GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 469
20 September 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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Stop Press – Kate McClymont’s convenient memory
Can You Bear It? Hamish Macdonald’s questioning hits a dead end; Richard Glover’s Question Time confusion; Van Badham’s watery tale (continued); Phillip Adams spins on Shane Warne
Sandalista Snobbery Space – Shaun Micallef looks down on Malcolm Roberts & Pauline Hanson but still no comment on The Chunder Down Under
Nancy’s Modest Proposal – The ABC’s leadership (temporarily) leaves Ultimo
Jackie on the Twitter Prowl – Mike Carlton purloins a phrase
An ABC Update – Gael Jennings’ Legal Confusion
Questions that Journalists will not Answer – The ABC has no comment on The Chunder &The Drum
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD’S KATE McCLYMONT (CONVENIENTLY) FORGETS NSW ICAC’s ERRORS AND MISJUDGEMENTS
Did anyone hear the discussion on the need for a national independent commission against corruption – just like the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) – on ABC Radio’s Drive with Richard Glover last evening? In case the answer is in the negative – let’s go to the transcript where Nine Newspapers’ Kate McClymont, a passionate advocate of ICAC type operations, had this to say:
Richard Glover: What’s the downside of having a proper ICAC? Well I suppose some people argue that the NSW ICAC has blackened some people’s innocent names and it’s taken a while for their innocence to be established.
Kate McClymont: I totally disagree with that, I’d like them to pinpoint exactly who.
Richard Glover: Well I suppose someone like Nick Greiner, for instance, was found absolutely innocent in the end, but in the meantime, it had done damage to –
Kate McClymont: – Oh, that was the very first one, wasn’t it! That was – yes. But I think the thing was that the Supreme Courts are there to do that if it’s the case. But I don’t think there’s been many since then that that’s occurred with –
Richard Glover: Alright. So give it some teeth is the answer.
What a load of absolute tosh. Kate McClymont totally disagreed with the proposition that the NSW ICAC had blackened the names of some individuals with false allegations of corruption – before it was pointed out that no less a figure than Nick Greiner, when NSW premier, had been brought down by ICAC. [Perhaps this should have been placed in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment. Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]
The facts are as follows. In June 1992 Nick Greiner was found to be corrupt by the NSW ICAC. Following this ruling, Mr Greiner stepped down as NSW premier. In August 1992 the NSW Supreme Court overturned the ICAC finding. That was big news then – and still is. However Ms McClymont, the self-appointed Lord Protector of ICAC, could not remember this last night.
And then there was the case of NSW Liberal Party premier Barry O’Farrell. Mr O’Farrell stepped down as NSW premier in April 2014 after it was revealed that he had failed to inform ICAC that he had received an expensive bottle of Grange wine from a businessman.
On the ABC TV Lateline program on 16 April 2014, Kate McClymont accused Mr O’Farrell of “giving false and misleading evidence to ICAC”. In August 2017, ICAC released its report on this issue titled Investigation into dealings between Australian Water Holdings Pty Ltd and Sydney Water Corporation and related matters. It contained the following finding:
When he gave evidence on 16 April 2014, Mr O’Farrell had no recollection of receiving the wine. There is no evidence to the contrary. The Commission is satisfied that there was no intention on Mr O’Farrell’s part to mislead the Commission on either occasion that he gave evidence.
In other words, ICAC found that Kate McClymont’s statement on Lateline on 16 April 2014 alleging that Barry O’Farrell lied to ICAC was both false and unwarranted. Alas, Ms McClymont also could not remember the Barry O’Farrell ICAC related resignation on ABC Radio last night. How convenient.
And then there is the recent Federal Court decision in ACCC v Cascade Coal where the judges found against ICAC’s finding that Cascade Coal had engaged in corrupt activities. ICAC’s finding against Cascade Coal damaged the reputation of the company and its management. Last evening Kate McClymont could not remember this case as well. Perhaps she only reads the Sydney Morning Herald – which, as Chris Merritt points out in The Australian today – has yet to report the Federal Court decision. Quelle surprise!
HAMISH MACDONALD ADVISES JOHN SETKA THAT HE CAN “DISPUTE” WHETHER JOHN CUMMINS (1948 – 2006) IS DEAD
Hamish Macdonald is currently standing in for Fran Kelly as the presenter of ABC Radio National Breakfast – as the latter presents Insiders.
