GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 498
29 May 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 – The High Court & Sir John Kerr; Barrie plus Norman
Editorial – Alan Jones
Can You Bear It? Fitz holds himself back from a sneer; Lisa Millar’s self-serving questions re the ABC; Annabel Crabb’s Tax Confusion
You Must Remember This – Leigh Sales’ expensive but useless interview with former FBI director James Comey
Hyperbole of the Week – Mark Riley on constitutional crisis
New Segment: A Wellness Pause – Saint Julia’s State of Grace
MWD Exclusive – Melissa Davies, Louise Milligan & Lucie Morris-Marr fail to report a Victoria Police error
- History Corner – Miriam Margolyes on the Pine Gap missile base (that never was); A familiar face?
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THE HIGH COURT & SIR JOHN KERR’S PALACE LETTERS
MWD welcomes the decision of the High Court of Australia to release the correspondence that passed between the Governor-General Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace in the lead-up to the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government on 11 November 1975. It is understood why the National Archives of Australia believed that it should abide by the restrictions placed on the release of what have been called the Palace Letters. Now the High Court has absolved it of such a responsibility.
MWD could be wrong – but it has always held the view that Sir John’s letters to the Queen will not tell us much that we do not already know. Time will tell.
But in the meantime, it’s appropriate to correct some myths. Take today’s Guardian Australia for example. It contains the following comment by Christopher Knaus and Naaman Zhou:
The historian [Jenny Hocking] has previously found evidence that the palace knew of Kerr’s intention to dismiss Whitlam and was involved in deliberations. She believes the palace letters could reveal what the Queen said and whether she influenced Kerr’s actions.
There is no evidence – at this stage at least – that the Queen “knew” of the Governor-General’s intention to dismiss prime minister Gough Whitlam – still less that Elizabeth II “was involved in deliberations” leading up to the decision. It would seem that the Guardian Australia just made this up.
BARRIE PLUS NORMAN
Avid readers will remember ABC chair Ita Buttrose’s description of ABC health expert Norman Swan as a “treasure” [see Issue 490]. On Thursday night ABC viewers were treated to an interview with Dr Swan conducted by Barrie Cassidy on One Plus One. On Thursday morning the ABC sent out the following tweet to promote the interview:
Dr @normanswan has been a trusted and reassuring voice to the nation during the #COVID19 pandemic. Tonight at 9.20pm, he speaks to @barriecassidy about the public response to the crisis. #OnePlusOne pic.twitter.com/uwecr5ivlF
— abctv (@ABCTV) May 27, 2020
Here is how Barrie Cassidy introduced the show:
Barrie Cassidy: Who do you trust? Who do you trust to lead us in this country, particularly in the bad times? We’d just about given up on our politicians, our political leaders, until the coronavirus. When quite frankly they surprised us and their approval ratings have never been higher. I want to discuss that now on One Plus One focusing on leadership with Dr Norman Swan, the ABC’s medical expert, who is another person who shone during this period.
So what did the ABC’s shining, trusted and reassuring treasure talk about? Well first up Norman and Barrie reminisced about when they first heard of the coronavirus. Apparently, Dr Swan initially became aware of it around New Year’s Day 2020 when the first reports began to come out of China. How did the good doctor hear about it so early? Let’s go to the transcript:
Barrie Cassidy: So you weren’t necessarily alarmed to begin with but you would have had a professional interest because of your background?
Norman Swan: Well professional interest because you know I’ve been doing medical journalism for a long time but I’m kind of tuned in to pandemics. I’ve always been fascinated with where new diseases come from. Particularly after HIV, people thought well HIV is the first new virus to ever hit mankind and I knew it wasn’t the first and it wasn’t going to be the last. And in fact, I made a four-part documentary series in 1990 for Channel 4 in Britain just on this topic, where do diseases come from? And we predicted in that series that HIV wasn’t going to be the last new disease to hit humankind.
Well fancy that, as early as 1990 Dr Swan was accurately predicting that at some time in the future, somewhere in the world, humankind would encounter a new disease. Worth a Nobel Prize, surely.
