ISSUE – NO. 452

24 May 2019

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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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This week’s MWD could only skim the media coverage before, during and after the 2019 election campaign.  There will be more next week and in future weeks since it was such an important case study of the media and politics.

Of particular note has been the instant response of many journalists to blame the opinion polls for their own inability to read the Australian electorate.  If journalists simply followed polls, then there is not much point in having political journalists. The fact is that many Australian journalists misread the reality of contemporary Australia outside the inner-city environment in which they operate.

MWD has a policy of not making predictions. However, anyone who read Gerard Henderson’s column in The Weekend Australian on 14 April 2019 will know that he commented that the polls were closing and that Scott Morrison was “in with a chance”. And that was five weeks before polling day. He made a similar point at a business function towards the start of the campaign in a panel discussion with David Marr and Jennifer Hewett held in Sydney on Monday 8 April 2019.

Thanks to the reader who drew attention to the Nate Silver’s piece in his FiveThirtyEight blog under the title “Bonus bulletpoint: Something is rotten down under, and it isn’t the polls”. Nate Silver is an American commentator best known for his forecasts of American elections. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight and a special correspondent for the American ABC News. His piece is quoted in full here:

So what was that about Australia? Stop me if this one sounds familiar.

Polls showed the conservative-led coalition trailing the Australian Labor Party approximately 51-49 in the two-party preferred vote. Instead, the conservatives won 51-49. That’s a relatively small miss: The conservatives trailed by 2 points in the polls, and instead they won by 2, making for a 4-point error. The miss was right in line with the average error from past Australian elections, which has averaged about 5 points. Given that track record, the conservatives had somewhere around a 1 in 3 chance of winning.

So the Australian media took this in stride, right? Of course not. Instead, the election was characterized as a “massive polling failure” and a “shock result”.

When journalists say stuff like that in an election after polls were so close, they’re telling on themselves. They’re revealing, like their American counterparts after 2016, that they aren’t particularly numerate and didn’t really understand what the polls said in the first place. They may also be signaling, as in the case of Brexit in 2016, their cosmopolitan bias; the Australian election, which emphasized climate change, had a strong urban-rural split.

Dig in deeper, and you can find things to criticize in the polls. In particular, they showed signs of herding: all the polls showed almost exactly the same result in a way that’s statistically implausible. If Labor was ahead by only 2 points, a few polls should have shown conservatives winning just by chance alone because of sampling error.

Still, some of the headlines in the Australian media are idiotic and embarrassing. When polls show a race within a couple of percentage points, nobody — least of all journalists, who are paid to be informed about this stuff — should be shocked when the trailing side wins.


Mea Culpa.  It is true that – almost to a man and woman – we believed that the Labor Party, under Bill Shorten’s leadership, would triumph at Saturday’s election. We believed that the parliamentary Liberal Party had erred massively when, at the behest of that snake-in-the-grass Peter Dutton, it removed our hero Malcolm Turnbull and, in time, replaced him with Scott Morrison.

We thought that if anyone should lead the Liberal Party it should be Mr Turnbull or Julie Bishop – and not ScoMo or “Potato Head” Dutton and certainly not that “Mad Monk” Tony Abbott (even though he won an election in 2013).  It was our (almost) unanimous position that ScoMo would lead the Liberals into the wilderness for eons.  After all, he eats pies, drinks beer and is a believing Christian – and, as such, was totally out of touch with the Australians with whom we mix in our bubble.  That’s why we continually asked the likes of Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and Peter Dutton – why did you get rid of (our hero) Malcolm Turnbull? We never understood why the man Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly called “Mal” lost the support of a majority of his colleagues who mix everyday with their constituents.

Mea Culpa.  We now believe that Scott Morrison – whom Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian calls “The Messiah from The Shire” – is just the person to lead our nation Australia and those we are now proud to call “The Quiet Australians”.  We recognise this great land needs a leader who is not afraid to wave a piece of coal around, who wants to preserve the jobs of miners and tradies, who does not want retirees dudded of their entitlements, and who can down a beer or two at the local RSL or Bowling Club.  It’s time that Australians had a leader who goes to church on Sunday, believes in miracles and did not support same sex marriage.