Avid readers will be familiar with your man Macdonald’s interviewing style. It consists of asking not particularly clever questions over and over again – in the hope that they might seem clever by the end of the encounter. Moreover, Macdonald invariably complains that his questions have not been answered – over and over again. Yawn.
And so it was on Tuesday when it was the turn of militant trade union official John Setka. Now the Victorian boss of the CFMMEU is not MWD’s fave union boss. However, there was reason to feel Comrade Setka’s pain as he was asked personal questions over and over again. You see the trade union boss swears a lot, has engaged in intimidating verbal and text exchanges with his wife and so on. In short, he is no St Francis of Assisi. [Be careful, St Francis did not have a wife. – MWD Editor]
Listeners, if listeners there were, would have got the impression that the interviewer would only have been content if the interviewee had said something along the lines: “You’re right, Hamish, I swear a lot. And I verbally abused the missus. Okay, I’m a fu—ng s–t and a disgrace to mankind. Please forgive me.”
But it was not to be. John Setka gave the same feisty answers to the same sanctimonious questions as the interview went on – and on and on. For a full 25 minutes in the slot between 7.35 am and 8 am. It was as if there was no other national or international news that particular morning.
The “highlight” of the interview occurred towards the top of the hour when the following exchange took place:
Hamish Macdonald: The national secretary of your union, Michael O’Connor, has moved out of head office in Melbourne – taking the manufacturing division with him. One unnamed senior official has called you an “out of control wrecking ball”. Your mentor John Cummins said you should be ashamed of putting yourself before your members. I mean –
John Setka: – My mentor’s not alive at the moment. So how could he have said that?
Hamish Macdonald: Well that’s the quote that I’ve been given, you can dispute that –
John Setka: Well, John Cummins died over ten years ago. So, I’m sorry Hamish, I think it’s a mistake.
Hamish Macdonald: Fine. Do you have many friends left in the labour movement?
Brilliant, eh? Hamish Macdonald declared that John Cummins (1948-2006) had recently said something negative about Setka. When it was pointed out that this could not be the case since the mentor in question died over a decade ago, Hamish Macdonald said that Setka could dispute this if he wished. Macdonald then blamed someone else for the howler and declined to apologise. Journalism at work. Can You Bear It?
[Er, no. Not really. This is the same highly opinionated Hamish Macdonald who declared on RN Breakfast on 20 June 2018 that ABC presenters are not allowed to state personal opinions. How delusional can you get? Fair dinkum. – MWD Editor.]
RICHARD GLOVER’S QUESTION TIME CONFUSION
While on the topic of journalists unwilling to acknowledge errors on air, here’s the exchange which took place between the Liberal Party’s Trent Zimmerman and ABC Sydney Radio’s Drive with Richard Glover presenter concerning Gladys Liu – the Liberal Party member for Chisholm. She is under attack from the Labor Party concerning her (alleged) association with the Communist Party of China and (alleged) undeclared political donations. Let’s go to the transcript:
Trent Zimmerman: I think it’s fine to scrutinise the political donation process. She [Ms Liu] has responded to all of those matters that have been raised and they have been disclosed –
Richard Glover: She hasn’t really, she’s responded in writing in a memo which people imagine was issued by the Prime Minister’s Office. But in Question Time today there was no allowance for her to actually stand up herself and answer the questions in her own voice.
Trent Zimmerman: Well a backbencher can’t stand up and give a statement in Question Time. It’s only ministers that can do that. But the point is that she has released a detailed statement that went through these things.
Richard Glover quickly moved on. But here was one of the ABC’s leading presenters unaware about how Question Time operates and unwilling to acknowledge his error on air. Can You Bear It?
VAN BADHAM’S WATERY TALE (CONTINUED)
According to Hendo’s inbox, MWD readers have been enthralled with the coverage – and follow up – of leftist journalist Van Badham’s tale, as told to The World Today on 5 September 2019, that she read Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale in the bath in one sitting. You see, Comrade Badham was so fixated by the dystopian story that she failed to notice that the water had gone cold. Even after four hours. Fancy that. [Er, perhaps it was a very hot night or morning. – MWD Editor.]
When Jackie’s (male) co-owner pointed out that this was of little moment since Jackie had read James Joyce’s Ulysses from cover to cover in the shower – without noticing the water – VB got upset.
This continued at least up until 7.32 pm (AEST) on Friday 13 September when the following tweet appeared:
Van Badham @vanbadham
This is the second week in a row that Gerard Henderson has written about me in the bath in his column.
