ISSUE – NO. 490

27 March 2020

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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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  • Can You Bear It? Ray Hadley’s lazy journalism; Julian Burnside’s big question; Fitz gets mad at a metaphor he took literally; Peter Hartcher thinks everyone but him has forgotten about the Spanish Flu

  • Media Fool of the Week – Tom Ballard celebrates the end of capitalism, begs for money

  • Your Taxes at Work – The 2020 Sydney Writers’ Festival, a leftist stack that will never be

  • MWD “Exclusive” – James Campbell and his failed predictions to join Insiders; Groaning with Speersy

  • An ABC Update – Deputy CMO Dr Nick Coatsworth debunks Norman Swan’s advice; Is the ABC really Australia’s most trusted news?

Can You Bear It


Did anyone hear Ray Hadley’s live-to-air rant on Radio 2GB (Sydney) and 4BC (Brisbane) yesterday morning?  “No” – MWD hears you cry.  Well here’s what your man Hadley had to say about the 70 year old woman, who had contracted COVID-19 and who died sometime after disembarking from the cruise ship Ruby Princess at Circular Quay on Thursday 19 March.:

Ray Hadley:  …her death has been caused by the stupidity of someone in New South Wales Health.  Someone died! Because of decision taken by a public servant or by someone in government – and that person needs to be held to account for that death.

What a load of absolute tosh.  If Ray Hadley had watched the telly – or read a newspaper – he would have known that the woman fell sick on the cruise and was removed from the Ruby Princess by NSW Ambulance soon after the cruise ship docked.  Her death had nothing to do with any NSW Health public servant.  What lazy journalism. Can You Bear It?


Amid the carnage of COVID-19 and all that, it’s good to note that Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO QC is asking the really BIG QUESTION of our times.  Here’s his tweet, sent out at Hangover Time yesterday morning:

If JB AO QC has done any work, he would know that the Morrison government’s economic package – designed to alleviate the worst economic consequences of the virus – is aimed at those who have lost their jobs.  As well as encouraging businesses – big, medium and small – to retain as many employees as possible. There is also assistance for the unemployed.

You wonder whether your man Burnside’s defeat as the Greens’ candidate for Kooyong last year has affected his judgment. Without a shred of evidence, he now labels the Coalition government as “corrupt”. And just over a week has passed since m’learned friend temporarily fell for the fake news that the novel coronavirus could be cured by standing in the hot sun and drinking water.  Yes, really – see MWD Issue 489.  How naïve can an AO QC get?

And now JB AO QC reckons that the big question at this moment turns on whether the government is “corrupt”. No it doesn’t.  It turns on whether the Melbourne barrister has lost the plot. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Julian Burnside, it’s notable that he did not get a mention in Peter (“Look at me”) FitzSimons’ “Fitz on Sunday” column in last Sunday’s Sun-Herald. The Red Bandannaed One, while condemning others for allegedly putting out fake news, conveniently overlooked Julian Burnside’s advice (subsequently deleted) that the best way to eliminate COVID-19 was to stand in the hot sun while drinking water re which see above. [I knew this was nonsense when I first read JB AO QC’s tweet. If the drink had been a Gin & Tonic instead, I might have given it some credence. – MWD Editor]

It seems that the sneering secularist has one rule for sneering secularists like him and another for believers.  Here’s what he wrote in “Fitz on Sunday” on 15 March 2020 concerning the one-time tennis great Margaret Court:

…one doesn’t want to be unkind of course, but is Margaret Court stark staring mad? Yes, yes, yes, of course, people are free to believe and practise whatever religion they damn well please – until those beliefs directly impact on the rest of us…. Right now in the age of coronavirus, we are all getting our heads around the need to live differently, wash our hands regularly, keep our distance, slow the spread of coronavirus for as long as possible – not just for ourselves, but for the community.

Enter Pastor Margaret Court, and the statement her Victory Life Church in WA released on Friday. “We are in agreement that this COVID-19 will not come near our dwelling or our church family. We are praying daily for you, knowing that we are all protected by the Blood of Jesus.” And extra hand-sanitiser if you want it…

Fer Chrissakes! No words.

Peter FitzSimons, along with former ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief Mark Scott, was educated at Uniting Church’s Knox Grammar on Sydney’s north-shore.  And, despite his proclaimed atheism, The Red Bandannaed One sent his two sons to his alma mater where they could have got a splash or two of the Blood of Christ.

