ISSUE – NO. 530

19 February 2021

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Steven Cannane stood in for Geraldine Doogue on ABC Radio National Breakfast this morning – which was good for Media Watch Dog.  Alas, Ms Doogue does not provide much usable copy for Jackie’s (male) co-owner when she presents the program on Fridays.

The main interview involved a discussion with former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd who gave evidence today to the Senate Inquiry on media diversity.

During the rather soft interview, Mr Rudd used the word “monopoly” on no fewer than 21 occasions.  At no stage did Steve Cannane ask him what he meant by monopoly. Let’s go to the transcript:

Steve Cannane: As someone who’s currently arguing the case for taking on powerful media monopolies, are you backing the Morrison government in this fight to make big tech companies pay for news?

Kevin Rudd: No, I don’t agree with the current legislative formula –  which the Morrison government, I think, has developed largely in collaboration with the Murdoch media monopoly, to deal with what is, however, a continuing challenge to diversity in this country, which is also the monopoly powers of the new digital platforms. Right now we’ve got a conflict between two major sets of media monopolies. One traditional one – that’s called the Murdoch media monopoly – and the emerging media monopolies dominated by the digital platforms, Facebook in particular. So that’s one of the reasons why we’ve called for a royal commission, because this is a highly complex matter. Instead, what the Morrison government has done in effect is side with one monopoly against the other. I don’t think that is good for the future of democracy in this country.

It can be argued that Facebook is something of a monopoly – since it provides a unique product.  But there is no such thing as “the Murdoch media monopoly”.

It’s true that News Corporation owns the top selling newspapers in Sydney (Daily Telegraph) and Melbourne (Herald Sun).  But Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are strong mastheads in Sydney and Melbourne respectively. And then there are the online newspapers like The Guardian.

Also Kevin Rudd did not consider the ABC – Australia’s largest media organisation – covering television, radio and print. Also, he ignored Networks 7, 9 and 10. All are free-to-air.  News Corp only controls Sky News, which appears on the pay TV Foxtel channel and on Win TV’s second channel.  And Murdoch does not control any radio stations.

In short, it’s an absolute myth that Rupert Murdoch enjoys a “media monopoly” in Australia.  Or, indeed, anywhere.  But Steve Cannane did not once challenge Mr Rudd on this issue.

Can You Bear It?


When the Nine Newspapers’ Sun-Herald landed on the roof of Jackie’s kennel last Sunday, it did not make the usual noise.  Reflecting, it would seem, that columnist Peter FitzSimons is no longer photographed wearing his red bandanna. The fact that the one-time Red Bandannaed One has gone naked from the neck up – thus reducing his own overall weight – would appear to have reduced the noise of the paper landing on a cool tin roof.

Turn to “Fitz on Sunday” on the back page and Fitz is writing about the subject he knows best. Namely, Fitz. In fact, he’s still banging on about how his one-time mate Stan Grant sent up the Australia Day (now named Independence Day) knees-up which Mr and Mrs FitzSimons (aka media star Lisa Wilkinson) hold at their Neutral Bay pile each year. (Except for the scaled-down social distancing function this year).  The Grant critique appeared as a piece of fiction in The Australian’s  “Oh Matilda” daily crime novel which ran in the Silly Season – and for good reason.

All this was discussed in MWD Issue 529. It’s just that Fitz seems to have launched the Battle of Wounded Pride and spent a whole third of his column on Sunday defending the fact that “My wife and I” usually have a knees-up at the Neutral Bay pile on Sydney Harbour in January.

[What old fashioned language.  Fitz is the head of the Australian Republic Movement – but it was Elizabeth II who popularised the term “My husband and I” over half a century ago. Fancy that. – MWD Editor.]

The one-time Red Bandannaed One took issue with some of Stan Grant’s put-downs, correcting alleged errors of little moment.  But MWD was most taken by this comment:

As to Stan’s most oft quoted line that it is a “lefty love-in”, that too was passing odd. I am not in the habit of bandying around the names of my guests because I respect their privacy, but as my friendships have never been confined by political allegiances – tedious! – over the years there have been plenty there from across the political spectrum.

Hendo has not been invited by the FitzSimons/Wilkinson team on any day in January – probably because he detests the use of exclamation marks!!!. They’re tedious!!! So he can only rely on what Stan Grant and others have reported – namely, that the occasion is a gathering of Australia’s leftist-luvvies which explains why it is replete with ABC/Sydney Morning Herald/Guardian Sydney-based Sandalista inner-city types.