Can someone please let him know – before a tiresome third column appears – that I am not interested, I will not go out with him.
Note that VB made no reference to the fact that it was she who raised the issue of her bath in the first instance – in stating precisely where she had read Ms Atwood’s tome, which would take a fast reader about four hours. To wit, the (eventually cold) bath.
In any event, MWD put it to Hendo that VB would not go out with him. Here is his (exclusive) reply:
Hendo: I hear that Comrade Badham will not go out with me. For my part, I will not stay in with her. So there.
Meanwhile MWD awaits to learn of where Comrade Badham read Comrade Vladimir Lenin’s revolutionary pamphlet What is to be Done? Perhaps on the back of a horse between 5 minutes to and 5 minutes past midnight. Can You Bear It?
PHILLIP ADAMS, SHANE WARNE, BREXIT & THE REASON WHY THE WORLD WILL END
While on the topic of Van Badham, it was nice to know that Phillip (“I used to say that I was a teenage communist but now recall that I didn’t leave the Communist Party until I was nearly 30”) Adams retweeted her message about Hendo last week. For his part Jackie’s (male) co-owner hopes that, in time, Comrade Badham is awarded as many gongs and honorary degrees as Phillip Adams AO, AM, Hon DUniv (Griffith), Hon DLitt (ECU), Hon DUniv (SA), DLitt [sic] (Syd), Hon. DUniv (Macquarie), FRSA, Hon FAHA. She deserves them.
For its part, MWD has been monitoring The ABC’s Man in Black’s written twitter-feed. Especially with respect to Shane (“Call me Warnie”) Warne.
Phillip Adams @PhillipAdams_1
Put a sock in it
BBC Radio 4 Today @BBCr4today
“Boris is good, everyone’s great, it’s a great country…get on with it [Brexit]!” Cricket commentator and former Australian leg-spinner @ShaneWarne says the UK has “made its decision” and should “get on” with Brexit
12:05 AM – 5 Sep 2019
So, Comrade Adams objects to the fact that the former Test cricketer has a view on Brexit contrary to his own. But not on all matters.
For example, your man Adams did not object about this tweet from The Guardian about Warnie’s views on climate change by telling Warnie to put a sock in it:
The Guardian @guardian
Shane Warne urges cricket to be proactive about climate crisis dangers
6:57 AM – 13 Sep 2019
So, there you have it. Comrade Adams objects to the retired cricketer speaking up in support of Brexit but not when he speaks up about action on climate change.
In MWD’s view, the world contains many mysteries. For example, how did it start? When will it end? And so on. At least we know how the world will end – due to the comment in Comrade Adams’ The Weekend Australian Magazine column on 31 August 2019. Here it is:
How will the world end? The bang of nuclear war remains a strong possibility, but the whimper of Climate Change seems certain.
So, at age 80, Phillip Adams has joined The-End-of-the-World-is-Nigh-Due-to-Climate-Change Club. Can You Bear It?
As avid readers will recall, in MWD Issue 57 Matt Canavan drew attention to that part of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop in which the snobbery of the leftie journalist Pappenhacker was revealed. Here is the relevant section:
“See that man there, that’s Pappenhacker.”
William looked, and saw.
“The cleverest man in Fleet Street.”
William looked again. Pappenhacker was young and swarthy, with great horn goggles and a receding, stubbly chin. He was having an altercation with some waiters.
“He’s going to Ishmaelia for the Daily Twopence”
“He seems to be in a very bad temper.”
“Not really. He’s always like that to waiters. You see he’s a communist. Most of the staff at the Twopence are – they’re University men, you see. Pappenhacker says that every time you are polite to a proletarian you are helping bolster up the capitalist system. He’s very clever of course, but he gets rather unpopular.”
“He looks as if he were going to hit them.”
“Yes, he does sometimes. Quite a lot of restaurants won’t have him in.”
Sandalista Snobbery Space is devoted to recording the snobbish views of the Pappenhackers of our day – including the snobbery of the sandal-wearing intelligentsia.
SHAUN MICALLEF – MAD ABOUT SENATOR HANSON’S LANGUAGE SKILLS BUT SILENT ABOUT MAD AS HELL’S CHUNDER SCANDAL
When Jackie’s (male) co-owner attended the late Nancy’s Courtesy Classes he learnt that it was discourteous for a well-educated person to mock the speech or writings of someone who is less well-educated. First up, it’s bad manners – driven by intellectual snobbery. Second, there is no causal connection between cleverness and education. Some of the best educated and qualified have poor judgment and/or find it difficult to make decisions.