So Fitz should know that if Pastor Margaret Court talks about her congregation being protected by the  Blood of Jesus – it’s a METAPHOR.  It’s not a religious alternative to hand-sanitiser or soap. Yes, The Red Bandannaed One sought to mock the believer Court while ignoring the secularist Burnside’s walk-in-the-sun-with-a-pint-of-water solution to the virus.  Can You Bear It?


What an informative column by Peter Hartcher in The Age on Tuesday. MWD readers will remember your man Hartcher’s recent comment on Insiders that Australia’s political leaders are wont to kowtow before China (See MWD Issue 487) . He overlooked the fact that Australia was the first member of the Five Eyes Alliance (Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) to warn about the national security problems which would result if Huawei was allowed to participate in the roll-out of the 5G network. He also overlooked the fact that, with the US, Australia was one of the first nations to close its border with China in view of COVID-19.

But MWD digresses.  On 24 March, The Age carried a column by Peter Hartcher titled “Lessons from the Spanish Flu” . It contained the following sub-heading:

Pandemic in Australia is not unprecedented: it happened in 1919

Duh  – as the saying goes.   It seems that The Age regards it as breaking news that Australia experienced an Influenza pandemic in 1918-1919. Apparently, Nine Newspapers’ political editor is suffering from a similar delusion. Writing about the current disagreement between the Commonwealth and State over the handling of COVID-19, Peter Hartcher had this to say:

This must be unprecedented, as everyone keeps telling us, right? No, actually. The Spanish flu of 1919, the greatest pandemic since the Black Death half a millennium before it, threw Australia’s commonwealth into chaos.

It seems that The Age and Peter Hartcher believe that little, perhaps nothing, was known about the Spanish Flu (H1N1 virus) before the sage Hartcher descended from a mountain to break the news about the 1918-1919 pandemic to readers of The Age. In fact, the Spanish Flu pandemic has been widely discussed – in News Corp, Nine newspapers and elsewhere – in recent times. In fact, Peter Hartcher was somewhat late in breaking the “news”. Can You Bear It?

Media Fool Of The Week


Did anyone see this tweet from MWD’s  fave leftist stand-up comedian Tom Ballard?  As avid readers may recall, Comrade Ballard, as might be expected, is much loved by the ABC.  He has co-hosted ABC Triple J’s Breakfast Show and presented Tonightly With Tom Ballard on ABC TV’s second channel. In the latter capacity, he provided terrific material for MWD – for which, lotsa thanks.

Last Sunday, just before Gin & Tonic time, your man Ballard put out this tweet:

So there you have it. In his years of struggle, Comrade Ballard (born 1989) has talked about smashing the capitalist state.  But now he reckons that the revolution to overthrow capitalism has succeeded, due to COVID-19.

It seems that Comrade Ballard has forgotten that this so-called capitalism has been his best friend.   He has made jokes (if jokes they were) about capitalism and has flown around the world on jets doing gigs.  Comedians can make a living in market economies. In communist and socialist states they invariably end up in prison or dead.  If Comrade Ballard does not understand this, he should take his stand-up to China, Cuba, Vietnam or Venezuela. Your man Ballard would soon be doing sit-downs in the clink.

And then there’s the matter of performance.  A quick check of Ballard’s website reveals that, due to COVID-19, his forthcoming gigs at the Brisbane and Melbourne comedy festivals have been cancelled.  Moreover, the fate of planned appearances at the Belvoir Theatre in Sydney and the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe Festival are in doubt.  Indeed, Comrade Ballard is now begging his supporters to become patrons of his LIASYO Facebook group.

Fair enough.  But has our man Ballard no self-awareness?  His career has been made possible because he and his fellow aspiring revolutionaries failed to succeed in smashing capitalism and he was able to work in a capitalist society.  But Comrade Ballard is happy that, in his view, COVID-19 has now done the job – and he is putting out the begging bowl. Some confusion, surely.

Tom Ballard – Media Fool of the Week.