We have also learnt not to look down on people whom we regarded as poorly educated with an addiction to petrol-fuelled cars, Grey-Army travels and watching Married at First Sight. We now realise that all these Quiet Australians have a vote.

We now also realise that Mr Turnbull (of Harbourside Mansion fame) was totally out of touch and that Julie Bishop’s wardrobe contains too many designer clothes, hats and (particularly) red shoes to attract female voters.  We vow and declare that we will never again ask a Liberal: “Why did you get rid of Malcolm Turnbull?” And we will never again say that Mr Morrison is a boring, suburban, churchy, married bloke who never even pretended to read Proust and never apologised for wearing caps in public.  Mea Maxima Culpa.

(With apologies to Private Eye)


Judith Brett is one of Australia’s leading historians and has recently published an important biography of Alfred Deakin.

However, as MWD readers are aware, she tends to emote when discussing the contemporary Liberal Party which she does not like much – See MWD 447 and her article in the May 2019 issue of The Monthly which was covered in Gerard Henderson’s column in The Weekend Australian, 4 May 2019.

And then there is Dr Brett’s propensity to prophesise.  Historians are expected to examine the past – not to make predictions about the future.

Writing in The Age on 17 July 1993, Dr Brett (for a doctor she is) declared that “the Liberal Party in the 1990s seems doomed”. In 1996 Liberal Party leader John Howard led the Coalition to victory – remaining in office until November 2007.  And of course the Liberal Party has been in government since Tony Abbott’s victory in 2013.  That is, since J.B. made her prediction, the Coalition won elections in 1996, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2013, 2016 and 2019 – while Labor has won in 2007 and 2010. Dr Brett is an academic.

Then in November 2017 Professor Brett said that the Liberal Party’s condition was as bad as that of the Labor Party in the 1950s and 1960s – overlooking the fact that the Labor Party split in 1955, with the break-away Democratic Labor Party giving its preferences to the Coalition and saving Robert Menzies’ government in 1961 and John Gorton’s government in 1969.

Then on 12 April 2019, at the start of the election campaign, Dr Brett wrote in Nine newspapers (Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) that “not since 1943 has the non-Labor side of our national politics entered an election campaign in such poor shape”.  She added that “the Coalition agreement between the Liberal and National parties is under greater strain than at any time since 1943”.

As we know, last Saturday Scott Morrison led the Liberal Party to victory and the Nationals held all their seats.  The Coalition out-campaigned Labor in the marginal seats.  The Coalition agreement between the Liberal Party and The Nationals is not under any significant strain at all.  Certainly it is in dramatically better shape than when the Coalition agreement broke down in 1974 and again in 1997.

Perhaps Nine newspapers should find an “expert” on the Liberal Party who was not a one-time co-editor (with Guy Rundle) of the left journal of opinion Arena Magazine.

Can You Bear It


It was a predictable response by many members of the Sandalista Set to the Coalition’s victory over Labor in last Saturday’s election – as sections of the left intelligentsia looked down on what were once termed “the great unwashed”.

But none was more offensive than author and blogger Jane Caro who referred to her fellow citizens who had returned the Morrison government as “truculent turds”. She claimed it was the booze talking.  Perhaps it was.  Or perhaps it was the case of truth serum in action?

In any event, the star performer was the Carlton-residing, bicycle-riding, fox-hunting, Jonathan Green – the presenter of ABC Radio National’s Design for Living – who issued this warning on the night of the election. It led to a smart response. Here we go:

Jonathan Green @GreenJ

The repeated lesson in this country is never to underestimate its capacity for smallness. A lucky country full of the unexceptional, riding their luck.

12:09 AM – 19 May 2019

Robin Herbert‏

Replying to @GreenJ

You are going to regret that tweet.

Jonathan Green‏ @GreenJ


Robin Herbert‏ @robin_her

What I mean is that it is going to be quoted quite a bit in you-know-where by you-know-who.