As avid readers will recall, on 8 March 2019 MWD ran a report of a party which Peter and Lisa put on for the ABC/Sydney Morning Herald journalist Julia Baird in early 2019.  It was illustrated by a photo which Nick Tabakoff used in his Australian “Media” column. Here it is:

What a load of leftist luvvies. MWD can identify several of the guests.  That’s Fitz with the red rag on his head at the back centre with arms around David Marr and Tim Minchin.  The bottom row comprises Mia Friedman, Kate McClymont, Dr Julia Baird (for a doctor she is), Nigella Lawson (on a visit from London), Norman (“Masks don’t protect wearers from COVID-19, except when they do”) Swan and Annabel Crabb. And there’s Leigh Sales on the right of the back row. And for the lefties who bang on about the importance of diversity –  there’s isn’t a  single person of some colour. The assembled guests resemble a white sight-screen in a red ball Test cricket match.

Now MWD asks avid readers – Is there any one issue on which this group of ABC/Sydney Morning Herald/Guardian types would disagree?  Not on your nelly. Which sort of proves Stan Grant’s point – don’t you think?

On another matter. Perth-based MWD reader Nicholas Partridge was surprised to read the report by Steve Jackson in the Australian that guests at the (once-was) Australia Day party are expected to “bring a plate”. The avid Perth reader wondered why does this well-heeled couple ask guests to bring their own tucker. Could this be true? And if guests do have to bring a plate – are they expected to put food on it? MWD will keep you posted. In the meantime – Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of the Sydney Morning Herald, does anyone read the “Postscript” column which appears in the Saturday print edition?  Written by Harriet Veitch, the SMH’s letters editor, it summarises the correspondence supplied to its Letters Page each week.  This demonstrates that the SMH Letters Page resembles a FitzSimons/Wilkinson function replete with leftist luvvie sandal-wearers and not much else.  It seems that the once conservative Sydney Morning Herald lost many of its conservative readers some time ago. Hence the lack of conservative correspondents.

Here’s how Comrade Veitch commenced “Postscript” on 6-7 February 2021:

When Herald letter writers get the bit between their teeth, the letters fly in, not in single spies but in battalions, and this week had many bones of contention to tempt.

First subject was a report that vested interests keep quietly donating millions of dollars to political parties despite supposed rules and regulations to prevent it. This, of course, came as no great surprise to any of the writers, but the fury in the flurry of protest almost burned a hole in the email system.

Then writers moved on to the prime minister and fury at his (perceived by the writers) wishy-washy namby-pamby sort of suggestion that maybe, might be, could be, Australia could get to net-zero emissions by 2050, or as soon as possible, or not, who knows? This was not acceptable to the writers, who, well, tore the prime minister to shreds, like the Ancient Greek furies, about it.

Then there was also a “battalion” of letters criticising Prime Minister Scott Morrison for not criticising Liberal Party backbencher Craig Kelly sufficiently – some of which were “too rude to publish”.  Then the Ancient Greek furies fired on the Christian Rugby player Israel Folau. Yawn. The only “positive” was that the battalions just loved Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe. Well now.

It was much the same last Saturday. As Comrade Veitch reported about the contents of her inbox for the week beginning Sunday 14 February:

This week started with the continuing sniping at the Prime Minister for his lack of action about climate change. This then went through the week, especially when the federal government threw a tantie about international plans for climate tariffs.

Letter writers were quickly on to this and many took pleasure in tearing even more strips off Scott Morrison but others were also almost crying in despair at his screaming and kicking refusal to move Australia into the modern world of clean energy.

Then Energy Minister Angus Taylor got an individual serve.  Then Crown Casino got a (collective) serve. Then there was a pile-on against Crown’s Barangaroo building in Sydney – some SMH letter writers “using names for it that can’t be published”. But there were some positive contributions about tennis star Ash Barty’s attitude to brussel sprouts – whatever that might be. Alas, these were also “not suitable for a nice paper”. How nice.

It would seem that SMH letter writers resemble the ABC – in that essentially everyone agrees with essentially everyone else on essentially everything.  Come to think of it, all would qualify for Stan Grant’s former spot on the FitzSimons/Wilkinson January dance card.  But would there be enough plates in inner-city Sydney to equip this lot? Can You Bear It?


