ISSUE – NO. 519

23 October 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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Did anyone watch (boring) 7.30 last night?  If so – you would not have missed the segment titled “Inside the Australian Performing Arts Collection”.  It was produced by Laura Kewley – two members of the Performing Arts Centre spoke about their work in preserving Australia’s cultural history.  It was interesting enough in a cultural kind of way – but hardly news or current affairs.

Early on, viewers (if viewers there were) were advised that the segment had been filmed before the COVID-19 social distancing requirements were introduced.  This was to justify the fact that the Performing Arts Centre staff were less than 1.5 metres apart during the filming.

In other words, the segment was obviously filmed – wait for it – over six months ago before social distancing requirements were introduced.  Suitable for, say, the History Channel – but hardly suitable for 7.30. Unless it had nothing else to run last night – which should not be the case with an organisation that gets over $1 billion a year.


There’s nothing quite like Network 10’s The Project for a gathering of the left – as the privately funded left commercial media meets the publicly funded left public broadcaster.

And so it came to pass on The Project last night as ABC’s John Barron responded to a  question from Peter Helliar – and then Waleed Aly joined in the one-sided discussion:

John Barron: So it’s hard to see it [voter intimidation] having any particular impact on the [presidential] race itself. But it does play into this narrative that there are nefarious things going on. And Americans are already worried about the conduct of this election – not in any small part, because their President has been sowing a lot of the discord. Because we have to remember that the field was tilled and fertilised for years by Donald Trump, trying to sow doubt. And now the Russians and the Iranians and maybe the Chinese and the North Koreans are all capitalising on it. But Donald Trump is the Super Spreader of Misinformation-in-Chief.

Waleed Aly: But also of the undermining of the democratic process in the sense that if he loses, the whole election can be called into question. Do you think this becomes part of that overall narrative?

John Barron: It’s going to become very, very messy if this is a close election. Right now, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a close election. It looks like it could be quite an easy win for Joe Biden in just under two weeks from now…

So there you have it.  John Barron, who co-presents the supposedly objective Planet  America on ABC TV, maintains that President Donald J. Trump is the Super-Spreader-of-Misinformation-In-Chief.  More so than the leaders of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea combined – it seems. And your man Barron is presented by ABC management as the ABC’s expert on matters America. Meanwhile Waleed Aly reckons that President Trump is busy undermining the democratic process. It seems that The Project is attempting to be more left than the ABC.

MWD Exclusive


The following item could have been placed anywhere – if you know what Media Watch Dog means. It could have made it into MWD’s hugely popular “Can You Bear It?”  segment. Or perhaps “Media Fawner of the Week”. But it’s ended up as a “MWD Exclusive”.

But first, a qualification.  Last week’s MWD Exclusive was not really an Exclusive at all – although MWD last Friday certainly popularised the issue.  As avid readers will recall, MWD gave big coverage last Friday to the tweet by ABC TV 7.30’s  Laura Tingle – the ABC’s chief political correspondent – that Prime Minister Scott Morrison is into “ideological bastardry” and is “smug”.  The late night tweet was soon deleted.  MWD received and published a screen shot of the tweet from an avid Melbourne reader.  But it turns out that La Tingle’s tweet was referred to briefly in Chris Kenny’s column in The Australian on 12 October.  But MWD digresses.

Many thanks to the locked down Melbourne reader who drew attention to this Twitter comment by Sophie Scott – the ABC’s national medical reporter – concerning Victorian Labor premier Daniel Andrews.  You see, Comrade Andrews of the Socialist Left put out this fetching pic of himself as a young school boy wearing a skivvie – which inspired Ms Scott to throw the switch to “I-stand-with-Dan” mode – shortly after dinner last Monday:

It seems that Sophie Scott’s Fawn Again tweet has been deleted.  Which is a pity because it provides a wonderful example of the journalist as fawner.

