ISSUE – NO. 522

13 November 2020

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Stop Press


The topic in today’s panel discussion  on ABC Radio National Breakfast was titled “Does politics have a ‘woman problem’”?  On the panel were Mary-Lou Jarvis (vice-president NSW Liberal Party), Pru Goward (a former NSW Liberal Party minister) and Jacqueline Maley (senior writer for the Sydney Morning Herald  and The Age).  Highlights included:

۰ Jacqueline Maley forgets Julie Bishop

The leftist Nine columnist berated the Liberal Party for its lack of female leadership in the parliament. Let’s go to the transcript:

Jacqueline Maley: …you’ve [Mary-Lou Jarvis] laid out the statistics there. And they are, I mean, they’re just not good enough. I mean, you know, in this day and age. And I think this is a particular sore spot for the government. It’s a particular sore spot for Scott Morrison. He often repeats the mantra that, you know, there are more women in his government than ever before, and more women in his cabinet than ever before. All that sort of grazing over the detail, which is that Tony Abbott didn’t have a single woman in his cabinet for a long time, they’re coming off an incredibly low bar. So you set the bar very low, and you can easily exceed it. But the fact is that the statistics are still very bad.

Sure – but not as bad as Comrade Maley’s sense of history. Comrades Maley and Macdonald forgot Julie Bishop who was foreign minister in the Abbott government and deputy Liberal Party leader.  This was later corrected by Pru Goward.

  • Hamish Macdonald Interrupts re the PM’s Interruption

Then presenter Macdonald decided to have a go at Prime Minister Scott Morrison for (allegedly) interrupting Social Security Minister Anne Ruston at a recent media conference:

Hamish Macdonald: I want to play some audio from this week. Phil Coorey from the Financial Review was asking a question after the Four Corners program of the Liberal Minister Anne Ruston. This question, as she stood by beside the Prime Minister.

Phil Coorey: As a woman in the government, your reflections on the culture inside – has it got better, worse or no change since the Bonk Ban era?

Anne Ruston: Well, Phil, the only thing I can –

Scott Morrison:  – How this ban is referred to, I think is quite dismissive of the seriousness of the issue Phil. And I would ask media to stop referring to it [as a bonk ban]

Pru Goward: Good on you.

Hamish Macdonald: There’s been a lot of reaction to the –

Pru Goward: Good on you.

Hamish Macdonald: Sorry, who’s that speaking, is that Mary-Lou?

Pru Goward: No, it’s Pru Goward saying, “good on you”. I mean, how outrageous that this [Scott Morrison’s comment to Coorey] is described in such disparaging terms. And that’s –

Hamish Macdonald: [Interjecting] Sure, you’ve made that point. But what about the way the Prime Minister interrupted Anne Ruston?  – didn’t let her actually answer.

Pru Goward: Come on Hamish. Prime ministers interrupt their ministers all the time. I’ve done many a press conference with premiers, male and female, and been, you know, had to step back because the prime minister or the premier is the top dog. Ah, so –

Hamish Macdonald: [Interjecting] But with respect, that was a question put to a female minister about what it was like being a woman in the Liberal Party, in the federal parliament –

Pru Goward: But, can I –

Hamish Macdonald: And a male colleague interrupted her to answer instead.

Pru Goward: But he [the Prime Minister] didn’t answer. He just objected to the use of that term. And then I think Anne, who’s pretty tough, Anne Ruston – I think she went on to answer the question. But look, in the, you know, the rapidity of questions and answers at a press conference, I think it’s extraordinary that you would judge a prime minister’s view on women based on the fact that he had heard that term [Bonk Ban] once too often, from – and this was from a senior journalist, and he made his objections clear….You would not, as I said before, talk about it [The Bonk Ban] in these terms, if it was the Australian Defence Force, or BHP.

Well done, Pru Goward.  And what about Hamish Macdonald?  He interrupted Ms Goward on two occasions while (falsely) complaining that Scott Morrison had interrupted Anne Ruston on one occasion.