As covered in recent weeks, former ABC Radio presenter Sami Shah (who is described as a “multi-award winning comedian, writer and journalist”) has taken over the “Gadfly” diary column in The [Boring] Saturday Paper.  If your man Shah is so talented and so funny – what is he doing writing for Morry Schwartz’s inner-city vanity newspaper which goes to print on Thursdays and carries no news?  – MWD hears readers cry.

So far, Comrade Shah has been focused on white people and race. Perhaps he’s forgotten that his predecessor Richard Ackland belongs to the most despised group among the green/left these days – being an old white male.  But there you go.

The “highlight” of Gadfly’s diary last Saturday was the comment that “no one reads The Age or watches 60 Minutes anymore” – as distinct, apparently, from the teeming masses who consume The Saturday Paper on Saturday over lattes in inner-city coffee shops. Clearly a contribution for the February slot in Hendo’s annual end-of-year “Tops for Hyperbole” column.

This week Comrade Shah made use of Martin Niemöller’s comment about Nazi Germany – namely that “first they came for the Jews” and so on.  Lacking sensitivity, Shah referred to the world’s worst case of genocide to score points against Donald Trump, James Packer, Daniel Andrews, Andrew Bolt, Tony Abbott, John Howard and Scott Morrison.  What an award-winning comedian. This is what your man Shah had to say about Andrew Bolt (who has interviewed him on The Bolt Report).

Bolted report

Then they came for the elderly Australian men unfairly jailed for raping boys, and I did not speak out… Because what the hell are you saying, Andrew Bolt?

Continuing his commitment to being the staunch defender of alleged paedophiles – a baton handed to him by Tony Abbott, which was handed to Tony by John Howard – Andrew Bolt took time out of enjoying the beachfront views at the far-flung monocultural enclave of the Mornington Peninsula to… defend men accused of rape? The exact quote from his online column was: “How many elderly Australian men must be unfairly jailed for raping boys before we cool this hysteria?”

I haven’t changed a word there, or put the question mark in the wrong place. That’s exactly how it was written. If, however, you were able to make it through the brain haemorrhage caused by that sentence, you’d discover the article was about Trevor Spurritt, a former Camberwell Grammar teacher who had his indecent assault conviction quashed on appeal. Bolt’s point was that too many allegedly innocent men were being jailed for alleged crimes to then have those allegations allegedly overturned. By too many, he means four. Four men have had their alleged accusations overturned on appeal….

This comment indicates total ignorance of the Australian legal system.  If someone has his or her conviction quashed by a superior court – he or she is not an “alleged” criminal. Rather they are innocent – under the presumption of innocence which applies in the common law.

Since early last year, appeal courts, in unanimous judgments, have overturned four convictions of historical child sexual abuse allegations dating between 25 to 50 years ago against men who are now old. Namely the Victorian Court of Appeal in John Francis Tyrrell v The Queen (February 2019), the High Court of Australia in Pell v The Queen (April 2020), the New South Wales Court of Appeal in Higgins v R  (July 2020) and the Victorian Court of Appeal in Trevor Spurritt v The Queen (February 2021). Collectively these decisions involved 16 senior judges – seven out of seven in the High Court and three out of three in each of the State appeal courts.

It seems that comedian Shah reckons that all 16 highly qualified judges got it wrong. Or perhaps he thinks it is funny that four old white men each served over a year in prison despite having been the victims of unsafe verdicts in the first instance.

At least when “Gadfly” was Richard Ackland – The Saturday Paper’s diarist knew some law. Now it seems that The Saturday Paper’s editor Erik Jensen has thrown the switch to a legal ignoramus who writes about detailed appeal court decisions without showing any evidence that he has read the cases. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of comedians – real and developing – what an end to ABC TV’s Insiders last Sunday which involved Vladimir Putin’s men in Canberra, no less.  Let’s go to the transcript:

David Speers:  Thank you all for joining us this morning. And look, it’s not often we see videos from the Diplomatic Corps in Canberra – and thank goodness for that.  So we’re going to leave you with guys at the Russian Embassy, this week marking Russian Diplomats’ Day in their unique style. Thanks for watching.