That’s right.  The Jonathan Green tweet is worth quoting time and time again as an example of the alienated left intelligentsia’s attitude to the vast bulk of Australians.  There are literally millions who want to live in Australia.  But your man Green reckons that this is a nation distinguished by its “smallness” and its “unexceptional” people.  The very folk who pay Mr Green’s income at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. Can You Bear It?


 Jackie’s (male) co-owner always listens with attention to the words of his faves David Marr and Patricia Karvelas. It always reminds him of the old saying that it’s unwise to make predictions – especially about the future.

Your man Marr and Ms Karvelas pontificated from the Insider’s couch on Sunday 21 April 2019 about the federal election campaign. This is what David Marr had to say:

David Marr: Let’s not forget the other great contest that’s going on here at the moment. One, of course, the open contest, the election because both are going to have a great impact on this country. The other is the contest inside the Liberal Party to wrest control from the ultra conservatives because that is going to determine the future of that party and the future of the shape of Australian politics is on the line in this election. And you can’t imagine the applause inside the party for the good work that GetUp! is doing to get rid of the most conservative members of the Parliament.

So there you have it. David Marr declared that there would have been applause within the Liberal Party for GetUp!’s good work in getting rid of the most conservative members of parliament. In fact, only one conservative Coalition member was defeated – Tony Abbott. Moreover, there is no evidence that people inside the Liberal Party wanted a defeat for the Coalition which would have come about if the likes of Kevin Andrews, Peter Dutton and Greg Hunt had lost their seats and if the GetUp! supported candidates in such Liberal held seats as Kooyong, Higgins, Chisholm, Wentworth and Ryan had prevailed.  On the same program, Patricia Karvelas made this remark about Scott Morrison:

Patricia Karvelas: Labor’s focus group testing is showing that Scott Morrison’s likeability has decreased over the first week. I’ve spoken to a few sources who’ve said that’s what it’s found. Their analysis is that he’s playing the attack dog role, if you like, prosecuting the campaign against Labor and also trying to be the nice happy dad at the same time – and that it’s causing him a problem because he’s lost people like Peter Dutton and others to play that role. So it’ll be interesting to watch how he manages that – because that is an issue. We talk a lot about Bill Shorten, but there’s obviously issues around Scott Morrison as well.

So there you have it. According to Ms Karvelas, just a month out from the election, Scott Morrison’s likeability was decreasing whereas we know, in fact, his likeability was high during the campaign.

And so it came to pass that two of Australia’s experts were hopelessly wrong, on the same day, shortly before Sunday Mass. Can You Bear It?


Didn’t anyone tell Andrew Probyn, the ABC’s political editor in Canberra, that the election campaign is over? You see, your man Probyn introduced a big story on ABC News on 21 May which alleged that the newly elected Morrison government was already breaking promises. Let’s go to the transcript.

Andrew Probyn: Being accused of breaking a promise just days after an election win is a bad look. Especially when the Reserve Bank governor says urgency is required. Tax cuts for low and middle-income Australian’s aren’t even contentious – Labor backed them in. But the government clearly plans to hold them hostage while it delivers its seven year tax plan worth 230 billion dollars, including tax cuts for the rich that Labor will likely resist – whoever replaces Bill Shorten.

In fact, this was just a beat-up. Sure, there are legislative difficulties in providing the promised tax cuts for low and middle-income earners by the end of the financial year. But the Australian Tax Office has advised that this problem can be overcome. In other words, Andrew Probyn’s comment about broken promises and the government holding the opposition “hostage” is just a load of absolute tosh. Can You Bear It?


Dr Waleed Aly (for a doctor he is) is becoming perhaps Australia’s leading commentator – believe it or not.  [I believe it. – MWD Editor.]  Your man Aly has a column in Nine Newspapers, co-presents The Project on Network 10 and co-presents The Minefield on ABC Radio National.  He is also a Walkley Award winner and a lecturer at Monash University and is an author.