It was early in the morning of Saturday 14 March 2020 when the Sydney Morning Herald landed on the roof of Jackie’s kennel.  It contained a 24 page lift-out providing details of the 2020 Sydney Writers’ Festival – which was scheduled to take place between Monday 27 April and Sunday 3 May.  It is a matter of regret that the SWF has been cancelled this year due to COVID-19.  An enormous amount of work goes into organising such functions – so MWD feels the SWF’s pain (in a genuine sense of the term). Also the cancellation will cause financial harm to booksellers, publishers and authors.

However, it is appropriate to examine what the 2020 Sydney Writers’ Festival had planned – especially since it is a taxpayer supported event. The “Core Funders” are the NSW government (i.e. individuals who pay state taxes and charges in NSW), the City of Sydney (i.e. business and individual ratepayers in the Sydney local government area) and the Australian Government’s Australia  Council for the Arts (i.e. individuals who pay Commonwealth taxes).

It is Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s contention that writers’ festivals are an occasion when a soviet of leftists gets hold of lotsa taxpayers’ money and uses it to invite their leftist ideological mates in Australia and from overseas to get together in a series of sessions where everyone agrees with everyone else on nearly everything in a leftist kind of way.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the SWF’s major partners in 2020 included the ABC, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Saturday Paper.  Or that the chair of the SWF board is none other than former ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief Mark Scott. So it stands to reason that the 2020 festival would have reflected what is said on the ABC and printed in Nine Newspapers and The Saturday Paper.

Needless to say, the 2020 SWF had a the-end-of-the-world-is-nigh theme.  This is how Michaela McGuire, the SWF’s artistic director, described the (then proposed) event in the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 March:

If you knew the world was ending, what books would you reach for?  What authors would you take into the bunker with you?  Welcome to 2020, when the question has never been less theoretical.

At the beginning of each year, the Independent Bulletin of Atomic Scientists considers humanity’s chance of wiping itself out, using the metaphor of a Doomsday Clock striking midnight.  When the Cold War ended in 1991, the scientists positioned the clock’s hands at 17 minutes to, the farthest away from midnight that they’ve ever been.  Nuclear weapons were disarmed, unilateral agreements were made, walls were torn down.  Yet since then, we have crept ever nearer to midnight.  This January, the clock lurched closer to the symbolic apocalypse than ever before: just 100 seconds to catastrophe.

According to the scientists, the two simultaneous existential threats of nuclear weapons and the climate crisis have been compounded by a third: “cyber-enabled disinformation campaigns” that prevent the public from galvanising and demanding change. It’s Almost Midnight and the 2020 Sydney Writers’ Festival hopes to serve as a wake-up call.

How about that?  As recently as 14 March 2020, the SWF described the existential threats to the world as comprising (i) “nuclear weapons”, (ii) “the climate crisis” and (iii) “cyber enabled disinformation campaigns”. There was no mention of pandemics in general or coronavirus (COVID-19) in particular.  This despite the fact that COVID-19 was first detected in China in December 2019 and the first Australian case of the virus was detected in late January 2020.

Ms McGuire’s 2020 SWF was presented as a “wake-up call”. But she and her fellow SWF comrades were asleep at the wheel when it came to COVID-19.

To get an idea of the SWF as an event of the Sandalista Class, by the Sandalista Class and for the Sandalista Class – here is a selection of the Australian participants:

Emma Alberici

Monic Attard

Paul Barry

Sophie Black

Julian Burnside

Tim Costello

Anton Enus

Osman Faruqi

Tim Flannery

Wendy Harmer

Bridie Jabour

Fran Kelly

Benjamin Law

Antony Loewenstein

David Marr

Kate McClymont

Sophie McNeill

George Megalogenis

Rick Morton

Katharine Murphy

Kerry O’Brien

Bruce Pascoe

Mike Seccombe

Tim Soutphommasane

Jeff Sparrow

Yumi Stynes

Laura Tingle

Virginia Trioli

Christos Tsiolkas

Don Watson

Not a conservative in sight. When Hendo read the full list of participants at Page 21 he got oh-so-excited half-way through when he learnt that Paul Kelly would be appearing at Session 208. The first conservative, perhaps?  Alas, no.  It turned out that the Paul Kelly Esquire in question was not The Australian’s editor-at-large but rather the singer/songwriter Paul Kelly plugging his new book Love as Strong as Death.  An appropriate subject for a luvvies’ get together discussing the end-of-the-world, don’t you think? And Claire Lehmann got a guernsey – but she’s hardly a household name.

