ISSUE – NO. 513

11 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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There’s COVID-19 and the Australia-China relationship and the forthcoming US presidential election and more besides.  However last night 7.30 – the ABC’s foremost daily current affairs program – devoted a segment to Hollywood actor Jane Fonda on the occasion of the publication of her book What Can I Do?: My Path from Climate Despair to  Action (Penguin Books, hardcover edition US$35).

Here’s how the interview commenced between Leigh Sales (who also did the voice-over) and Jane Fonda:

Leigh Sales, Presenter: Jane Fonda is an award-winning actor, model, aerobics instructor and activist. The daughter of Hollywood royalty, her acting career began in the 1960s. One of her most iconic roles was playing sci-fi heroine, Barbarella. She became a political activist in the ’70s, gaining the nickname Hanoi Jane for her public opposition to the US war in Vietnam.

What a load of absolute tosh.  Jane Fonda – or “Hanoi Jane” – was not opposed to the Vietnam War. Rather she wanted North Vietnam to defeat South Vietnam (which was supported by the United States, Australia and some other nations).  That’s why she posed with a Soviet Union supplied surface-to-air missile aimed at US fighter/bomber jets.  This was the same kind of weapon which brought down the US plane flown by John McCain – who was captured by the North Vietnamese and tortured by his captors in what was called the “Hanoi Hilton”.  That’s why, to many Americans, the communist totalitarian supporter Jane Fonda was linked to the term “Fonda makes the heart grow absent”.

It soon became evident to 7.30 viewers (if viewers there were) that Jane Fonda has joined “The-End-of-the-World-is-Nigh” Club.  Here’s what she told the oh-so-uncritical Comrade Sales when the topic got on to, you’ve guessed it, climate change:

Leigh Sales: You’re 82. Do you think about whether climate change will be the cause to which you dedicate the rest of your life?

Jane Fonda: Given the small window that we have to avoid the tipping point, I think probably, yeah. I think it will be, this is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life. Yeah, because it’s the most important thing. If we don’t make it, oh God, it breaks my – really breaks my heart.

I have children, I have grandchildren and things are just going to spiral out of control. All these wonderful species are going to go and life is going to be very, very difficult to live and eventually possibly the human species will go as well because we are trashing our home. And I just, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself or die with myself if I don’t do something.

At this stage Hendo reached for his hankie – having realised that Hanoi Jane had drawn hers first. Then Jackie’s (male) co-owner matched the Hollywood actor tear for tear – leading to a very damp floor.

And then Ms Fonda told a seemingly naïve Ms Sales about her tough (financial) times:

Leigh Sales: Do you consider yourself an actor foremost and an activist second or the other way around?

Jane Fonda: Activist, actor.

Leigh Sales: Given that, how do you then decide which acting projects you want to allow to take up some of your time?

Jane Fonda: Do I need money? There’s that. People forget that we are working people. I belong to three unions. I have to earn a living. I have a bottom line that I’ve got, that I have to meet and it’s tough right now. I mean, not that tough, I have roof over my head and a very nice home that’s paid for and food and I have an assistant with me and I’m very, very lucky, but I’m worried. We will have gone almost a year without working and that’s scary.

Turn it up.  It is estimated that Hanoi Jane is worth around $US 200 million.  If she lives another 20 years, she will have to get by on, say, the 2020 equivalent of US$10 million a year.

By the way, Hanoi Jane appeared on 7.30 to plug her book on climate change What Can I Do?  MWD’s  suggestion is to feed all the printed copies to a very large worm farm instead and do digital.  Who knows? Hanoi Jane might get another soft interview on 7.30 on the occasion of the digital edition.  Order your hankies now.


Media Watch Dog is no fan of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party. But MWD maintains that One Nation has a right to be heard in the public debate.

These days The Drum is invariably boring – so MWD avoids it as a rule.  But flicking through channels last night, MWD came across a discussion on whether the luvvies at Melbourne City Council acted correctly in preventing Australia Post from delivering stubby beer holders which Senator Hanson attempted to send to the residents in a Melbourne social housing tower block. Apparently, it was supposed to be a goodwill gesture for an inaccurate comment made by the senator to the effect that the towers were full of alcoholics and drug addicts.