Believe it or not, on ABC TV Breakfast this morning sports commentator Paul Kennedy whinged about how Foxtel has received a Commonwealth government grant of $10 million for broadcasting some not so well off sports. Your man Kennedy presented himself as the voice of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster (which receives government funding to the tune of $1 billion each year) objecting to taxpayer funds going to Fox Sports.  Really. Let’s go to the transcript:

Paul Kennedy: A quick one – a bit of extra reading for you this morning, a terrific story by our business reporter Dan Ziffer has just been posted online. It’s to do with the government awarding Foxtel another $10 million for its coverage of sport – and some Freedom of Information requests the ABC team, and Dan, have gone through to try and get some explanation of how that money is being spent. And it turns out, there is no detailed plan as yet for how to spend the money which has already been allocated. That’s taxpayer money. And it’s quite involved. So take a look at that, it’s really a good story – and further examination of where taxpayer money is going.

David Speers: Very curious indeed. PK, thank you very much for that.

Turn it up.  The ABC receives $1 billion a year from the Commonwealth government  – and Comrades Kennedy and Ziffer are objecting to the fact that Fox Sports has received $10 million in 2020-21, in addition to the $30 million which was announced in the 2017 budget.  This is to televise sport which the ABC chooses not to televise due to its spending on other priorities.

In his article on ABC Online posted this morning, Dan Ziffer has a gratuitous go at the Minister for Youth and Sport Richard Colbeck – who is also the Minister for Aged Care. Comrade Ziffer points out that “the overwhelming majority of the nation’s 907 coronavirus fatalities have been aged care residents” and suggests that Minister Colbeck is somehow responsible for this. Your man Ziffer did not report that over 90 per cent of COVID-19 related deaths in aged care homes have been in Victoria – due to the incompetence of Daniel Andrews’ Labor government in its handling of hotel quarantine. However, Dan Ziffer’s “terrific story”(according to Paul Kennedy) does not mention this inconvenient truth. Quelle Surprise!

[Perhaps this should have been placed in MWD’s hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment – just a thought. – MWD Editor.]



Media Watch Dog can give and take criticism.  That’s why MWD wants its Correspondence section full each week with the views of its critics.  Alas, it would seem that MWD’s critics are shy about coming forward this year – but there are still some weeks to go.  Here’s hoping for a feisty Correspondence section next week.

One problem with the ABC is that its personnel criticise others but they rarely invite any of the ABC’s critics on to its panels.  Also ABC personnel rarely respond to critical correspondence.  In other words, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has a one-way attitude to criticism – it dishes it out but cannot take it.

This week the ABC has devoted time and resources to a stepped-up criticism of Rupert Murdoch and News Corp – and the latter’s products such as Sky News, The Australian, Daily Telegraph, Herald-Sun, Courier-Mail and The Advertiser (in Adelaide).

On Sunday, in an extended edition of ABC TV’s Insiders, former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull were offered a free kick to rant at News Corp in Australia and the United States.  Then, on Monday in his analysis of the media’s coverage of the US election, ABC TV Media Watch presenter Paul Barry focused on criticising the coverage by Sky News. Then, later, on ABC TV’s Q&A, the final question (chosen by the program’s executive producer) was on News Corp – and the program ended with Malcolm Turnbull (again) ranting against The Australian’s Paul Kelly. The Insiders and Q&A instances are covered in today’s issue.

The larger point is that News Corp poses a threat to the ABC.  Not in a financial sense – since the public broadcaster receives a $1 billion hand-out from the taxpayer each year.  But, rather, in terms of viewers/listeners/readers.

Take Sky News, for example.  Its viewer numbers on the Pay TV Sky News and free to air WIN TV are low.  But Sky News has an influential following – and most of its viewers once watched ABC TV’s news and current affairs.  It’s much the same with online news.

And there’s more.  On Monday, Nine Newspapers ran an article titled “Sky’s the limit on social media” by Cam Wilson – which was first published in Business Insider.  The article was sub-headed: “It may have small numbers of viewers but Sky News Australia’s influence is far reaching” and made the following point:

Sky News Australia has successfully built a Fox News-like online operation in Australia, making it one of Australian media’s digital leaders with a reach that dwarfs its terrestrial audience numbers.