And so it came to pass that ABC TV showed footage of two comrades from the Embassy of the Russian Federation singing, to the tune of House of the Rising Sun, about “the Russian Emb”:

There is a House Canberra

they call the Russian Emb

and it’s been the home for many smart ones

and God I am among them

Apparently Insiders took its clip from the full work-of-art which the Russian Embassy had placed on YouTube.  As one reviewer commented – the word “Emb” obviously stands for “Embarrassment”.

It seems that, in its brilliant idea to conclude Insiders last Sunday with a musical item, the powers that be at Insiders overlooked a few facts. The “smart guys” at the Russian Embassy represent Putin’s authoritarian government in Australia.  They’re not just nice blokes who sing and play music on embassy lawns in Canberra.

When Insiders ran the Russian Embassy YouTube film on Sunday, the heroic Alexei Navalny was already incarcerated again in a Russian prison for no reason at all except that he is seen as a threat to the Putin regime.  Could it be that the Insiders presenter and executive producer don’t know how oppressive the Putin regime is?  What’s next –  a comradely chorus from the Embassy of China Down Under?  Can You Bear It?

A clip from last Sunday’s Putin-friendly Insiders


MWD readers have appreciated the occasional update on the pandemic and all that. Here’s a view on the state of the virus in Victoria – so far Australia’s COVID-19 Central.


Could it be that Patricia Karvelas, who presents Drive on ABC Radio National, has joined some of her Victorian ABC colleagues – to wit, Raf Epstein and Virginia Trioli – as apparent members of the “I Stand With Dan” club?  Dan being Daniel Andrews, the Labor premier of Victoria and key figure in the party’s socialist left faction.

Last week a line spinning out of the Andrews government’s spinners wasthat the fact that Victoria had suffered around 90 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths was due to, well, just bad luck.  And then this exchange took place on ABC TV Insiders on Sunday concerning Victoria’s third COVID-19 lockdown which had commenced at midnight on Friday.

David Crowe: Now, Victoria has therefore got to answer the questions about whether their contact tracing was not good enough, earlier this week. And so that’s a pretty fundamental issue and goes to the question about whether they’re capable of managing it from here on because we have seen repeated mistakes. But as I said, that’s – the federal position is to take Daniel Andrews at his word when he was saying that he had a gold standard system earlier this week.

Patricia Karvelas: That’s right. He did say he had a gold standard system. And what we do know is that the contact tracing has been overwhelmed. That’s why we’re having this snap lockdown. That’s clear. Now, Daniel Andrews’ argument is that the UK variant, the strain is so infectious, so fast moving, that you can’t keep up, that it’s a new equation. That even with the bolstering and the overhauling of the contact tracing system they just can’t keep up. Look, it’s natural for people, and people are doing it in Melbourne and looking around and saying, “But why does it seem to work in New South Wales or in Perth? Or, why –  what is happening here?” I’ve got to say, David, it’s gonna be, you know, partly controversial, that’s why you invite me here. They’ve – absolutely there’s been a blunder.

But there’s also been bad luck, right? And anyone will tell you that luck has a lot to do with it. What happened in Perth and Brisbane, where they shut down, was also a bit of luck – that it hadn’t, you know, been able to spread any further. Hopefully, five days will do it. And if – if I’m actually, we’re all hoping, we’re barracking for this, because we cannot go into a longer lockdown. It will smash this state, this state cannot take it.

David Speers: Well, they may get lucky. It may well, and then may well get on top of it.

Victoria’s COVID-19 Bad Luck – Some Facts on “Bad Luck”

For the record here is a few examples of Victoria’s “bad luck” when dealing with COVID-19:

