ISSUE – NO. 481

13 December 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 – Comedian Tom Walker on the censorious left

  • MWD Exclusive – Jackie’s (male) co-owner to take a well-earned break

  • An ABC Update – Paul Barry pounds The Drum; Jonathan Green & Tim Flannery on the birth of Earth’s universal consciousness plus Comrade Green has his fortune read

  • The Flann O’Brien Gong for Literary or Verbal or Artistic Sludge – David Rowe depicts Scott Morrison’s Road to Calvary

  • Can You Bear It? Scott Burchill on Peter Hartcher’s “Jihad”; It’s Folau 3 – Fitz 0 in the legal system; Rick Morton & Linda Mottram find evidentiary support in Bruce Pascoe’s lack of evidence

  • Media Fool of the Week – Bonge channels Folau and suggests that Aussies “deserve” the current drought and fires

  • Great Media U-Turns of our Time – James Campbell works out (in December) why Bill Shorten lost the 2019 election (in May)

  • History Corner – Smoke and Dust storms over Sydney and Melbourne remembered

  • New Feature: Guardian Watch – Van Badham channels Leon Trotsky in Rose Bay

  • New Feature: ABC Life’s Big Stories – The national broadcaster weighs in on the science of handbags

  • Jackie’s Old Bones – Re-visiting Tony Jones’ anti-Croatian prejudice

  • Documentation – Louise Adler’s Cardinal howler; Louise Milligan’s erroneous tweet


This is what the visiting British comedian Tom Walker (aka Jonathan Pie) had to say about contemporary comedy on ABC TV News Breakfast this morning:

Tom Walker: I hope, you know, he’s [Jonathan Pie] not just having a go at the right-wingers, he is also having a go at the sort of the woke, lefty culture, that kind of censorious nature, that sort of, especially in comedy I’ve noticed, you know, it can be a bit censorious. But political correctness kinda gone mad

Michael Rowland: Is political correctness killing comedy in your view?

Tom Walker: Uh what’s really weird is, I’m kind of new to the comedy game and how censorious it is. And how anyone that is – I mean I’m a lefty, but right-wing comedians are not on the television anymore and there’s no balance there, you know. There’s a very prescribed view of what you can and can’t say and we quite often these days – context and intent is really, really important but you on social media you can take a joke out of context and without that intent and it can seem much more horrific than it really was…

Tom Walker’s comments were made with reference to contemporary Britain.  But they also apply to contemporary Australia.  Conservative, or right-of-centre, comedians can no longer express their humour for fear of offending somebody – often on someone else’s behalf.

This explains why the ABC and SBS give air time to many a left-wing comedian but effectively de-platform conservative comedians.  Even when it comes to comedy, the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone.


Mere mortals have holidays. But journalists like to refer to such inaction as a Well Earned Break.  This is the last issue of Media Watch Dog for 2019 – it will emerge from its WEB on Friday 31 January 2020. [You’re a bit hard on yourself.  Why not follow Four Corners and have a three-month WEB?  Just a thought. – MWD Editor]. However, Gerard Henderson’s column will continue in The Weekend Australian. [I can barely wait. MWD Editor.]

Thanks to the avid readers who provided intel throughout the year.  MWD operates with a skeleton staff. But as much material was used as possible – and the rest stored for possible future reference.   Special thanks to the Mysterious Mr M. who volunteers as a spell-spotter each Friday.

MWD wishes its (avid) readers Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and so on – and signs off with this message from Jackie (Dip. Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute): KEEP MORALE HIGH.


News is just in that ABC management has announced that Paul Barry will present the ABC TV Media Watch program next year.  Quelle surprise!  Media Watch has had a total of seven presenters since it first aired in April 1988 – and all have been leftists or left-of-centre types. In other words, Comrade Barry fits the bill since he holds a (predictably) fashionable left position on virtually everything.

So it was surprising when, last Monday, your man Barry criticised ABC TV’s The Drum – albeit not without engaging in his predictable bash at Sky News.  Let’s go to the transcript of last Monday’s program when discussion turned on the Morrison government’s repeal of what is termed the Medevac legislation – where the Media Watch presenter discussed the media’s coverage of Dr Kerryn Phelps, the former Independent member for Wentworth, who introduced the Medevac legislation in 2018:

Paul Barry: Phelps has been given a good airing throughout the debate. Especially in Nine’s papers and on the ABC. And so have other refugee advocates. Indeed, on ABC’s The Drum on the night of the repeal, former Nats senator John “Wacka” Williams was the sole voice in support of dumping the law, with a chorus of talking heads against it:

Louise Adler: … there’s a complete lack of compassion and empathy…

Samantha Connor: I just think it’s abhorrent.

Shen Narayanasamy: … it was silly of them to go down this path.

Tasneem Chopra: Australia’s reputation is absolutely, is shattered …

The Drum, ABC, 4 December, 2019

Paul Barry: There is almost as much lack of balance there as we showed at News Corp and on Sky. The ABC could surely have found another voice in support of Medivac’s repeal.