Next your man Cassidy let us know when he first became aware of Dr Swan’s COVID-19 coverage:
Barrie Cassidy: The first time though that you started to get my attention was the 4th of March…You did a report for 7:30. At that point there wasn’t really a lot of reaction from politicians, there wasn’t a lot of reaction from the health experts. Did you feel as if you were stepping into a vacuum?
Norman Swan: Absolutely.
Well perhaps it is true that Norman first got Barrie’s attention on 4 March but Cassidy is wrong to state that there hadn’t been a lot of reaction from politicians and health experts. By the start of February 2020 the Federal government had implemented a travel ban for China. In late February the government activated an emergency plan to combat the global spread of the virus and Health Minister Greg Hunt had warned the public about the likely need for containment measures in the weeks ahead. Australia recorded it’s first COVID-19 death on 1 March and the first community transmissions on 2 March. The virus was receiving wall-to-wall media coverage and supermarket shelves had been stripped of toilet paper. The idea that Dr Swan was stepping into an information vacuum on 4 March, when he appeared on 7:30 and launched his Coronacast podcast, is laughable.
Later in the interview there was this exchange:
Barrie Cassidy: How did you feel though personally about stepping into this space? Because this is a life and death matter, people are going to rely on your advice, how did you feel about that?
Norman Swan: I um [laughs] I didn’t realise the impact of some of the things that were happening. I’ve been broadcasting for a long time now and from time to time you are on things that have a big audience. But you- I think that humility is one of the strongest assets that you can have and I didn’t realise the audience we were getting for our podcast. And it was just enormous, I think we’ve had five and a half million downloads to the point that we are talking today. And I didn’t quite realise the size of this audience.
Well Dr Swan is certainly aware of the size of his audience now – and so are all of us. As the Irish say, your man Swan is tops for humility.
ALAN JONES – NEITHER A RACIST NOR AN ADVOCATE OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE
I have had my disagreements with Alan Jones, Australia’s most successful broadcaster, over the years – along with my agreements. Like all of us, Jones has made mistakes on and off air – which he acknowledges, unlike some of his critics who decline to recognise their failings.
However, last week’s Sydney Morning Herald editorial, written by Lisa Davies, was over the top. This referred to Jones’ alleged encouragement of racism and sexual violence. The latter comment was soon corrected on the newspapers website to refer to Jones’ (alleged) “encouragement of racism” and “violence against women”. Apparently, the powers-that-be at Nine Entertainment now believe it is acceptable to accuse Mr Jones of encouraging violence against women but not acceptable to accuse him of encouraging sexual violence. Work that out – if you can.
Alan Jones was born in April 1941 in Oakey and grew up on a small dairy farm in south-east Queensland in the 1940s. On occasions he uses old-fashioned terms against men and women. Such as “put a sock in it” or someone should be “put in a chaff bag and thrown out to sea”. It’s unacceptable language these days. But such phrases are not meant – and never were meant – to be taken literally. There is no evidence that Alan Jones has ever encouraged anyone to be violent against a woman – still less encouraged sexual violence.
And then there is the accusation of racism against Jones – invariably made by people who don’t know him and sometimes by those who have never met him. In fact, over decades, Jones has been kind and generous to Australians from what are termed low economic backgrounds – including indigenous Australians – irrespective of their ethnic background.
One example illustrates the point. During the times of the Howard government, Anne Henderson spent time visiting the Villawood Detention Centre in western Sydney – and helped asylum seekers to be accepted as refugees. She thought it would be a good idea if the 2GB broadcaster could meet some detainees. I approached Jones at a social function and asked him to visit Villawood Detention Centre and see the situation at first hand.
And so the three of us went out to Villawood one afternoon in 2005. I still remember the surprise of some of the detention centre guards as the 2GB star walked past them into the facility. Anne introduced Alan to some of the detainees – others flocked around one of the best known Australians.