So what knowledge in the election campaign did we get from your man Aly?  Not much, when you think about it.  Take his article in the Sydney Morning Herald on the Friday before the election titled “Why Shorten’s mum is pivotal”. Here Aly argued that within the Liberal Party “there are only two live points of genuine agreement: tax cuts and hating Bill Shorten.”  He overlooked the overwhelming agreement within the Coalition of opposition to Labor’s proposals with respect to superannuation tax, franking credits, capital gains taxes and negative gearing.

Aly protested against “The Daily Telegraph’s appalling muck about Shorten’s mum and his movingly teary response.” In fact, The Daily Telegraph criticised Bill Shorten – not his mother – for failing to reveal all the details of her successful life.  In particular, for not mentioning that she obtained a law degree late in her career.  It is reasonable to argue that The Daily Telegraph criticised Mr Shorten but it is not reasonable to argue that it criticised his mother. By the way, Ann Shorten obtained five university degrees including a Ph.D and an LLB. Hers was a very successful career.

Aly maintained that “we are at a junction in Western political history where the whole neo-economic world view is being called into question.”  What an overstatement.  The 2019 election was decided on empirical matters – namely older Australians concerned about having their incomes reduced and the determination of workers in the mining industry to maintain employment. None of the big issues about what Aly calls the “comprehensive problem of our species” were raised in the election campaign.

Reading Waleed Aly’s piece on Friday 10 May 2019 demonstrates just how out of touch he is with contemporary Australian society – like so many of his journalistic and academic colleagues.  All this explains why he predicted, when the polls closed, that Labor would be returned with 81 seats. In fact it’s likely to be around 67 seats. Can You Bear It?

Media Fool Of The Week


There was enormous response to last week’s announcement that Alex (“Hi, this is Alex Turnbull here, Malcolm Turnbull’s son”) Turnbull had won last week’s MWD “Media Fool of the Week” gong.

As it turned out, your man Turnbull the Younger had a bad night last Saturday.  Not only was the Coalition government returned (without any help from its former leader Malcolm Turnbull) but Junior Turnbull’s attempt to influence the campaign from his home base in Singapore came to nothing.

In his “Fitz on Sunday” column in the Sun-Herald on 5 May 2019, under the heading “Alex Turnbull puts his money where his non-Lib mouth is”, Peter FitzSimons wrote about Junior Turnbull’s involvement in the 2019 election campaign. The Red Bandannaed One reported that Turnbull the Younger had not donated money to Independents Zali Steggall and Kerryn Phelps – who were contesting the seats of Warringah and Wentworth respectively. But he had donated a sum amounting to six figures to others and named Independent Senate candidates Fr Rod Bower (NSW) and Anthony Pesec (Australian Capital Territory) in this regard.

Mr Pesec was regarded as having a chance of defeating the Liberal Party’s  Zed Seselja for a Canberra Senate seat but the high-profile leftist Anglican priest (one of the ABC’s faves) Rod Bower had no chance at all.  As it turned out, Zed Seselja easily retained his seat in the Senate (coming in second behind Labor’s Nancy Waites) and your man Pesec scored under 4 per cent of the primary vote.  Meanwhile your clerical man Bower was a hopeless failure scoring a mere 0.8 per cent of the vote – which when you think about it, was Fitz and a few of his millionaire renewable energy investing mates.  Thanks for your help, Alex.

Junior Turnbull also went in to bat for Julia Banks in her campaign to defeat Health Minister and Malcolm Turnbull opponent Greg Hunt in the Melbourne seat of Flinders.  Julia (“I was bullied in the Liberal Party but I won’t say by who”) Banks scored a mere 14 per cent primary vote in Flinders and Mr Hunt comfortably held his seat.  This despite the fact that Junior Turnbull made thousands of robo-calls into the electorate urging voters to support Julia Banks.