Well, fancy that.  Paul Barry found that one of The Drum’s panels was 4 to Zip against the Coalition government.  It was really 5 to Zip – if you count presenter Julia Baird.

That’s nothing – MWD hears readers cry.  Just after Media Watch concluded on Monday night, Q&A commenced.  On the issue of climate change it had a roll-up of 5 to Zip against the Morrison government. Or 6 to Zip if you count presenter Tony Jones. Comrade Barry knew the composition of last Monday’s Q&A panel (plus presenter) in advance but proffered no criticism of it.  It was the case of 5 versus zero = unfair, but 6 versus zero = fair.

In any event, at the end of 2019, The Drum – usually presented by Julia Baird or Ellen Fanning – was criticised by Paul Barry for lack of political balance.

It was a sad end to a year – at the start of which Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) and Ms Fanning had vowed and declared the program in 2019 would be of a kinder/gentler disposition.  See Issue 439.  In fact, The Drum in 2019 was, at times, insufferably dull as many a little-known panellist expressed strong left-wing opinions on matters concerning which they knew little.  It was, in fact, a duller/dumber program – which even managed to be criticised by Paul Barry for lack of political balance.


 Meanwhile Jackie’s (male) co-owner continues to listen to Blueprint for Living which airs on Saturday mornings around Hangover Time on ABC Radio National. Its presenter is an avid (but not uncritical) MWD reader – Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green.  As avid readers are aware, the born-again vegan is a fox-hunting man.

On Saturday 2 November your man Green spoke to ABC fave Tim Flannery concerning the latter’s latest tome – Life: Selected Writings. Here are some incomprehensible highlights as your man Green and your man Flannery tried to out-clever each other:

Jonathan Green: Perhaps the purpose of humanity is to provide some global intergalactic parable of species rising and then destroying itself and its environment – a lesson to others out there who may be observing.

Tim Flannery: I read it a little bit differently. I think we’re living in a really fascinating time where we are seeing the birth of an earth consciousness. Humans are working together and manifesting themselves in a planetary context in a unitary way, in a way that’s very unified now. And you can see that as a birth of a plantar consciousness. We’ve done it through the Montreal protocol. We have as a species decided on our relationship on one aspect of the atmosphere, which is the ozone depleting chemicals.

Brilliant, don’t you think? – irrespective of what this exchange might mean.  And, alas, there was more.

Tim Flannery: If you think of our species as forming a universal consciousness for our planet, that’s the birth really of a new entity. And there’s no moment in the life of an organism that is more perilous than the moment of its birth. It’s when it’s most vulnerable, most helpless.  So we are going through a testing time at the moment but I’m an optimist by temperament and I think that we have the capacity to pull through this and create something marvellous on the other side.

Jonathan Green: Thirty years of writing collected in this new book, the process of doing that, of bringing those things together, how did that sit with you? What did you feel about yourself looking over that span?

Tim Flannery: Goodness, it was very varied. I’m really proud, actually of some of the things I’ve done, and I’m even more grateful that the opportunity was there for me to do it.…[continues for 83 pages].

[Perhaps this exchange should have won one of your prestigious Flann O’Brien Awards for verbal sludge. – MWD Editor.]

Then on 16 November 2019, the bike-riding inner-city Carlton sneering man had a certain Aydin Tafir read his fortune by examining the remains of – you’ve guessed it – his coffee cup.  [How very Carlton – MWD Editor]  Here are some highlights:

Aydin Tafir: Look at that.

Jonathan Green: It’s full of coffee grounds.

Aydin Tafir: It’s pictures, have a look at that. That tells me that you’re a very busy man. You’ve got a lot happening in your life, sweetheart. Almost like sometimes you just need to slow down. And you want to tell yourself to slow down but you’re a little bit lost in your busyness – if that makes any sense. You have a wish, you have a dream, you have a goal. And that’s why all this busyness is happening. And you’re onto it. In about three months’ time, I feel that things change for you. You’ve set yourself up and, in about three months’ time, things do change. Less busyness if that makes any sense.

Jonathan Green: I’ll get sacked.

Aydin Tafir: [Laughing] No not at all. But you’ll find your sanity, you’ll find – I don’t know what you’re planning on doing but I do feel like there is a little bit of a break there. Are you planning a vacation in three months’ time? There’s a lot of peace there, there’s a lot of happiness there. I feel like you’ll be with people who you love. I do feel like someone is actually reaching out for you – whether you have children or whether you have a partner I’m not sure. But they’re actually reaching out to you.

Jonathan Green: Well the busyness bit makes perfect sense to me. And you can get lost in that. You can only do so much.

Aydin Tafir: In about six months’ time, it’s an asset. A huge asset is coming your way. It’s money, it’s property. Again, it’s something that you’ve planned for, it’s something that you’ve dreamt about. And I feel like it actually comes together in about six months’ time. Are you planning a new home?

[Here’s hoping that this is not so. As MWD reported, your man Green received media coverage when he moved from Hawthorn (i.e. Julian Burnside AO QC Land) to Carlton only six years ago.  Could it be that the fortune reader read the wrong coffee cup?  – MWD Editor.]