For his part Alan Jones was courteous and unassuming. He listened to some detainees with attention while taking notes – and asked insightful questions. Later, he took some of the matters up with the then Minister for Immigration Amanda Vanstone. The visit lasted for over an hour and Jones was not the one to say that it was time to leave.
I have not written about this experience before – and never spoken about it until on Sky News’ The Bolt Report on Tuesday. But when the likes of the Sydney Morning Herald are accusing Jones of encouraging racism, it’s time to state some facts. Australia’s most successful broadcaster is not a racist – which is why he has an appeal that touches virtually every aspect of Australian society.
I guess that many commentators who throw the racist label at Alan Jones have never assisted young Aboriginal men or women – and never visited asylum seekers in detention or advocated their cause. Talk – and abuse – is cheap.
29 May 2020
THE RED BANDANNAED ONE OUTS HIMSELF AS A SNEERER
As avid readers will recall, it was not so long ago that ABC Radio National presenter Jonathan (“I’m a Carlton-based fox-hunting man”) Green proudly declared that he was the ABC’s sneerer-in-chief. Or something like that.
It would appear that the Nine Newspapers’ Peter FitzSimons has entered the media tops-for-sneering stakes. How else to explain this comment at the end of his “Fitz on Sunday” column in last Sunday’s Sun-Herald? – under the heading “Sneer Miss”. [How frightfully clever – MWD Editor.]
No, in this last week of Alan Jones’ reign on 2GB’s breakfast radio airwaves I am not going to put half a column to sneering unpleasantly, and you can’t make me. Instead, I might just note that it will be interesting to see which of our esteemed public figures join the talkback queues to bid him a fond farewell. Interesting, indeed.
Well thanks for that. The Red Bandannaed One decided not to be forced into writing half a column sneering at 2GB/4BC broadcaster Alan Jones – who hung up his microphone at 9am this morning. How about that?
Could an agenda have been in play here? – MWD hears you cry. Well, perhaps so. As MWD recalls, some years ago your man Fitz was enticed by 2UE to help out his leftist mate Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton – who was doing the breakfast gig on Sydney station 2UE in competition with Alan Jones at 2GB. It didn’t work. Jones creamed the Carlton/FitzSimons tag team single-handedly in the ratings. Did the Red Bandannaed One mention this in his column last Sunday? Not on your nelly. Can You Bear It?
[Er no, not really. I reckon the reason why Alan Jones out-rated Mike Carlton – despite a little help from Peter FitzSimons – is that Jones had a much better touch with Australians. Look at it this way. Your man Fitz reckons that he can get a majority of Australians to back his Australian Republic Movement – while all the time he parades around with a look-at-me red rag on his head. And he reckons that he can sneer at Alan Jones who – whatever his faults – has good taste in head wear. – MWD Editor.]
LISA MILLAR’S SELF-SERVING QUESTION TO MINISTER FLETCHER ABOUT THE ABC
As the one-time NSW Labor Premier Jack Lang (1876-1975) is reported to have said: “Always back self-interest; you know it’s trying”.
Right now, self-interest is at play at the staff collective that is the ABC – a Conservative Free Zone where almost everyone agrees with almost everyone else on almost everything. Including self-interest.
Currently the economic downturn, that occurred as a consequence of COVID-19, has caused enormous harm to the private sector, including the media. In Australia there have been job losses and pay cuts in commercial and subscription television, radio, newspapers, magazines and even social media. But not at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster where, so far, there has been no job shedding as a consequence of the pandemic.
Indeed, as Nick Tabakoff pointed out in The Australian’s “Media” segment on Monday, ABC management has even failed to respond to a request from Peter Woolcott, the Australian Public Service Commissioner, that the public broadcaster delay the proposed 2 per cent wage increase, scheduled to take effect on 1 October 2020, for six months.
It’s not a big ask in the current climate. The Commonwealth government’s position is that the pay increase comes into effect on 1 May 2021 rather than 1 October 2020. This is acceptable to SBS – but not to the ABC.