Look at it this way.  Around 95 per cent of COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 related deaths in Australia have occurred in Victoria on Premier Andrews’ watch.  This is primarily due to Victoria’s decision to use private security operators to oversee hotel quarantine –  instead of Victoria Police.  Also Victoria declined the Commonwealth government’s offer to provide members of the Australian Defence Force to assist in quarantine procedures.

The Andrews government is in such a state of confusion that the Premier has set up the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry to establish how he and key members of his government brought about a situation whereby the virus escaped from hotels with devastating effects on Australia in general and Victoria in particular.

This appears to be the first time in Australian history where a government has set up an inquiry to find out what it did.  Yet the ABC’s national medical reporter’s contribution to the debate this week was to thank Daniel Andrews “for fronting up each day and being present”.

The reference is to the laborious and time-wasting media conferences Premier Andrews presides over each day – despite the fact that he has no idea why he is there. Look at it this way.  Without the COVID-19 bungle, Mr Andrews would not be fronting daily media conferences.  But Sophie Scott wants to thank the man (who was once a boy who wore a skivvie) for just fronting up to media conferences to discuss something for which he is responsible.

Can You Bear It?


MWD hopes that readers are familiar with the trade union tactic of “No ticket – no start”.  The enforcement of this rule ensures that only trade union members – who pay levies to trade union bosses – can get employment in a certain industry or profession.

It seems that some ex-journalists and journalists may want to introduce the no ticket – no start journalism by fiat or by psychological pressure.  Including Denis Muller (of Melbourne University’s Centre for Advancing Journalism) and Chip Le Grand (of Nine Newspapers’ The Age).

Writing in Nine Newspapers The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald  on Monday, Dr Muller (for a doctor he is) concluded his confused piece as follows:

Credlin’s presence at the Andrews press conference must be tolerated in the interests of a free press, but it changes the dynamics of those occasions by introducing a politically inspired combativeness that is otherwise absent.

And any journalistic good it does is tainted by the breaking of those professional promises and by its association with “Sky at Night”, the antithesis of what journalism is about.

The reference was to the recent appearances at Victoria’s Daniel Andrews’ daily media conferences by Sky News presenter Peta Credlin.  Comrade Muller’s point was that Australians must tolerate – just tolerate – Credlin’s appearances at media conferences but that her involvement in Sky News’ Credlin program is “the antithesis of what journalism is about”.

What a load of absolute tosh.  Journalism is journalism.  And the fact is – as Muller himself acknowledges – that the Sky News presenter asked highly pertinent questions to Daniel Andrews concerning his government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.  That’s journalism – whoever asks the questions at media conferences.

The fact is that Sky News, The Australian and the Herald-Sun have reported the pandemic in Victoria very well – despite the reluctance of the Victorian Premier and his advisers to answer questions. The Age has had one competent reporter on the job but the ABC has done poorly – especially its leading current affairs program 7.30 which totally avoided the issue on a couple of crucial days of the COVID-19 Hospital Quarantine Inquiry.

According to your man Muller, Credlin is an “ideological warrior” who has broken an “axiom of professional journalism that news reporting and commentary should be kept separate.”.  That’s all very well – but he has not demonstrated one unprofessional question that Credlin addressed to the Premier. Moreover, when has The Age or the Sydney Morning Herald or the ABC ever, in recent years, drawn a line between news reporting and commentary? They are the embodiment of left-of-centre journalism.

And then there is The Age’s Chip Le Grand – who tweeted this on 15 October:

So that is Comrade Le  Grand’s (very Age) response.  Peta Credlin in a couple of days has done more to get answers from Premier Andrews than virtually all the Age  (including Comrade Le Grand)  and ABC journalists have done in six months. And  Comrade Le Grand reckons that Mr Andrews would be in his right to tell her to “bugger off”. Can You Bear It?


Media Watch Dog likes to present itself as a kind of virtual psychologist’s couch where avid readers can lie down (virtually, of course) and express their exasperations with the leftist media.  According to reports conducted by Jackie’s (male) co-owner, a download to MWD in these stress-inducing Pandemic Times leads to a reduction in self-medication – until, thank God, Gin & Tonic Time arrives.