Remarkably, it has taken just over a year to cement its place as one of the nation’s loudest online voices, despite having a significantly smaller operation than its competitors. On YouTube, its videos have been viewed 500 million times, more than any other Australian media organisation.

Facebook posts from its Page had more total interactions last month than the ABC News, SBS News, 7News Australia, 9 News and 10 News First Pages – and they’ve had more shares than all of them combined.

University of NSW’s Associate Professor David McKnight, a media researcher who’s written books including Rupert Murdoch: An Investigation of Political Power, said he was surprised to hear about the size of Sky News Australia’s digital audience. “Most people look at the live viewership and they see very small numbers on these shows. What these numbers show is the possibility of a very big audience in Australia and beyond,” Dr McKnight said.

Now, David McKnight is a critic of News Corp in general and Rupert Murdoch in particular.  But he is intellectually honest in recognising Sky News’ influence.  Cam Wilson continued:

…Sky News Australia has experienced explosive growth. According to social media analytics tool Social Blade, the YouTube channel had fewer than 70,000 subscribers in June 2019. The channel didn’t upload a video between February 2017 and April 2019. Today, it has more than 900,000. This puts it second among Australian news publications behind only ABC News, which has more than 1.2 million. But Sky News Australia’s videos have been viewed 500 million times – 60 million times more than ABC News’ total views. Their videos are being watched more than 3.7 million times a day on average.

Sky News Australia’s Facebook following is the smallest out of all of Australia’s television news channels’ main Pages, except for Channel 10. It has accumulated just 730,000 likes, far behind ABC News’ 4.13 million. But its reach likely beats all others. Facebook doesn’t offer publicly accessible reach or viewing metrics, but interactions — reactions, comments and shares — offer an idea.  And on that metric, Sky News Australia had 5.69 million interactions in October 2020 out of the 16.06 million recorded by Australia’s major broadcast television’s Facebook Pages.

The ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without even one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.  No wonder, then, that some supporters of the ABC want News Corp to exit the media market in Australia – since News Corp’s newspapers and Sky News on Foxtel and WIN TV appeal in particular to those who feel that their positions are at best not catered for – and at worst dismissed – by the ABC.

By offering a different product, Sky News is taking viewers – including younger ones – from the ABC.  That’s why last Sunday and Monday ABC programs lined up to support the petition commenced by Mr Rudd and supported by Mr Turnbull for a royal commission into News Corp with the aim of reducing or even demolishing its influence. And that’s why Messrs Rudd and Turnbull received such soft questions from David Speers and Hamish Macdonald a few days ago – for which see today’s Jackie’s Fact Check segment.

Can You Bear It?


Did anyone see ABC Four Corners reporter Louise Milligan on ABC TV’s News Breakfast on Tuesday complaining that Attorney General Christian Porter and/or his office declined to answer questions prior to the broadcast of last Monday’s Four Corners program titled “Inside the Canberra Bubble”?  In case you missed it, Louise received a soft interview from her ABC colleagues Lisa (“Bravo! Louise”) Millar and David Speers.

Was this the very same Louise Milligan who refused to answer any questions from Gerard Henderson about her book Cardinal and, instead, sought the protection of her publisher Louise Adler? Sure was.

But double standards aside, Media Watch Dog just loved “Inside the Canberra Bubble”. It provided yet another example of Comrade Milligan believing what she wants to believe – even when it comes to hearsay upon hearsay upon (even more) hearsay.

Four Corners  unearthed Kathleen Foley, a Melbourne-based barrister, who knew Christian Porter at the University of Western Australia some decades ago. Foley says she remained in contact with Porter when she worked at the State Solicitor’s office in Western Australia and he was at the  Western Australia’s Director of Public Prosecution’s Office.  Mr Porter entered the Western Australia State Legislative Assembly in 2008 – over a decade ago.