Now ABC staff have relatively secure employment. Nevertheless, ABC staff seem to believe that they are entitled to a certain income security, including wage increases, denied to others. As was evident when ABC TV News Breakfast co-presenter Lisa Millar interviewed Paul Fletcher, the Minister for Communications, Cyber Security and the Arts, on Tuesday. Let’s go to the transcript:
Lisa Millar : Have you had any word from David Anderson, the ABC’s boss, our boss, about your request that ABC staff delay or pause the 2 per cent wage rise that was due in a few months?
Paul Fletcher: Well, the Australian Government is asking all government employees across the government to have a 6-month pay freeze. That means no pay increases during that 6-month period. This is a time when many Australians are out of work, many Australians have had to take substantial reductions in their income, and it’s appropriate that government employees should have a pay freeze.
That was on 26 May 2020 – the matter was discussed that evening by Gerard Henderson in his “Newswatch” segment on Sky News’ The Bolt Report.
Thanks to the avid Bolt Report watcher who reminded MWD that ABC employee Comrade Millar has form in asking questions on the ABC to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher about the ABC in the interests of ABC staff. Here’s her question to Minister Fletcher on 16 April 2020:
Lisa Millar: And it would be remiss of me not to ask – we have a lot of viewers and listeners who wonder whether what we’ve seen over the last five, six months here in Australia means you might have had a change of heart about ABC funding?
According to MWD’s count, Paul Fletcher has only been interviewed twice on ABC TV News Breakfast since he became Communications Minister. On both occasions he copped questions about the ABC by an ABC employee. First up it was a plea for more taxpayer funds for the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. And then it was an implied request that the planned pay increase not be delayed by six months. How self-serving can you get? More importantly – Can You Bear It?
- ANNABEL CRABB’S TAX CONFUSION
While on the topic of self-serving comments, how about Annabel Crabb’s performance on Insiders’ virtual couch last Sunday? After barracking for a carbon-tax – currently opposed by both the Coalition government and the Labor opposition – Comrade Crabb went on to praise taxes in general. Let’s go to the transcript:
Annabel Crabb: … Look, it’s actually – it is to do with taxes because it’s our taxes that constitute the money that is being used to support these [energy] initiatives. So, taxpayers do have a direct interest in this.
So here’s Annabel Crabb telling us all that her taxes help to pay for this and that government initiative. Without mentioning that it is taxpayers which pay her salary at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – including her taxes. Can You Bear It?
YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS
“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 invited a reality TV addict to review an Australian celebrity’s appearances on Network 10’s The Biggest Loser.
LEIGH SALES’ EXPENSIVE – BUT USELESS – 2018 INTERVIEW WITH FORMER FBI DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY
There was enormous interest in MWD’s report (Issue 496) that Sarah Ferguson’s three-part Four Corners documentary “Trump/Russia” had been completely debunked by her star “talent” James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence during the final years of Barack Obama’s administration. Mr Clapper appeared at the start, at the end and frequently throughout “Trump/Russia”.
Your man Clapper is a bright guy – certainly bright enough to pick a journalist sucker. So when the likes of Comrade Ferguson rocked by for an interview, Mr Clapper was happy to tell journos like Ferguson what they wanted to hear – namely, that Russia was involved in getting Donald J. Trump elected president of the United States. In short, there was a collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin in Moscow in the lead-up to the November 2016 presidential election and that was why the left’s fave Hillary Clinton did not make it to the White House.
However, James Clapper told quite a different story when he appeared, under oath, at the hearings of the House Intelligence Committee in late 2017. There he made this statement (which has recently been released):
James Clapper: I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting [or] conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election.
In short, Four Corners’ much proclaimed “story of the century” was just a load of crock – paid for by the taxpayers of Australia. Sarah Ferguson’s “Trump/Russia”, advertised as the story of the century on the ABC, was just political activism by the Hate Trump collective.
It’s much the same with another ABC TV star – to wit, 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales.
The BBC has a rule that its presenters should not play a part in the political debate. Not so with the ABC – whose presenters are encouraged to go on Twitter and take an activist role in politics.
