ISSUE – NO. 512

4 September 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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Avid readers will remember a previous appearance by Stephen Duckett, Health Program Director for The Grattan Institute, in MWD Issue 504. At that time Dr  Duckett had been mentioned during an interview between 7:30 guest presenter Virginia Trioli and Health Minister Greg Hunt on 9 July 2020. During the interview, the presenter raised a 9 July 2020 article written by Stephen Duckett and Grattan Institute senior associate Will Mackey. It argued that Australia should pursue a strategy aimed at complete elimination of COVID-19 in the country, instead of merely suppression of the virus.

As Minister Hunt was quick to point out during the interview, on 24 March the Grattan Institute had published an article by Duckett and Mackey in which they predicted that Australia’s ICU bed capacity would be exceeded sometime in April “when we hit a trigger point of 12,000 new cases every day”. Australia has had around 26,000 diagnosed cases total, most of them in the Victorian second wave. Duckett appeared on The Drum on the evening of 24 March and when presenter Ellen Fanning pointed out to him that his alarmist concerns re ICU capacity were not shared by key government and public health officials. He responded that “the figures are the figures”.

Earlier today Dr Duckett appeared on News Breakfast where he was interviewed by Michael Rowland. It seems Duckett & Mackey have returned with a new report for the Grattan Institute named ”Go for zero”. As the name implies, the authors are still of the opinion that Australia must switch to an elimination strategy. New to this report is some modelling done at the University of Melbourne at the request of the Grattan Institute. The model found that if Stage 4 restrictions and strict social distancing are maintained in Victoria, there is a 99 per cent chance the state will reach zero cases by the end of October, as opposed to only a 34 per cent chance if social distancing is allowed to decay.

How this model differed from the March model which predicted 12,000 cases a day in April is not clear. Nor is it obvious how anyone can be presenting a model showing a 99 per cent chance of anything COVID related with a straight face, given the well-documented failures of various high-profile modelling efforts throughout the year.

In addition to Duckett’s appearance on News Breakfast, the report received a write-up in the Australian Financial Review on 3 September. In both cases, Stephen Duckett’s opinions were presented without any pushback. His earlier, drastically inaccurate predictions concerning the spread of COVID-19 in Australia were not mentioned. The AFR included a graph showing the results of the new modelling, including the supposed 99 per cent chance of elimination in Victoria by the end of October if social distancing is maintained.

Dr Duckett was also not questioned as to why case numbers in Victoria remain so high despite the Victorian government’s adoption of the harsher lockdown measures he was recommending in early July. During the News Breakfast interview, Duckett put forth the idea that federal and state governments should be setting clear criteria for when restrictions can be eased based on daily case numbers. He added that it should be made clear to the public that these criteria are “based on science” and “based on the evidence”.

Well let us hope federal and state governments aren’t basing any decisions solely on the science and evidence being produced by the Grattan Institute.



Promises. Promises.  The Daily Telegraph in London reported on Tuesday that Tim Davie, the incoming director-general of the BBC, has a reform program for Britain’s public broadcaster – which is funded by means of a compulsory licence fee.

Put simply, Mr Davie wants to tackle what he regards as left-wing bias in the BBC’s comedy output.  As Bill Gardiner reported, the incoming managing director believes that the comedy shows on BBC radio and television are unfairly biased against the Tories, Donald Trump, Brexit and the like.  Tim Davie is also concerned that too many BBC comedy shows promote a “metropolitan, London-centric and left-wing view of the world”.  Sounds familiar?

In his Daily Telegraph report, Bill Gardiner mentioned that some BBC presenters have criticised the left-wing takeover of BBC comedy. For example, Andrew Neil who referred to The Mash Report as “self-satisfied, self-adulatory, unchallenged left-wing propaganda”.

Many of the problems identified by Mr Davie can be found on the ABC. Its main comedy programs – The Weekly  with Charlie Pickering and Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell – are hostile to the Coalition. And Mark Humphries, who appears each fortnight at the end of Thursday’s 7.30 program, has essentially one “joke” – sending up a Liberal or Nationals politician as a toff or a hick in a manner which bears no resemblance to anyone except Mark Humphries.

Bill Gardiner also reported that, under Tim Davie’s management, BBC journalists and presenters will be reined in on social media from airing their political views while there will be a crackdown on BBC celebrities making money on the side moonlighting for private companies. All this was anticipating Mr Davie’s speech to BBC staff yesterday.