That’s a (reverse) hat trick.  Despite Junior Turnbull’s backing, Pesec, Bower and Banks all went down.  So did Kerryn Phelps in Wentworth. Young Alex later claimed that he played a role in Tony Abbott’s defeat in Warringah – but Mr Abbott lost due to the fact that sections of his community wanted him out of parliament. In any event, the leftist organisation GetUp! ran a big campaign against Abbott as did the ACTU and other left-wing groups. In short, Young Alex had nothing to do with the fact that Zali Steggall won.

After the election, Junior Turnbull closed his Twitter account thus deleting all his pre-election tweets but not before declaring that Tony Abbott is “a terrorist”. Yes, a terrorist.  This copies the view of his Old Man. During the leadership contest in August 2018, Malcolm Turnbull was reported to have told Senator Mathias Cormann that he was supporting “the terrorists” who were opposed to him.  It seems that Old Man Turnbull and Junior Turnbull have no empathy with the real suffering of real terrorists’ victims – and believe that losing the prime ministership is as harmful as being blown to pieces by a suicide/homicide bomber.

No one would ever have heard about Alex Turnbull if he was not his father’s son. Junior Alex has never written a book or a substantial article or made a significant speech about politics.

Sections of the ABC and Nine’s newspapers loved Young Alex’s interventions in the election campaign from Singapore.  But Junior Turnbull was deluded to believe that he could influence Australian voters last Saturday. And he didn’t.

Alex Turnbull: Media Fool of the Week (Again).

Whatever Morry Schwartz’s The [Boring] Saturday Paper is – it is not a newspaper, in that it contains scant news. More like a weekly leftist house-journal. The problem is that The Saturday Paper goes to press on Thursday evenings. So, when it comes out on Saturday morning, its “news” is already 36 hours old. That’s why Hendo reads it on Monday – what’s the hurry? Even Martin McKenzie-Murray (The Saturday Paper’s correspondent) acknowledges that he writes incoherently and is inherently uninteresting. (See Issue 404).


Bob Hawke died on Thursday 16 May 2019 – a brief obituary was published in MWD last Friday.

The late Bob Hawke was in poor health – so his death of was not unexpected.  Needless to say, the Thursday evening news and current affairs programs were replete with prepared obituaries to Australia’s twenty-third prime minister.  This was more than matched by the print and online newspapers on Friday – and the newspaper coverage extended to Saturday.

Except for, er, Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper. A Sandalista type arriving in a coffee shop in Fitzroy North or Newtown on Saturday morning and opening a copy of The Saturday Paper found that it contained nothing about the late Bob Hawke. Nothing at all.  It was as if he was still with us.  But, alas, this was not so.

Now here’s MWD’s modest proposal.  Morry Schwartz’s boutique newspaper for leftists should be honest and call itself The Thursday Afternoon Paper.


As avid readers will be aware, MWD (Issue 443) commented on Karen Middleton’s assertion about appeal courts – while on the Insiders’ couch on 3 March 2019.  She told viewers – with reference to George Pell’s conviction on historic child abuse offences – that the Victorian Court of Appeal looks at matters of law not matters of fact. The implication was that the decision of juries, who assess the facts of the case – cannot be overturned.  Ms Middleton is The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent and, as such, should know the basics of the criminal appeal system.

In fact, as MWD readers well know, appeal courts can overturn a decision or order a retrial if the judge at first instance has made an error in law in conducting the trial or addressing the jury.  But an appeal court can also decide that a jury decision is not safe in view of the evidence presented. In short, jury decisions can be overturned on the facts of the case.

If Ms Middleton wants to check this out she should look at the Victorian Court of Appeal decision in the recent case involving former policeman Simon Mareangareu. In an unanimous decision, three Appeal Court judges overturned the jury verdict that he was guilty. As reported in The Age (8 May 2019) by Cameron Houston and Chris Vedelago, the Court of Appeal criticised (i) the trial judge, (ii) the prosecutor and (iii) the jury’s decision – on matters pertaining to law or fact.

Perhaps Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper should set up a fund for his journalists to learn the basics – just the basics – of the law. There should be adequate time to conduct courses anytime on Friday since The Saturday Paper goes to bed by then.