Take Leigh Sales, for example. She’s one of many ABC journalists who are active in the political arena. From the left, of course, since the ABC is a Conservative-Free-Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. This is what Comrade Sales had to say on 27 May 2020:
Brilliant that twitter is fact-checking the regular stream of misinformation from the US President on this platform https://t.co/nfrtGaeoyr
— Leigh Sales (@leighsales) May 27, 2020
In fact, President Trump’s tweet, which Twitter sent to the fact-checker, objected to the decision of the state of California to move to make postal voting available to all registered voters. This is a contested issue – not as simple as Leigh Sales implies. Also, it speaks volumes about Leigh Sales’ lack of impartiality in this instance that she welcomed the fact that President Trump’s tweets are being “fact-checked” by such Trump antagonists as CNN and the Washington Post.
Leigh Sales’ assertion that Donald J. Trump sends out “a regular stream of misinformation” reminds MWD of her business class trip to New York to interview former FBI director James Comey in April 2018. The decision by ABC management to put Sales on the job implied that none of the ABC’s United States-based reporters were up to the task. So, how did Ms Sales, go? Not too well, alas.
It was another suck-up interview which occupied the whole of 7.30 on 19 April 2018. Comrade Sales travelled to New York on the occasion of the release of James Comey’s self-important memoir – A Higher Loyalty (Macmillan Publishers, 2018). On several occasions, the 7.30 presenter posed leading questions about “possible” collusion or links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
There was also this anti-Trump doozy:
Leigh Sales: Well, this kind of activity, you know, if proven, could rise to the standard of one of the biggest electoral crimes in American history. As I said, the Steele Dossier was very detailed, you had the [George] Papadopoulos information as well. Why did this not reach the bar where, as you say, there was even a discussion about sharing it with the American people?
James Comey: Because we didn’t know what we had. So the question I’d ask people, so what would we say? We’d tell the American people, we can’t tell you who they are but there’s a few people that we think may have some connection to this. I just don’t think that would be appropriate….
As Leigh Sales should have known at the time, the Steele Dossier (alleging certain sexual misconduct by Donald J Trump when on a business trip to Moscow) was always contentious. Not even the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele stands by the so-called “Steele Dossier”. And George Papadopoulos provided no useful information on this matter besides the fact that he had a Gin & Tonic with Alexander Downer – Australia’s (then) High Commissioner to the United Kingdom at the time.
And then there was the soft exchange about James Comey’s admission in his memoir that he leaked information to a friend who leaked to the New York Times:
Leigh Sales: After you were sacked you gave a friend a copy of the memo that you made about the [Michael] Flynn meeting and he shared it with a journalist. You’ve been at pains to say in your memoir that you believe in independence and integrity. Didn’t sending that memo to land in the media turn you into a political player?
James Comey: I hope not. I didn’t think of it that way. I get why people would criticise it and ask about it but I don’t think of it that way….
Rather than asking a follow-up question, Leigh Sales let the matter drop. As if it’s quite okay for the immediate past FBI director to leak to the media. Not a problem, it appears, when the target of the leak is Donald J. Trump.
On 23 May 2020 it was announced that FBI Director Christopher Wray has ordered an internal review into how Comey’s FBI handled the investigation of one-time US National Security adviser Michael Flynn. This will include any instances of official misconduct by the FBI when James Comey was FBI director.
However, despite the generosity of the Australian taxpayer who financed Comrade Sales’ visit to New York, the FBI inquiry will not glean anything from what James Comey told the 7.30 program. Ms Sales asked no critical questions. Like James Clapper with Sarah Ferguson, James Comey told Leigh Sales what she wanted to hear – and the 7.30 presenter was happy to hear what she was happy to hear.
MARK RILEY THROWS THE SWITCH TO HYPERBOLE RE THE JOBKEEPER SCHEME
MWD just loves it when journalists – many of whom have never worked in government or opposition or in the public service – mock those who make errors when implementing policy.