Thanks to avid reader Bill T. of locked down Melbourne – he used to present himself as ABC’s Southbank reporter, when he was allowed to walk in Southbank – who sent in this stress-reducing email yesterday at 8 am.  Just after watching the ABC TV News Breakfast program (presenters Michael Rowland and Lisa Millar) between 7.35 am and 7.50 am. Here it is:

I’ve been avoiding watching “News Brekkie” for a few weeks but tuned in briefly this morning, during 7:35-7:50, to catch an interview with Dem US Rep Joe Courtney, spruiking Joe Biden, a video clip of Barack Obama, spruiking Joe Biden, a chat with Aussie stand-up comic, Vikesh Anand, whose background as a stutterer gave their ABC another chance to spruik Joe Biden & then a clip of the new Borat flick, which gave their ABC a chance to bag Rudy Giuliani – “Donald Trump’s lawyer”! What a non-stop anti-Trump or pro-Biden cavalcade!

Michael Rowland also found time to announce that he’s off to the US shortly to cover the election for their ABC – as if there aren’t enough taxpayer-funded ABC talking heads over there already!


Bill T

MWD feels Bill T’s pain. On Wednesday, News Breakfast ran a segment on how Michael Steele, former president of the Republican National Congress, was not going to vote for Donald Trump on 3 November but instead would vote for the Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden. Quelle Surprise!

Sure it was Breakfast. But not really News.  A soft interview by Michael Rowland failed to elicit the fact that Michael Steele did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016 either. He’s a Republican Never-Trumper, you see.  Also he’s an active member of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project.

Also the ABC’s self-appointed Southbank Correspondent has a point. The ABC is invariably claiming that it is bereft of money. However the ABC, on MWD’s count, already has five reporters in the United States.  Namely Kathryn Diss (North America Correspondent), David Lipson (US bureau chief), Phil Williams, Greg Jennett – soon to be re-enforced by Sarah Ferguson. And ABC management has decided that Mr Rowland should also go to Washington to add another Trump antagonist to its US bureau despite the fact that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster complains that it can’t get by on $1 billion a year.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of ABC funding, readers will recall last week’s Twitter rant by Laura Tingle about Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s (alleged) “ideological bastardry” which is covered in this week’s Exclusive.  La Tingle was upset with the fact that intrepid ABC reporter Philippa McDonald has taken a redundancy from the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  Many private sector journalists have lost their jobs this year – without the benefit of a taxpayer funded redundancy pay out.  But that’s another story of not much interest to those on the public payroll.

In his “Media Diary” in The Australian on Monday, Nick Tabakoff revealed that – apparently unknown to Laura Tingle – the ABC is currently recruiting staff.  As your man Tabakoff put it:

Diary’s trawl through the ABC careers portal on Friday found no fewer than 24 jobs advertised — 18 of them in Sydney. Not an obvious sign of an organisation in full cutting mode.

Certainly, there have been plenty of jobs advertised in recent months…. The jobs available rose last week, and ranged from a chief of staff for the ABC’s Asia-Pacific newsroom to a news and digital producer for 7.30, and several reporting roles. There have also been many top-level ABC executives hired since the start of September, well after the ABC in June started telling staff they were to be made redundant.

In the past six weeks alone, the ABC has unveiled Jennifer Collins as head of factual and culture, Lee Glendinning, a former Guardian executive editor, to lead delivery of regional and local content, and ex-BBC Studios executive Roberta Allan as head of content distribution. None come cheap.

Just what the left-of-centre ABC needs.  More staff from the left-of-centre Guardian and more left-of-centre BBC types.  As to the ABC replacing ABC’s head of factual – since when has the ABC been interested in presenting facts?  Can You Bear It?