Let’s go to the official transcript where Four Corners’ presenter Louise Milligan and executive producer Sally Neighbour threw the switch to National Enquirer style gossip:

Louise Milligan, Reporter: After he graduated, Christian Porter was nominated for Cleo magazine’s Bachelor of the Year in 1999. In the article, he was asked what song he’d choose to serenade a woman. He selected “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. His self-portrait for the magazine was a stick figure, which had to be censored because he’d drawn it with large genitals.

Kathleen Foley, Barrister: I would see Christian around the traps, at functions and we moved in some of the same social circles at the time. He didn’t change at all. Christian remained exactly who he had always been. I remember distinctly a couple of things that he said at the time. I remember him commenting that he would never date a woman who weighed over 50 kilograms. That stood out to me. I also remember a relationship of his that ended and he commented that the woman involved was thin enough, but she didn’t have big enough tits and the next woman that he was going to date needed to be as thin, but have bigger tits.

Wow. How about that?  Christian Porter, allegedly, is a thin woman plus “big tits” kind of guy.  How do we know this?

Well, first up Ms Foley remembers Mr Porter commenting that he would never date a woman who weighed over 50 kilograms.  Did Porter say this to Foley? – we don’t know.  Or did Foley hear this from someone else, in which case it would be hearsay? – we don’t know.  Or did Foley read about this somewhere or other? – we don’t know.

Moreover, Ms Foley remembers a relationship of Porter’s that ended – after which he commented that the woman involved was thin enough but didn’t have “big enough tits”.   Did Porter say this to Foley? – we don’t know.  Or did Foley hear this from someone else, in which case it would be hearsay? – we don’t know. Or did Foley read about this somewhere or other? – we don’t know.

Without evidence, these statements are at best gossip – of the kind that might appear in the United States in such scandal outlets as the National Enquirer or perhaps The Drudge Report.  But, apparently, such material is good enough for Four Corners which presents itself as Australia’s premier investigative journalism program.  Investigating, on this occasion, the Attorney-General’s (alleged) attitude a decade or more ago to the size of female breasts.  Can You Bear It?


It was an emotional (but not tired) Peter Hartcher who fronted up on ABC TV Insiders’ virtual couch on Sunday. The Nine Newspapers’ political editor was on the panel with the ABC TV’s Stan Grant and The Guardian Australia’s Lenore Taylor.  In short, the panel plus presenter David Speers comprised two ABC types, one Guardian comrade and one Nine guy.

As it turned out, Comrades Hartcher and Taylor bagged not only President Donald J Trump but also those who voted for him in the United States presidential election on 3 November – with only Stan Grant providing a considered, but not uncritical, view of Trump.  This is one grab from the Hartcher rant:

Peter Hartcher: Look at this. This is a country that – look, Donald Trump started in a Reality TV Show. He was a reality celebrity on a Reality TV Show that was in no way connected to reality. He has conducted his presidency in defiance of reality. Joe Hockey told me this morning that he’s still waiting for the scorecard from his last golf game with Donald Trump because Donald Trump wouldn’t give it to him because Hockey was beating him on the last hole in golf. This is the sort of person Trump is. He will just not acknowledge defeat. And so, he’s created an alternative reality not just for himself but for tens of millions of American voters who have turned out. It’s an alternative reality so powerful that they have believed him even against the prospect of death itself. And that is mass death – a quarter of a million Americans. A quarter of a million Americans have now died in this pandemic. So that is a very powerful alternative reality.

So there you have it. Donald Trump has not only declined to provide his scorecard to former Australian ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey – which is shocking enough.  He also has conducted his presidency “in defiance of reality”.  It would seem, then, to Hartcher that the Trump administration’s facilitation of a diplomatic agreement between Israel and some Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, is unreal.  But, as mentioned earlier, your man Hartcher was somewhat emotional last Sunday morning.

But there’s a more serious point. Comrade Hartcher maintains that President Trump is solely responsible for 250,000 Americans dying from COVID-19 related causes.  But he does not blame French president Emmanuel Macron for the 42,000 COVID-19 related deaths in France.