On Sunday, Network 7’s Mark Riley had a go at the revelation last Friday that the Coalition had overestimated the cost of its JobKeeper scheme – designed to keep employers in contact with their employees at a time of shutdown due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
As far as MWD can work it out, the Department of Treasury miscalculated the number of employers who would apply for the benefit – hardly surprising since the calculation was made in the midst of a pandemic. Then the Australian Tax Office took some time to detect that over a thousand employers filled out the forms incorrectly. Again not difficult to understand at a time of stress driven by the possibility of business failure.
Alas no one thought about asking your man Riley to oversee the scheme. It would seem that he could have done a better job judging by his comments on Insiders last Sunday:
Mark Riley: Look, this is a rolled gold stuff-up of the highest order. It’s the kind of thing that might happen in a primary school maths test. And it’s almost laughable that people instead of putting the number 1 for the number of employees they had put in 1500 reflecting the dollar value of the fortnightly payment. And that nobody picked this up? Nobody thought that Taz’s corner fish and chip shop having 1500 employees was a little curious.
After conceding to viewers that he only has primary school maths – and after recognising that no money was lost since the funds for JobKeeper were to be borrowed – he concluded:
Mark Riley: It’s money we haven’t borrowed, so yes that’s good. But if the opposite were true, and it was 60 billion dollars that was hosed up against the wall, we’d be down at Yarralumla outside Government House looking forward to the second constitutional crisis in Australian political history.
What a load of absolute tosh. A governor-general can only dismiss a government if there is a constitutional deadlock between the House of Representatives and the Senate over the granting of supply – as occurred in November 1975. Governments are not dismissed because a bunch of Angry Rileys protest about governments wasting money. You don’t need primary school maths to know this – only primary school history.
NEW SEGMENT – A WELLNESS PAUSE
SPONSORED BY JACKIE
Due to popular demand, MWD has decided to implement a Wellness Break – which will be sponsored by Jackie (Dip. Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute). Jackie believes that this segment will help to relieve stress at this particular spot in our journey through the Vale of Tears in which we all reside – particularly at a time when the valley appears deeper due to the pandemic and the like.
SAINT JULIA’S STATE OF GRACE
For his part, Jackie’s (male) co-owner always thought Grace was the first name of a departed actress named Kelly or a prayer that Christians recite before meals. But Nine Entertainment columnist and ABC TV presenter Julia Baird on Monday drew attention to the lower case meaning of grace. This is what the Sydney Morning Herald and ABC TV presenter had to say:
Been thinking a lot about grace lately. Not just showing love to the undeserving and forgiving the unforgivable, but also giving people the benefit of the doubt, accepting we are all stupid & make mistakes. It’s rare. When was the last time you saw a public figure show grace?
— Julia Baird (@bairdjulia) May 25, 2020
Pretty profound, don’t you think? Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) reckons that grace is all about loving the unlovable, forgiving the unforgivable, giving people the benefit of the doubt even when they don’t deserve it and accepting that we are all stupid and make mistakes. And so on. Which, no doubt, partly explains why The Drum – which she co-presents with Ellen Fanning – is so boring these days. There’s too much grace – and not enough intellectual conflict.
Jackie (Dip Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute) Comments on this week’s Wellness Pause
It’s great that Dr Baird is throwing the switch to grace. We can all learn from her learnings in this instance. It’s just a pity that she lacks the grace to recognise that some public figures do show grace.
More to the point, how sad that Julia Baird failed to use the opportunity to reflect on the lack of grace exhibited by her editor Lisa Davies. In an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday 22 May 2020, Comrade Davies accused 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones (a fellow Nine staffer) of encouraging racism and “sexual violence”. A totally false allegation – which was changed on the SMH’s online edition for last Friday. Not much grace there.
Perhaps Dr Baird’s question should have been: “When was the last time you saw the Sydney Morning Herald editor show grace?” Just a thought for next week’s Wellness Pause Segment.
