GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 492
17 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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Media Watch Dog returns this week – after its non-appearance last Friday due to Easter/Passover and all that. It’s been a busy news fortnight and some matters scheduled for coverage this week have been held over for future issues.
So – stay tuned.
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Stop Press – Comrade Bronwyn Bishop
An ABC Scoop From Jackie – A Note from the ABC Staff Soviet Concerning The High Court
Can You Bear It? The (Cocktail) Silence of Mrs Hinch The Third; Malcolm Turnbull spills the beans on The Guardian; Red Kerry looks down on James Glenday
MWD Exclusive – ABC Editorial Director Craig McMurtrie channels the Pope and refuses to answer questions
Never Waste a Pandemic – Wendy Harmer & La Trioli put out their hands for more ABC funding
An ABC Update – Media Watch takes the week off & Insiders skips discussing the Pell decision
A Note from The Editor re Hendo’s “Little List” of the Media Dramatis Personae in the Pell Pile-on
You Must Remember This – An Update on Norman Swan’s Covid-19 Predictions; Fran Kelly on ICU beds being full by mid-April
HOW THE ANTI-SOCIALIST BRONWYN BISHOP OVERSAW THE (ALLEGED) ENTRY OF SOCIALISM INTO THE LIBERAL PARTY
What a stunning performance by Bronwyn Bishop (in her role as the “Thursday carry-over champion”) on Sky News’ Paul Murray Live last night. Whenever she appears on PML, Ms Bishop invariably has a go at socialism – and socialists. Usually the immediate target is Melbourne University academic and former Labor Party operative Nicholas (“I once wore sandals to an Andrew Bolt Christmas bash”) Reece. But last night, BB’s target was none other than former Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull. Let’s go to the transcript:
Paul Murray: Because I wish to be kind to my guests who may have something to say [about Malcolm Turnbull’s book A Bigger Picture], they can have 30 seconds each. But I will deem it 30 seconds and that’s it. Bronwyn, would you like to say anything or cede your time to anyone else?
Bronwyn Bishop: I’d just like to say, it doesn’t matter what he [Malcolm Turnbull] says in his book. It’s what he’s done. And he is the one who brought socialism into the Liberal Party. And it was a shame the Labor Party didn’t accept him, which is the party where he would have been at home. What he has done is he’s made us totally dependent on China. He signed the agreement for buying the French submarines. He ratified the Paris Agreement. He’s responsible for the Murray-Darling Basin fiasco. And he’s made a doctrine of climate change ruin our industries. That’s his record. It’s not what he writes. It’s what he’s done.
Paul Murray: That’s the 30. Nicholas, 30 seconds on the ghost….
Now MWD has never waved the flag for Malcolm Turnbull. But if Mr Turnbull did bring socialism to the Liberal Party – he could not have done so without some supporters.
Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Liberal Party leader and prime minister in a party room ballot in September 2015. At the time, many Liberals believed that – wait for it – La Bishop voted for Malcolm Turnbull. She has never denied this. So if Mr Turnbull brought socialism to the Liberal Party – he had a little bit of help from Bronwyn Bishop along the way.
When, later, it was put to BB by Comrade Reece that she voted for Malcolm Turnbull to become prime minister, the Thursday night PML carry-over champion evoked the anonymity of the secret ballot. How convenient.
[Interesting, though. At least Sky News has panels where the anti-socialist Bishop contends with the pro-socialist Reece. It’s the kind of debate which rarely takes place on ABC panels. Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]
AN ABC SCOOP FROM JACKIE
NOTE FROM THE ABC STAFF COLLECTIVE (ER, SOVIET) CONCERNING THE HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA – AS DISCOVERED BY JACKIE (Dip Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute)
It is true that us comrades at the ABC Staff Collective were appalled at the unanimous decision of the High Court of Australia to quash the conviction of the loathsome Cardinal George Pell. It happened on Tuesday 7 April – but it feels like yesterday.
We all supported the evocation of Comrade Milligan – after she learned of the woeful decision in Pell v The Queen – to “Hug your children”. We would have done a collective embrace in support – if only we were not following social distance rules and if only we were not currently working from home in our pyjamas.
We believed in unison that only a bench of dunces would have reached the decision the High Court did. We mourned for the intellectual decline of The Hon Justice Virginia Bell AC – whom we much admired when she presented Late Night Live on ABC Radio National before the advent of Comrade Ackland and Comrade Adams. For just over a week, our attitude to ex-Comrade Bell and her collaborators on the High Court was expressed as follows: “Shame, High Court, Shame”.
