ISSUE – NO. 491

3 April 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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  • Stop Press – David Crowe’s Socialist Confusion; No revelations in ABC TV’s much hyped Revelation

  • Can You Bear It? Differing POVs on PVO; Nine’s Andrew Taylor’s select coverage of quack remedies; Chris Uhlmann on the ABC’s navel gazing; ABC’s chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici tells us to “Stop talking about the economy”

  • New Feature: Most Contemptuous Comment of the Week re Novel Coronavirus – Fitz predicts the end of organized religion (as he always does); Phillip Adams sneers at Trump (as he always does)

  • MWD Exclusive – Special thanks to our most devoted reader, Michael of Melbourne

  • Hamish Macdonald’s Fake News – Hamish reports on the busloads of city folk raiding Jindabyne; too bad they don’t exist

  • An ABC Update – Dr Norman Swan flunks “primary school maths”


Media Watch Dog remembers all too well the sad scene on the Insiders couch on Sunday 19 May 2019 – the morning after the election night before. Nine Newspapers’ chief political correspondent David Crowe was one of the gloomy quartet – all of whom seemed in a state of shock following the Coalition’s defeat of the Bill Shorten led Labor Party.

Your man Crowe’s initial task that morning was to change the cover of his planned book on the lead up to the 2019 election – since it foresaw a defeat for the Coalition, due primarily to the decision taken by Liberal Party Federal MPs to replace Malcolm Turnbull with Scott Morrison.

Step forward to this morning’s Nine Newspapers. It contains an article by Comrade Crowe which welcomes the fact that – wait for it – the Prime Minister has become a “socialist” – albeit of the “temporary” kind:

Only last year Morrison was mocking Labor as a party of socialists – “their problem is they run out of other people’s money”- but his spending is more than double the Labor stimulus during the global financial crisis.

What a load of absolute tosh.  Socialism is an ideology – not an emergency response to an unexpected pandemic.  At a time of war or depression, all sensible political leaders will move to a command economy.  Socialists are democratic politicians who want to continue a command economy into normal times.  Like British Labour prime minister Clement Attlee after the Second  World War. There is no evidence that Scott Morrison intends to channel Mr Attlee.


The ABC’s much heralded (by the taxpayer funded broadcaster, that is) three part Revelation series – which concluded last night –  revealed nothing much at all.  The very expensive documentary – which saw presenter Sarah Ferguson filming in Rome and Dublin – essentially covered a sad event. Namely, historical child sexual abuse of children – mainly boys – by pedophile Catholic priests and brothers.

These crimes, as the  Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found, peaked between the early 1960s and the late 1980s.  They have been widely covered over the years in the media in Australia (especially the ABC) and elsewhere.

Last night’s episode – which focused on Cardinal George Pell – was presented as containing “new” information – but did no such thing.  The allegation made against Pell by “A” and “PC” were considered by Victoria Police between 2016 and 2017.

The first case was withdrawn by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions before it went to a committal proceeding.  The second case was withdrawn by the Victorian DPP sometime after the committal proceeding and the charges were dismissed.  The allegations concerning the Eureka Swimming Pool, which were covered in Revelation, were also dropped by the Victorian DPP – Ms Ferguson failed to mention this last night.

The final episode of Revelation was scheduled for next Tuesday.  It was brought forward for reasons that were not explained by the ABC.   The High Court will bring down its decision on George Pell’s appeal against his conviction on five charges of historical child sexual abuse on Tuesday April 7.

The fact that Cardinal Pell is in prison in  Victoria meant that he had no opportunity to respond personally to the most serious charges made against him by Ms Ferguson last night.  It was yet another example of the media pile-on Pell has experienced over many years.  For the record, MWD has no idea about what the High Court decision will be.