In fact COVID-19 related deaths per million are about the same in the US (730 per million) and France (650 per million) and lower than Belgium (1170 per million). Also Nine’s leading commentator apparently believes that the 73 million Americans who voted for Trump on 3 November live in an alternative reality.  In other words, around half of the United States citizens are bonkers. How elitist can your man Hartcher get?  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Nine Newspapers and President Trump, here’s Cathy Wilcox’s cartoon which ran in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday:

Talk about Trump Derangement Syndrome. According to Comrade Wilcox, President Trump’s “legacy” includes the (alleged) rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the killing of George Floyd while in the custody of police in Minneapolis in the state of Minnesota.

In fact Donald Trump achieved the largest support from the non-white community of any Republican candidate in a presidential election since 1960.  Clearly, then, many non-white Americans do not regard their president as a racist, still less a supporter of the KKK.  Also it seems that Comrade Wilcox is ignorant of the fact that Minneapolis has a Democratic Party mayor and Minnesota has a Democratic Party governor.  In view of this, it’s difficult to hold the view that Floyd’s death is a “legacy” of Trump’s presidency.  Unless you are a leftist cartoonist for the Sydney Morning Herald  or The Age, that is. Can You Bear It?


Early on Insiders on Sunday, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull received a soft joint interview from David Speers.  In the course of his three and a half minute monologue to camera, the former Coalition prime minister had this to say:

Malcolm Turnbull: Lenore Taylor’s here, the editor of The Guardian. And one of the best things I’ve ever done in the media business, and I’ve had a lot to do with it over the years as you know, was to encourage the formation of the Guardian Australia. But The Guardian is an avowedly, small l liberal, left of centre publication. And on election time, you can be pretty sure they’re going to recommend a vote for the Labor Party. But, they don’t make stuff up. They don’t engage in vendettas, they don’t encourage conspiracy theories. They don’t cover up the misdeeds of their friends in politics or hammer vindictively those who they regard as their enemies. It is a legitimate professional journalistic operation.

Smart move, don’t you think?  As MWD has pointed out previously, Malcolm Turnbull facilitated the establishment of The Guardian Australia in 2013 and suggested that Lenore Taylor and Katharine (“Malcolm calls me Murpharoo”)  Murphy get jobs there.  And The Guardian Australia, under the leadership of Comrade Taylor, supported the Labor Party in the 2016 election which the (then) Coalition prime minister nearly lost.  Malcolm Turnbull’s poor performance in the 2016 election was the prime reason why he lost the leadership of the Liberal Party in August 2018. But he still believes that the arrival of the leftist Guardian Down Under was a you-beaut occasion.

But MWD digresses.  This is the first time that anyone has mentioned on Insiders that Malcolm Turnbull was involved in the creation of The Guardian Australia.

Comrades Taylor and Murphy appear regularly on Insiders – their appearances included the time when Malcolm Turnbull successfully challenged Tony Abbott for the prime ministership and during the years of the Turnbull government.  But, despite Insiders’ executive producer Sam Clark banging on about the importance of full disclosure and all that – Insiders viewers have never been told of the one-time professional relationship between Mr Turnbull and Comrades Taylor and Murphy.  A double standard, to be sure. And Lenore Taylor did not ‘fess up even after Malcolm Turnbull’s comment last Sunday. Can You Bear It?

[Er no.  Not really, now that the question has been raised.  As to the Turnbull comment that The Guardian Australia does not engage in vendettas – has your man Turnbull not followed the online Guardian’s vendettas against Peter Dutton, Angus Taylor, George Pell and Tony Abbott? – to name but a few. – MWD Editor.]


Avid readers will remember MWD’s previous coverage of Paul Barry’s online-only Media Watch spin-off known as Media Bites. The show, which lasts for only a few minutes, is uploaded to ABC iview and YouTube each Thursday and features a hyperactive “goofy” performance by Comrade Barry.

Paul Barry apparently couldn’t get access to a full set to record Media Bites so it is instead filmed in front of a strange backdrop in what is presumably the Media Watch office. Featured behind Barry are some plants, an old-fashioned TV and a guitar. The overall effect resembles a children’s show or perhaps the late-night ABC music show Rage. Why anybody thought this was a good idea remains unclear.