Now, as far as MWD is concerned, you can never have enough beer stubbies, glasses and all that  stuff. Even so, the Hanson idea was not a good one.  But on The Drum last night some panellists wanted to censor One Nation permanently.  Here’s what Jenna Price, of the University of Technology, Sydney had to say – throwing the switch to hyperbole:

Jenna Price: What she was sending was like anthrax.

 Ellen Fanning (presenter): In what way?

Jenna Price: It’s terrifying, it’s going to cause mayhem, it’s damaging people. And she’s sending stubby holders into communities – many Muslims are in those communities, they don’t need stubby holders, they don’t even drink alcohol. I just think it was designed to incite hate, a terrorist act, I think Australia Post was right not to deliver.

Ellen Fanning: A terrorist act?

Jenna Price: Yep. Causing mayhem, causing disruption, causing hurt, anxiety and increasing hatred.

So there you have it.  Sending a stubby to someone who may or may not want to receive it is a terrorist act.  A bit like 9/11 it seems.

And then former NSW Coalition government minister Adrian Piccoli weighed in.  He is the type of Liberal Party or Nationals former parliamentarian that ABC just loves – that  is, one who is willing to criticise the Liberal Party or the Nationals or any political conservative. Here’s what your man Piccoli had to say:

Adrian Piccoli: They [Australia Post] should deliver. I’m with most of the panel that I don’t agree with the message – I think the organisation that’s at fault here is the Today show and Sunrise and the ABC who put silly people like Pauline Hanson on the television all the time. They’re the ones that give them a voice. Just ignore them, they’re such a minority. But every time they put them on television they just give them a voice. If it’s a legitimate item that can be sent in the mail – I mean it’s not anthrax, it’s against the law to send anthrax Jenna..

Ellen Fanning: You’re in a minority here Jenna.

Jenna Price: Well we all agree on one thing, that we need to stop giving a platform to people like Pauline Hanson, 100 per cent.

Adrian Piccoli: Yeah, yeah.

In the Queensland Senate election in 2019, One Nation attained over 10 per cent of the vote.  Yet Ms Price and Mr Piccoli reckon that One Nation should be denied a voice in the media.  Which speaks volumes for the state of debate in contemporary Australian universities.  The censorious Jenna Price is on the staff at the UTS, Sydney where she teaches journalism and the censorious Adrian Piccoli is on the staff at the University of New South Wales where he is involved in education.



On Monday 31 August, BBC2 televised Vanessa Engle’s documentary The Unbelievable Story of Carl Beech.  The film is not yet available in Australia and it is not clear whether the ABC will run it.

On the same day, ABC TV Media Watch presenter – and avowed Rupert Murdoch critic – Paul Barry tweeted: “If you haven’t seen it already, put  Sunday 20 September in your diary for Pt1 of The Rise of the Murdoch  Dynasty. ABC at 7.40 pm. Excellent news.” Excellent news indeed from Comrade Barry’s perspective since the ABC Media Watch presenter is obsessed with Rupert Murdoch and all that.  You see, the BBC documentary is in three parts. After that, the ABC will run a two part series on Four Corners about the head of News Corp. Somewhat obsessive, don’t you think?

Unlike some media outlets – for example, the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone – Media Watch Dog believes in political diversity.  In short, it has no objection to the ABC airing The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty – even though it is reported to be yet another example of Murdoch-phobia in action. Boring.

But what about The Unbelievable Story of Carl Beech?   Will it be shown on the ABC? So far, no decision has been announced.  Yet, according to the reviews in Britain – in publications as diverse as The Spectator (by James Walton) and The Guardian (by Lucy Mangan) – this is an important documentary.  And it contains real lessons for Australia.

As MWD readers are well aware, Carl Beech (aka “Nick”) in 2014 alleged that – when a boy – he had been sexually abused by numerous named high-profile men.  The names included Lord Bramwell, Sir Leon Brittan, Sir Edward Heath and Harvey Proctor.  Later Beech alleged that he had witnessed the murders of three boys.