If the ABC is looking for a real “Revelation” with respect to historical child abuse, it could (i) report the case of the ABC’s Jon Stephens who pleaded guilty in June 2017 to child sexual abuse  while an ABC employee in 1981, (ii) report the 1975 comments of ABC chairman Richard Downing that “in general, men will sleep with young boys” and (iii) report how self-confessed pedophile Richard Neville interviewed three pederasts in the ABC Sydney studio in 1975 but ABC management at the time failed to report the matter to NSW Police.

Now, that would be a real “Revelation” with real “new material”. But don’t hold your breath.

Can You Bear It


Did anyone see Nine Newspapers’ Craig Mathieson’s profile on Network Ten’s political editor Peter van Onselen titled “New Kid on the Block”?  It was published in The Age’s “Green Guide” on 26 March 2020 and in the Sydney Morning Herald’s  “Monday Media” segment.

Your man Mathieson’s piece was a bit of a gush – both with respect to PVO’s role on the low rating Network 10 News and on 10’s The Project.   Ten News director Ross Duggan had this to say to Craig Mathieson:

Our viewers and our readers and our listeners need to understand what’s going on in the political landscape. [Peter] can connect very easily in a conversational magazine-style chat, on the other hand he can provide very detailed analysis and understanding of a complex issue. That’s a pretty rare skill set-up.

Yep, it sure is.  Depending on what is a very detailed analysis.  Now, PVO is something of a MWD fave.  But it’s only professional to acknowledge that he makes lotsa errors when it comes to analysis, detailed or otherwise.  The man himself acknowledged this in an email which he sent to MWD on 4 June 2019 (See MWD Issue 454).  There PVO conceded that his predictions were wrong about the outcome of (i) the 2007 election (ii) the 2010 election, (iii) the 2013 election, (iv) the 2016 election and (v) the 2019 election – and more besides.

Quite an achievement, to be sure – and well deserving of a slot on The Project among that lot which – like Waleed Aly – also got the 2019 election hopelessly wrong.

It’s interesting to note that your man Craig Mathieson’s analysis is at odds with that of freelance journalist Stephen Brook, who is sometimes published in the Nine Newspapers.  In the Sydney Morning Herald on 24 February 2020, Stephen Brook had this to say about PVO in an article titled “Network Ten’s political drift to the left of The Guardian makes no business sense”.

PVO is undeniably industrious and scoop-getting. But he can rise to anger quickly and give the appearance of conducting vendettas. This was curbed at Sky News, where he fought a bitter behind the scenes war with other presenters. But it’s on full display at Ten. “For someone who badges himself a professor of journalism, what he’s dishing up is the biggest load of tripe,” one gallery journalist says.

It is fascinating to recall how when van Onselen arrived at Ten his mission was billed as “explaining the upside to traditional conservatism to a younger audience”. “I’m in no way, shape or form partisan,” he said, which might cause Scott Morrison’s head of media Andrew Carswell to choke on his morning Nutri-Grain.

During the Parliament House Mid-Winter ball last year, Morrison gave a speech that mocked Van Onselen’s incorrect election predictions. PVO didn’t take it well, releasing private texts between himself and Carswell and subsequently criticising the Prime Minister’s trip to Washington. In the annals of journalism, it was hardly Walter Cronkite. Which is not to say that relations between Ten and the government are fraught. Van Onselen is on better terms with Carswell than he was with many of his predecessors.

So there you have it. Mr Mathieson reckons that PVO is good for Network 10 but Mr Brook is not so sure.

For its part, MWD notes that Peter van Onselen behaves differently in his occasional appearances on ABC Insiders than on The Project.

Appearing on Insiders on Sunday 15 March 2020, PVO comprehensively bagged both the Scott Morrison government and the Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy. Your man Van Onselen even broke the confidential understanding about Green Room discussions before and after a program – namely that what occurs in the Green Room stays in the Green Room.  However, on Insiders PVO complained that Dr Murphy had shaken some hands in the Green Room before the program commenced.  At the time, hand-shaking was not  prohibited under the “social distance” rules.