  • The first four cases of COVID-19 in Australia were diagnosed on 25 January 2020. This slowly increased through February and into March, passing 100 on 10 March. By 19 March, when the Ruby Princess docked in Sydney, Australia had recorded over 700 cases. Hotel quarantine of international arrivals began on 28 March when the case total stood at 3,640. Eventually, Australia’s first wave of COVID-19 would result in around 7,000 cases, with just over 3,000 in NSW, 1,500 in Victoria, and 2,500 spread across the other states and territories.
  • Even prior to the hotel quarantine outbreaks in May and June 2020, which led to Victoria’s second wave, there was evidence Victoria was struggling to contain the remaining cases from the first wave. From 16 April to 15 May 2020, Australia recorded 380 new local cases of COVID, of these 186 were in Victoria, compared to 117 in New South Wales and 77 in the other states and territories combined. Bad Luck, apparently.
  • On 15 May, a family of four were transferred to the Rydges Hotel in Carlton after two members of the family tested positive. Ultimately all four members of the family would test positive and the virus spread, first to members of the quarantine staff at Rydges, and then to thousands of Victorians. More Bad Luck.
  • Shortly afterwards, the Stamford Plaza Hotel in the Melbourne CBD was the site of two separate quarantine breaches. First from a traveller who returned to Australia on 1 June and then from a couple who returned on 11 June. Both these strains of the virus spread to quarantine staff and then into the wider community. Double Bad Luck.
  • The COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry, established by the Victorian government to investigate these breaches, was unable to answer some basic questions about the establishment of the Hotel quarantine regime in Victoria. Famously they were unable to determine whose decision it was to employ private security at the hotels. The inquiry was also unable to determine whose decision it was to designate the Carlton Rydges a “hot hotel” which would take in confirmed cases among overseas travellers and there is also uncertainty about when this decision was made. Bad Luck all round.
  • Concerning the procurement of private security firms, the inquiry found that “the process by which the security firms were selected was not appropriate or sufficiently rigorous. It was made in haste and without any risk assessment, led by staff that did not have the requisite experience and knowledge, and without any public health oversight or input.” Additional Bad Luck.
  • At the Carlton Rydges, the Inquiry found evidence of “poor cleaning products, poor PPE use by security guards, security guards being used to provide some cleaning services and the lack of education around cleaning practices.” Extra Bad Luck.
  • On 8 April, Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens emailed Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles to offer Australian Defence Force assistance. In July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote to Premier Daniel Andrews three times offering ADF assistance. Andrews would later claim that he was not aware that ADF support had been offered. Supplementary Bad Luck.
  • The COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry had this to say concerning the failure to use police in quarantine hotels: “There was no evidence that consideration was given, at the time, to the benefits that Victoria Police may have provided to the Program by virtue of its characteristics as a workforce.” Adding: “It was likely that a constant police presence would have ensured an increased focus on health and safety on-site.” And “As a cohort, police would also have been a stable and disciplined workforce. In the event of an outbreak, they would not have had the types of vulnerabilities that plagued contact tracing efforts among the security guard cohort”. Bad Luck once again.
  • In June 2020, it was widely reported that 30 per cent of travellers in Victorian hotel quarantine were refusing to be tested for COVID-19. In July (after the three quarantine breaches had already taken place) the Victorian government moved to tighten the testing regime in quarantine hotels. Extra Bad Luck.
  • The first Rydges staff member to test positive did so on 25 May. The first similar case from the Stamford was on 14 June. On 15 June, Victoria recorded 11 local transmissions, the most in a month. On 20 June they had 23 cases. On 27 June 39 cases. On 1 July 70 cases. When Victoria recorded 100 daily cases for the first time on 4 July, the Andrews Labor Government locked down nine public housing towers in Melbourne. Health officials had agreed to the tower lockdown but had expected it to start the next day. Instead Dan Andrews announced it would start at 4pm. The acting Chief Health Officer had 15 minutes before Andrews’ press conference to consider the measure and sign off on it. Further Bad Luck.
  • On 7 July, Victoria had 168 cases. The next day stage 3 lockdown was brought in for Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. On 15 July, Victoria saw 218 cases. On 30 July, Victoria recorded 626 new cases. On 2 August, 69 days after the first case was detected among staff at the Rydges, stage 4 lockdown was imposed. Fresh Bad Luck.
  • The final case from Victoria’s second wave was detected on 30 October. Almost 19,000 detected cases are believed to be linked to the quarantine breaches. Talk about Bad Luck.
  • On 9 February 2021, Daniel Andrews claimed that Victoria could not handle more returned travellers because it has a “higher standard” of hotel quarantine than New South Wales. It is now believed that on the same day, 9 February, a household contact of an infected worker from the Holiday Inn worked a shift at Brunetti at Melbourne Airport’s Terminal 4. That contact would test positive on 11 February meaning thousands of travellers were potentially exposed. All close contacts of workers at the Holiday Inn should have been contacted two days earlier, by 7 February. On 12 February Victorians were plunged back into stage 4 lockdown. Shocking Bad Luck.
  • Since the introduction of Hotel Quarantine on 28 March 2020, Victoria has processed around 35,000 arrivals. New South Wales has processed 125,000, almost half of the total arrivals for all of Australia. Over this same period, New South Wales has recorded around 1,500 local cases, while Victoria has seen over 19,000. Bad Luck once more.
  • In other words, NSW has taken in around three and a half times as many people into quarantine than Victoria – but has had less than one tenth as many local transmissions. Bad Luck squared.