As last week’s “What a Coincidence” segment documented, cartoons by The Australian’s Johannes Leak were not examined by Mike Bowers on his “Talking Pictures” segment of the ABC TV Insiders program in 2020.  Until MWD drew attention to this fact – and the first Leak cartoon for the year was discussed on 4 October.  What a coincidence – as the saying goes.

Michael Bowers – The Guardian’s photographer at large – presents “Talking Pictures” each week. Insiders  relies a lot on left-of-centre  Guardian types – including Guardian editor Lenore Taylor and Guardian political editor Katharine Murphy, neither of whom has yet told viewers why they did not declare that Malcolm Turnbull was not only responsible for this leftist newspaper coming into Australia but also that he recommended them for the positions they currently hold. [Good point. You haven’t raised this for at least a month. – MWD Editor.]

Guess what? Your man Bowers chose another Leak cartoon last Sunday – the second for the year.  Let’s go to the transcript as Comrade Bowers spoke to ABC Triple J’s Shalailah Medhora – confirming the ABC’s status as a Conservative Free Zone:

Mike Bowers: We spend a lot of time talking about the state of politics but this week it was all about the politics of the States, wasn’t it? As both Victoria and NSW had their leaders in sort of – pressure, I think you’d say.

Shalailah Medhora: What a state the States are in.

Mike Bowers: Johannes Leak has got Gladys [Berejiklian] in a very slim canoe here – I think she’s paddling the poo canoe to Turd Town as she goes up Badgery’s Creek –  which is the second airport in Sydney which we seem to have paid a lot of money for.

Shalailah Medhora: Very expensive. And not a paddle in sight, poor Gladys. She’s using her hands.

Mike Bowers: In very brown water. What did you make of all the findings? I mean gosh, right?

Shalailah Medhora: Every day something new…

Which was about it as far as Johannes Leak was concerned. None of his cartoons about Victorian Labor premier Daniel Andrews got a showing. But two other cartoons about NSW Coalition premier Gladys Berejiklian by John Shakespeare and David Rowe got a run.  There was also a cartoon about a dead rat (John Kudelka) along with a couple about the need for a federal anti-corruption agency (David Pope, Fiona Katauskas).  But that was about it.  It was a case of “Don’t talk about Dan Andrews” – despite the fact that Mike Bowers promised viewers that the segment would look at the pressure on the leaders of both NSW and Victoria.

So Johannes Leak got a second run in “Talking Pictures”. But his clever cartoons on the Victorian premier, whom he calls “Chairman Dan”, were censored once again. Can You Bear it?


Johannas Leak cartoon 1

What Talking Pictures showed viewers re Gladys Berejiklian

What Talking Pictures DID NOT show viewers of Daniel Andrews



On Monday 19 October the ABC’s resident COVID-19 expert Dr Norman Swan made an appearance on RN Breakfast to discuss the ongoing COVID situation in Victoria with presenter Geraldine Doogue:

Geraldine Doogue: Now, before we get to the measures announced on the weekend – Victoria recorded just two cases yesterday, and one on Saturday. Now, can you say, do you believe the COVID curve has been smashed?

Norman Swan: Oh, absolutely. I mean, Victoria has done an amazing job. And I was looking at the international data. And I thought, you know, because on Coronacast [Dr Swan’s COVID-focused podcast] we’re getting a few questions in, “has anybody done this equally well?”.

And I thought, well, Singapore probably did it better because they had that outbreak in the dormitory. If we actually look at the daily numbers in the second wave in Singapore, it never got to 700. And even in South Korea, when they had with that religious group, the outbreak there, that got to 300 or 400. And they got they did get it down. So, I can’t see anywhere in the world that’s actually done as well as Victoria to get it down from up at 700 where it was continuing to go.