This week’s episode began with the Prime Minister’s supposed interruption of Anne Ruston (referred to by Barry only as “a female minister”) and the controversy over the term “bonk ban”. After a series of clips are played of media figures and politicians using the term, Barry concludes that “some political speak can never be undone”. What piercing insight.

The show then moves on to the US Presidential transition. To justify why an Australian media criticism show is covering another nation’s politics – the 9 November front cover of The West Australian is shown – it featured President Trump with a pacifier in his mouth over the headline DONNY SPIT (“Ohhh, Baby!” offers Barry). But the real purpose of the segment seems to be sniggering at some clips of American evangelical preachers reacting to the election results. Needless to say these evangelicals are not members of the media, nor are they Australian. So why are they appearing on Media Bites?

Next up is a juvenile segment in which your man Barry shows clips of media figures accidentally swearing on TV. Once again there is no point to this apart from a cheap laugh. Finally, Barry brings up a dispute between Nine Network entertainment editor Richard Wilkins and New Idea. This bizarrely ends with Barry putting some copies of New Idea in a bowl and then shooting lightning out of his finger to set them on fire – yes really. This is supposed to be somehow connected to the clips of evangelicals earlier in the show, though what the two have in common is anyone’s guess.

[The Morrison-Ruston incident was also the focus of last night’s self-described satire by Mark Humphries & Evan Williams on 7:30. The sketch involved Humphries interrupting a woman who is trying to defend the Liberal Party’s treatment of women. In case you missed it, the gag is repeated around 20 times. You’d think that with not one but two of Australia’s leading satirists on the case they could manage a second joke per sketch. – MWD Editor]


Thanks to the Melbourne reader who drew MWD’s attention to how the ABC makes “Corrections & Clarifications”. It rarely, if ever, apologises.

This is the ABC correction on Monday 2 November at 1.26 pm on Melbourne Cup Eve – it’s called “putting out the garbage” at a time when few will notice.

Corrections & Clarifications

Cardinal Pell

News Channel: On 1 October 2020, Cardinal George Pell was described as “disgraced” in bottom of the screen text during a news bulletin. The ABC recognises this was inappropriate in light of his successful appeal and acquittal by the High Court of his previous conviction for child sexual abuse.

Posted Monday 2 November at 1:26pm

So there you have it. It took the ABC an entire month to correct having described Cardinal Pell as “disgraced” in a strap at the bottom of ABC TV News. But it only did so by putting a three  line note on its website.  No one was ascribed – or accepted – responsibility for the serious error.  Enough said.


The last decade has seen the explosion of two media fads. The (alleged) existence of Fake News and the establishment of (allegedly) objective Fact Check organisations.

Due to enormous demand, Jackie has been enticed to step out of her kennel and check fact and non-facts on a regular basis.


Where’s the taxpayer funded ABC RMIT Fact Check Unit when it is really needed?  Or, perhaps, ABC presenters should not let interviewees, panellists and the like just make things up without correction. Here’s a case study.

Last Sunday ABC TV’s Insiders ran for 90 minutes – extended beyond the usual one hour – apparently to make possible an oh-so-long interview with former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd and former Coalition prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. This interview ran close to 30 minutes – which is twice as long as Insiders’  last interview with the current prime minister.

It was interesting to see Messrs Rudd and Turnbull whinging about Australia’s position on climate change – among other matters.  David (“Call me Speersy”) Speers did not mention that, when prime minister, Rudd dropped Labor’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) and that when in office prime minister Turnbull dropped the Coalition’s National Energy Guarantee (NEG). But there you go – it’s always easier to blame someone else for your own failure to gain the support of your party room.

However, MWD digresses. Towards the end of the long interview, Insiders presenter David Speers asked Mr Rudd a soft question about the ABC’s rival News Corp – which owns Sky News:

David Speers: Final issue. And you’ve both touched on the role of News Corp when it comes to the US election, and it’s an area that you both agree on here as well. Kevin Rudd, your petition for a royal commission into News Corp has now achieved more than half a million signatures in Australia, including that of Malcolm Turnbull. What specifically, do you want to see changed in Australia? Is it a change to media ownership laws that you’re ultimately after?