In the Daily Telegraph on 3 September Robert Mendick reported what Mr Davie said in his address.  It was much the same as had been forecast.  Except that the new BBC director-general was even more blunt – telling staff:

We urgently need to champion and recommit to impartiality. It is deliverable and it is essential…. If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.

In other words, there will be no future roles at the BBC for activist journalists who are driven by what the new director-general terms their “personal agendas”.  As MWD readers know only too well, the ABC is replete with left-wing activist journalists advancing their political agendas.

It is early days and no one knows whether Tim Davie will press for reform when he settles into the job as BBC director-general.  In Australia, Mark Scott promised to reform the ABC when he was appointed managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief in 2006.  But Mr Scott was quickly subsumed into the ABC’s Conservative-Free-Zone culture and backed off.  His successors Michelle Guthrie and David Anderson did not even bother to address the need to introduce political diversity into the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  Also ABC presenters, since Mark Scott’s time, have felt free to weigh into various debates on social media.  They present as activists in the morning and journalists in the evening.

Tim Davie may not succeed with his stated intention to reform the BBC, including the creation of political diversity.  However, if he does, this might provide a model for the next ABC managing director when he/she inherits a Sydney/Melbourne centric public broadcaster which is replete with left-wing activists.

Can You Bear It?


Is there anything that The Red Bandannaed One – who appears to be metamorphosing to The Bald Man in the Red Zorro Mask – does not have an opinion on that he wants to tell his Sun-Herald readers about (if readers there are)?

Last week Peter FitzSimons’ lecture was on the imprisonment of the Australian right-wing terrorist who murdered 51 persons in two Christchurch mosques in March 2019.  He introduced his “Fitz on Sunday” column last Sunday with a reference to himself in the first paragraph:

Asked by New Zealand media this week to summate the Australian reaction to the conviction of the Christchurch killer who grew up in Grafton only to murder 51 people in a Kiwi mosque in March last year, I took pause. For how do we Australians look upon him?

It’s quite a question, really.  Yet your man Fitz was prepared to tell New Zealand media – all of it, apparently – precisely what was the reaction of all Australians to Brenton Tarrant’s conviction.  This is his answer:

I characterise our general reaction as being one of deep personal sorrow and excruciating embarrassment, mixed with great admiration at the way that New Zealand has confronted the tragedy. The way the Kiwis came together after the murders – from Jacinda Ardern wearing the hijab to the mosque the day after the massacre to their rock-solid unity and refusal to utter his name – was nothing short of inspirational. But still there was the deeply troubling matter that the killer comes from the sunny burgh of Grafton, raised among its generally sunny citizenry. And what was our other reaction? How on earth did this happen?

Well, that’s an important question.  Needless to say, Fitz was not prepared to give an honest answer. For the fact is that, in the lead-up to the Christchurch massacre, during the prime ministership of Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand had among the weakest gun laws in the Western world.  Only the United States and Canada had softer gun laws than New Zealand in March 2019.

And then there is the issue of security. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has had right-wing extremists under surveillance in Australia for at least half a century.  This was not the situation in New Zealand prior to last year.  For example, there is not one specific mention of the threat posed by white supremacists or right-wing nationalists in ten years of documents produced by New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service up to last year.  The NZSIS did not even commence monitoring right-wing extremists after Anders Breivik’s terrorist attacks in Norway in July 2011.  And it did not respond to Timothy McVeigh’s terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995. In short, New Zealand intelligence was asleep on the job with respect to right-wing extremists.

It’s reasonable to assume that Tarrant targeted New Zealand because he could readily purchase weapons there and because his extremist views were unlikely to come to the attention of New Zealand authorities.  And Peter FitzSimons reckons that Australia should be embarrassed for a  crime by an Australian which is most unlikely to have been committed in Australia. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  But it was to be expected that the head of the Australian Republic Movement would do another grovel to New Zealand – despite the fact that The Land of the Long White Cloud is even behind Australia when it comes to embracing the republican cause and not so long ago introduced imperial honours – such as “Sir” and “Dame”. If Fitz ever crosses The Ditch permanently, it might be a case of “Arise Sir Red Bandannaed One”.  – MWD Editor.]


While on the topic of Nine Newspapers’ left intelligentsia columnists, did anyone read Julia Baird’s column in last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald?