Mea Culpa. The ABC Staff Soviet now realises that our attitude to the High Court (as expressed eight days ago) was woefully inadequate. Shallow in fact. We have just heard about the unanimous decision of the High Court of Australia in Smethurst vs Commissioner of Police to quash the decision of the Federal Court in an earlier hearing. Our most esteemed judges (Hi Virginia!) have had the foresight to find that the warrant used by the Australian Federal Police to raid the home of journalist Annika Smethurst was invalid.
Mea Culpa. Now we realise that our wonderful High Court acts according to the law of the land in upholding the Constitution and the traditions of common law. So much so that it is prepared to preserve the (legal) barriers against the encroachment of incipient fascism and the police state on our journalist brothers and sisters and more besides.
Mea maxima culpa. Members of the ABC Staff Soviet now intend to enter a period of Mao Zedong inspired self-criticism so that the evil thoughts we once held about the High Court will be obliterated from our consciousness – and from history. Comrade Milligan showed us the way when she tweeted on Wednesday: “Great News, @annikasmethurst. Strength to your arm.” We all hope that this wonderful High Court will also see the light when it soon considers the case of our comrade Sam Clark. Go the High Court – with strengthened arms.
Discovered by Jackie – with apologies to Private Eye.
Gin & Tonic Time
Wednesday 15 April 2020
THE (COCKTAIL) SILENCE OF MRS HINCH THE THIRD
As avid readers will recall, Media Watch Dog actively campaigned for Sky News to renew Derryn (“Call me the Human Headline”) Hinch’s contract late last year. Without fail, The Human Mumble’s show Hinch – which aired on Sky News at 8 pm on Thursdays – provided MWD with lotsa copy. Especially the “Spin a Yarn” segment in which your man Hinch span a wheel of the famous people who had had the privilege of having been interviewed by The Human Headline – and spoke about the celebrity where the wheel stopped. Unforgettable television, to be sure.
Alas, MWD’s “Occupy Macquarie Park! Keep Hinch on Sky News” campaign was a dismal failure. This has made Friday mornings between Hang-Over Time and Gin & Tonic Time (when MWD goes out) more difficult than would otherwise be the case – as Jackie’s (male) co-owner looks for breaking news or, in Hinch’s case, no-news to fill the early part of this blog.
So lotsa thanks to the avid reader who drew Hendo’s attention to Megan Lehmann’s “Q&A” piece interviewing Jacki Weaver in The Australian Magazine on 4-5 April 2020. Particularly this segment:
Megan Lehmann: Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Jacki Weaver: I’m very brave when I’m playing a character but I’d rather hide behind somebody at social gatherings. That was one of the great things about being married to Derryn Hinch: he’s such an extrovert – I could just stand beside him at cocktail parties and not say a word.
How about that? Here’s Derryn Hinch – a self-proclaimed feminist. And here’s Jacki Weaver (Mrs Hinch the Third) declaring that her one-time husband was an extrovert who monopolised the Hinch side of cocktail party discussions. [Might it have been all sides of all discussions? – MWD Ed]. To such an extent that the gorgeous, pouting Jacki Weaver did not get in a word edgeways. And The Human Mumble presents himself as a feminist. Can You Bear It?
MALCOLM TURNBULL, THE GUARDIAN AUSTRALIA’S LENORE TAYLOR & KATHARINE MURPHY – AND INSIDERS
The Australian yesterday covered the scoop – from Malcolm Turnbull’s soon to be published political memoir A Bigger Picture – that the former prime minister played a key role in establishing The Guardian Australia. As avid readers will know, The Guardian Australia (editor Lenore Taylor, political editor Katharine Murphy) is just one step up (or, perhaps down) from the Green Left Weekly when it comes to advocacy for Green Left causes.
It seems, in 2012, that Mr Turnbull encouraged Alan Rusbridger (then editor of The Guardian in London) to make contact with multi-millionaire green leftist Graeme Wood with a view to him underwriting the first three years publication of The Guardian Australia. And the former prime minister suggested that (then) Fairfax Media journos Comrade Taylor and Comrade Murphy would be just great in running a leftist online newspaper. And so it came to pass. Although, as Lenore Taylor argued in The Guardian Australia yesterday, the deal was some time in the making.