There was enormous interest in last week’s segment titled “A New Insiders Plan?  Will Speersy Hold All Panellists To Their Predictions, Or Just Jennifer Hewett?”

As avid readers will recall, on 7 February 2021, Insiders presenter David Speers said he would hold panellist Jennifer Hewett to account for her comment that the prospects for an early election this year are “pretty, pretty, minimal”.

MWD drew attention to the fact that none of the Insiders panel who got the outcome of the 18 May 2019 election so hopelessly wrong were called to account for their false prophecies by the presenter (Barrie Cassidy followed by David Speers) or the executive producer (Sam Clark). So why should Ms Hewett be called to account if her view that the next election will be held in 2022 is proven to be incorrect?

Here’s a list of the panellists who appeared on Insiders from 7 April 2019 to 19 May 2019 from the commencement of the campaign to the day after the election: Dennis Atkins, Annabel Crabb, David Crowe, Malcolm Farr (twice), Patricia Karvelas (twice), Fran Kelly, Mark Kenny, David Marr, Sarah Martin, Karen Middleton, Andrew Probyn, Niki Savva (twice), Annika Smethurst, Lenore Taylor and Peter van Onselen.

Not one of the above indicated that Scott Morrison and the Coalition could defeat Labor on 18 May 2019. Also Insiders presenter Barrie Cassidy confidently predicted a win by Bill Shorten and Labor.

After the election, Niki Savva changed the title of her then forthcoming book – originally titled Highway to Hell: The Coup that Destroyed Malcolm Turnbull and Left the Liberals in Ruins (Scribe) to – Plots and Prayers: Malcolm Turnbull’s demise and Scott Morrison’s ascension. And David Crowe changed the title of his book from Venom: The Vendettas and Betrayals that Broke a Party to Venom: Vendettas, Betrayals and the Price of Power.

As MWD documented last week, the ABC Election Impartiality Review, undertaken for ABC management by former BBC senior journalist Kerry Blackburn – who has 30 years’ experience in newspapers, radio and television – was released last December.  The ABC tried to prevent the publication of Ms Blackburn’s report but was forced to do so by a Senate vote.

In her case study, Blackburn focused on two editions of Insiders. Namely 14 April 2019 and 12 May 2019.  Here they are:

Insiders 14 April 2019 – Presenter: Barrie Cassidy. Panellists: Mark Kenny, Niki Savva and Annika Smethurst

The Blackburn Report found that:

(i) The content on Insiders  on 14 April 2019 was twice as likely to contribute to a favourable impression of Labor than to a favourable impression of the Coalition.

(ii) The content on Insiders was significantly more negative for the Coalition than for Labor.

(iii) The net impression, after subtracting the negatives from the positives, was an overall positive impression for Labor/the Left and a negative impression for the Coalition/the Right.

Ms Blackburn also found that the entire discussion on electric cars was a positive for Labor and a negative for the Coalition.


Insiders 12 May 2019 – Presenter: Barrie Cassidy.  Panellists: Annabel Crabb, Malcolm Farr and Lenore Taylor

The Blackburn Report found that:

(i) The content on Insiders  on 12 May 2019 was 3.5 times more likely to contribute to a favourable impression of Labor than a favourable impression of the Coalition.

(ii) The content on Insiders was significantly more negative for the Coalition than for Labor.

(iii) The net effect, after subtracting the negatives from the positive, was an overall positive impression for Labor and a negative impression for the Coalition.

Ms Blackburn also found that there “was lively panel discussion about the Liberal Party launch and who was expected to be there” – which was overwhelmingly negative for the Coalition.  She reported that there was “some poking of fun at the Prime Minister” but that panellists “found little to poke Labor with” [sic].