And so it went on. And on.  And on.  And on.  In the end, the soothsayer Tafir detected “a document coming through” the dregs of Comrade Green’s coffee cup.  MWD will check in six months time to find out what the future holds for Aunty’s sneerer-in-chief. Meanwhile MWD advises avid readers not to miss a single episode of Blueprint for Living. It’s essential taxpayer funded radio.

Due to overwhelming popular demand, the Flann O’Brien Gong returns again 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. By the way, 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 for far too long. The Flann O’Brien Gong for Literary or Verbal or Artistic Sludge is devoted to outing bad writing or incomprehensible prose or incoherent verbal or visual expression or the use of pretentious words.

Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to David Rowe’s cartoon in the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday.  Here it is:

According to MWD’s artist-in-residence, the cartoon should be interpreted as follows. Spoiler alert – Prime Minister Scott Morrison supports the Cronulla Sharks Rugby League team.

A man wearing Cronulla Sharks shorts & socks and wearing a gas mask walks through a thick cloud of smoke. On his shoulder he bears a cross labelled RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION BILL. Behind him there is a road sign which says “Thank you for Visiting Science”.

Which raises the following questions:

▪ Does David Rowe understand that bearing the cross was an act of sacrifice?

▪ Does he think being compared to Jesus Christ is a bad thing?

▪ The sign faces Prime Minister Morrison’s back – which implies he has just entered “science”. What on earth does that mean?

Literary Criticism

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:

Artistic Criticism

By Jackie

of David Rowe

My grasp of what he drew and meant

Was only five or six per cent

Re ScoMo’s cross I do not know

The reference is to your man Rowe

Can You Bear It


There was enormous disappointment with MWD’s failure last week to report Scott Burchill’s appearance on ABC TV News Breakfast on 5 December.  How could this be? – readers asked.  Well, Jackie’s (male) co-owner likes to keep the best for last.  And this is the final MWD for 2019 – so step forward Dr Burchill (for a doctor he is).

Towards the end of last week, it must have been a go-to-the-tip time for Comrade Burchill. In any event, your man Burchill dressed as if he was going to the tip immediately after his performance on the “Newspapers” segment – during which he delivered some bons mots on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

Here’s how the session commenced:

Michael Rowland: Good morning Dr Burchill. For a doctor he is. [Interesting that Mr Rowland is into this “for a  doctor he is” business – he must be an avid MWD reader – MWD Editor.]

Scott Burchill: I am apparently, yeah. How are you going?

Lisa Millar: Yeah good. What are we going to start with?

Scott Burchill: We’re starting with The Age and Peter Hartcher’s ongoing series, or jihad, against the Chinese.

Michael Rowland: That’s a strong word.

Scott Burchill: Well he’s…

Yes, it is a strong word.  It was reasonable for the senior lecturer at Deakin University to criticise Peter Hartcher’s journalism on China for Nine Newspapers and his recently published Quarterly Essay titled “Red Flag: Waking up to China’s Challenge”. However, the idea that your man Hartcher is conducting a “jihad” against a billion Chinese is, well, over the top.

Then, towards the end of the segment, the learned doctor declared that Scott Morrison describes “anyone apparently who belongs to a union as ‘union thugs’”. The Prime Minister has never suggested that everyone who belongs to a trade union is a “union thug” – his comments have been directed at officials in the Construction part of the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining And Energy Union (CFMMEU). In short, Scott Burchill just made up his claim that the PM brands all trade union members as thugs. On his way to the tip.  Can You Bear It?


Jackie (Dip.Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute) always advises her (male) co-owner not to talk about matters concerning which he knows little or nothing.  [Sounds like an extensive no-comment requirement for Hendo – MWD Editor.]  As avid readers well know, Jackie does not advise The Red Bandannaed One.  But Peter FitzSimons could well do with similar counsel.

The announcement had barely been made on Wednesday 4 December about the settlement in Rugby Union player Israel Folau’s case against Rugby Australia for unfair dismissal when Fitz appeared on Patricia Karvelas’s ABC Radio National Drive program to discuss the matter.

This was unprofessional journalism for a number of reasons. First, Peter FitzSimons is an Israel Folau antagonist, as he himself concedes.  On this matter, FitzSimons is plainly not objective – yet he was the only person invited by Drive to discuss the case.  Second, FitzSimons has neither legal training nor experience in the law.  Third, it was too early to discuss the implications of the case since little was then known about the extent of the settlement.

Did all this stop The Red Bandannaed One from sounding off about something of which he knew little or nothing? Not on your nelly.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Patricia Karvelas: What’s your reaction to this settlement?

Peter FitzSimons: Initially, well and still, disappointment. I mean I was, look the first part is relief that it’s over, that at least Rugby can stop bleeding and make headlines for things other than disasters well removed from the field. But ultimately I felt that Folau had a case to answer, I didn’t think his legal case was strong. I was advised by serious lawyers that his legal case wasn’t strong. And I thought it important to make the point you can’t put out that kind of homophobic gibberish and alienate all of your employees, supporters, sponsors, an entire community, entire people without penalty when you promised not to do that. And so I would have thought if it had gone to the High Court it would have been a slam dunk for Rugby Australia.