In 2014, a couple of years after the revelation that the late BBC star Jimmy Savile had abused scores of children, a tendency developed to believe anyone who said that they were victims of present or historical child sexual abuse.  When Beech came forward with his improbable story that he had been assaulted by the likes of Bramwell, Brittan, Heath and Proctor – he was believed because many wanted to believe him.

The Metropolitan Police interviewed Beech after he got in touch with the Exaro news site. It found that Beech’s claims were credible and true – despite the fact that there was no witness or forensic evidence to back them up.  The (then) Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson was one of Beech’s most vocal supporters.  BBC journalists (BBC News) and programs (Newsnight) enthusiastically endorsed Beech’s claims – he was believed to be a compelling witness.

In the event, it turned out that Beech was a fantasist.  But only after Operation Midlands which cost the British taxpayer around £2.5 million – and only after the reputations of the living and dead alike were ruined.  In time Beech was jailed for fraud – since he (falsely) obtained some £ 22,000 in criminal injuries compensation for alleged crimes which never occurred.

The retired judge Sir Richard Henriques was commissioned to investigate the matter.  In his report titled The Independent Review of the Metropolitan Police Service’s handling of non-recent sexual offence investigations alleged against persons of public prominence, Sir Richard criticised Metropolitan Police for believing everything they were told and failing to check the complainant’s claims.  Sir Richard specifically condemned the Metropolitan Police’s reference to Beech’s “victims” before anyone had been convicted for offences against him.  The correct word is “complainants”.  In the George Pell case, Victorian Police Commissioner Graham Ashton also falsely referred to Pell’s “victims” –  before he was even charged.

In Australia, the ABC led the media pile-on against Cardinal Pell. Those involved in the campaign included ABC journalists (Louise Milligan, Sarah Ferguson, Paul Kennedy, Tony Jones) and programs (7.30, Four Corners, Lateline). George Pell was charged with 27 offences with respect to nine complainants.  Not one of them succeeded. The fact that the County Court of Victoria effectively threw out the claims that Pell had abused boys in swimming pools (which occupied an entire 7.30 program presented by Louise Milligan) was not even reported by the ABC.

MWD is not suggesting that the Bramwell/Brittan/Heath/Proctor case is identical to the Pell case. However the lesson of the British cases is relevant to the outcome of the Pell case.  Namely that police – and journalists – should not believe everything they are told because they want to believe what they are told and that complainants who appear “compelling” are not always telling the truth.  They may be fantasists or confused or have recollections of events that never happened or involved in an instance of false identification. Or, like Beech, they may be lying – albeit this is only likely to be a small minority.

The Beech matter and the Pell case are of obvious importance to criminal law in both Britain and Australia.  As such, The Unbelievable Story of Carl Beech warrants showing on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

Can You Bear It?


There was enormous interest in last week’s issue in which Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO QC won MWD’s  highly prestigious Media Fool of the Week Award.  As MWD recalls at this Gin & Tonic time – JB AO QC’s gong was for a tweet declaring that Daniel Andrews was the greatest politician who has ever walked the land.  Or something like that.

MWD sends out best wishes to avid readers who are currently locked down in DanAndrews-stan. On Monday The Age reported that some local councils in Melbourne are currently using mobile surveillance units in parks to monitor the hoi polloi to make sure they don’t break the curfew etc. With the backing of Victoria Police.

Normally one would expect that a libertarian lawyer like JB AO QC would object to such restrictions on civil liberties.  But, as The Age reported on Monday “Liberty Victoria president Julian Burnside, QC, sided with police and said that the public health crisis justified the curtailment of some basic rights”.  JB AO QC was quoted as saying, “It all sounds pretty sensible to me”.

Alas the comrades at Liberty Victoria did not agree.  Apparently, unlike your man Burnside, they are still committed to liberty in Victoria.  On Monday 7 September the organisation put out this twitter thread:

Come off it.  What happened here is that Julian Burnside recently joined The Greens and traded his libertarian values for Green/Left authoritarian ones.  And now he’s been publicly dressed down by his very own organisation.  All this because JB AO QC has signed up to the “Dan’s Our Man” Fan Club. Can You Bear It?