The initial social distance rules came into effect after the first meeting of the National Cabinet late on 15 March. Initially, PVO took it seriously. On The Project on Thursday 19 March, PVO was depicted standing at least 1 meter apart from Labor leader Anthony Albanese.  Yet this is MWD’s  picture of The Project panel that very night.  Your man Van Onselen seems somewhat too close and friendly with his colleague Peter Helliar on 19 March in view of the social distancing and all that – don’t you think? And, if so, Can You Bear It?





What a frightfully interesting piece by Andrew Taylor in Nine Newspapers on Sunday. In the Sun-Herald it was titled “Social media awash with false treatments for Coronavirus”. And, as might be expected from a journalist suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome, it commenced with a sneer at President Donald J. Trump.

Don’t take health advice from Twitter. Or Facebook. Or US President Donald Trump. Drinking bleach, snorting cocaine, smoking and consuming alcohol will not treat or prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Nor is there any evidence supporting the use of the anti-malarial drugs mentioned by Trump. Yet the list of quack remedies grows as the deadly disease sickens and kills thousands of people around the world.

Well, thanks for that.  Had it not been for your man Taylor, Jackie’s (male) co-owner would have gone out this weekend and purchased a pint of fish tank cleaner named Fluval and ingested it around Gin & Tonic time.  But towards the end of his column, Mr Taylor warned of this particular quack remedy. Phew.

In his piece, the Nine scribbler quoted North American and Australian sources  warning of the dangers of modern day snake-oil salesmen and mocked the likes of Fox News’ Sean Hannity and the wacky American conservative radio host Alex Jones.  But in this piece there was no mention of Australia’s very own Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO QC.

As MWD readers will remember, it was not so long ago that JB AO QC tweeted that a cure for COVID-19 could be attained by standing in the hot sun and drinking lotsa water. He subsequently deleted the tweet but did not apologise for being duped in the first place.

The fact is that there may, just may, be a possibility that some anti-malarial drugs might treat aspects of COVID-19.  We just don’t know.  But we do know that barrister Julian Burnside’s now withdrawn advice that water and the sun will fix it is just bonkers.

Andrew Taylor quoted health experts as saying that drinking water does not prevent COVID-19 and referred to various false claims to this effect “in a social media post”.  However, Comrade Taylor did not reveal that one of these posts was made by m’learned friend – Australia’s very own Greens operative Julian Burnside AO QC. Can You Bear It?


Thanks to The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff (who puts out “The Diary” each Monday) for drawing MWD’s attention to Chris Uhlmann’s tweet of recent memory concerning the ABC.  As MWD readers are well aware, your man Uhlmann worked at the ABC for a couple of decades before replacing Laurie Oakes at Network Nine.

It seems that Mr Uhlmann has grown tired of the constant self-promotion engaged in by his erstwhile colleagues at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  You know, the continual reference to the ABC as Australia’s most trusted news source. And the way ABC types constantly praise each other’s work as brilliant, compelling and so on.

Tired by the self-congratulations, on 26 March Chris Uhlmann tweeted:

It could be that ABC TV Insiders executive producer Samuel (“Call me Sam”) Clark does not follow Mr Uhlmann. Or, perhaps Sam-the-Man does not care what he says. In any event, not long before the sun rose on April Fool’s Day, Sam Clark put out this tweet:

The reference was to the following tweet put out by Barrie Cassidy himself a few hours earlier:

So here was the current executive producer of Insiders declaring just how FANTASTIC it is that the former Insiders presenter will return to the ABC to present the One Plus One interview series – for a while at least.

Truly a fantastic, if not brilliant, idea.  This is just what the ABC needs. Yet another left-of-centre type presenting yet another program which traditionally overwhelmingly features left-of-centre types (in soft interviews) but rarely a conservative. A comfortable fit in the ABC Conservative Free Zone, to be sure.