Hang on a minute. Aren’t these comrades leaders in the campaign for greater transparency Down Under? Sure are. So how come Lenore Taylor and Katharine Murphy never ‘fessed up, until yesterday after they were outed by Malcolm Turnbull, that the former prime minister played a role in their current important positions in Australian journalism? Especially since, in 2012, Mr Turnbull was a player in the Australian media as the shadow minister for communications. He remained a player on becoming prime minister in September 2015.
In her self-serving article yesterday, Lenore Taylor declared that The Guardian Australia was never particularly friendly to the Coalition. She neglected to mention that The Guardian Australia supported Malcolm Turnbull’s policy approach to climate change. And that she and Katharine Murphy criticised the decision in August 2018 of the Liberal Party to replace Mr Turnbull as its leader and, consequently, prime minister.
Which brings us to the ABC TV Insiders program where Lenore Taylor and Katharine Murphy are two of the Guardian journalists who are regular panellists.
Sam Clark, Insiders’ executive producer, is known to have firm views on the need for full disclosure of potential or perceived conflicts of interests. In fact, he’s often banging on about this. So what has Comrade Clark said about the fact that the Guardian Australia comrades sat on the Insiders couch for years and discussed Mr Turnbull without revealing their link to him? So far, according to MWD’s knowledge, nothing. Absolutely, nothing. Can You Bear It?
[Er, no. Not really. I note that Mr Turnbull used to call one of The Guardian Australia’s ladies “Murpharoo”. How nice. And that Ms Murphy was one of six Turnbull faves whom the prime minister called on to ask a question at his final media conference in this role. In his book The Surprise Party (Black Inc, 2020) Aaron Patrick described the occasion as inviting “selective questions”. Little then did the toiling masses know about Malcolm Turnbull’s role in helping to establish The Guardian Australia and in recommending its senior editorial staff – including Murpharoo. – MWD Editor.]
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Here’s how Johannes Leak interpreted the Turnbull/Guardian story in today’s Australian. That’s Murpharoo in the middle and Comrade Taylor on the right.
- RED KERRY LOOKS DOWN ON JAMES GLENDAY
Did anyone hear James Glenday, the ABC’s man in Washington DC, on ABC Radio AM on Wednesday? After a reasonable round-up of the news about COVID-19, your man Glenday could not help himself. He felt compelled to tell listeners (if listeners there were) that the White House was engaging in “bluff” and “bluster” and that President Trump was up to his “latest antics”. It would seem that your man Glenday is yet to learn the difference between reportage and commentary.
Perhaps it’s all the influence of former ABC staffer Kerry O’Brien. Here’s a pic of Mr Glenday reporting from the United States. About a third of his library consists of Kerry O’Brien’s Kerry O’Brien: A Memoir (Allen & Unwin, 2018). The Thought of Red Kerry lives on in ABC bookshelves, it seems. Can You Bear It?
ABC EDITORIAL DIRECTOR CRAIG McMURTRIE CHANNELS THE POPE IN REFUSING TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ON HIS (SECULAR) ENCYCLICAL
On Saturday 11 April 2020, Craig McMurtrie, the ABC’s editorial director, posted an article on ABC News – in the “ABC Backstory” segment – titled “Why the ABC’s reporting of the George Pell case wasn’t a witch-hunt”. It was a defence by the ABC of the ABC’s reporting concerning Cardinal George Pell. No surprise here.
On 15 April, Gerard Henderson sent Mr McMurtrie a series of questions about his article. The ABC editorial director declined to respond. Instead on 16 April he offered this self-serving defence: “The published piece speaks for itself and I have nothing further to add.” Media Watch Dog can only assume that Mr McMurtrie either does not have the ability, or perhaps the courage, to respond to articles on the ABC website which appear under his name. His approach to questions about his writing channels the Pope’s response to questions about one of his papal encyclicals.
The ABC’s editorial director provides further evidence – if further evidence there need be – that ABC managers and journalists expect others to answer their questions. But they often refuse to answer the questions of others.
For the record, Gerard Henderson’s (unanswered) questions are set out below.
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- You wrote that “ABC editorial policies make it very clear that it is the job of the public broadcaster’s journalists to report ‘without fear or favour’, even when that might be uncomfortable or unpopular”.
My question is. Should not the guidelines entail that ABC journalists report without fear, favour or disfavour?