Blackburn Report Nails Insiders’ Lack of Political Impartiality

As reported in MWD Issue 529, Kerry Blackburn said that Insiders – executive producer Sam Clark – should “have secured more conservative-leaning political commentators as panellists”.  She added that “those conservative views would have articulated, with conviction, that there was a Coalition path to victory”. According to Blackburn, there “would still have been a professional judgment, drawing on evidence, albeit they might have a particular starting point”.  Her conclusion was as follows:

The missing narrative [i.e. that the Coalition had a path to victory] was available: a few commentators were articulating just that view in the pages of The Australian and The Spectator for example.

It is understood that some of the more well-known conservative voices have chosen not to appear on the ABC. But Australia is a big country and 40% of those who voted preferenced the Coalition. Impartiality requires the reflection of a diversity of principle relevant perspectives, particularly when the matter of contention is at a critical point. The final weeks of a federal election campaign meet that threshold.

In short, the ABC’s own report found that Insiders panels lacked political diversity during the May 2019 election campaign.  On the 2019 Insiders panel list there were two commentators who maintained that the Coalition, under Scott Morrison’s leadership, had a path to victory. They were the Australian Financial Review editor Michael Stutchbury and The Australian columnist Gerard Henderson.  Neither appeared on Insiders during the May 2019 election campaign and neither appeared on Insiders in 2020 or subsequently. Which suggests that Insiders’ most valued “experts” are those who get it hopelessly wrong.


Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph carried a story by Christopher Harris that the Office of the Governor-General has engaged Charles Sturt University trainers to help stamp out (alleged) unconscious bias.  It seems, however, that CSU is in need of examining its own staff in this regard.  Particularly as to whether they are guilty of unconscious bias concerning people of “advanced age” and even (alleged) “advanced age”.  Here’s why.

Volume 44 Part 4 of the Criminal Law Journal (October 2020) carries an article by three Charles Sturt University (CSU) academics titled “Memory Science in the Pell Appeals: Impossibility, Timing, Inconsistencies”.

Essentially this is a criticism of the High Court of Australia’s unanimous judgment in Pell v The Queen in April 2020 to quash Cardinal George Pell’s convictions on five charges of historical child sexual abuse.

The authors are three little known academics from Charles Sturt University. Namely, Professor Jane Goodman-Delahunty and Dr Natalie Martschuk both of the CSU’s Manly Campus in NSW plus Professor Mark Nolan of the CSU’s Bathurst Campus.

In their conclusion, the authors essentially support the majority judgment of the Victorian Court of Appeal to uphold the jury’s verdict in Pell’s re-trial (Justice Mark Weinberg dissenting) and reject the High Court’s decision to overturn the Victorian Court of Appeal’s majority judgment.

They argue that “the majority decision in the [Victorian] Court of Appeal appears to conform with the contemporary scientific expert belief system about human memory”. In short, the CSU academics reckon that Chief Justice Kiefel along with her fellow judges Justices  Bell, Gageler, Keane, Nettle, Gordon and Edelman plus Justice Weinberg got it wrong.  A confident statement, to be sure.

Throwing the switch to condescension, at the end of their article the CSU academics argue:

The foregoing analysis offers an evidence-based approach to inform jurors, lawyers and judges about factors to consider in assessing and weighing the evidence of the complainant and defence witnesses on facts that bear on this issue.

Now hear this. All you jurors and lawyers and judges – listen to three CSU academics about memory and act accordingly. Don’t bother about the High Court of Australia or Justice Weinberg – just listen to the legal precedents emanating from the Manly and Bathurst campuses of Charles Sturt University.

It might be thought that since the likes of Goodman-Delahunty, Martschuk and Nolan are willing to critique the High Court they would be willing to answer straight-forward questions about their article. But no – as is documented below.

Page 241 of the CLJ’s  October edition contains the following statement by the CSU academics:

While the High Court seemed to have considered both the credibility and reliability of the complainant, it focused on the honesty of the opportunity witnesses, without specific consideration of the reliability of their memories, in particular in light of the advanced age of some opportunity witnesses, such as Potter or Portelli [emphasis added].  Leading contemporary memory researchers emphasise that human memory is not inherently unreliable, and that factors such as delay (a long lapse of time between the event and recall of it) do not inevitably render memory unreliable. With periodic reminders, even very young preverbal infants can retain memories of specific episodic events for long periods of time. However, older age is a factor correlated with delay that does have a bearing on memory.

