to criticise the embassy proposal. The PM, egged on by talk-show host Alan Jones, declared there would be no more unofficial roles for his predecessor.
The questions are up to you, so what will you ask?
Why? – That’s the question Scott Morrison hasn’t been willing to answer in interviews or in parliament. When Malcolm Turnbull was overthrown in August unemployment was falling, economic growth was rising and Newspoll showed the coalition only fractionally behind Labor (49-51 as opposed to 46-54 now). According to Malcolm Turnbull, internal Liberal polling had the coalition ahead by four points in 40 marginal seats.
Loyalty – Two days before Malcolm Turnbull’s demise Matthias Cormann and Scott Morrison both pledged continuing loyalty. The next day Matthias publicly withdrew that support, and the following day Scott emerged as PM. Last week’s public spat suggested bad blood between the former leader and his successor. What role did Scott Morrison play in bringing down Malcolm Turnbull?
Tory triumph – Their numbers in the parliamentary party are not overwhelming – as Peter Dutton found when his leadership bid failed – but anti-Turnbull conservatives loyal to Tony Abbott managed to derail the Turnbull leadership, impose their will on policy and eventually depose the leader. Did Malcolm Turnbull miscalculate the power of the factions?
No show – Malcolm Turnbull’s old seat of Wentworth should be blue ribbon Liberal, but now it’s held by an independent. Critics say Malcolm Turnbull should have done more to help Liberal candidate Dave Sharma, and blame him for anti-Liberal comments by his son while the government stumbled over Israel, gay kids, Barnaby etc. So what did Malcolm think of the campaign?
Tackling climate – In office, Malcolm Turnbull was criticised by progressives for his alleged retreat on climate change. As PM he was placed under extreme pressure by his party’s pro-coal right wing to the point where he had to all but abandon his attempts to devise a workable energy policy (the NEG). Is the coalition capable of formulating effective climate and energy policies? Is ballot-box pressure to act on climate change increasing or decreasing?
Nauru rethink? – During the Wentworth by-election there was a suggestion that the Government’s hard line on asylum seekers stuck on Nauru might be softening, but now even the prospect of removing children from the island is in doubt. Now that he is out of office and immune to whatever the Right throws at him, does Malcolm Turnbull think it is time for a different approach to offshore detention?
ABC turmoil – In September, when the ABC lost its managing director, Michelle Guthrie, and shortly afterwards its chairman, Justin Milne, it was revealed that PM Malcolm Turnbull had complained bitterly about ABC staff and the chairman had, in response, suggested that they be fired. Malcolm Turnbull has denied calling for sackings, but did he and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield go too far in pressuring the national broadcaster?
“Next-Gen” Team – Senior roles were reshuffled in the wake of the Turnbull ousting – Julie Bishop went to the back bench; scandal plagued Stuart Robert became Assistant Treasurer; Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce were appointed special envoys and Mr Joyce has even been touted to comeback as Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister. Is this the team to win the coming election?
A new approach – On toppling Tony Abbott in 2015, Malcolm Turnbull said Australia would now have ‘an economic vision, a leadership that explains the great challenges and opportunities that we face…and does so in a manner that the Australian people understand…we are seeking to persuade rather than seeking to lecture…’ Over optimistic?
Innovation agenda – As part of that new way of governing we had, in 2015, the “ideas boom” – the National Innovation and Science Agenda to drive “business growth, local jobs and global success.” Malcolm Turnbull said Australia had to be agile, innovative and creative to ‘futureproof ourselves.’ What became of the innovation agenda? Is Australia now vulnerable to the future?
Regrets? – For someone who was widely regarded as being destined to one day become Prime Minister, is Malcolm Turnbull satisfied with his time in office or, in hindsight, would he have done some things differently? And what next for our latest ex-PM?
These are some of the possible topics but the questions are up to YOU.
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The Q&A Team
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 Jackie’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 TIM FISCHER re THE ABC, “SIBERIA” AND ALL THAT – PLUS A QUALIFICATION
Gerard Henderson knew Tim Fischer at secondary school all those decades ago when the latter was into trams. Over the years Hendo observed as his one-time school associate graduated from an obsession with trams to an obsession with trains. So he watched with interest your man Fischer’s appearance on ABC TV News Breakfast on Monday when he plugged his latest book on trains – titled Steam Australia: Locomotives that Galvanised the Nation (NewSouth Books, 2018).