Well Norman Swan claims he was looking at the international data and yet seems to have gotten some basic facts about Singapore’s handling of COVID-19 wrong. Both Victoria and Singapore’s second waves peaked in early August; below is a chart showing daily case numbers since the beginning of August:

Dr Swan claims that Singapore never got to 700 cases in a day. In fact, it peaked at over 900 on 6 August, over 200 cases higher than Victoria’s highest daily total on 4 August. He went on to say that he can’t see anywhere in the world that has done as well as Victoria in descending from such a high peak. But, as the chart shows, Singapore had a much sharper decline in daily case numbers. The result is that Victoria has had around 9,500 cases since the beginning of August whereas Singapore has only had around 6,100.

The numbers are even more stark when looking at COVID related deaths. Since the beginning of August, Victoria has had almost 700 deaths from COVID-19. Singapore has had 1. Yes, you read that right – one single death. And yet Dr Swan believes that nowhere has done as well as Victoria in “smashing” the curve. Turn it up.



As avid readers are aware, it took the ABC over a week to cover the international story that Cardinal George Pell’s opponents within the Vatican had forwarded € 700,000 to Australia – allegedly to encourage complaints against Pell prior to when he was charged in 2017 with historical child sexual abuse. The matter was (eventually) covered on ABC Radio National’s The Religion and Ethics Report on 7 October.  And later on ABC TV’s 7.30 program on 13 October.   It never made it to ABC news bulletins.

On Tuesday (20 October), AUSTRAC Chief Executive Nicole Rose told a Senate Estimates Committee that AUSTRAC had provided information to the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police on this issue. On Thursday (22 October) Dennis Shanahan reported in The Australian that  Vatican prosecutors are investigating unauthorised transfers including additional payments sent to Australia between December 2017 and June 2018. Also, the Australian Federal Police has advised that it “has currently referred aspects of this matter to the Victorian Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission”.

Meanwhile it is timely to look at the comments by the Rome correspondents who appeared on The Religion and Ethics Report (Joshua McElwee) and 7.30 (Christopher Lamb).  They both made errors about the Pell case which were not corrected by ABC interviewers.


This is how presenter Andrew West introduced the segment titled “Did a former Vatican official pay a bribe to tilt the George Pell trial?” on ABC Radio National’s The Religion and Ethics Report on 7 October 2020:

Andrew West: Could a former Vatican official have paid more than a million dollars to tilt the 2018 sexual abuse trial against Cardinal George Pell? In April, the High Court unanimously overturned Cardinal Pell’s conviction and he’s back in Rome. But extraordinary allegations have now appeared in the Italian press against Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

Two weeks ago, Pope Francis sacked Becciu for alleged financial misdeeds. Unnamed circles now claim he funnelled 700,000 euros to Australian bank accounts to influence the trial. Becciu denies any interference. The lawyer for Cardinal Pell’s accuser says her client never received any money. But George Pell’s former barrister, Robert Richter, wants an investigation into the claims.

Joshua McElwee is Rome correspondent for the independent newspaper, The National Catholic Reporter. He’s been following the intrigue.

MWD has no opinion as to whether the allegation is true or not but supports the view that an investigation is warranted – preferably by someone outside Victoria.

What was interesting is that The Religion and Ethics Report  invited Joshua McElwee to be the commentator on this matter. The National Catholic Reporter’s  Rome correspondent is not in the Pell camp – rather he is a bit of a Becciu supporter.

How does MWD know this?  Here’s how.  On 28 September 2020 Joshua J. McElwee reviewed the book by Pell antagonist Melissa Davey titled The Case of George Pell (Scribe Publications, 2020).  As MWD readers are aware, Melissa Davey’s book originally was to be titled “A Fair Trial” – since The Guardian’s Melbourne bureau chief assumed that the High Court would uphold the jury’s verdict and dismiss the appeal.  When the High Court of Australia decided by seven to zero to uphold Pell’s appeal, Davey and her publisher changed the title of the book. However, readers of Melissa Davey’s turgid writing style who manage to wade their way through the book – like walking through wet cement – would know that the author still believes that Pell is guilty as charged.