- Louise Milligan’s 7.30 report, which occupied the entire program on 27 July 2016, was presented with complete disfavour to Cardinal George Pell. As you should know, the Ballarat Eureka Swimming Pool allegations – which were the centrepiece of the 7.30 program – were dropped by the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions. They did not proceed to trial – since there was not sufficient evidence to warrant a successful prosecution. But there was “sufficient evidence” to warrant Ms Milligan’s pile-on against Cardinal Pell on 7.30.
My questions are: Has the 7.30 program run a report that the Ballarat Eureka Swimming Pool case against Pell – as presented by Ms Milligan and others – did not make it to trial? And if not, why not? If the ABC is happy with Louise Milligan’s journalism in this case – why has the transcript of her report been removed from the ABC website?
- In your article you wrote: “In its decision to quash the convictions against Cardinal Pell, the High Court was largely silent on the veracity of the key witness….”
My question is: What are you implying here? – since if you read the High Court’s unanimous decision you would know that the seven judges did not say much about “A” (who before the Victorian Court of Appeal had been referred to as “J’’)? Rather the High Court focused on all the other evidence and concluded that a jury, acting rationally, would not have found George Pell guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
- In your article, you wrote that “A” was “found convincing” by “Victoria Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, a jury and two out of three Court of Appeal judges in Victoria”. You did not mention the first trial in which the jury did not reach a verdict.
My questions are: Why did you fail to mention that at least two – and possibly up to ten – jurors in the first trial did not find A’s evidence convincing? Why did you fail to mention that, before the High Court, the Victorian DPP changed the prosecution’s case against Pell? Why would Kerri Judd QC have done this if she regarded A’s evidence as entirely “convincing”? – especially since A’s allegations were the prosecution’s only evidence against Pell?
- In your article you wrote re Pell v The Queen: “The judgement summary was published online on ABC News Digital and read out aloud by news presenter Joe O’Brien on the ABC News Channel [i.e. ABC TV’s second channel].” There was more such comment by you along these lines.
My questions are: Is this not precisely what the ABC is supposed to do – i.e. report the news? Why do you see something noble in a news report of a very important High Court decision? And do you really believe that a couple of reports like the above somehow compensate for the ABC’s decade-long campaign against Pell on such programs as 7.30, Four Corners, Lateline, ABC TV News Breakfast, RN Breakfast and such specials as part of the recent documentary “Revelation” (which the ABC has temporarily withdrawn)?
- Towards the end of your article you wrote: “This case is finished but many legal experts expect civil action may follow.”
My question is: What is the point of the ABC’s editorial director stating what “many” anonymous “legal experts” expect “may” happen? – since this may, or may not, be the case.
- As you will be aware, such key ABC programs as 7.30 and AM only briefly covered the High Court’s unanimous decision in Pell v The Queen. Nowhere in either program did ABC presenters or journalists cover one of the biggest stories in Australian legal history. Namely that in a 7 to zip decision the High Court overturned a majority decision in the Victorian Court of Appeal – by the Supreme Court Chief Justice and the President of the Court of Appeal (the two most senior judges in Victoria). Nor did 7.30 and AM comment on the fact that the High Court described the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions case as “specious” in one instance.
My questions are: Is its coverage “without fear or favour” for ABC journalists to fail to report a stinging rebuke of the Victorian judicial system when it comes to Pell’s acquittal by the High Court? Do such key ABC programs as 7.30 and AM intend to report on the matter?
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Finally, in view of your interest in historical child sexual abuses with respect to Cardinal Pell, does the ABC now propose to report the case of Jon Stephens who pleaded guilty (in June 2017) to child sexual abuse in 1981 while on official duties as an ABC producer? If not, why not? Will the ABC also report that, at the time of his death in December 2019, Stephens was facing additional charges of sexual child abuse during the time he worked as an ABC producer. If not, why not?
Moreover, does the ABC ever propose to report that, in 1975, ABC management defended the fact that an ABC presenter, who happened to a self-confessed pedophile, interviewed three pederasts in the ABC studio in Sydney – and did not report the matter to NSW Police? And does the ABC propose to report that its chairman in 1975 – when pedophilia was rife in Australia – declared that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”?