My analysis for what it’s worth, after they released the news of the settlement, I made phone calls, sent texts trying to squeeze somebody into giving me some indication and I came up with – nothing. Nobody’s speaking. So anybody who says that they know how much money, you know, is in the settlement I don’t believe is telling the truth. For what it’s worth my analysis is this; what I do know for a certainty is that going into this legal case Rugby Australia was very confident. And they said that in public but also said it to me in private. They were very confident they had a strong case. So the only reason I can imagine that they would have settled would be to stop the energy, the resources going, you know these endless terrible headlines, for “we both apologise to each other” for a nominal fee of a settlement $2-300,000. And I have no hint that that is the case but that’s my analysis $2-300,000 is worth it to walk away. Anything higher $500,000, $1,000,000, you know, $3,000,000 absolutely not – we’ll see you in court.

What a load of absolute tosh.  For starters, Fitz chose to believe Rugby Australia’s legal team who said that they had a very strong case.  That’s what lawyers tend to say – especially to journos like Fitz. Then Fitz exhibited his ignorance of the law by suggesting that, without a settlement, the case would have gone to the High Court.  In fact, the matter was listed for hearing in the Federal Court. Then Fitz, after saying that nobody was speaking about the settlement details, opined that it would be in the range of $200,000 to $300,000. It’s hard to see why Folau would have accepted such a sum since he had already knocked back an offer of $1 million.  In any event, your man FitzSimons did not have a clue when he made this statement – as he himself acknowledged when talking to PK.

It turns out that the likely settlement paid by Rugby Australia to Israel Folau is in the range of $3 million to $8 million.  So Fitz’s claim that if Folau refused to accept an offer of up to $300,000 this would see the case in court, was hopelessly wrong.

And yet Patricia Karvelas and her producer apparently believe that The Red Bandannaed One is a fount of all wisdom on such matters as Israel Folau. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no.  Not really.  I note that Jackie’s (male) co-owner sent the following note to Patricia Karvelas on 5 December:


Before writing about this, I wonder what was RN Drive’s thinking behind the idea of leading off the report of the Rugby Australia/Israel Folau settlement by interviewing Peter FitzSimons – who is a known antagonist of Folau.  There are many Rugby Union reporters around who were capable of giving an objective analysis of the decision.  If Drive was intent on hearing FitzSimons’ view then it should have been counteracted by another view – especially since this was a very newsy topic last evening.

Moreover, FitzSimons is woefully ignorant of many aspects of the law. For example, last night early in the interview he suggested that if no settlement had been reached the case would have ended up in the High Court. As you know, the case was destined for the Federal Court and the prospect of the High Court hearing an appeal from the Federal Court on such a matter would be very small indeed.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Needless to say, PK did not respond to Hendo. Despite the ABC’s commitment to the Right to Know Coalition. – MWD Editor.]


Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to ABC PM presenter Linda Mottram’s contribution to the discussion about author Bruce Pascoe’s claim to be Indigenous.  As those who watch Sky News’ The Bolt Report and read Andrew Bolt’s columns in News Corp’s newspapers will know, Andrew Bolt has asked Mr Pascoe to identify the name of the one Indigenous grandmother from whom he claims to be descended. So far, no evidence has been produced.

In the lead story of The [Boring] Saturday Paper on 30 November 2019, Rick Morton supported Pascoe and bagged Bolt. Mr Morton’s principal source was “one prominent Indigenous leader” who spoke to him “on the condition of anonymity”. Really.

Also, your man Morton spoke to your man Pascoe and then wrote this:

Pascoe tells of the struggle to find his Aboriginal ancestor, which was sketched by family members not so much through what they said but through what they didn’t say. It was an absence that provided clues. But is this so extraordinary? As Pascoe says, the circumstance “mirrors the turbulence of postcolonial Australia and explains why so many Australian families have a black connection”.

How about that?  Bruce Pascoe says he became aware of his Aboriginal ancestor not so much through what family members said “but through what they didn’t say”. That is, it was an absence of “evidence” that provided clues.

However, it’s not clear how the “clues” can be assembled by a lack of evidence.   But your man Morton is convinced that the lack of evidence is in fact evidence of Mr Pascoe’s Indigenous ancestry.  And Ms Mottram was so convinced by this logic (for want of a better word) that she tweeted about Rick Morton’s “excellent reporting”.

So Rick Morton believes that no evidence equals much evidence and Linda Mottram reckons that this is excellent analysis.  Can You Bear It?

[I can barely wait to watch Bruce Pascoe’s two part documentary titled Dark Emu which will be shown on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster next year. MWD Editor.]