This is what McElwee tweeted about his review of The Case of George Pell on 28 September 2020:

So according to the NCR’s Rome correspondent, an unnamed lawyer has a more authoritative view on the Pell Case than all seven judges of the High Court of Australia along with that of Justice Mark Weinberg (perhaps Australia’s most qualified criminal jurist who dissented in the Victorian Court of Appeal and whose dissenting judgment was essentially agreed with by the High Court).

There are some errors in McElwee’s review. First, it was the prosecution, not the defence, that initiated the request that Pell’s trial and retrial not be reported in the media. Second, Melissa Davey did not cover the trials “blow-by-blow” as McElwee unintentionally implied since no journalists were allowed to view the complainant’s  video testimony.  The reviewer is aware of this – but believes the author’s claim that she was briefed about the complainant’s demeanour by unnamed “lawyers”. McElwee wrote:

The journalists who attended the 2018 court proceedings were not allowed to be present in the courtroom for the alleged victim’s testimony and cross-examination. Davey, however, sharply rebuts commentators, such as Jesuit Fr. Frank Brennan, who claimed the man presented “confused” testimony.

“In the conversations that occurred between journalists and lawyers in the corridors of the courthouse, I never heard anyone who’d been present during the complainant’s testimony say that he had performed badly,” states Davey. “Instead, the complainant was described as ‘compelling’ and ‘honest.’ “

Under Victorian law it is illegal for legal counsel – for the prosecution or the defence – to discuss the personal testimony of a complainant in a sexual abuse case.  Robert Richter QC, Pell’s defence counsel, has always held the view that his client is innocent so he could not be Davey’s source. So Melissa Davey is asking readers to believe that prosecution lawyers discussed with her the complainant’s demeanour in giving evidence.  MWD does not accept that such “lawyers” would have broken the law in this way. It’s more likely that the author just made this up.

Frank Brennan has refuted the criticism of him in Davey’s book.  Fr Brennan’s response is published in the correspondence section of the National Catholic Reporter on 9 October 2020 – see here.

McElwee concedes, in his review, that “at points Davey’s book is somewhat laborious reading”. As previously mentioned, it sure is.  But he concludes his review with this point:

As for the jury’s original verdict, Davey leaves the reader with a very uncomfortable question in her chapter on Pell’s ultimate acquittal. She quotes lawyer and La Trobe University law professor Gideon Boas: “I’ve heard it said a lot in this case, ‘How could the jury get it so wrong when the High Court decided unanimously it was an unreasonable verdict?’ My response is: ‘what’s to say the High Court had it right?’ “

This is not an “uncomfortable question”. Rather it is an uncomfortable answer.  Davey, obviously, believes that Pell is guilty despite the High Court and all that.  So she found a La Trobe University professor, who is a practising barrister, who asked: “What’s to say the High Court had it right?”  However, there are many lawyers who believe that the High Court got it right.  Not one is cited in this book.

For the record, on 29 June 2017 Melissa Davey had a story in The Guardian titled “Cardinal Pell will receive fair trial in Australian court, legal expert says”.  This is how it commenced:

There is nothing to suggest Cardinal George Pell won’t get a fair trial when he faces sexual assault allegations before an Australian court, international legal expert Professor Gideon Boas, has said.

This is a controversial statement – in view of the hostile media coverage to which Pell had been subjected to for many years in the lead-up to his trial.  Including in The Guardian and on the ABC.

The evidence suggests that Joshua J McElwee knows little about the Pell case or of the hostility to Pell by many Australian journalists – including the leftist Guardian’s Melissa Davey.  For example, in his interview with Andrew West, McElwee stated that money could not have been sent from the Vatican to the Pell complainants. Let’s go to the transcript:

Joshua McElwee:  I’m very sceptical about this report.  I mean the first hurdle for me would be no one knows the name of the alleged victim in Cardinal Pell’s case.  So it would be hard for me to believe that someone at the Vatican would be able to find out that information and then be able to send that person money.