Wasn’t it great to see Thom Woodroofe back on ABC TV News Breakfast on Tuesday? Currently working with the United Nations he dropped into Australia just in time to pontificate about the results of the 2019 election.

This time your man Woodroofe chose to comment on the reason Tanya Plibersek decided not to stand for the Labor Party leadership following the resignation of Bill Shorten.  Needless to say, your man blamed Rupert Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph for Ms Plibersek’s decision.  You know, the fact that Anna Caldwell reported that Bill Shorten neglected to tell the Q&A audience that his mother had a law degree when mentioning that she sacrificed a law career to become a teacher (she soon became an academic). Let’s go the transcript:

Thom Woodroofe: There’s two interesting things from a kind of media perspective. One is the way that the coverage is being backgrounded on Tanya Plibersek’s numbers or lack thereof. For example, so Channel Nine for example last night was talking about the fact that she didn’t have the numbers. The AFR article, which is the one we’ve picked out this morning, quotes both sources from inside her camp but also from Albanese’s camp, with the two varying perspectives. And, for example, the Albanese camp says that they expect that they had 80% of the National left locked up in her support. The other aspect though of this story that I thought is interesting, is to actually look at the decision itself. Which I think was and as the AFR says, rightly grounded in primarily family concerns.

And I think one of things that we haven’t really spoken about a lot in the election coverage has been the impact of the Daily Telegraph story overall. And not just in the context of Bill and his mother particularly and what that might mean for other people who are considering roles like this.  It obviously potentially brings with it a more ferocious look at your personal life. She’s got very young children and so forth and I suspect that even though we’re not talking about it that that, has quite a lot of impact….

Virginia Trioli: I think that’s a really good point that occurred to me yesterday if she’s going to stick her hand up her personal life would be trawled over and like many of us there’s some complexity in her family life and she might not have wanted to subject herself, her husband and her children to that. And that’s just normal, that’s just the normal stuff of living a life is that stuff happens, and stuff goes wrong and you come back from adversity but that can be twisted so viciously….

What a load of absolute tosh.  What Mr Woodroofe and La Trioli overlooked is that Tanya Plibersek has been a public figure for years. And if Labor had won on Saturday she would have been deputy prime minister today.  So if News Corp had wanted to trawl over Ms Plibersek’s personal life – surely it would have done so already.

A far more likely reason for Tanya Plibersek’s decision not to contest the Labor Party leadership is the understandable political grief after having lost an election which Labor expected to win.  Plus the fact that at the height of her career she has already spent six years in opposition and faces another three years and possibly more.

Put it this way.  If Labor had won on Saturday, Tanya Plibersek would be deputy prime minister irrespective of what News Corp in general, or the Daily Telegraph in particular, thought.


Meanwhile on RN Breakfast this morning in the “Newspapers” segment Virginia Trioli agreed with her guest Jeremy Story Carter that it was wrong for News Corp’s The Australian to mention Anthony Albanese’s left-wing background.

Virginia Trioli: What’s happening out there in the world?

Jeremy Story Carter: Well I think basically every paper has Anthony Albanese in some form on the front page today. Which is also indicative of the fact that the Coalition’s staying, or the governments staying. A bit quieter towards the end of the week. But The Australian has what we assume will be the next Labor leader, as obviously Chris Bowen and Jim Chalmers have dropped out of the race. But I think it’s worth looking at how already the conservative papers are covering –

Virginia Trioli: Surprise surprise.

Jeremy Story Carter: And it’s no coincidence to see Jeremy Corbyn – you know in the UK, Labour Leader – a guy who’s been so pilloried in the UK conservative press, to see him standing there next to Anthony Albanese.

Virginia Trioli: Did they run that photo because they couldn’t get a photograph of Anthony Albanese standing next to Karl Marx?


Jeremy Story Carter: Yeah. [talking over each other indecipherable ]

Virginia Trioli: They would have run that [Marx photo] first. “Oh damn, we’ve got to go down the list”

Paul Kennedy: There was a photograph from last year in London and the picture by line says “Instagram”

Jeremy Story Carter: Instagram. Well it’s a great source. [Laughing]

Paul Kennedy: I’m joking.