Now Barrie Cassidy is a good interviewer.  But, your man Cassidy would not challenge the insular mindset that prevails within the ABC –  where nearly everyone agrees with nearly everyone else on nearly everything and dissenting views are rarely, if ever, heard within the ABC offices in Sydney, Melbourne and the like.

It was not so long ago that ABC management arranged for Kerry O’Brien, a one-time Gough Whitlam staffer, to interview former Labor prime minister Paul Keating.  And now the ABC has engaged former Bob Hawke staffer Barrie Cassidy to interview a series of politicians on leadership.

It remains to be seen what this One Plus One series will look like.  After all, Comrade Cassidy’s attitude to leadership capabilities tends to differ from a majority of the voters who live outside the CBD of Australia’s capital cities.  For example, in recent times, Barrie Cassidy predicted that Donald Trump would lose the 2016 US presidential election and that Scott Morrison would lose the Australian election of 18 May 2019. This suggests that he is a bad judge about how others assess leaders – but you never know and perhaps he will surprise us all.

However, the selection of Barrie Cassidy suggests that ABC management believes that there is not one conservative in Australia who can present a program like One Plus One. And Samuel Clark reckons that this is a fantastic decision. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of the ABC as a mutual admiration society, what a stunning tweet by Emma Alberici – the ABC’s chief economics correspondent – on how the toiling masses are (allegedly) flocking to the ABC news at a time of pandemic:

This is just self-promotion in denial. The fact is that, at the moment, there is a substantial increase in viewers/listeners/readers who are following the news.  But the taxpayer funded broadcaster still finishes a distant third in the TV ratings – well behind Seven and Nine and only ahead of Ten.

The figures do not take into account the viewers of Sky News on Foxtel.  The ABC’s election commentator Antony Green recently tweeted that Sky News is a “boutique cable TV program”. In fact, Sky News has a very influential audience and breaks many news stories.

The only way the ABC’s self-promoting claim that it is Australia’s most trusted news channel can be sustained is if it is assumed that Australians are so stupid that they prefer to watch a less trusted news service rather than the (allegedly) most trusted news service.  Really.

It seems that La Alberici is somewhat confused these days.  Consider for example the tweet she put out on 25 March.

When this pearl of wisdom was delivered – sounding, as it did, a bit like a papal encyclical – Australians had been advised to stay inside and not go knocking on neighbours’ doors unless there was a genuine concern for their physical and/or mental health.

Also, the lesson from Italy was that one apparent reason for the surge of COVID-19 in northern Italy in early 2020 turned on the fact that the locals had been instructed by local authorities to “Hug a Chinese” – many of whom had come from the pandemic epicentre of Wuhan – to demonstrate that the local Italians were not racist.  It wasn’t such a good idea as it turned out.

So there you have it.  The ABC’s chief economics correspondent, who enjoys well paid and secure employment at the taxpayers’ expense, reckons that we should all stop talking about the economy. Can You Bear It?



MWD is sad to report that, apparently, Gerard Henderson is no longer one of Michael Rowland’s besties.

It was only recently that the co-presenter of ABC TV News Breakfast sent out this tweet just after Gin & Tonic time:

How quickly time flies.  For your man Rowland put out this tweet last Friday, just after MWD was published:

The good news is that MWD will continue – if  only to give Michael Rowland something to do with his Friday afternoons in the lead up to Gin & Tonic time.

For what it’s worth, Michael Rowland remains a MWD fave. Hendo just loves his chutzpah – as demonstrated in his (soft) interview with his boss, ABC’s managing director David Anderson, yesterday.  In particular this question:

The Prime Minister is all about protecting jobs, which is absolutely commendable in these circumstances.  So in that vein, David, would you like the government to reverse the current ABC funding cuts?

Well done Michael.  As the saying goes, never let a pandemic go to waste.


Media Watch Dog hopes, for obvious reasons, that this segment will have a short time-span.  However, this is by no means clear – since there was some competition to fill this space in its first week.  It came as no surprise that one of what was termed the usual suspects fronted up.  To wit, The Red Bandannaed One. Followed by the ABC’s Man-in-Black.