This statement is naïve and incorrect. The name of Pell’s accuser is known within legal and Church circles in Australia.  For example, the name of “A” (as he was referred to in the High Court and the Victorian Court of Appeal) was inadvertently given by the counsel for the DPP in the Victorian Court of Appeal hearing.  All present in the court would have heard the name. Also many of his supporters are well known.  In any event, no one has suggested that any money went direct from the Vatican to the complainant – Mr McElwee appears to have just made this up.


This is how the 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales introduced the segment on George Pell which aired on Tuesday 13 October 2020:

Leigh Sales, Presenter:  From 2014, Cardinal George Pell held one of the Catholic Church’s most senior roles – overseeing the Vatican’s considerable finances. When Australian detectives charged him in 2017 with historic child sex offences Pell was working to reform the way the church handles its money.

Now unsubstantiated rumours have emerged that one of Pell’s enemies in the church, an opponent of his financial reforms, embezzled church funds and tried to bribe witnesses in the Pell trial. It has emerged as part of an independent investigation into the Vatican’s books and both Pell’s defenders and supporters of his accusers who deny the claims, say it warrants further investigation.

Christopher Lamb is the Rome correspondent for the Catholic publication, The Tablet.

Leigh Sales: Christopher, what can you tell us about the allegations that Cardinal Angelo Becciu sent money to Australia to pay witnesses against George Pell? What’s the source of that rumour?

Christopher Lamb, Rome Correspondent, The Tablet: Well, it is not clear yet where this rumour has come from and it is, at this point, a theory. There is no evidencing or sourcing to these claims and they seem extremely far-fetched.

Now, Cardinal Becciu has been accused of a number of things including embezzlement and nepotism, all of which he denies, but he is not accused of being stupid. And I think that if he were to have tried to intervene in Australian justice in this way, it would have been an act of crass stupidity which is very unlike him and the timing of when these payments were supposed to be made to witnesses just doesn’t fit with what was going on in Australia in terms of the police investigation. That police investigation started many years before these claims that payments were made.

It’s interesting to note that the British commentator Damian Thompson has described Christopher Lamb as a “former Becciu sycophant” – see  Twitter @holysmoke, 13 October 2020.

It’s understandable that the English-born Rome correspondent for The Tablet is not fully-up-to-speed on the Pell Case.  But Leigh Sales, who has been following the case for a decade, should know key facts about the case – as should 7.30’s producer Justin Stevens.

Christopher Lamb is obviously unaware that Victoria Police set up what was termed “Operation Tethering” to investigate Cardinal George Pell in March 2013 – a year before any complainant came forward. The source is sworn evidence given by Victoria Police during The Police v George Pell committal hearing in the Victorian Magistrates’ Court in March 2018.  This information is publicly available to anyone willing to do the necessary research – including Ms Sales and Mr Stevens.

The fact is that the complainant/complainants in what was termed the Cathedral Trial and the proposed Swimming Pool Trial (which the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped before the trial commenced) went to Victoria Police around 2015-2016.

Cardinal Pell commenced work at the Vatican as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014 where he clashed with Cardinal Becciu.

In other words, Christopher Lamb’s claim on 7.30 was misleading.  Sure, Victoria Police’s investigation into George Pell commenced before the Pell/Becciu conflict.  But the complainant went to Victoria Police after the Pell/Becciu conflict commenced.

MWD has drawn this howler to the attention of 7.30 executive producer Justin Stevens, 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales and Christopher Lamb. No one replied to, or even acknowledged, Christopher Lamb’s error.  As it is said – being a journalist means never having to say you’re wrong.


In the meantime MWD awaits the production of evidence before forming a firm view on the allegation.  It’s a pity that the likes of Messrs McElwee and Lamb are not so empirically focused.



For Essendon Football Club tragics, 1950 is a year to remember.  Sure it’s 70 years since Essendon won that Victorian Football League (now Australian Football League) Grand Final – defeating North Melbourne.  The date was Saturday 23 September 1950 and the match was held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.  As MWD readers will know only too well, the 2020 Grand Final will be held tomorrow at the Brisbane Cricket Ground – due to the fact that Melbourne is in COVID-19 Pandemic lockdown.