Virginia Trioli: Yeah exactly, and they are making a point. The point The Australian is trying to make is that this new leader is the “mad crazy left” and that will be the tenor of their coverage.

Jeremy Story Carter: That will be the tenor, they say he needs to shed his so-called “hard left policies”, he obviously has a decade’s worth of a track record on issues like climate change, asylum seekers, energy policy. And they’re suggesting that these are big issues, or considerations he needs to navigate.

Turn it up.  It is traditional for the Labor Party to be led by someone from its right-wing faction as distinct from its left-wing faction.   In the modern period, successive Labor leaders were from the party’s right-wing, namely, Gough Whitlam, Bill Hayden, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Bill Shorten.  The only exception was Julia Gillard.

The Labor Party consists predominantly of social democrats (Labor’s right) and democratic socialists (Labor’s left).  Anthony Albanese’s background is that of a democratic socialist.  It is perfectly reasonable to mention this because some of Mr Albanese’s past positions on economic policy, border protection, energy and timber policy and uranium exports to India have represented the position of the Labor left.  As the new Labor leader, Mr Albanese will have to reframe some of these policies in order to fit in with the view of the majority in the Labor Caucus.

Also, it is reasonable – and indeed newsworthy – to report that Anthony Albanese met with British Labour’s extreme left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn on a couple of occasions last year and made these meetings known to the public.

It seems that the likes of Virginia Trioli and Paul Kennedy (the other co-presenter this morning) believe that some kind of censorship should prevail with respect to Anthony Albanese’s political views and career. It is unlikely that he would share such a view.


There was enormous interest in last week’s “ABC Update” which commented on the fact that the ABC Vote Compass survey had found that Australia’s “most left-leaning” electorates vote Labor while Australia’s “most right-leaning conservative” electorates vote for Liberal National Party. Quelle Surprise!  Note that one of Vote Compass’s most left-leaning electorates was the Labor held seat of Cooper (formerly Batman) which is based on such sandal-wearing Melbourne suburbs as Northcote and Clifton Hills.  The total primary vote of Labor plus the Greens last Saturday in Cooper was 68 per cent.

MWD’s point was that if ABC management wants to save money in the face of what The Friends of the ABC regard as the Morrison Government’s jihad against the tax-payer funded broadcaster, it could well cut-back on such useless research.

As Jackie’s [male] co-owner revealed last week, a certain Melbourne-based avid reader had drawn his attention to Vote Compass. Now it can be revealed that the avid reader is none other than Professor Doug Kirsner of Deakin University. It so happens that Professor Kirsner complained to the ABC about Vote Compass and was immediately put through to Kirstin McLiesh’s Audience & Consumer Affairs’ department in Canberra.  It’s the place where ABC employees examine complaints against other ABC employees and, in the process, reject around 97 per cent of complaints.

It was no surprise, then, to learn that Ms McLiesh had rejected Professor Kirsner’s critique of Vote Compass – but without addressing any of his specific criticisms of Vote Compass’ analysis of various issues. That’s what the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs’ soviet invariably does.

Published below is the Kirsner/McLiesh correspondence. It serves as a reminder that it is really a waste of time complaining to the ABC about the ABC and being judged by ABC employees.  It’s better to download by writing to Hendo’s MWD. But MWD digresses – here we go:

Douglas Kirsner To ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs – 3 May 2019

Subject: Misrepresenting Vote Compass

This is an outrageous spin from the ABC this morning which shows what a self- absorbed bubble it occupies within the broader Australian community. It is very poor methodology and propagandistic.

[Professor Kirsner’s complaint related specifically to the report on ABC Online (3 May 2019) titled “Federal election 2019: Vote Compass Finds Australians are ready to back indigenous ‘Voice to Parliament’”. While Douglas Kirsner focused on this particular issue – his critique applies to four other issues covered by Vote Compass. – MWD Editor.]