As avid readers are aware, early last year Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) and her co-presenter Ellen Fanning decided to introduce a kinder/gentler tone into ABC TV’s The Drum which they co-present.  Everyone was required to respect everyone else.  MWD assumes that The Drum is still into this niceness since the program is so boring that it does not make easy watching at Gin and Tonic Time.  Moreover, The Drum has de-platformed some conservatives – not that it had many in the first place – and is often one of those ABC discussion programs where everyone agrees with everyone else on almost everything. Boring squared.

The kinder/gentler Drum presided over by the Baird/Fanning duo rules out sexism – among other “isms” regarded as offensive. Yet this is how Comrade Baird introduced her column last Saturday:

President Trump has a woman problem: they have turned from him in droves since the last election. So who better to tout his credentials, and gloss over his flashes of overt misogyny than his wife? Surveys have shown she is the most effective of all the Trump surrogates at shaping the way people – especially, crucially, independent women – think of her husband. Which is why Trump’s campaign officials have been trying to coax her out of the shadows, urging her to take more of an active role. This week out she came, clad in militaristic-styled khaki as she praised the “warrior” parents of America, to put the case for her husband at the Republican National Convention.

How about that?  The avowed feminist Julia Baird decided that it was proper to focus on the person she referred to as President Trump’s “wife”.  The First Lady’s name “Melania” was not mentioned until the fourth paragraph and then in a quote from Polly Vernon.  Before that, Melania Trump was referred to as “she” on five occasions and “her” on two occasions. Really. Moreover, Comrade Baird referred to Melania Trump as a “surrogate”. What is this supposed to mean?

And then there is the matter of dress. Anyone with the good fortune to have attended the late Nancy’s Courtesy Class would know that it’s not okay to depict a woman with reference to her clothes.  But Dr Baird felt the need to tell her readers that Melania Trump spoke at the Republican National Convention “clad in militaristic-styled khaki”. Can You Bear It?


While on the issue of Aussie doctoral feminists and the forthcoming US presidential election, what a stunning performance by Emma Shortis of RMIT University on Radio National’s The Minefield on Wednesday. Stunning not only for the fact that Dr Shortis (for a doctor she is) said something that listeners could understand – a rare feat on the program presented by Dr Waleed (for a doctor he also is) Aly and Scott Stephens. Invariably comrades Aly and Stephens engage in literary sludge of the philosophic kind which is not capable of being comprehended.

So it was great to hear this empirical insight from Comrade Shortis on The Minefield around Pre-Lunch Drinks Time Wednesday:

Emma Shortis: I think there’s certainly an argument that [Joe] Biden represents – not a desire to change, not a move to a new form of politics informed by empathy, but a desire to go back. To return to a time of bi-partisan civility. And the word decency comes up again and again with Biden. Decency and dignity.  So, there’s an argument to be made I think that that choice to nominate Biden is more about, I guess, returning to an earlier time, an earlier system of calm.

Well fancy that.  It may be that the former vice-president stands for civility and decency and dignity and all that stuff.  However, Comrade Shortis overlooked the fact that, in recent times, Mr Biden has been somewhat rude to African Americans who have implied that they may not vote for him in November.

And then there is the matter of women.  As the RMIT University research fellow should know, a number of American women have come forward with claims that Biden made them feel uncomfortable and one has alleged sexual assault. (See the article by Amanda Arnold and Claire Lampen titled “All The Women Who Have Spoken About Joe Biden” in The Cut, 12 April 2020). It’s possible that the claims are false.  But the feminist Emma Shortis went into denial by not referring to them. Can You Bear It?


MWD just loves reading the CBD column in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age – even though it frequently has nothing to do with the CBD or even Sydney or Melbourne.  Maybe it’s because the Sydney CBD is only half-open at this time of pandemic. While the Melbourne CBD, under the rule of Chairman Dan, appears to be in extremis – to flash a Latin expression which Jackie’s (male) co-owner learned in Latin class in Melbourne all those years ago.

Perhaps this explains the following comment by Stephen Brook and Colin Kruger in Nine Newspapers’ CBD on Monday concerning the pre-selection contest to replace Western Australian Liberal Party Senator Mathias Cormann, who is retiring from politics at the end of the year:

Nominations close in three weeks, amid suggestions the [Liberal Party] right faction in WA has split. The preselection, decided by about 130 or so delegates, will occur at its State Council on November 7. Cormann’s role in the disastrous attempt to replace former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull with Peter Dutton damaged his standing in the party, but he can’t be so weakened as to have a real fight on his hands over his successor. Can he?