In his “Fitz on Sunday” column in the Sun-Herald last weekend, Peter FitzSimons wondered out loud what the world will be like after Covid-19 and all that.  Here’s what he had to say:

New Word Order

So seismic is the event we are living through that a few years from now there will be three basic periods of modern history: “Pre Corona”, “During Corona” and “Post Corona”. Those three phrases, however, won’t make the modern popular lexicon.  I am open for bids, with best responses to be published next week.

A Lost Cause

One possible change, in the post-corona world?  I suspect mainstream religion will take a major hit and we are already seeing it.  This is because the virus will take the lives of many elderly parishioners who still believe.  But also because in the face of such catastrophe it is harder than ever to believe in a benevolent God.  Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced he and the Pope would lead their followers into joint global prayers and it happened on Wednesday. The world barely blinked.  The Archbishop’s tweet got about 1500 engagements globally. Yes, yes, yes, Twitter is a small bubble of the actual world, but geez, Louise, such disinterest.

MWD  could be wrong.  But it would seem that Fitz – a person who was educated at a Christian school (Knox Grammar in Sydney and sent his two sons to his alma mater) – is looking forward to the secularising consequences of COVID-19.  First up, “the virus will take the lives of many elderly parishioners who still believe”. And, secondly, that, in the face of such a virus driven catastrophe, “it is harder than ever to believe in a benevolent God”.  Three (secular) cheers and all that.

Fitz’s fatuous comment overlooks certain facts.  Not all believers are elderly.  Many young people also believe.   Moreover, at times of stress many people – correctly or incorrectly – seek refuge in a Divine presence.  For example, The Australian  reported on Monday that the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher had so many viewers to his online mass last Sunday that the site crashed.  In other words, he had many more followers online – elderly or otherwise – than would have fitted into St Mary’s Cathedral on a Sunday.  Catholic Church statistics reveal that around 15,000 watched masses in various  Sydney churches online.  It was much the same with the Anglican Church in Sydney.  The Age reported on Monday that the website hosting the livestream of mass from St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne on Sunday crashed under heavy demand.

The sneering secularist FitzSimons also overlooked the role played by such Catholic hospitals as St Vincent’s in Sydney and St Vincent’s in Melbourne in treating patients.   Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1980) once said that he had seen many Christian institutions tending to the poor and the sick in India – but not one such body run by the left-wing Fabian Society.

And then there is this howler.  Your man FitzSimons seems to believe that it is only the likes of the followers of the Catholic Pope and the  Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury who believe in a God. This is hopelessly false.  What about Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists?  – and more besides.  Moreover, it is meaningless to assess the success of a Rome/Canterbury global prayer initiative by reference to social media.  The fact is that Twitter reflects little, if anything, of the real world.  It is primarily a haven for the likes of Peter FitzSimons.

[I note that Fitz ended his column by drawing attention of “Louise” – whoever she may be – to the Twitter “disinterest” in the global prayers by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Fitz – as anyone who paid attention at Grade 6 at Knox Grammar should know – the word you were looking for is “uninterest”, not “disinterest”. – MWD Editor.]


There is a scene in a Gilbert & Sullivan musical when someone asks a joker: “Don’t you know that you’re paid to be funny?”  It seems that ABC Radio National Late Night Live presenter Phillip Adams regards his employment by the taxpayer funded broadcaster as one reason to attempt humour, via Twitter.  Alas, Comrade Adams’ wit is little more than a sneer directed at those whom he dislikes.

You be the judge.  Here is an example of The Wit of Adams as tweeted around midday last Sunday:

As MWD readers are aware, the initial reference was to the fact that British prime minister Boris Johnson has tested positive to COVID-19.  So Comrade Adams’ proposed that “Dear Virus” should also visit the White House. Sure your man Adams is suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome – but even so.  The ABC’s Man-in-Black seems unaware that President Donald J. Trump and his family are not home alone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  There are also drivers, cooks, cleaners, advisers, office workers and so on.