MELISSA DAVIES, LOUISE MILLIGAN & LUCIE MORRIS-MARR FAIL TO REPORT VICTORIA POLICE ERROR RE GEORGE PELL CASE
Thanks to the Melbourne reader who drew MWD’s attention to an interview conducted between 3AW Radio presenter Neil Mitchell and Victoria Police commissioner Graham Ashton. The date was Thursday 9 April 2020. Just two days earlier, in a unanimous seven to zip decision, the High Court of Australia quashed the conviction of Cardinal George Pell on historical child sexual abuse offences.
Commissioner Ashton appears regularly on Nine’s 3AW and ABC Radio 702. Indeed, on 3AW some years ago, he referred to Pell’s “victims” – even before Pell had been charged with any offences – let alone found guilty of any crimes. The correct (impartial) term at the time was “complainants”.
Neil Mitchell was looking for a concession from Victoria Police that it got the Pell case wrong – but nothing was forthcoming, as the transcript indicates:
Neil Mitchell: We’ve got a unanimous decision by seven of the most learned judges in the country saying there was insufficient evidence. Which means surely the police were wrong, the prosecutorial authorities were wrong, and the [Victorian] appeals court was wrong and the jury was wrong – surely. [Note the Victorian Court of Appeal judgment was a majority 2:1 decision.]
Graham Aston: Yeah. Well its always down to legal opinions these things. And the High Court had a different opinion and we respect that opinion because it’s the High Court and it’s how the system works and we respect that decision….
Commissioner Ashton went on to declare that “the police brief was strong”. This may have surprised any listener who knew that Victoria Police laid 26 charges against Pell – all of which were withdrawn, struck out at the committal stage or overturned on appeal. A one hundred per cent failure rate. Clearly there were problems with the police brief even if the commissioner is in denial about this. The interview continued:
Neil Mitchell: Why did the investigation or intelligence probe begin on George Pell in the first place?
Graham Ashton: Well we received a complaint from victims. That’s what lead to the assessment.
Neil Mitchell: So, it didn’t begin until the complaint came in?
Graham Ashton: No, we weren’t sitting there thinking “we don’t like George Pell, let’s investigate George Pell”.
Graham Ashton’s statement was inaccurate. Evidence given by Detective Superintendent Paul Sheridan to the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court revealed that Victoria Police set up “Operation Tethering” in March 2013 to investigate Pell. This was a full year before any complaint was received by Victoria Police with respect to the then Archbishop of Sydney.
It’s understandable why Neil Mitchell did not pick up Graham Ashton’s error. But what about the Melbourne-based journalists Melissa Davies (The Guardian), Louise Milligan (ABC) and Lucie Morris-Marr (The New Daily)? – all of whom are Pell antagonists. Has any of this trio reported that the Victoria Police Commissioner made an incorrect comment on 3AW about Victoria Police’s involvement in what started as The Police v George Pell? Not as far as MWD can discover. Anyone surprised? – in view of the fact that all of this trio participated in the media anti-Pell pile-on.
Miriam Margolyes remembers a Pine Gap missile base that never was – plus a familiar face (or is it?)
Thanks to the avid Mornington Peninsula reader who drew MWD’s attention to this comment by the leftist Aussie-Brit actor Miriam Margolyes when she stopped off in Alice Springs during her three-part ABC Almost Australian documentary.
Miriam Margolyes: According to Kalika, the first wave of lesbians arrived here [Alice Springs] in the 1980s. Part of a women’s only peace camp, protesting the American missile base of Pine Gap….
It’s true that there were a number of feminist protests against the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap in the 1980s. Some of the protestors may have been lesbians, MWD does not know or care. But some were not. It was more a feminist, leftist collective and Lee Rhiannon, then a member of the Socialist Party of Australia which looked favourably on the Soviet Union, took part in some of the protests.
Obviously Almost Australian went to air without a fact-checker. Contrary to Miriam Margolyes claim – Pine Gap was not American. And it was not a missile base. She just made this up.
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And now for something completely different – with thanks again to our Mornington Peninsula spotter. Here’s a scene from Almost Australian depicting a group of anti-Pine Gap demonstrators some time in the 1980s. Does this face look familiar to avid readers? If so, please let MWD know by no later than Gin & Tonic time next Friday.
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Until next time.
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