Turn it up.  As CBD writers Stephen Brook and Colin Kruger should be aware, the Liberal Party leadership challenge effectively commenced on Tuesday 21 August 2018 when then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull called for a  spill of leadership positions without consulting his leadership team in the Senate, Senator Mathias Cormann and Senator Mitch Fifield.  It appears that Julie Bishop, the Liberal Party’s deputy leader at the time, received at best very late notice of her leader’s decision.

It so happened that Liberal Party frontbencher Peter Dutton decided to challenge – and scored 35 votes to Malcolm Turnbull’s 48 votes. From this moment, Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership was finished.  Mathias Cormann soon withdrew his support for Turnbull and backed Peter Dutton’s challenge.   After a majority of the Liberal Party room called for a spill of positions on Friday 24 August, Malcolm Turnbull opposed the motion and lost by 45 to 40 votes.  He then vacated the prime ministership.  Then Julie Bishop, Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison contested the vacant position. Julie Bishop was eliminated in the first ballot and Scott Morrison prevailed over Peter Dutton in the second ballot.

Scott Morrison – with the active support of Josh Frydenberg, Peter Dutton and Mathias Cormann – went on to lead the Coalition to victory at the May 2019 election. Malcolm Turnbull’s problem was that, like Tony Abbott, he lost the support of the Liberal Party room.

The fact is that the Liberal Party leadership crisis in August 2018, which Malcolm Turnbull initiated, had to be resolved by the end of the week – Friday 24 August.  And it was. Yet CBD describes all this – which, in time, led to the Coalition winning another term – as “disastrous”.  Can You Bear It?


Wasn’t it great to see superannuated ABC presenter Kerry O’Brien on ABC TV’s Q&A on Monday?  It seems that retired ABC presenters never really retire – especially if they once worked for Labor Party leaders.  So, this year, Kerry O’Brien (ABC rtd) – ex-Gough Whitlam staffer – has had a go on Q&A.  And Barrie Cassidy (ABC rtd) – ex-Bob Hawke staffer – has presented a series of the ABC TV program One Plus One. [I thought it was called “Tosh Plus Tosh”  – but there you go. – MWD Editor.]

But MWD digresses. The point is that Red Kerry travelled all the way from Green Left Central in Byron Bay on the NSW North Coast to an alternative Green Left Central site in inner-city Ultimo – where the Sydney ABC studio is based.  It’s not clear how many emissions the O’Brien journey was responsible for – but MWD understands that it would have been zip if the eco-catastrophist O’Brien had joined the program by Zoom or Microsoft Teams or some such from Byron Bay. But Red Kerry appears to be a “do-as-I say” kind of guy, not the other way around.

So what did Red Kerry say on Q&A?   Well, here’s an example.  He came up with a you-beaut conspiracy theory about the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Here it is – as part of his moral equivalence stance between communist China and democratic United States:

Kerry O’Brien:  And I think, regardless of the Prime Minister’s insistence on talking about “countries” rather than China, we all absolutely know, as Colin [Barnett] has said, that he’s talking about China, And, and there is a kind of double standard here, and there is a hypocrisy. And I’ve lost count of the number of politicians, of both sides, who’ve told me over the years, jokingly, about how their trips have been – their trips to America have been sponsored by the CIA. I mean, this is not a new thing. Maybe it’s more overt in some ways. And I don’t like aspects of China’s authoritarian status and – and so on, and their treatment of minorities. And I don’t like any attempt to bully us as a nation. But, at the same time, I am really concerned….

What a load of absolute tosh.  Comrade O’Brien provided no evidence of any kind that both Coalition and Labor politicians take or have taken trips to the United States that are/were “sponsored by the CIA”. It would seem that Red Kerry cannot recognise a joke when he hears one.

The trips to which Kerry O’Brien referred to on Q&A were taken by many Australians – politicians of all sides, trade union and business leaders, journalists and more besides. The trips in question were arranged by the US Embassy in Canberra and funded by the US State Department.  The CIA was not involved. Participants in the program could suggest their own itinerary which was put together by local Americans in cities and towns.  The CIA has better things to do than arrange programs for visiting Australians to the US. Similar travel programs were arranged by the US Department with other nations.