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NEVER WASTE A PANDEMIC
STARRING AUNTY’S WENDY HARMER AND VIRGINIA TRIOLI
There was enormous interest in this segment last week. It documented how ABC TV News Breakfast co-presenter, and MWD fave, Michael Rowland had used an interview with his boss David Anderson to advance the cause that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster should get even more money from the Commonwealth government due to COVID-19 and all that. It seems that Comrade Rowland and his mates are struggling to get by on a mere $1 billion a year – at a time when advertising revenue for commercial media is falling away and resulting in severe job losses for non-ABC journalists. So far no one at the ABC has lost a job as a result of what Friends of the ABC describe as financial cut-backs.
So great was the interest that some avid readers have come up with more examples. First up, let’s hear from Wendy (“I’m an old fashioned socialist”) Harmer who co-presents Breakfast on ABC Radio 702 in Sydney:
So all set to broadcast from home tomorrow morning @abcsydney – fingers crossed all goes well!
On a sidenote, I'm using a Tieline Via unit that costs $5,500 and we only have ONE for the entire station!
Clearly not enough in times like these.
More funding for the ABC please!
— Wendy Harmer (@wendy_harmer) March 23, 2020
So there you have it. Comrade Harmer is broadcasting from home in her PJs – in view of COVID-19 and all that. And she reckons that the ABC cannot buy, say, half a dozen Tieline Via units on an annual budget of over $1 billion to give to other PJ-clad ABC types. In short, Comrade Harmer reckons that in these pandemic times – “More funding for the ABC please!”.
[Don’t you just love the way that old fashioned socialists use the exclamation marks to make their point? Brilliant!!!!!! – don’t you think? – MWD Editor.]
And then on 2 April 2020, Virginia Trioli – who presents Mornings on ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne – interviewed her boss ABC managing director David Anderson. After a discussion about providing educational content for kids and school students due to the COVID-19 initiated school closures, La Trioli switched the topic to yes, you’ve guessed it, ABC funding.
The ABC Mornings presenter La Trioli asked four questions directed at whether the ABC will get additional funding due to its reporting of COVID-19. Which is, after all, its job – namely to report the news, including pandemics. But, as the saying goes, never let a pandemic go to waste!!!!!!
ALL QUIET ON THE JUDICIAL FRONT: MEDIA WATCH & INSIDERS SILENT ON THE HIGH COURT’S DECISION IN PELL v THE QUEEN
Last week was one of the newsiest, especially from a media point of view, in Australian history. And yet the ABC Media Watch program, presented by Paul (“I just love verballing Hendo”) Barry, had what journalists like to call a Well Earned Break – or WEB.
If Media Watch went to air on Friday (i.e. Good Friday and Passover) this would have been understandable. But Media Watch goes to air on Mondays – and Monday 13 April was a normal news day on Sky News and the commercial television channels. But not in all parts of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.
This meant that Paul Barry had no opportunity to cover how the ABC got the outcome of the High Court decision in Pell v The Queen so hopelessly wrong. [Are you sure he would have done this? MWD Editor.] The ABC star reporter on the matter – Louise Milligan – predicted earlier in the year that Cardinal Pell had no “appeal point”. Not only did he have an appeal point, but the High Court, in a unanimous verdict, quashed the conviction. Perhaps Comrade Barry will do a self-criticism of the ABC coverage – and in some cases, lack of coverage – of Pell v The Queen on Monday. But don’t hold your breath.
And then there was ABC TV Insiders – which in an unusual move did do an Easter Sunday program this year.
Now, in previous times, Cardinal George Pell has been the topic of discussion on the Insiders agenda – despite the fact that the allegations against him of historical child sexual abuse were not particularly relevant to Australian national politics or Australian foreign policy. Perhaps this resulted from the fact that Barrie Cassidy, Insiders’ previous presenter, was a Pell antagonist. As was regular panel member David Marr.
Last week there was a genuine reason to discuss the Pell case. Not only had the High Court overturned a majority decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal and criticised the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, but Victoria’s Labor premier Daniel Andrews had issued a statement which implied that he did not agree with the High Court’s decision. Big news indeed – in addition to the fact that Pell v The Queen was the most-high profile criminal law judgement in Australia since the Lindy Chamberlain case of over three decades ago.
However, there was not a word about the Pell case on Insiders last Sunday. It was not that Insiders buried the news in this instance – it just avoided it altogether. The quashing of Pell’s conviction was an inconvenient truth, it would seem. It may be that Insiders will discuss Pell v The Queen next Sunday. If so, the “news” will be 12 days old.