For its part, MWD hopes that the following SWF segments scheduled for 2020 get a run in 2021 – since it will provide MWD will more copy.

Here they are – starting with Session 33.

۰ Session 33 was on leadership, the best kind of leadership.  The SWF’s brilliant idea was to get Don Watson (a former Paul Keating speechwriter) to join with Kerry O’Brien (a former Gough Whitlam staffer who has written a Paul Keating hagiography) to discuss why Australia has become unable to elect good leaders.  After Labor’s Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating, of course.

۰ Then there was Session 51 where former Greens’ leader Bob Brown was to be grilled by former Greens senator Scott Ludlam about Dr Brown’s book Planet Earth.  It would be a bit like God the Father being interviewed by God the Son about the importance of hierarchy in the Holy Trinity.

۰ Then in Session 62 two American Trump haters were to discuss President Donald J Trump’s first term with – wait for it – Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly. In Session 74 Annabel Crabb, Samantha Maiden and David Marr were to discuss the topic “A Year of Review” in an “irreverent” kind of way.  MWD wonders whether Comrades Crabb and Marr would have been irreverent enough to acknowledge that they got the May 2019 election outcome completely wrong. Indeed Ms Crabb was to be something of a star of the event.   She was to interview her fave Liberal Party leader, the oh-so-progressive Malcolm Turnbull, in Session 211.

۰ Session 64. And in what surely would have been an “it” event of SWF 2020, Comrade Crabb was to take part in an “Insiders Live” event – at the rather dead time of 8 pm on Thursday.  David Speers was to preside over a panel consisting of Annabel Crabb (of course), Katharine Murphy, Niki Savva and Peter van Onselen.  All members of this quartet believed it was a disastrous decision for the Liberal Party to replace Malcolm Turnbull with Scott Morrison in August 2018.  And all members of this quartet assumed that Labor would win the May 2019 election.  Experts all, in an Insiders kind of way.

Here’s MWD’s  suggestion for a SWF 2021 “Festival Highlight”:





Vladimir Lenin (with a little

help from the psychic John Edward) reflects on

the state of Bolshevism in his new

memoir What Has Yet To Be Done – a

candid account of his time in setting up

the Soviet secret police and infiltrating the ABC

(with a little help from the late Allan Ashbolt).

With Annabel Crabb

Free admission to socialists

Others pay according to their means.

Capitalists – Piss Off


What great news that Insiders executive producer Sam Clark has enlisted the Herald-Sun’s James Campbell to appear on the panel this Sunday.  This is a first in more ways than one. For starters, your man Campbell will make his inaugural appearance on the couch. And, secondly, he is the first Insiders panellist to have been invited on to the Insiders’ couch after having been suspended by Sky News for an unfortunate comment on air.

As avid readers will recall, James (“I’m a Melbourne Grammar man”) Campbell was suspended by Sky News for having suggested that the best thing that the Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie could do – in the wake of the Sports Grants controversy – – would be to take a revolver and a bottle of whiskey and go to the study and (you know what) by practising “her shooting on herself”.

The good news is that Insiders is forgiving about blokes who see a solution to modern problems in encouraging sheilas to suicide.  And so the Melbourne Grammar man will join the Insiders’ panel on Sunday. Good show – and an encouraging sign for Melbourne Grammar men the world over.

In MWD’s  view, JC is eminently qualified for the role.  After all, virtually all the Insiders panellists, along with presenters, got the outcome of the May 2019 election hopelessly wrong – by failing to see that the Coalition had a path to victory. So Mr Campbell will be in good company.

As MWD readers will be aware (see MWD Issue 481), your man Campbell predicted not only that Bill Shorten would lead Labor to victory but also that Labor would give the Liberal Party “a belting” in Victoria.  It didn’t happen. Oh yes, James Campbell also was one of the oh-so-many commentators who declared that it was a grievous error for the Liberal Party to have replaced Malcolm Turnbull with Scott Morrison in August 2018. It wasn’t.

So it’s easy to see why Mr Campbell is a good fit for Insiders.  The panel is mainly comprised of left-of-centre types recruited from the (conservative-free-zone) ABC, The Guardian, Nine Newspapers and The [Boring] Saturday Paper.