It was a very friendly interview with Michelle Rowland and Virginia Trioli – and became ever friendlier towards the end when the former deputy prime minister spoke positively about the value of the public broadcaster to rural and regional Australia and went on to bag unnamed “ideological warriors” who criticise the ABC. Now read on – with Full Steam Ahead.
Gerard Henderson to Tim Fischer – 13 November 2018
A.M.D.G. (As we used to head our school days projects)
I saw you on ABC TV News Breakfast yesterday. You did well promoting your new book on trains. I will purchase a copy. By the way, every best wish for your recovery. You spoke finely about Peter Mac – despite the fact that you hinted that it was “Lights Out” at 8 pm. A bit like boarding at Xavier College all those years ago, I suspect.
As you will recall, at the end of the interview on Monday, the following exchange took place:
Tim Fischer: And just on another matter. This may be my last time on Breakfast for a while, who knows, I’m just going to say this.
Virginia Trioli: Just for a while, Tim Fischer.
Tim Fischer: ABC – regional Australia would be Siberia without the ABC. In all its manifestations. Whether it’s Country Hour, whether it’s Landline –and the raft of other programs of excellence. And perhaps the ideological warriors should tone it down a bit. Should listen to all that the ABC, through its dynamic professionalism, is offering. I salute the ABC, I could not live in and around Albury-Wodonga, Yackandandah, but for the ABC. So, take a bow.
Michael Rowland: Thank you Tim, that’s very touching. And based on that, you are coming back to repeat that line again and again and again.
Tim Fischer: Let’s hope so.
Virginia Trioli: Is it totally inappropriate to, you know, to kiss one of your TV guests?
Tim Fischer: Enough.
Virginia Trioli: Take a virtual one.
It’s understandable why the likes of Mr Rowland and La Trioli loved your comment – so much so that the latter thought about planting one on you.
However, I thought you were a bit tough on what you termed the ABC’s “ideological warriors”. It is true that some critics of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster want to privatise it. But very few. Most of the ABC’s critics – myself included – want it to be better.
I have never criticised the Country Hour or Landline – and I understand the importance of the ABC in rural and regional Australia. Moreover, I appear about half a dozen times a year on Insiders. This is one of the ABC’s most successful programs, in that it out-rates all its rivals in the same time-slot.
As has been said previously, about 95 per cent of the criticism of the ABC is directed at about 5 per cent of its product – namely news and current affairs along with some so-called comedy programs which have the political tone of, say, Green Left Weekly.
Over the years, public critics of the ABC have included Robert Menzies, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull – along with such National Party leaders as John Anderson. All criticised the ABC for the tendency of the ABC journalists to attack both the Coalition and Labor – from the left. The leaders of the Greens rarely criticise the ABC – since they know where their ideological friends are located.
The problem with the ABC is that it is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.
An ABC which provided political diversity would be good for the likes of Yackandandah. Moreover, a politically diverse ABC would more likely be supported by respective Coalition or Labor governments when it comes to handing out taxpayers’ money.
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Let’s hope we can catch up in Sydney or Melbourne sometime – or perhaps, Yackandandah. By the way, the family looked great on Australian Story last night – Judy, Dominic and you have been most successful with Harrison. And Harrison is a star.
Tim Fischer to Gerard Henderson – 13 November 2018
Thanks for your note and dare I say : Sursum Corda !
If I could say it again I would have added perhaps : Regional Australia would be Siberia without the ABC not that it is perfect but ABC Country Hour etc. However in the rush and now back in Peter Mac for a second major Chemo Round, I said what I said and you have a right to put it in Friday’s Five Paws award or elsewhere.
Actually your point is interesting re 95% of the criticism relates to the 5% of controversy and left-wing tilt et al. Yes I guess this is so and I cannot work out why Maurice Newman and Mark Scott did not rectify the obvious with key presenters and anchors, when they had the chance.
Still warts and all I reiterate Regional Australia would be Siberia without the ABC.
Thanks for your comments on Harrison. I gather it was most watched for the slot on Monday night.
Gerard Henderson to Tim Fischer – 14 November 2018
Thanks for your note – along with the recommendation that I “lift up my heart”.
I know you have other things on your mind. I agree with you about Mark Scott’s failure to provide political diversity within the ABC when he was managing director – despite a promise to do so when he first took up the job. However, as you will understand, as ABC chairman Maurice Newman did not have the authority to reform the ABC. As in any public/private company – this is essentially the job of management.
I hope everything goes well with your second major Chemo Round. Let’s talk after you emerge from Peter Mac in around a month.
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Until next time.
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