A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR RE HENDO’S “LITTLE LIST” OF THE MEDIA DRAMATIS PERSONAE IN THE PELL PILE-ON
Lotsa apologies if today’s issue of Media Watch Dog disappoints more than usual. You see Gerard Henderson, who doubles up as Jackie’s (male) co-owner, has been feeling down since, on Easter Sunday, Lucie Morris-Marr tweeted this “UPDATE”:
— Lucie Morris-Marr (@luciemorrismarr) April 11, 2020
Your man Henderson was informed about this around Gin & Tonic time on Sunday 12 April. Due to shock and all that, the time was extended – which pushed into pre-Dinner Drinks somewhat. You know the story. But avid readers will understand. Which columnists/commentators would not suffer extreme trauma at the very thought of being “dragged up before the (media) beak” – to borrow a P.G. Wodehouse phrase – for writing/saying something critical about a journalist? For the record, Hendo has no evidence that such a complaint has been lodged – beyond what is stated in the above tweet.
Well, what caused the trauma? – MWD hears you cry. Lucie Morris-Marr – the author of Fallen: The Inside Story and the Secret Trial and Conviction of Cardinal George Pell (Allen & Unwin, 2019) – has taken umbrage at the fact that Hendo wrote (in The Weekend Australian, 11 April 2020) and said (The Bolt Report, 13 April 2020) that she was part of the media pile-on against Cardinal George Pell. Her sensitivity may come as a surprise to anyone who has read Fallen – but, there you go. Some journalists are sensitive souls and don’t like being accused of engaging in a media pile-on – or anything else.
Fortunately, Jackie was able to do a brief interview with her (male) co-owner shortly before he returned to work at Hangover Time this morning. Here is an excerpt:
Jackie: It’s good that you’re about to get on with the job. Are you fully recovered from the shock and subsequent trauma of this event?
Hendo: Fortunately, yes. I’ve realised that I can handle a complaint to the Australian Press Council from Ms L. M-M. (she of the hyphenated name set). But that’s about it, I think. Any more than one would drive me not just to the bottle but also to the bottle shop.
Jackie: So what will you do?
Hendo: I’m hoping that everyone else in the George Pell media pile-on will follow the lead of L. M-M. and also complain to the APC. Then the good people at the Australian Press Council can take the case as a job-lot – or perhaps a class action. It will save everyone time. Now, excuse me, but I must get to my desk.
In order to speed up proceedings, MWD provides an updated version of Hendo’s little list.
MEDIA PARTICIPATING IN THE PELL MEDIA PILE-ON
Richard Ackland, Phillip Adams, Emma Alberici, Waleed Aly, John Barron, Paul Bongiorno, The late Richard Carleton R.I.P, Barrie Cassidy, The Chaser Boys (average age 481/2), Gorgi Coghlan, Rachel Corbett, Stephen Crittenden, Quentin Dempster, Raphael Epstein, Jon Faine, Sarah Ferguson, Peter FitzSimons, Ray Hadley, Wendy Harmer, Peter Helliar, Derryn Hinch, Tony Jones, Fran Kelly, Kristina Keneally, Paul Kennedy, Dom Knight, Hamish Macdonald, Dee Madigan, David Marr, Stephen Mayne, Alex McKinnon, Karen Middleton, Lisa Millar, Louise Milligan, Tim Minchin, Lucie Morris-Marr, Paul Murray (up until Pell was charged), Craig Reucassel, Michael Rowland, Leigh Sales, Chris Smith, Justin Smith, Tim Soutphommasane, Josh Szeps, Virginia Trioli and Jack Waterford.
“You Must Remember This” is based on the chorus line in the song As Time Goes By which was popularised by the film Casablanca. It is devoted to reminding the usual suspects of what they and/or those they supported once wrote or said or did. On this occasion MWD looks back on some alarmist predictions concerning COVID-19 made by ABC presenters in March 2020.