Now, as avid readers are aware, Shaun Micallef has a law degree from Adelaide University [Wow – what a genius. MWD Editor.] Also he was once college captain at Sacred Heart Senior College in Adelaide. [I’m surprised he didn’t learn manners there. – MWD Editor.]
Wednesday saw the last program in ABC TV’s current series of Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell. Just as well. It seems that your man Micallef and his writers have the same Green Left set of “jokes” which are re-cycled week after week, per courtesy of the taxpayer. In any event, this was Mad as Hell’s “joke” about One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson:
Shaun Micallef: What I do want to do now is talk about someone we haven’t for a while, and that’s Pauline Hanson. [Mocking laughter; photo of Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts shown]. Malcolm Roberts is just there for scale. You know, like a coin. Anyway, Pauline was talking about science last week, criticising the government’s approach to climate change.
Pauline Hanson: They can’t produce the evidence to say that it is humans with CO2 that is causing this global change. Let’s look at the sun, the environment, let’s look at the real scientific facts.
Shaun Micallef: It’s a good point and well made. If we do look at the sun first, the retinal burn may make it hard to see those real scientific facts afterwards. Pauline then went on to underline the importance of:
Pauline Hanson: Imperial evidence, as Malcolm Roberts always says.
Shaun Micallef: Exactly. You’ve got to look at the “imperial” evidence. None of this metric stuff the inner-city latte-sipping [sic] UN keeps going on about from their fancy-pants French-speaking Brussels. And it’s great to see One Nation leading by example. They will always put their foot in their mouth, never 30.48 centimetres.
How funny is that? First up, Micallef ridiculed the fact that Malcolm Roberts is short. Then he sneered at Senator Hanson’s use of the word “imperial” rather than “empirical”. Priceless humour, don’t you think?
In the meantime, Mr Micallef finished for the year without revealing details of the Chunder Down Under scandal which took place in the ABC Melbourne Southbank studio one night in August – after the filming of the program. It seems that the teetotal presenter went home for a hot cup of cocoa – leaving ABC and Giant Baby Productions staff to get on the turps without adequate supervision. Apparently, Virginia Trioli confronted the detritus when she arrived at the ABC on the morning after the (“Mad as Hell”) night before.
Despite the commitment to The Right to Know, the ABC will not state who cleared up the vomit or whether this was paid for by the taxpayer. See this week’s “Questions that Journalists Will Not Answer” segment. However, MWD feels sure that it wasn’t anyone with an Adelaide University LLB – but rather one or more of the teeming masses whose taxes pay for such indulgence.
OR HOW THE ABC CAN MAKE THE MOST OF ITS MISSION TO BANKSTOWN
Due to overwhelming demand, and with a little help from American psychic John Edward, this hugely popular segment will continue – even though Nancy (2004-2017) has “passed”. You see, according to the teachings of your man Edward, Nancy is not really dead but has merely “passed” to the Other Side – from where she is able to send messages. Including her very own modest proposals for the Media Watch Dog blog, which she co-founded with her male and female co-owners in 2009.
As avid readers are aware, this increasingly popular segment of MWD is inspired by the Anglo Irish satirist Dr Jonathan Swift’s proposal to relieve the plight of the Irish under British control, by certain suggestions which he proffered in his writings. In particular, his 1729 tome A Modest Proposal – For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick. As a consequence of such irreverence, your clergyman Swift (1667-1745) never attained his due rank within the Church of Ireland (i.e. the Anglican Church in Ireland). But that’s another story.
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The late Nancy’s (male) co-owner was excited, oh-so-excited, to read in Nine newspapers on Monday an article by Jennifer Duke variously titled “ABC to chase suburban and rural people in bid to broaden coverage” (Sydney Morning Herald) and “ABC books Bankstown boot camp to reconnect with burbs” (SMH Online). This is how the (SMH Online) report commenced:
The ABC is planning an overhaul of its news coverage to attract outer suburban and regional city Australians and increase its audience amid a slowdown in traditional television viewership. As part of the push, ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose and managing director David Anderson will be among dozens of staff heading to the south-west Sydney suburb of Bankstown in late September for a two-day planning workshop focused on making content that is more relevant to average Australians. Participants will discuss local issues, eat at local restaurants and speak with community groups.