Media Fool Of The Week


When born-again Christian fundamentalist (and former Rugby Union star) Israel Folau spoke at The Truth of Jesus Christ Church on Sunday 17 November 2019, he declared that the current drought was a sign of our need to repent.  Let’s go to the transcript:

You have changed the law and ordinance of these things. Look at how rapid these bush fires, these droughts, all these things they’ve come in a short period of time. Do you think it’s a coincidence or not?…

They’ve changed that law, and now have legalised same-sex marriage. Now those things are okay in society; going against the laws of what God says. Abortion, it’s okay now to murder and kill infants; unborn children – and they deem that to be okay….

God is speaking you guys, Australia, you need to repent, turn, take these laws and turn it back into following what is right by God, what God says in His word…. We look back at what God done to Sodom and Gomorrah, and rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed that city because of the sin that they were living in….

So that’s pretty clear then. If we mere mortals continue on sinning and don’t repent – then the One True God will throw the switch to vengeance, like He did with Sodom and Gomorrah, and rain down fire and brimstone and all that stuff.

Needless to say, your man Folau’s claims were met with fire and brimstone attacks of the verbal kind – especially by the sneering secularists in our midst.

That was then.  On Tuesday The Saturday Paper’s Paul Bongiorno put out this tweet – shortly after Post Dinner Drinks Time and not long before Hangover Time:

How about that? – Bonge channelled Israel Folau. According to Folau, the One True God is bringing about bush fires to remind us that we need to repent.

And according to Bonge, the species (i.e. human beings) deserve all they get for failing to acknowledge the human contribution to climate change.  It is as if the secular god Gaia is raining secular fire and brimstone – and we deserve all the punishment we’re copping per courtesy of your god Gaia.

Needless to say, the luvvies who condemned Folau’s madness said nothing about Bongiorno’s madness.  MWD, on the other hand, is not so partisan.

Paul Bongiorno: Media Fool of the Week.

[Good decision.  I’m reminded that Bonge put out this mad tweet about Scottish-born ABC reporter Barbara Miller:

In fact, Ms Miller’s Scottish accent is easy to follow. Which raises the question – What was Bonge on about? Or on? – MWD Editor.]


Wasn’t it great to see the Herald-Sun’s James (“I’m a Melbourne Grammar man”)

Campbell on Sky News’ Paul Murray Live on 5 December?  Re which see MWD Issue 474 where your man Campbell was reported as dividing society between “Dark Blue” Melbourne Grammar men like him – and “Light Blue” Geelong Grammar types.


On 5 December, shortly before he flew into Britain for the 2019 British general election, James Campbell had this to say on Paul Murray Live in his Herald-Sun column:

James Campbell: One of the things you’ve got to – not admire about Corbyn I suppose, but technically give him a bit of a nod – is that he’s not making the same mistake that Shorten made with his tax policy. Shorten’s tax policy was kind of aimed at people who sort of seeped down into the middle class, right? Corbyn is going to soak the rich. And he’s upfront about it. “I’m going to raise a lot of taxes, I’m going to raise them off business, high-income earners, and you – the great British public – will not pay anything”. And after all these years of austerity that has greater appeal than you might expect. The “where is the money coming from?” argument is not something people are listening to.

But he’s also not making the mistake that Shorten made. Shorten said he was going to raise a lot of money, but it was very difficult for a lot of people to point to anything that they were going to get from it.  Yes, there was dentistry, yes there was cancer – but they didn’t really pump that stuff up much. Corbyn ain’t making that mistake. It’s a giant Christmas stocking full of free stuff. Free internet, going to re-nationalise this, going to get rid of fees for university students. There are naked bribes all through the Labour manifesto. And some of these have only been unveiled in the past few weeks. So, people are looking at this going, “this is good and I’m not going to have to pay for it, beauty”.

So there you have it. According to Mr Campbell unlike Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Bill Shorten went to an election with a politically hopeless position on tax and expenditure.


On 15 May 2019 James (“I’m a Melbourne Grammar man”) Campbell had this to say in his Herald-Sun column:

With only two days left to the end of the election circus, Labor folk seem increasingly confident that their man will get the chocolates. Opinions differ wildly on the size of the majority Bill Shorten will get on Saturday, ranging from a best-case scenario of 85 seats down to Labor just falling into office with the support of Greens and independents. From what we can see at the moment, too many things need to go right for Scott Morrison to bet on the government being returned. Wherever you look, the published polls show a drop in the Coalition’s primary vote and an increase in Labor’s.

And although 17 per cent of people in the most recent Newspoll say they are yet to make up their minds, it is possible that so many of them decide to vote for the Coalition that it reverses this trend. But that is looking unlikely. Moreover, if what I have been hearing from MPs on both sides who have been on pre-poll stations around Melbourne is correct, there is a decent chance Victorians are going to give the Liberal Party another belting to go with the one handed it last November.

So there you have it.  According to Mr Campbell in May, Bill Shorten’s position on tax and spending was not so hopeless that it would stop Labor from achieving victory in the 2019 election.



The smoke over Sydney this week has led many a journalist to opine that no Australian city has experienced so dark a day – along with record setting fires and drought. Those with a sense of history, however, understand that this land has been beset by drought and fire and flood forever.