Needless to say, Q&A presenter Hamish Macdonald did not ask Red Kerry to provide any evidence for his conspiracy theory – thus saving the Byron Bay middle class radical from any embarrassment in justifying something which he just made up.

Now hear this.  In 2018 Kerry O’Brien’s 870-page tome Kerry O’Brien: A Memoir was published by Allen & Unwin. It made no mention whatsoever to the CIA sponsoring trips by Australian politicians to the US. It would seem that Red Kerry preserves his CIA conspiracy theories for programs like Q&A where he is not fact-checked.

As avid readers will be aware, early this year Q&A rebranded to Q+A and got a new logo along with a new host, Hamish + Macdonald. The new logo, which featured a red cross on a white background, had to be changed in a hurry when it was found to be breaching international humanitarian law – a red cross on white being a universal emblem of protection in armed conflict. However, it seems that the copyright-breaching logo still appears on the ABC’s Q+A set. See image Red Kerry + Red Cross below:

Media Fool Of The Week


It was circa dinner time on Monday when MWD fave Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals) Burnside AO QC put out yet another tweet having a go at  Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Here it is:

Political life has not been kind to JB AO QC of late.  As the endorsed Greens candidate for the seat of Kooyong at the 2019 election, he failed to defeat the Coalition’s Josh Frydenberg.  For the record, the Greens preferenced Labor ahead of the Liberal Party in Kooyong  – so for JB AO QC to say he does not vote Labor is not the full story. And your man Burnside was defeated in a pre-selection in his attempt to attain the Senate seat vacated by former Greens leader Richard Di Natale. Senator Lidia Thorpe got the Senate gig from the Victorian Greens.

Having been rejected by the good people of Kooyong and by his comrades at the Greens – it appears as if JB AO QC seems to be looking at new political directions.  How else to explain his endorsement of Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews?

According to Julian Burnside, Dan Andrews “has distinguished himself as Australia’s leading politician”. Qué? – as avid (Spanish) MWD readers would say.

So JB AO QC has joined the “Dan’s Our Man” club – which is frequented by many an ABC journalist – along with the Green/Left Central soviet in Fitzroy North.  This is how Daniel Andrews got so beloved by the barrister Julian Burnside, who lives in a Hawthorn pile with a somewhat large carbon footprint.

Daniel Andrews has presided over:

۰ a quarantine system which made it possible for COVID-19 to break into the community – causing a second wave of the virus – with disastrous results for Australia as a whole but Victoria in particular.

۰ setting up an inquiry which is charged to find out how the decisions which led to this nationwide quarantine disaster occurred.  No other premier in Australian history has set up an inquiry into how and why his own Labor government made decisions.  [Perhaps your man Dan was doing yet another tedious marathon media conference at the time and missed the cabinet meeting. Just a thought.  MWD Editor.]

۰ a failure to ensure that the Victorian Health  Department had an adequate tracing  and testing system to handle a pandemic.  In fact Victoria’s tracing and testing is the least efficient of all the States – and far worse than that in NSW.

۰ an unwillingness to accept an offer by the Commonwealth Government to provide Australian Defence Force personnel to assist in controlling COVID-19 in Victoria.

۰ creating a lockdown which makes it legal for council workers to mow an oval but illegal for sole traders to cut grass.

۰ presiding over the worst economy in Australia due to the Stage 4 lockdown which resulted from the Victorian government’s failure with respect to quarantine, tracing and checking.

۰ losing control over COVID-19 in  Victoria to the extent that the State is not accepting Australians returning home – making it very difficult for Australians currently stranded overseas.

And so on.  And Dan Andrews is the man whom Julian Burnside reckons is Australia’s leading politician.

Julian Burnside AO QC: Media Fool of the Week


In 1992 Paul Kelly’s book The End of Certainty was published by Allen & Unwin. As far as MWD can work out, this was the first book with this title.

Meanwhile, news has just arrived that The Guardian’s Katharine (“Call me Murpharoo”) Murphy has a Quarterly Essay in the pipeline to be published by Morry Schwartz’s team at Schwartz Media. Guess what?  It’s titled The End of Certainty. Fancy that.

[Interesting. Perhaps great minds think alike.  Or perhaps your man Kelly was wrong – and Certainty did not end in 1992.  In which case Comrade Murpharoo could be correct in opining that Certainty only ended last week – or perhaps will not end until publication date of her forthcoming tome. Stay tuned.]

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Until next time.


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