What a wonderful idea. The ABC (founded 1932) has decided that it needs to make more substantial contact with Australians who live in the suburbs and regional areas (circa 2019). Gaven Morris, ABC Director News, Analysis and Investigations, told Nine Newspapers that there had been “some parts of the community that we don’t serve as well as could be”. You can say that again.
Hence the Mission to Bankstown where the leaders of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster will mix with the Hoi Polloi – even to the extent of eating at local restaurants and speaking with community groups. Why not? Without such interaction the staff strategy summit could have been held at the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters. It seems that much of this mixing will be at lunch time since the Sydney-based staff will head back at night to their abodes within, or close to, the inner-city and the CBD.
So it will be south west Sydney in late September. Followed by Melbourne’s south east (Springvale perhaps), Brisbane’s south (how about Logan City?), Perth’s south (why not Canning Vale?) along with such regional cities as Newcastle and Geelong.
Whether the ABC realises this or not, the Mission to Bankstown is a tacit acknowledgement of the fact 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.
The problem is not that the ABC headquarters in the inner-city suburb of Ultimo is 23 kilometres from Bankstown. Rather the ABC’s problem turns on the fact that the good people of Bankstown have different views on a whole range of social, political and economic issues from those found within the ABC. For example, the electorate of Blaxland (in which Bankstown is located) voted 73.9 per cent in favour of “No” in the same sex postal survey – this was the highest “No” vote in Australia. It is doubtful if any ABC staff voted “No”. You don’t have to take The Road to Bankstown to work this out.
Nancy’s Modest Proposal
Now here is Nancy’s (modest) proposal. If ABC chair Ita Buttrose, ABC managing director David Anderson and ABC Director News, Analysis and Investigations Gaven Morris really want to make contact with suburban and regional areas – here’s what can be done.
Sell the ABC headquarters in Ultimo and re-locate to Bankstown. All that would be required is for the public broadcaster to maintain a modest studio in the Sydney CBD. The Sandalista Class which prevails at the ABC could cycle to and from Bankstown for work every day before returning to their inner-city digs. Alternatively, a commune can be established for ABC journos out Bankstown way. Then sell the ABC studio in Melbourne’s Southbank and re-locate it to Springvale.
With the left-over money from Sydney and Melbourne buildings, the ABC could put more resources throughout rural and regional Australia. Especially in Queensland and Western Australia where the views of the teeming masses are most in conflict with the prevailing mindset at the Ultimo-based Conservative Free Zone. Here’s hoping this helps.
MIKE CARLTON’S RANT ABOUT THE ARROGANCE AND CONCEIT OF SOMEONE ELSE – REALLY
Jackie is a canine who – unlike the late Johnnie Ray – does not like walking in the rain. This week, with more time to prowl the internet, Jackie found this twitter debate involving Mike (“I’ll pour the Gin”) Carlton and other tweeps – with lotsa assistance from an avid reader. Here we go – along with some editorial comment.
It was 10.08 pm on Friday the 13th (13 September 2019) – around Post Dinner Drinks Time – when Mike Carlton boasted that he had invented a phrase attacking Prime Minister Scott Morrison and invited the hoi polloi to feel free to use it if they wish. How gratuitous can the Sage of Avalon Beach get? Here’s the tweet:
Mike Carlton @MikeCarlton01
I coined the phrase “the Liar from the Shire” a few months back. I’m not charging royalties or enforcing copyright, so do feel free to use it as you wish.
10:08 PM – Sep 13, 2019
A certain @MsVeruca was having none of this. She tweeted that your man Carlton was not only wrong – but up himself (as the saying goes). Here’s what she had to say:
Ronni Salt @MsVeruca
Could somebody please point out to @MikeCarlton01 and his incredible dancing ego that the term #LiarFromTheShire was not in fact coined by him. It has been regularly in use here on twitter by many people since Aug 28, 2018. His first usage of it was May 19, a mere 4 months ago.
So, case closed – don’t you think? Comrade Carlton first referred to the Prime Minister as “The Liar from the Shire” (i.e. the Sutherland Shire in south Sydney) on 19 May 2019. But the first recorded use of the term was on 28 August 2018 – nine months earlier.
Then, at 1.37 pm on Sunday 14 September, the following tweet appeared:
Mike Carlton @MikeCarlton 01
Ok. Apparently #TheLiarFromTheShire got used before I put it out there. Thanks to the people who pointed this out politely. The rude ones got blocked.