DR NORMAN SWAN’S FAILED COVID-19 PREDICTIONS
Avid readers will remember Dr Norman Swan’s 21 March tweet concerning the growth of COVID-19 cases in Australia and what Dr Swan condescendingly called “Primary School Maths” (MWD 491):
1700 on Monday, 3400 on Wednesday or Thursday, 7-8000 by next weekend. True number by then 70-80,000 possibly. Primary school maths. Someone should go figure. No magic fairy will bring that down. 14-20 days behind Italy. Believe in maths not magic. https://t.co/wDysEg13CW
— Norman Swan (@normanswan) March 21, 2020
Dr Swan’s claim on March 21 that Australia was 14-20 days behind Italy and on track for 7000-8000 cases by the weekend of 28-29 March now looks farcical. On 29 March Australia reported a total of 3,985 cases. As of 16 April, the total cases stood at 6,468. Still short of Dr Swan’s prediction for 18 days earlier. Put another way, Dr Swan believed we were going to see Australian cases rise from around 1,000 at the time of his tweet to over 7,000 in only 8 days. We are currently 26 days from his prediction and based on recent numbers we may not reach 7,000 cases for some time.
There is also Dr Swan’s claim that Australia would have a true number of possibly 70,000 to 80,000 cases by 29 March. While it is true that some number of cases have likely gone undetected, this prediction of tens of thousands of undetected cases around the country has obviously failed to materialise. As of 16 April, the Department of Health reported 66 patients currently in Intensive Care Units (ICU) around Australia, hardly the number you would see if the virus was running rampant, undetected, around the country.
This is not just a failure of prediction on Dr Swan’s part but represents a failure to understand the extent of the spread of the virus at the time the prediction was made. Dr Swan’s tweet only makes sense if you believed on 21 March that there was already widespread transmission of the virus in Australia. It is now clear that this was not the case.
In recent days Dr Swan has begun advocating for Australia to follow New Zealand’s lead and push for total eradication of the virus locally. This brings to mind another tweet of Dr Swan’s from 27 March. This despite the fact that Australia appears to be doing somewhat better than New Zealand in mitigating the virus.
Eradication won’t happen. The goal is to get to such small numbers so that with an extended testing regimen along with strict isolation and quarantine we’d control this virus rather than it controlling us. https://t.co/ifAFkEGHPx
— Norman Swan (@normanswan) March 26, 2020
So another dire prediction by Dr Swan that he has had to abandon when faced with the evidence. Readers may wonder if Dr Swan has offered up a Mea Culpa for his earlier statements. Here is an exchange from his appearance on News Breakfast on 16 April:
Lisa Millar: What does the death toll, it’s been relatively low in Australia compared to other countries, what does it tell us about how Australia’s been handling it?
Norman Swan: Look we are a success story, it’s fantastic news, I said right at the beginning I’d love to be proved wrong and the, uh, w-we have got, um, everything going in the right direction.
Well I guess that, um, sorta, uh, counts. Below is a picture of Dr Swan “loving” being wrong.
FRAN KELLY ON ICU BEDS BEING FULL BY MID-APRIL
On the topic of COVID-19 doomsaying of ABC presenters, does anybody remember this exchange between RN Breakfast’s Fran Kelly & Minister for Health Greg Hunt from 25 March:
Fran Kelly: I know on current projections hospitals will be overwhelmed by mid-April. We need more ventilators.
Greg Hunt: Whose predictions are those?
Fran Kelly: There’s many projections that suggest that our ICU beds will be overwhelmed and that’s why hospitals –
Greg Hunt: Can you name one for me?
Fran Kelly: I’ve read many, I don’t have it in front of me. Hospitals are now preparing to double the number of ICU beds we have in this country.
Later in the program Comrade Kelly offered the following clarification:
Fran Kelly: One thing the Minister did pick me up on was when I said there were predictions and projections of the ICU beds being overwhelmed by April. He asked me which study that was, I didn’t have it on hand. Just to let you know, that was a study from statisticians at James Cook University, said that from mid-April this could be the case – ICU beds being overwhelmed by April…
The study, written on 18 March by Megan Higgie & Andrew Kahn, projected a “worst case scenario” where Australia’s ICU capacity, estimated at 2,229 beds, could be overwhelmed by 7-9 April. This was based on an uninterrupted, exponential growth of COVID-19 cases, with Australia’s ICU capacity being overwhelmed when the national case total reached 44,580. The authors offered plenty of caveats about their methods and the variables they had not accounted for. However, none of these made it on to Radio National Breakfast. Instead we had Ms Kelly confidently stating that “on current projections hospitals will be overwhelmed by mid-April”. As mentioned earlier, on 16 April Australia had 6,468 reported cases and 66 patients in ICU.
No word yet on whether Ms Kelly, like her colleague Dr Swan, loves to be proved wrong.
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Until next time.
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