This week History Corner offers a glimpse of the Federation Drought of 1895 to 1903 (per courtesy of an historian) and of the dust storms that swept through Melbourne and Sydney (per courtesy of someone who was 29 years of age at the time). Here we go:


Don Garden, “The Federation Drought of 1895-1903, El Nino and Society in Australia” in Genevieve Massard-Guilbaud and Stephen Mosley Common Ground: Integrating the Social and Environmental in History (Cambridge Scholarly Publishing, 2011):

▪ The drought that devastated eastern Australia from 1895-1903 (and even longer in some regions) is the most widely recognised in Australia’s European history, its importance even meriting three capitalised names – the Long Drought, the Great Drought and the Federation Drought. The reputation is deserved since that prolonged period of below-average rain was the most severe to that point in Australia’s European history, and the most profound until another sequence surpassed it from the mid-1990s. One aspect that has generally not been recognised, however, is that the rainfall deficit and its accompanying heatwaves, dust storms and bushfires, together with their huge impacts on the environment and human activities, were the result of three closely following El Niño events. The first stage ran from 1895-98, with the summer of 1897-98 suffering some of the most extreme recorded weather in Australia – heatwaves, bushfires and dust storms in the south-east (New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia) and cyclones in Queensland. The El Niño then subsided and switched into a mild La Niña later in 1898 before another El Niño in 1899- 1900. After a short break, there was a profound El Niño from 1901-03 which brought the most severe period of drought to many regions and is infamous for its dust storms….

▪ Two extreme heatwaves occurred in January 1896 and in the heatwave summer of 1897-98. During the 1896 heatwave, furnacelike winds from central Australia pushed temperatures well into the forties Celsius across much of the eastern half of the continent, setting new records and causing great suffering from heat and diseases, and numerous deaths. Conditions were particularly bad in outback New South Wales where there were reports of heat up to 52ºC. The town of Bourke had an average over three weeks of 44°C, including four consecutive days of 48°C. Those who could had fled Bourke by train, but some 160 people died of heat and disease. The summer of 1897-98 was even hotter and windier in parts of eastern Australia. Many towns ran short of water and there were more deaths from heat and outbreaks of typhoid. In New South Wales the death rate increased by more than 20 per cent over these weeks, and was particularly high among infants. Perhaps the only positive aspect was that large numbers of rabbits died of heat and starvation.

▪ Sparked by heat and desiccation, bushfires burned their way across large areas of the colonies, killing unknown thousands of pastoral animals and causing immense damage to public infrastructure and to private property including houses, farm buildings, crops and fences. In some places there was significant loss of human life. During the first two months of 1898 there seems seldom to have been a day when there was not a fire in the eastern colonies, especially Victoria. Much of Gippsland (eastern Victoria) was devastated, with the smoke so thick that daylight turned to dark, and offshore coastal shipping was forced to slow. Smoke from the Victorian fires even created a haze over Sydney.


B.A. Santamaria, “Introduction” to The Earth Our Mother (Araluen Publishing Co, 1945):

This book was completed as the first of the disastrous dust storms which swept Melbourne and Sydney at the end of 1944 deposited on urban roof tops their indisputable evidence of the impending ruin of Australia’s good earth. The dust storms are unpleasant.  God grant that they be providential.  For if they drive into the hearts and minds of those who rule Australia the conviction that what happens to the nation’s agriculture is of the first importance, even the families of the Mallee and of the Far West will not have suffered in vain.

The danger still is that soil erosion may come to be regarded as a disease which must be cured, not as the result of a set of circumstances which must be prevented.  For even if by the expenditure of millions we could bring back fertility to the millions of acres which have been despoiled we would have achieved nothing unless this program of redemption were followed by the introduction of wise land policies which would be a guarantee against the future destruction of the soil. The land comes first.  Without the extension of rural settlement we cannot hope to establish that reservoir of population which is Australia’s first national need.  It is the cause of a great Australia that this book is written.

Guardian Watch

  • Van Badham channels Leon Trotsky in Rose Bay

Beginning next year, MWD will establish a “Guardian Watch” segment.

Here’s why. The Guardian Australia publishes such life-changing material. Including the piece by Van Badham published on 28 November titled “A Facebook war in Rose Bay has destroyed my anarchist idealism”.

It’s all about a “wild internet barney” which led Comrade Badham to consign her “Wollongong-Anarchist-Collective T-shirt to the dustbin of history”. Along with her “personal belief in the capacity of organic, extrapolitical entities to govern themselves democratically”. According to MWD’s research, Leon Trotsky seldom thought about anything else.

MWD will get to the bottom of this “War of the Rose-Bayers” next year. In the meantime, the Guardian Australia will still be given away for free. It’s a bargain at this price.

  • The Science of Handbags

The taxpayer funded ABC will not say how much it is spending on the ABC Life online site – except that it’s somewhere between $1 only and $20 million.  Whatever the amount is, ABC Life is a waste of money.

MWD asked a millennial to check out the highlights of ABC Life’s recent effort titled “The Science is in: It’s time to get a smaller handbag”.  This is what she came up with for the final issue of 2019 – as told to Jackie:

I found the current issue of ABC Life of enormous benefit to my life and life-style. I was particularly impressed by the story titled “The science is in: it’s time to get a smaller handbag.”