1.37 pm 14/9/19
But then – After Lunch, of course – Mike Carlton wound up his anger at being corrected. And what these days, in cliché language, is called “A Conversation” commenced:
Mike Carlton @MikeCarlton 01
Gosh, that @MsVeruca is a sour, supercilious pissant.
Angela G @ange475
She’s asking questions of this government that the media have generally refused to ask, we should all be grateful.
Mike Carlton @MikeCarlton01
Maybe, maybe not. But she is also smug, arrogant, and ludicrously self-important.
Jessica Amelia @jessicamil4
I’m a big fan of yours Mike but this is really rude and uncalled for
Mike Carlton @MikeCarlton01
I think you’ll find she started it, with a volley of rude and insulting tweets. Actually, I blocked her a while ago for some piece of idiotic smart-arsery.
Mike Woodcock @MjwCoach
‘She started it’ – what is this, primary school? The good you and her do vastly outweigh any light bruising to respective egos. shake hands, make friends and move on. You’ve better, more important wars we need you both for
Mike Carlton @MikeCarlton01
Out of the blue and unprovoked, this Veruca person launches a vicious attack on my motives and my character. Apparently, because she is some sort of leftist plaster saint, I’m exhorted to ignore her. Well f_ck that for a game of soldiers.
5:19 pm 14/9/19
The above tweet went out at 5.19 pm – i.e. Gin & Tonic time. There followed Dinner Time and then your man Carlton sent out this tweet-to-end-all-tweets on this issue, which it did:
Mike Carlton @MikeCarlton01
Last word on @MsVeruca. I make an error on a very minor matter, which I later correct. Utterly unprovoked, she launches a vicious attack on my motives and my character. She is evidently an arrogant, conceited, supercilious dipshit. Don’t like it ? Tough…
9:35 PM 14/9/19
So there you have it. Mike Carlton has been verbally abusing individuals for eons. But he gets just-so-upset when, in correcting his mistake, @MsVeruca referred to his “incredible dancing ego”. That’s all.
And – in a case of (unaware) projection – The Sage of Avalon Beach described @MsVeruca as arrogant, conceited and supercilious.
This from someone, who having spent all his life in journalism, wrote a memoir titled On Air (2018). Running for some 550 pages, the Carlton biography is longer than the memoirs of both Bob Hawke and John Howard. Come to think of it, On Air seems to have more pages than readers. And the Sage of Avalon Beach describes others as arrogant, conceited and supercilious. Turn it up.
GAEL (“I’M NOT A LAWYER”) JENNINGS DISCUSSES THE LAW
As is common knowledge, the ABC led the pile-on against George Pell for around a decade up to his conviction by a jury in a re-trial on historical child sexual abuse and beyond that. There were many media outlets running a similar line – but the ABC was out in front.
In view of this, it would be reasonable to expect that the public broadcaster cover Pell’s application for leave to appeal to the High Court with professionalism and accuracy. This did not occur when Gael Jennings discussed the case in the “Newspapers” segment on ABC TV’s News Breakfast on Wednesday. Lisa Millar and Michael Rowland were the co-presenters. Here’s the relevant transcript:
Lisa Millar: We’re joined by Gael Jennings from the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne. Good morning Gael. What are we going to kick off with today?
Gael Jennings: Well I hate to do it because it’s going to ruin everyone’s morning, but, George Pell – they’re talking about his appeal. So, they have launched a leave to appeal to the High Court. And as you all know it’s like a many year saga. He’s been through the County Court where he was found guilty of raping one choir boy and sexually assaulting another. And then it went to the Court of Appeal which found last month – that rejected the appeal on the basis that they believed the victim. Now the basis of his defence team appealing to have leave to appeal to the High Court – which is his last chance – is that there was too much emphasis on believing the victim’s statement by the Court of Appeal and that instead they should have been listening more to the Church figures saying it wasn’t physically possible because there were too many people walking up and down wherever it was supposed to happen.
So that’s what’s going to be going ahead. And it’s interesting coverage by The Australian versus Fairfax press because The Australian was very much supporting, or reporting in full about George Pell’s defence team. Whereas I felt there was a more balanced approach from Fairfax, which was talking about what had actually happened. And how this was a different way of looking at it and how it would change the way in which if this was accepted by the High Court, that focusing more on what the victim said than what’s called exculpatory evidence, that’s what’s being used in the last 20 years in abuse cases. So, if they tried to flip it over it would be even harder for victims.