They claim that their Vote Compass shows that Australians favour an indigenous assembly by two to one. This, they claim, shows how Turnbull could not be more wrong when he said Australians would never approve such a constitutional change.

In fact, the Vote Compass tool is designed for an individual voter to find out how he or she stands in relation to the political parties. It’s not a poll.

Of course, even if it were, it would simply show that a particular self-selected segment of the ABC audience who chose to take the survey for whatever reason adopt that view. It’s more a profile of the Green-left participants that shows how skewed the ABC is. It’s not a representation of general “Australians” views and is very poor methodology.

It isn’t Vote Compass‘ aim to do a proper randomised sample of Australian voters and find their views like Newspoll or IPSOS. It is only a representation of the views of that particular segment of the leftist adherents who predominate in your active audience who self-selected their way to participate. Already the ABC audience is skewed and not representative of general Australia. It’s a left leaning niche community and those who decide from that community to participate in Vote Compass are a subsection of that. It shows how deluded the ABC is about the representative spread of their site users.

It would be unsurprising if those Vote Compass voters thought climate change was the greatest moral challenge of our time, that the Adani mine should not go ahead, that electric cars and renewables were urgent priorities, that we should have open borders, etc. The news would be if they did not hold such views. Perhaps Age or SMH readers would hold similar “representative” views but Daily Telegraph or Herald Sun readers would not.

It is sloppy and unprofessional biased journalism to make the claims you have. This is no news and does not in any way show that Turnbull’s assertion should be revisited.

I hope that you will not misuse the results of Vote Compass in this way again though it is still 15 days to the election and still time to put out more propaganda on behalf of so-called socially progressive causes.

Douglas Kirsner

Emeritus Professor Douglas Kirsner, Ph.D.

Deakin University

Kirstin McLiesh, ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs to Douglas Kirsner – 14 May 2019

Dear Professor Kirsner,

Thank you for your email.

Your complaint has been considered by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of content making areas within the ABC.  Our role is to review, and where appropriate investigate, complaints alleging that ABC content has breached the ABC’s editorial standards.  We have considered your concerns and assessed the specific article you reference against the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy.  Most relevant to your complaint:

2.2  Do not present factual content in a way that will materially mislead the audience.  In some cases, this may require appropriate labels or other explanatory information.

In light of your concerns, we have sought information from ABC News management, who have provided the following explanation:

The data we report out of Vote Compass has been weighted against the Census to ensure it provides a representative sample.

The easiest way of explaining this is if you imagine that for every one man who completed Vote Compass, two women completed it. If that were the case, we would re-sample that so that the balance of views matched the reality in the Census, which is obviously that the gender split is about 50:50.

But with Vote Compass, that process is happening on a sample of hundreds of thousands of people and we are doing the weighting across a whole range of variables – not just sex but income, religion, geography and more.

All polls have sampling problems – Newspoll and Ipsos included. When they ring people up, there are only certain people who will actually stay on the phone and answer their questions. In that way, those surveys are also voluntary and self-selecting.

The weighting process that Vote Compass uses is also used by all the major polling companies. They weight their data against the Census as well in order to overcome sampling bias.

In addition, we know from our own previous research that Vote Compass reaches beyond a ‘typical’ ABC audience. For example, when users share their results on social media, their family and friends engage with Vote Compass, so the tool reaches into communities who may not traditionally engage with ABC content.  So the sample’s problems are not as bad as people might imagine.

Audience and Consumer Affairs further note that the article you refer to clearly attributes the information to Vote Compass.  A section at the end of the article titled ‘About the data’ discloses the sample size for the report, explains the use of weighting to create a nationally representative sample, and links to a more detailed explainer.

On review, Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied that the results of Vote Compass are newsworthy and of relevance and interest to the audience; and that the results were properly attributed.  The story is in keeping with ABC editorial standards for accuracy.

Thank you for raising your concerns with the ABC.

Yours sincerely

Kirstin McLiesh

Head, Audience and Consumer Affairs

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Until next time.

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