The first sentence of the piece posted on 8 December advised readers, if readers there were, to “Look inside your bag”.  I did – and, thanks to ABC Life, my life will never be the same again.


MWD just loves it when journalists interview journalists about journalism.  And so it came to pass when the ABC’s Tony Jones appeared on ABC Radio’s Conversations program and was interviewed by the ABC’s Richard Fidler.  This taxpayer funded self-indulgence will be analysed in MWD early next year – especially concerning Q&A during the reign of Comrade Jones and all that.

In the meantime, MWD notes that Mr Jones is continuing his vilification of Croatian Australians which he commenced when presenting Q&A in July 2016 and continued in his novel The Twentieth Man which Gerard Henderson reviewed in The Sydney Institute Review Online on 30 January 2018 – see here.

Here’s an extract from the Conversations where Richard Fidler asked soft questions of Tony Jones – and did not query any of his responses:

Richard Fidler: So this man Srecko Rover made it to Australia. What did he do once he made it to Australia?

Tony Jones: Well he set up an intense nationalist organisation. He was the head of something called the Croatian Brotherhood which was the Ustaše in all but name and they were responsible for some terrorist activities against Yugoslavian facilities in Australia. But also-

Richard Fidler: What kind of terrorist attacks?

Tony Jones: Bombings, largely.

Richard Fidler: Terrorists bombings in Australia?

Tony Jones: Yes there were quite a few. Don’t believe what Gerard Henderson says.

Richard Fidler: This actually happened in this country, right-

Tony Jones: Yeah for sure-

Richard Fidler: and this is what the 70s? 1960/70s?

Tony Jones: Yes. I mean look, the typical answer from conservatives is “Look these were bombings by Yugoslavian communists aimed at blaming, you know they were-

Richard Fidler: False flag?

Tony Jones: False flags operations”.

Richard Fidler: Right.

Tony Jones: Some of them may have been but there’s no doubt what the Croatian brotherhood was getting up to because in Australia they armed, trained and then subsequently exported Australian, people with Australian passports or citizenship to the former Yugoslavia to stage mini rebellions. The latest incursion, as it was called, involved 19 or 20 men who were sent into Bosnia in 1972, in June of 1972. All of them were, this is a real story, all of them were killed or captured….

This statement is essentially false.  It is true that some Croatians in Australia travelled to Yugoslavia nearly half a century ago and were involved in guerrilla warfare against the communist regime in Belgrade.  But there is no evidence that Croatians in Australia undertook terrorist attacks on Australian soil including against Yugoslavia government offices and businesses in Australia.

In his soft interview with Richard Fidler, Tony Jones ignored the findings of The Official History of ASIO and of Hamish McDonald’s book Reasonable Doubt: Spies, Police and the Croatian Six (Doosra Media, 2019). In the interview Jones praised his one-time hero, Labor Senator Lionel Murphy, who was attorney-general in the early years of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government in the early 1970s.  Jenny Hocking, Murphy’s biographer, has conceded that Murphy was out of his depth in pursuing Croatian Australians in the 1960s and early 1970s.

For the record, Tony Jones has not been able to name even one of what he termed “the Catholic Croatian extremists” whom he claimed undertook terrorist attacks in Australia. Not one.

Moreover, as The Official History of ASIO and Hamish McDonald’s Reasonable Doubt have documented, there were false flag operations of Yugoslavian Secret Police operatives in Australia aimed at discrediting Croatians in Australia.

Needless to say, Richard Fidler did not challenge any of Jones’ assertions by asking him to support his assertions with evidence.    


As readers will recall, Issue 479 discussed the appearance of leftist publisher Louise Adler on ABC TV’s One Plus One on 15 November 2019.  Looking at its history, it seems that One Plus One is an ABC program where leftists and left-of-centre types get soft interviews.  Occasionally One Plus One interviews an apolitical type. But conservatives rarely, if ever, get a gig – confirming the ABC’s reality as a Conservative Free Zone.

Interviewed by Eleanor Hall, Ms Adler had this to say about the publication of Louise Milligan’s Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell by Melbourne University Press in 2017:

Eleanor Hall: There is a lot of speculation that it was your decision to publish Louise Milligan’s book about Cardinal George Pell that was the catalyst for the rift with Melbourne University. But when you and those other board members left, the MUP chairman hosed that down, saying that was nonsense. Is it nonsense?

Louise Adler: Look, I don’t want to go into the details of it, I think that’s all passed. I was really proud to publish Louise’s book. I had seen Louise Milligan’s reporting on the Church and institutional child abuse. Probably about a year and a half prior to approaching Louise, I had been looking for someone to write a biography of Cardinal George Pell – because I thought he was a very interesting subject. He had been the subject of a lot of discussion in the media, and I had watched Louise’s work on the 7.30 Report and thought she had gravitas, seriousness and sober – her reporting was sober and analytical. And so, it was – I had wanted a biography of Pell, she wanted to tell the story of the people who felt that they had been wronged by the Church. And so we agreed to do that project.