It would seem that right-of-centre types who scribble for News Corp papers are welcome. Provided they bemoan the replacement of “progressive” Malcolm Turnbull by “conservative” Scott Morrison.  And provided they predicted that Bill Shorten would replace Scott Morrison as prime minister after 18 May 2019.  James Campbell, then, is well qualified to sit next to such like-minded News Corp columnists as Niki Savva and Peter van Onselen – as well as members of the left-of-centre soviet.



While on the topic of libraries, Insiders and all that – here’s a pic from inside Insiders presenter’s David Speers’ Melbourne home. Your man David (“Call me Speersy”) Speers used Skype from his home base this morning to talk to ABC TV  News Breakfast about what will be on the program on Sunday.  Here’s how the exchange concluded:

Michael Rowland:  Could I just say David – both Lisa and I are both reassured by the fact that your bookshelves are groaning with the weight of weighty political biographies. It’s very good to see.

David Speers:  [Laughs] Doing what I can.  Doing what I can.

Lisa Millar:  Good on you David.

Michael Rowland:  Good stuff David.

Yeah. Good stuff, indeed. MWD counted no more than half a dozen weighty political biographies as a result of which Speersy’s bookshelves were “groaning”. Groan.


In Nine Newspapers on Saturday, Helen Pitt quoted ABC chair Ita Buttrose as stating that, with respect to COVID-19, ABC Radio National’s Health Report presenter and one-time “doctor-in-the-house” on The Biggest Loser, Dr Norman Swan, had “risen to the occasion”.  She added: “Norman is a treasure, we are lucky to have him.”

At issue is whether the ABC, via Norman Swan, is providing alternative advice to that proffered by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).  As The Guardian’s Gay Alcorn, among others, has pointed out –  Dr Swan has medical qualifications but is not an expert on disease and infection control.

In the Nine Newspapers on Sunday, Michael Koziol pointed out that, while calling for a unified policy on how to handle novel coronavirus, Dr Swan himself has adopted differing views as to whether the schools should be closed.

The matter was raised again yesterday when Dr Nick Coatsworth, the newly appointed Deputy Chief Medical Officer, was interviewed by Lisa Millar – a strong Swan supporter – on ABC TV News Breakfast.  Dr Coatsworth is a full-time infectious diseases and respiratory clinician specialist with two decades’ experience in this field. Let’s go to part of the transcript:

Lisa Millar: There’s still criticism that we’re not moving fast enough [on COVID-19]. We had Norman Swan on the program earlier saying we’ve got to ramp up the restrictions on people. That we can have a short and sharp restricted lifestyle and that could cut the continuing pain that people will feel.

Nick Coatsworth: Well that’s a contested point, Lisa. And I have to say that the experts around the table of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee do not think that this will be over in weeks, if you put in harder and faster measures.

So this is about degrees. We’ve gone hard and fast. To say that we’ve gone light and slow would be completely inaccurate. The measures that we’ve got in at the moment are unprecedented. The impact they are going to have on individual families is unprecedented….

And I’m sorry I disagree with Norman [Swan] when he thinks that this is going to be over in weeks if we go for harder and faster lockdowns. And I would like Norman to go to Darwin and tell the people of Darwin why they have to stay in their houses – when we’re a continent and there’s differential expression of this virus and its impact across the country. People are going to ask for hardest and fastest, but I don’t think they’ve thought through the impact on Australia and Australians of doing that.

Dr Swan may be a “treasure” in Ms Buttrose’s eyes.  But he does not have the expertise of members of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

By popular demand, here’s a reminder of Dr Swan’s previous role on the reality TV program The Biggest Loser:


The taxpayer funded public broadcaster is forever boasting that it is Australia’s most trusted news source.  Strange, then, that most Australians choose to watch news outlets that they trust less than the ABC.

Here’s Glenn Dyer’s TV Ratings for last Sunday night – a very news laden evening in view of COVID-19, as available to Crikey subscribers.

Seven News: 1.384 million

Nine News: 1.267 million

7 pm ABC News: 974,000

Ten News First: 401,000

So there you have it.  Last Sunday, over 3 million Australians watched commercial news channels and under one million Australians watched the ABC.  Which suggests – on ABC logic (for want of a better term) – three out of four  Australians watch a news channel they trust less than the ABC.  Turn it up – as the saying goes.



Until Next Time.