MWD is a supporter of the Copyright Agency for sound copyright reasons. Indeed, every now and then a few dollars, sent by the CA, arrives in the bank account of Jackie’s (male) co-owner. But it appears that, once again, Hendo has missed out on a grant. This time from his fave Copyright Agency.

On Monday, The Guardian carried an article by  its editor Lenore Taylor titled “As our former lives dissolve into uncertainty, facts are something solid to cling to”.   It turns out this piece by Comrade Taylor in this leftist online newspaper article is part of a series by Australian writers responding to the challenges of 2020 – all commissioned by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund – to be published in December titled Fire, Flood and Plague.  It will be edited by the leftist Sophie Cunningham and published by Penguin Random House. [I can barely wait. – MWD Editor.]

The point here is – if point there is – that the scribblings of Comrade Taylor and others are being supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.  Correct MWD if MWD is wrong – but this suggests that the CA’s Cultural Fund paid Comrade Taylor for the “As our former lives dissolve into uncertainty, facts are something solid to cling to” article.

An investment of Copyright Agency funds would surely lead to some thoughtful and well documented reflections – the product of considerable  thought and research.  Or so MWD would have thought.

So how did the Lenore Taylor essay go?  Well, in the second paragraph she bagged Tony Abbott.  Quelle Surprise! And then Donald Trump. Ditto. And then (unnamed) commentators who believe that elderly Australians “would be willing to bear the consequences” of COVID-19 in the “interests of economic growth”.  Needless to say, no evidence was provided in support of this assertion.

Then President Trump was bagged again.  And then Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews was praised.  And then Comrade Taylor criticised “the lack of diversity in newsrooms” without mentioning that The Guardian’s newsroom is a leftist stack without any political diversity at all.

And then there were quotes from former ABC heavy Alan Sunderland maintaining that “ignorant ill-informed views” should not be published. He seems to hold this view with respect to people who disagree with him – but no names are named. And then Comrade Taylor warned against “misinformation and dangerous conspiracy theories” without mentioning what she has in mind.  And then –

So the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund commissioned the leftist editor of the leftist Guardian – and she came up with a leftist rant against Messrs Abbott and Trump et al which was bereft of evidence. Can You Bear It?

[Er no. Not really. But pray tell me – where can Hendo go to get a grant to fund a rant? It might keep him off the Gin & Tonics – MWD Editor.]


Barney Zwartz – who was The Age’s  religion editor from 2002 to 2013 – has been a George Pell antagonist for decades.  In fact, he was one of the original media members of the Pell pile-on.  So it came as no surprise , then, when the Pell antagonists at The Age commissioned your man Zwartz to review The Case of George Pell: Reckoning with Child Sexual Abuse by Clergy (Scribe) written by Pell-antagonist Melissa Davey.

As MWD readers are well aware, Ms Davey’s original title for her tome was “A Fair Trial” – the manuscript was based on the assumption that Cardinal Pell’s appeal to the High Court of Australia against five convictions for historical child sexual assault would be dismissed. The Guardian’s  reporter was hopelessly wrong – the High Court quashed the conviction in a 7 to zip unanimous decision.

What to do?  Well, change the title and make a few alterations here and there – and press the print button. Or something like that.  And hope that a Pell-antagonist here or there will review the book favourably and all the work will not have been in vain.

In recent times, Barney Zwartz has described Pell  as having “surely reached the nadir of human disgrace” (27 February 2019) and declared that Pell’s “legacy…is a sad one of shame and failure” (9 May 2020).  So it came as no surprise that your man Zwartz did his best to praise Ms Davey’s book in The Age last Saturday – not to bury it.

Even so, Zwartz wrote that the reader does not know what the author is trying to achieve until they get to Page 391 (out of 423 pages).  And Comrade Zwartz reckons that while The Case of George Pell “has many strengths” he “can’t help feeling that it could have been much more”.  So the Case of George Pell got a bare pass – a plodder’s 52 per cent or some such – even though assessed by an anti-Pell comrade-in-arms.