Eleanor Hall: How much pressure did you come under in the process of publishing that Pell book?

Louise Adler: The pressure was really legal pressures if you like, which were really to do with – and this was the understanding that we had with Louise from the outset. Her view was: “I will continue to write the book – if legal proceedings begin, then I will not be publishing this book until legal proceedings are over; and I will not sign any contracts with you at MUP, unless you agree that we will not jeopardise the due process, the fair process, both for complainants and for Cardinal Pell.”  And that was the understanding that we had. We published the book – and six weeks later legal proceedings began. And so the book was withdrawn in Victoria.

Eleanor Hall: How stressful a time was it?

Louise Adler: It was stressful. Louise Milligan cared deeply about the people she interviewed, we cared about the issue personally and publicly, the colleagues at MUP all felt very strongly about that – about the issue. You know there were people who had family who were devout Catholics – as were Louise Milligan’s family – and people felt both personally and publicly if you like, concerned about the issue. And it wasn’t just Cardinal Pell, it was a question of, you know, what institutions – both with the Catholic Church and beyond. I mean my own community, the Jewish community, has had its own terrible record, instances of child sexual abuse. And how institutions are to cope with that seem to be very important.

Needless to say, Ms Adler’s account was not challenged by Ms Hall – One Plus One is not that kind of program.  But it contained a serious inaccuracy.

Cardinal was scheduled for publication on 1 July 2017.  There were rumours at the time that George Pell was likely to be charged by Victoria Police for historical child sexual abuse. It so happened that MUP brought forward the publication of Cardinal to 15 May 2017.  In other words, MUP brought out Cardinal six weeks earlier than planned. This seems inconsistent with Louise Milligan’s position – as reported by Louise Adler – that she did not want Cardinal to be published before any legal proceedings with respect to George Pell were concluded.

When George Pell was charged on 29 June 2017, Cardinal was then withdrawn from sale in Victoria – but it had already been on sale for over six weeks.  Moreover Cardinal was available for sale in the rest of Australia – and was heavily promoted at airport bookshops.  Also Cardinal was readily available online to Victorian residents among others.

Ms Adler’s claim that MUP published Cardinal shortly “before legal proceedings began” against Pell is also misleading.  Six weeks is not a short period for a heavily promoted book which received wide-scale media publicity – especially on the ABC.

The publication of Cardinal shortly before legal proceedings were commenced against George Pell was prejudicial to the prospect of a fair trial – since Victoria is the only mainland Australian state not to have the option of trial by judge alone in high profile cases.  It’s difficult to see how some jurors would not have experienced unconscious bias in view of the anti-Pell media pile-on which took place in the period leading up to the trial.

It turned out that most of the allegations and insinuations made in Cardinal against George Pell never went to trial due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.  The second trial that was conducted led to a guilty verdict – after the first jury could not come to a unanimous or majority decision.  The Victorian Court of Appeal divided two-to-one on the case which will be considered by the High Court early next year.


There was considerable interest in this segment last week which featured the twitter stream between George Pell antagonist Louise Milligan, journalist Gay Alcorn and lawyer Greg Barns.  Readers were genuinely surprised by Ms Milligan’s attack on the legal qualifications of Justice Mark Weinberg – who dissented in George Pell v The Queen in the Victorian Court of Appeal

The twitter exchange continued on Saturday 7 December when Greg Barns responded to a  tweet by Louise Milligan on 5 December 2019 in which she said “I’m simply subjecting the evidence …to the scrutiny it deserves”.  The exchange continued:

This statement is inaccurate. There were not two complainants in the Pell case.  Just one – who was titled “J”.  “J” gave evidence that Pell had assaulted him and one other teenage boy who was termed “R”.  “R” told his mother that he had not been sexually assaulted as a child.  “R” died in 2014.  It was agreed by the parties to the Pell case that “R”’s death was not related to historical child sexual abuse.

Louise Milligan met “J” – as mentioned in her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017). But she never met “R” – despite her claim on Twitter to the contrary.

Ms Milligan asserts that to be permitted an informed opinion on the Pell case you have to have spoken to both complainants and read “all the transcript”. But Louise Milligan herself has not met her own requirements.  She never spoke to “R”.  Also, contrary to her claim, Ms Milligan has not read all of the transcript of the Pell trials since most of the transcript has not been released. Likewise the transcript of proceedings in the Magistrates’ Court re the charges against Pell has not been released.

As to Milligan’s attempt to downplay Justice Weinberg’s qualifications as a criminal jurist – the facts are as follows as provided by a Melbourne-based lawyer who reads MWD.  Mark Weinberg topped his year at the Monash Law School and at Oxford University (winning the Vinerian Scholarship).  Weinberg went to the Victorian Bar where he became a top QC specialising in criminal law. He took up the position of Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution before being appointed to the Federal Court and then to the Court of Appeal of the Victorian Supreme Court. Yet Louise Milligan believes Justice Weinberg has defects as a judge in criminal law cases.

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Until next time.

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