But your man Adams seems to hope that everyone from the president to his security detail contract COVID-19.  A “joke” about a potentially deadly virus.  How contemptuous can you get?


Hamish Macdonald’s claim of 20 June 2018 that ABC presenters are “not allowed” to express opinions has become more and more ridiculous as the months roll on.  For example, does Comrade Macdonald seriously believe that such ABC presenters as Tony Jones and Fran Kelly have not expressed opinions on climate change?  And does the current presenter of Q&A claim that such fellow ABC presenters as Norman Swan and Michael Rowland have not expressed opinions on COVID-19?  Turn it up.

And then there are Hamish (“I don’t watch the telly except when I’m on it”) Macdonald’s very own opinions – which he now expresses as the presenter of Q&A and when presenting Radio National Breakfast on Fridays.  And then there are his tweets.

Here’s what your man Macdonald had to say, at around Gin & Tonic Time, last Saturday about (alleged) looting-by-credit-card which (allegedly) could lead to lynching down the NSW Snowy Mountains way.


How about that? First up, HM ’fessed up that “no actual shoppers” had turned up at Woolies in Jindabyne.  Which left open the possibility that they might have been the VIRTUAL shoppers.

Then HM blamed “multiple locals” for his error.  It seems that HM is like so many of his ABC colleagues – namely he believes what he wants to believe.  Then HM said that he was happy to “stand corrected”.

Needless to say, the Q&A presenter did not apologise for passing on FAKE NEWS – which was also dangerous. Can You Bear It?

[Perhaps you should have run this in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment.  Just a thought.  MWD Editor.]


There was enormous interest in last week’s discussion of Dr Norman Swan, whom ABC Chair Ita Buttrose described as a “treasure” [see Issue 490]. On Saturday 21 March Dr Swan sent out the following tweet:

So to summarise Dr Swan made the following claims:

۰ Australia would have around 1,700 COVID-19 cases on Monday 23 March.

۰ Australia would have around 3,400 cases on Wednesday 25 or Thursday 26 March.

۰ Australia would have around 7,000-8,000 cases by the weekend of 28-29 March.

۰ Australia was 14-20 days behind Italy, meaning we were in the same position Italy was in the period 1-7 March.

In response to this tweet, Dr Swan received pushback from Elly Howse, who describes herself on twitter as a “Public health researcher & PhD candidate in chronic disease prevention.” Here is her tweet:

Dr Swan did not respond to this criticism directly, however Ms Howse received considerable pushback from Dr Swan’s twitter fans, including the following tweet which Dr Swan retweeted:

We are now 13 days out from Dr Swan’s predictions, here is how they have worked out:

۰ On Monday 23 March, the official count was 1,718, compared to Dr Swan’s 1,700. A point for Dr Swan.

۰ On Thursday 26 March, Australia reported 2,811 cases, versus 3,400 for Dr Swan. A miss, but at least a relatively small one.

۰ On the Sunday 29 March, Australia reported 3,985 cases, versus Dr Swan’s prediction of 7,000-8,000. A large miss for Dr Swan.

۰ Yesterday, 2 April, Australia’s total case number sat at 5,136, still well short of Dr Swan’s prediction for last weekend. It seems likely today’s count will sit somewhere around 5,400, still thousands short of where Dr Swan predicted Australia would be 5 days ago.

۰ As for Dr Swan’s contention that we were “14-20 days behind Italy”, 20 days ago (March 14) Italy reported 17,662 cases of the virus and 1,268 deaths, 14 days ago Italy reported 41,035 cases and 3,407 deaths. Either way, Australia’s current total of around 5,400 cases and 27 deaths doesn’t come close to that of Italy.


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Until next time – after Easter, on Friday 17 April.


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