But MWD’s  favourite take from the review is this.  In his Age review, Zwartz criticised Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven who defended Cardinal Pell before and after the High Court decision.  Zwartz alleges that Dr Craven’s “blunt bias led to a revolt among many of his university staff”.

There was no “revolt” at the Australian Catholic University – Comrade Zwartz just made this up.  All that happened is that a trade union representative wrote an angry letter to the ACU’s chancellor demanding that something-must-be-done (in the words of Edward VIII, in another context) about the ACU’s vice-chancellor with respect to his defence of Pell after his conviction.  It was a bit like the Kim Jong-Il/Hans Blix scene from the film Team America. In other words, the union wrote an “angry letter” to the ACU’s chancellor which came to naught. Moreover, in time, Pell’s conviction was quashed in the High Court – which validated Professor Craven’s criticism.

And the Pell antagonist Zwartz accuses Dr Craven of “bias”. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  Perhaps The Age’s  religion editor (rtd) has one of those problems identified in your man Matthew’s Gospel 7:5 “Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye: and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”  Just a thought. I’m sure you will appreciate that I’ve used the Douay translation. MWD Editor.]


Due to enormous popular demand, MWD has decided to report – in a formalised way – on the journalists who are supporting Victorian Labor Premier Dan Andrews who is currently presiding over the greatest social/health disaster in Australian history.


You’ve heard the one about the dog who did not bark – by Sherlock Holmes out of Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “The Adventure of Silver Blaze”.  Well, what about the journalists who did not ask a key question?

As Media Watch Dog readers know, Norman (“Please call me doctor although I no longer practise medicine”) Swan is an ABC fave.  Ever since the arrival of COVID-19 and all that, your man Swan has been on ABC TV and ABC Radio and his ABC Podcast every morning, every night and frequently during the day – telling governments, the medical profession and more besides about what they SHOULD do concerning the virus.  Sure, many of Dr Swan’s prophecies have been hopelessly wrong – but this is something which is not talked about on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. After all, Dr Swan is an ABC employee and ABC types make lotsa false predictions – remember Brexit, Donald J. Trump, Scott Morrison etc.

On Monday, Swan was the doctor in the ABC house (yet again) on ABC TV’s News Breakfast program. He was interviewed by the Swan-adoring Lisa Millar and the Swan-adoring Michael Rowland.

As avid readers will be aware, Comrade Rowland has been a strong defender of the handling of the pandemic by Victorian Labor premier Dan (“call me Daniel”) Andrews.  Despite the fact that Victoria’s quarantine system failed on Mr Andrews’ watch and its testing and tracking systems have proven to be inadequate. Let’s go to the transcript:

Lisa Millar: What about this idea that New South Wales is the gold standard of how it’s dealt with it all?

Norman Swan: New South Wales isn’t the gold standard. New South Wales is lucky. New South Wales got down to low levels of circulating virus, and one or two cases came in from Victoria and spread. And yes, it’s been a problem – and they’ve managed to get on top of it. But when you’ve only got a few cases, then you can actually deploy your contact tracing system more effectively.

I think it’s also true, though, that in New South Wales and Queensland, they’ve got a much more ground-based public health system than Victoria. Just remember, in 2009 – I know Victorians hate when I start saying this – in 2009, during the flu pandemic, Victoria stopped testing. They stopped testing because their public health system couldn’t cope with it. And not a lot was invested after that in the Victorian system. So, they’re playing catch up….

So The Swan contradicted The Swan in the interview.  NSW has not just been “lucky” about COVID-19. It has a much more grounded public health system than Victoria.

And then there was Norman Swan’s unchallenged assertion that in 2009, during the H1N1 Flu epidemic, Victoria stopped virus testing since the Victorian public health system could not cope. How hopeless is that?

And who, MWD hears you cry, was the Victorian Health Minister in 2009?  Why – it was none other than Daniel Andrews who held the position of Minister for Health between 2007 and 2010. Labor was out of office until 2014 when Mr Andrews returned to the Victorian government as premier.