Kevin Rudd: Well, I want to achieve two things in this national debate on the future of the Murdoch media monopoly in Australia, David….

David Speers is wont to interrupt politicians, especially Coalition ones.  But he allowed Mr Rudd to go on and on and on for one minute and 30 seconds before he came up for air, so to speak. There followed this question to Mr Turnbull:

David Speers: Now, Malcolm Turnbull to the same question, what ultimately needs to change here? In your view? Is it laws that would force more diversity in media or ownership?

Malcolm Turnbull: Look, I think that can be part of the picture. I just want to say, I listened carefully to what Kevin said and I very much agree with it. I think he’s summed that up very well, I’ll just add a couple of points….

Once again, the ABC’s interrupter-in-chief David Speers did not interrupt as Mr Turnbull gave an oh-so-long answer of three minutes and thirty seconds before he, in turn, came up for air.

The point here is that Kevin Rudd claimed there is a “Murdoch media monopoly in Australia” – Malcolm Turnbull agreed with Rudd’s claim and Speersy did not correct it. But the assertion is a load of absolute tosh.

News Corp does not own any free to air television stations or radio stations.  It publishes the national newspaper The Australian plus the best-selling newspapers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart.  And News Corp controls Sky News on pay TV’s Foxtel.  But that’s about it.  Its rivals include the publicly funded ABC and SBS (television, radio and online) plus Nine Newspapers’ Sydney Morning Herald and The Age plus the free to air television networks (Nine, Seven and Ten) plus the online publication The Guardian – and more besides. Also Nine owns influential radio stations in Sydney (2GB), Melbourne (3AW) and Brisbane (4BC). And then there is social media.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is not a media monopoly. Indeed it has far less reach than either the ABC or Nine.

And yet Kevin Rudd asserted on Insiders, supported by Malcolm Turnbull, that the Murdoch media has a monopoly in Australia – without correction by David Speers.


While on the topic of uncorrected howlers, how about the appearance of Malcolm Turnbull on Q&A on Monday? It was very much a matter of “Malcolm’s Day On”.   He appeared live on Insiders (on Sunday morning) and Q&A (on Monday evening).  In between he made a “star” pre-recorded appearance on Four Corners  (also on Monday evening).

Towards the end of Q&A, discussion turned to News Corp following a question (approved by the program’s executive producer) from Carol Kiernan in the well-heeled Melbourne suburb of Camberwell.  Ms Kiernan objects to what she sees as the political bias of “The Australian newspaper and other News Corp media outlets in Australia”.

This led to a finger-pointing rant from Malcolm Turnbull directed at The Australian’s Paul Kelly, who was a fellow panellist. In particular, the former prime minister focused on what he alleged was the approach taken by The Australian  to the bushfires of late 2019 and early 2020:

Malcolm Turnbull: …The reality is, News Corp and Murdoch have done enormous damage to Western democracy and, in particular, to the United States and Australia. And, in particular, on the subject of global warming. You know, we had 12 million hectares of our country burnt last summer, and your newspapers were saying it was all the consequence of some arsonists.

Everything was “true” about Malcolm Turnbull’s statement – except, er, for the facts.  A statement released by News Corp on Monday night revealed that there were some 3335 stories about the 2019/2020 bushfires in News Corp’s major newspapers.  Of this total, only 3.4 per cent of articles mentioned the word “arson” or “arsonist”.  And not one article said that the bushfires were – in Turnbull’s terminology – “all the consequence of some arsonists”. The former prime minister just made this up.

So what did Q&A presenter Hamish Macdonald do?  Nothing.  Mr Turnbull was not asked by Macdonald to support his allegation with evidence. Compare and contrast Comrade Macdonald’s treatment of a question on the previous week’s Q&A:

Aryan Ilkhani: Joe Biden confessed in the second presidential debate that he would “move into renewable energy”. Now, this would obviously mean a loss of many jobs, exacerbating the present jobs crisis. How do you think this statement and Joe Biden’s overall climate rhetoric will affect voters in important states such as Pennsylvania, where, according to a White House report released in October, more than 300,000 jobs are supported by the natural gas and oil industry?