As those familiar with Cardinal Pell’s trials and appeals know, none of the opportunity witnesses – namely individuals with the opportunity to observe the defendant (Pell) around the time when the alleged crimes took place – gave evidence which supported the prosecution’s case that Pell committed the alleged crimes.

Two key opportunity witnesses were Mr Max Potter and Monsignor Charles Portelli. It is true that Max Potter, the St Patrick’s Cathedral sacristan in 1996-97, was 82 years of age at the time of the retrial of The Queen v Pell in the County Court of Victoria. Even so, Justice Weinberg in the Victorian Court of Appeal and all seven judges of the High Court found him to be credible. The High Court judges read Potter’s testimony. Justice Weinberg read the testimony and watched a video of his evidence as well.

Monsignor Charles Portelli, the St Patrick’s Catholic master of ceremonies in 1996-97,  was also found by a total of eight judges to have been a credible witness. As with Potter, the High Court read Portelli’s testimony as did Justice Weinberg who also watched his evidence on video. Monsignor Portelli is the parish priest of St Mary Mackillop Church, Keilor Downs and Kealba in Melbourne – and, as such, is contactable by phone and email.  As mentioned later, Portelli was 60 years of age at the time of the trial.

On 13 January 2021, Gerard Henderson emailed the three CSU authors. His letter included this section:

You refer to Monsignor Portelli having been of “advanced age” in late 2018. If you have done any fact-checking, you would know that he was 60 years of age during the re-trial of The Queen v Pell.

Are you seriously suggesting that Monsignor Portelli, at 60, was of “advanced age” which, as such, adversely affected his memory?  As you should be aware, many of the High Court judges are in their sixties.  By the way, Michael Kirby, who is possessed of a very good memory, is about two decades older than Charles Portelli. And the acting vice-chancellor at the Charles Sturt University is, as I understand it, in his mid-fifties. How about that?

In my view, a correction is warranted re Portelli’s (alleged) “advanced age” – since it is likely that your article will be discussed in various Law schools over the years.

Alas, there was no reply.  In other words, Professor Goodman-Delahunty, and Dr Martschuk and Dr Nolan entered into “no comment” mode and went under the collective bed.

So, on 8 February 2021, Gerard Henderson wrote to the authors again and concluded his email as follows:

I shall write about your article elsewhere – possibly in my column in The Weekend Australian or perhaps in my weekly Media Watch Dog blog. In view of this, I would like an answer to the issues raised in my email – in order that what I write subsequently is accurate. It’s called fact-checking.

    1. Do you regard a person of 60 as being of “advanced age”? As I have advised, Monsignor Charles Portelli was 60 years of age when he gave evidence at Pell’s trial in the Victorian County Court. Yet, you referred to him as being of such an “advanced age” as to have “a bearing on [his] memory”.
    2. If you were unaware of Monsignor Portelli’s age in 2018 – how did this come about? In short, did you do any fact-checking with respect to him? – he is easily contactable.
    3. If fact-checking was done, how did this error get through the CLJ’s referee process?
    4. Finally, how do you propose to correct the howler re Monsignor Portelli in your CLR article? So far you seem to have gone into denial….

Alas squared.  Professor Goodman-Delahunty, Dr Martschuk and Dr Nolan again declined to reply.  In short, CSU academics are prepared to write thousands of words criticising the High Court’s unanimous decision in Pell v The Queen. But they are not willing to answer questions about their CLJ  article which would take a few minutes.



For its part, MWD does get involved in fact-checking.  Here’s what has been discovered about one of the authors of the “Memory Science in the Pell Appeals: Impossibility, Timing, Inconsistencies” article in the Criminal Law Journal. Namely, Jane Goodman-Delahunty. Her website indicates she graduated with a Bachelor or Arts, English and French at Witwatersrand University (Johannesburg) in 1972.

Yes, 1972.  Monsignor Charles Portelli was 14 years of age in October 1972. In other words, Professor Goodman-Delahunty is older than Monsignor Portelli – a man she describes as being of such “advanced age” as to have a bearing on his memory.  No wonder she is in “no comment” mode – along with her co-authors.

Professor Jane Goodman-Delahunty (graduated 1972) reckons that Monsignor Charles Portelli (born 1958 and 14 years of age when the learned professor graduated in 1972) is apparently of “ advanced age”.

[Perhaps you should have run this in your hugely popular “Can You Bear It?” segment. Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]

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Until next time.

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