Did Michael Rowland or Lisa Millar ask The Swan to tell viewers who was the Victorian Health Minister when the State’s testing system collapsed – and who did not repair it during almost six years as premier?  Not on your nelly.


While on the topic of Michael Rowland/Daniel Andrews virus bromance – here’s the BIG QUESTION which Comrade Rowland did not choose to ask NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on News Breakfast on Wednesday:

Michael Rowland: [Daniel Andrews is] copping it from all quarters at the moment – do you sympathise with Daniel Andrews?

Gladys Berejiklian: Absolutely. Because –

Michael Rowland: [Interrupting] Is the Federal government pile-on on him, and that’s clearly what it is, is that unnecessary – is that unseemly in your view?

Gladys Berejiklian: No, look I do feel – there are things that we know are working when you’re managing a pandemic. And in NSW we know what works…

Premier Berejiklian explained why the NSW health system has been relatively successful in handling COVID-19, so far at least.  But Comrade Rowland was not really interested in NSW – as can be judged by the next question.

Michael Rowland: Okay, but should the critics lay off Daniel Andrews? He’s got a tough enough time as it is in Melbourne.

Gladys Berejiklian: Look I think, I think all of us, I’d be the last one to criticise him because I have a lot of empathy for what he’s going through. But …I think it’s appropriate… it’s extremely appropriate for people to express their views on what they think works, and what doesn’t work….

It sure is. It’s called political debate.

But your man Rowland seems to believe that Premier Andrews has been subjected to a Morrison government “pile-on” which is “unseemly” and that his critics should “lay off”.  And your man Rowland is one of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s leading presenters.


And then there is former ABC Radio Melbourne 774 presenter Jon Faine who now writes a column for The Age in Melbourne.   No surprise there.  Nor is there any surprise that your man Faine supports the Victorian COVID-19 lockdown (including an 8 pm to 5 am curfew), which is one of the most stringent in the world.

MWD readers will recall Comrade Faine’s (embarrassing) Age column of 17 August titled “Once upon a pandemic” which commenced: “Now children sit quietly and don’t fidget”. He told a story about COVID-19 in Victoria starring “Duke Dan” who has “been chosen by Victoria to be their protector”. Groan.  Somehow your man Faine managed to get Baron Donald (Donald Trump, get it?) into his Victorian fairy-tale and well and truly bagged the US president.

On Monday there was more of the same in Jon Faine’s Age column this time titled “Don’t listen to the naysayers, Dan”. This is how your man Faine’s (most recent) fairy-tale commenced:

The past 48 hours have seen a relentless, short-sighted, reckless and self-interested bullying of Premier Dan Andrews. Thankfully he shows little sign of bowing to the media and corporate pile-on. As is abundantly clear, unless you were choosing not to listen, the Andrews government has reluctantly adopted the least-worst option for Victoria.

How about that?  Comrade Rowland reckons that Premier Andrews is the victim of a Commonwealth government pile-on. And Comrade Faine reckons he’s also the victim of a “media and corporate pile-on”. Despite this, the ABC and Nine Newspapers contain many a financial member of the “Dan’s Our Man” fan club.  Also, the leading Melbourne leftist luvvie – aka Jon Faine –  reckons that it is “abundantly clear” that Premier Andrews’ policy about handling the virus is correct. So Andrews’ critics should shut up, it seems.

In his defence of the Victorian premier, Jon Faine wrote about all sorts of matters which have nothing to do with COVID-19.  Oh, yes – he also maintained that “the fundamentals of the Victorian economy are unchanged”. Really. Comrade Faine’s most recent fairy-tale concluded as follows:

Victoria and Melbourne are more than an economy. We are a society and a community. We do not measure our success or failure only according to a balance sheet. To seek to measure our wellbeing by economics alone is to misunderstand everything that this community has become. That those interests are dominating the debate is a sign of their muscle and media savvy, but not their deep connection to the people. Victorians are far more resilient than that.

Such a comment could only be written by an inner-city luvvie on a taxpayer funded superannuation pension who has no idea of what it’s like to have lost a business or a job due to government intervention.  And The Age pays your man Faine to lecture Victorians.

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Until next time.

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