Hamish Macdonald: You are 15, is that right?

Aryan Ilkhani: 15, correct.

Hamish Macdonald: You want to go into politics one day?

Aryan Ilkhani: Yes, definitely.

Hamish Macdonald: I just want to check where you got the numbers, ‘cause there are a lot of contested numbers around the jobs involved in this….. So I want to check. Where did you get the numbers from?

Aryan Ilkhani: It’s according to a White House report released in October.

Hamish Macdonald: OK, but you saw it on Fox, right?

Aryan Ilkhani: Yes, I did see it on Fox. I believe it was taken from there and also taken from a petroleum organisation in America.

Hamish Macdonald: OK….

So in spite of the fact that young Mr Ilkhani had declared initially that the White House was the source of his question – the Q&A presenter asked him again to not only reveal his source but to ‘fess up that he had seen the White House report on Fox News.  Fancy that.

However, when Malcolm Turnbull cited “facts” during his anti-News Corp rant, Hamish Macdonald did not ask him where he got his numbers from.  It seems that the Q&A presenter has one rule for teenage Fox News watchers – and another rule for a former Australian prime minister in unhinged mode.


Monday’s ABC TV’s Four Corners program “Inside the Canberra Bubble” created considerable controversy where it revealed that Immigration Minister Alan Tudge had an affair with a senior female staff member in his office. Four Corners  also alleged that Attorney-General Christian Porter was in “somewhat of a relationship” (whatever that might mean) with a female staffer in another minister’s office.   All of this having (or allegedly having) taken place three years ago.

This reminded some commentators of the occasion in 2018 when the Daily Telegraph  revealed that (then) deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce was having an affair with a senior staffer in his office who was pregnant with his child.  Except for those who forgot where they stood on this issue as recently as three years ago.

۰ Ita Buttrose on why it is not okay to reveal the personal relationships of politicians – February 2018

“It’s really Barnaby Joyce’s affair, clear.  And it’s, it’s his business. It’s none of our business.”

– Ita Buttrose, on Network Ten’s Studio 10 program, 7 February 2018 (before she was appointed ABC Chair).

۰ Ita Buttrose on why it’s okay to reveal the personal relationships of politicians – November 2020

“[ABC managing director] Mr Anderson also revealed he had received a phone call from ABC chair Ita Buttrose to tell him that a board member had also been contacted by a federal staffer about the program. He said Ms Buttrose had seen the program and supported the decision to publish it.”

– Lisa Visentin, “Coalition staffers asked ABC boss if Four Corners episode was of public interest” Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 2020.

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۰ Crikey’s Bernard Keane on why it’s not okay to reveal details of a politician’s private life – February 2018

“I’m Barnaby Joyce’s harshest critic in the press gallery. But this story about him is shameful non-journalism and debases public life.  There is zero public interest in Joyce’s personal life, despite the efforts of News Corp columnists like Caroline Overington, and left-wingers on social media, to confect one….

What he does personally with a consenting adult is no concern of ours, let alone a matter for our judgement. Who among us has behaved perfectly in our personal lives? There certainly aren’t many journalists — a profession notoriously antithetical to domestic bliss — who are in a position to pass judgement about anyone, but this is what such a story amounts to..

– Bernard Keane “Media roundtable: was it ethical of the Tele to publish its Barnaby Joyce story? Crikey, 7 February 2018.

۰ Crikey’s  Bernard Keane on why it’s okay to reveal details of a politician’s private life – November 2020

“Four Corners’ revelations have burst the Canberra bubble.  If claims about Christian Porter are true he must go. The rush by the government and its media supporters to attack last night’s Four Corners as not in the public interest is not merely wrong, but offensively so.

– Bernard Keane, “The ABC reveals Canberra’s sordid side – and it’s definitely in the public interest”, Crikey, 10 November 2020.


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Until next time.

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