Sure, readers may be of the view that this segment is somewhat self-indulgent.  In which case – MWD pleads guilty.  Essendon’s last premiership was in 2000 and the next one – considering the way the team is performing now – could be half a century away. After all, it’s 56 years since Melbourne’s last premiership in 1964.

An estimated 88,000 fans attended the 1950 Grand Final.  In those days, before ticketing, fans were allowed to sit in between the oval fence and the boundary line – which severely restricted play near the boundary line and was soon abandoned.

1950 was the last time Essendon won until 1962 – a gap of 12 years.  For the record, 1951 was a “we-was-robbed” occasion for Essendon since star full-forward John Coleman was unreasonably suspended in the last round of the home-and-away series in a game against Carlton at Princes Park and not able to participate  in the finals.  Gerard Henderson explained the trauma of the occasion in his essay “John Coleman & The Ghosts Of Princes Park” in Ross Fitzgerald’s edited collection Heartfelt Moments in Australian Rules Football (Connor Court, 2016).  But that’s another story.

Here’s the 1950 scoreboard:

September 23 – Grand Final

1st Quarter2nd Quarter3rd QuarterFinal Quarter
ESS     7.37.610.1113.14 (92)
NM (54)

Umpire: Jack McMurray Jnr

According to the 2002 edition of The Complete Book of AFL Finals by Graeme Atkinson, Essendon’s best players and goal kickers were as follows:

Best Players: McDonald (Best on Ground), Reynolds, May, McClure, Syme, Gardiner.

Goal Kickers: Coleman (4), Reynolds (2), Syme (2), Hutchinson, McEwin, Dale, Harper, Snell.

Unfortunately, The Complete Book of AFL Finals  contains several errors concerning members of the Essendon Team. For example, Alan Dale is excluded and one footballer who never played for Essendon is included.  Here is the correct version.

Essendon Grand Final Team 1950

BacksLes GardinerBill BrittinghamWally May
Half-BacksHarold LambertRoy McConnellNorm McDonald
Centre LineChris LambertAlan DaleJack Collins
Half-ForwardsJack JonesBill SnellAlbert Harper
ForwardsDick Reynolds (c)John ColemanRon McEwin
RucksBob McClureBob Syme 
RoverBill Hutchinson  
ReservesTed LeehaneNoel Allanson 
CoachDick Reynolds  

Dick Reynolds was the captain-coach.  Young Hendo’s heroes around this time were, in no particular order, Wally May, Norm McDonald, John Coleman and Bill Hutchinson.  Coleman coached Essendon to premierships in 1962 and 1965.

Norm McDonald, an Indigenous player, had the ability to break from the back-line with tremendous speed – a practice which has become more common in recent years. He was a great finals player – featuring among the best players in Essendon’s 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1951 Grand Final sides. John Coleman was one of the best full-forwards the game has known and Bill Hutchinson was one of the best rovers.  And Wally May was just Wally May.  Dick Reynolds was a terrific player (winning three Brownlow Medals) but a poor coach in view of the talent at the club when he coached – Essendon should have won more flags.

John Coleman was assaulted by North Melbourne players on several occasions during the 1950s Grand Final but still managed to kick four goals, or 40 per cent of Essendon’s total goals – in spite of the fact that he carried an injured finger into the match.

Here’s a pic of the 1950 premiership side – taken from The Argus of Monday 25 September 1950. (The Argus published coloured photos as way back as 1950 – it went out of business in 1957). Wally May is fifth from the left in the Back Row – on his left is Jack Jones  who died recently.  Dick Reynolds is fourth from left in the Middle Row – Bill Hutchinson is sixth and Norm McDonald seventh. John Coleman is in the centre of the Front Row.

[Editor’s Note: There is some coloured footage of the 1950 Grand Final on YouTube.]


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Until next time.


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