Michael Rowland: Yeah, I noticed that difference between The Australian and the Nine papers as well, thanks for pointing that out Gael. So, it’s not a done thing yet. I think, as far as I understand it, the High Court has to first accept this application before it gets to the hearing stage.
Gael Jennings: Yes, and there’s a very low rate at which they accept appeals because everyone appeals to the High Court. And that has to reach a whole set of criteria. And the talk amongst the legal community seems to be that it’s going to be quite difficult to get this one up. But you know, I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer. But, anyway, they’re doing what you’d expect them to do. But for victims, you know the victim support groups are saying this is very disappointing.
Here’s what is unprofessional about Dr Jennings’ report:
▪ There is no evidence that discussing an important legal case like George Pell v The Queen was “going to ruin everyone’s morning”. This is just hyperbole.
▪ Gael Jennings failed to tell viewers that the Victorian Court of Appeal dismissed Pell’s appeal in a split – two to one – decision. The dissenting judgement of Justice Mark Weinberg, one of the most experienced criminal jurists in Australia, forms part of Pell’s application for leave to appeal.
▪ There was not a significant difference in the coverage of the leave to appeal application. Both The Australian (Tessa Akerman, Mark Schliebs, Chris Merritt) and Nine Newspapers (Chip Le Grande) covered the issue with accuracy and professionalism.
▪ Gael Jennings’ comment that “everyone appeals to the High Court” is simply ignorant.
▪ Dr Jennings is under the misapprehension that Pell’s conviction is relevant to all victims of child sexual assault and their support groups. If she has read the sentencing comments re George Pell by Chief Judge Peter Kidd in the Victorian County Court, she would know that the trial judge stated emphatically that the Pell case is not connected with – and has no relevance to – any other case of historic child sexual abuse.
ABC management – and the producers of News Breakfast – should be able to do better than this.
QUESTIONS THAT JOURNALISTS WILL NOT ANSWER – THE SERIES CONTINUES
Barely a day goes past when Jackie’s (male) co-owner is not asked a question along the following lines – did you get a reply to that question you asked Journalist X? Sadly, the answer invariably is “No”.
As avid readers are aware, journalists spend a large part of their professional lives asking questions of others – to which they expect replies. But many a journo goes “under the bed” and refuses to respond to, or even acknowledge, questions. This series will monitor this phenomenon.
In the inaugural segment last week, it was documented that ABC TV’s Paul Kennedy, The Guardian Australia’s Amanda Meade and Quentin Dempster’s The Daily Mail had all gone Under the Bed and failed to respond to (courteous) questions about their journalism. More of this later.
As the “Correspondence” segment reveals, the ABC has thrown the switch to No Comment in response to two courteous questions. This is despite the fact that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster invariably boasts about its commitment concerning The Right to Know.
MWD’s QUESTION RE THE MAD AS HELL CHUNDER
On 16 September 2019 MWD asked the ABC:
As has been reported in The Australian and covered in Media Watch Dog, following the filming of Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell on Tuesday 6 August 2019 there was a party in the Melbourne CBD studio. On the morning of Wednesday 7 August, vomit was discovered in the Women’s Dressing Room – located just off the ABC Green Room.
Who paid for the Clean-Up? The ABC? Or Giant Baby Productions (the co-producer of Mad as Hell) ?
ABC’s “NO COMMENT” RESPONSE
We have no comment on the report in The Australian.
MWD’s QUESTION ON THE JUNKING OF THE DRUM
On 16 September, MWD asked the ABC:
As has been reported in The Australian and covered in MWD, the 6 pm edition of The Drum on Wednesday 21 August was junked – and an edited version was run on the ABC News Channel at 7 pm.
It was reported that presenter Ellen Fanning and the producer decided that comments by two panellists were not suitable to go to air. Since then, Richard Beasley SC had identified himself as one of the panellists who made comments that were cut. Mr Beasley’s comments were about President Donald J. Trump.
Will the ABC identify the second panellist who made comments (apparently re the Catholic Church) which also required editorial cuts before the program was cleared fit to go to air?
ABC’s “NO COMMENT” RESPONSE
We have nothing further to add on The Drum at this time, the remarks were never aired and we don’t customarily comment on specifics of program making in this way.
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Until next time.
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