GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 534
19 March 2021
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DAVID SPEERS FUDGES NICOLLE FLINT CASE
Today’s Media Watch Dog looks at how insular the ABC TV Insiders program has become in recent times – with its focus on Parliament House while ignoring such issues as Facebook, the COVID-19 vaccine, Labor’s policy on Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Mathias Cormann’s OECD appointment and more besides.
It seems that little will change this Sunday if Insiders’ presenter David Speers’ comments on ABC News Breakfast this morning are anything to go by. This is what he had to say about the March4Justice March and related matters:
David Speers: This issue is not dying down. The government may hope it will go away but it is not showing any sign of doing that yet. The big marches were very powerful, the March4Justice on Monday. We had a number of other events during the week. Another Liberal staffer in Canberra forced to go after making some pretty vile remarks about a Tasmanian politician. You had Nicolle Flint on the Liberal side talking about her reasons for going, and arguing she didn’t get enough support from Labor. She says various Labor people didn’t speak out enough when she was copping sexist abuse before the last election. And you know [laughing] you can have the argument about whether they were at all involved, which they weren’t.
Now let’s unpack this – as the cliché goes. The Liberal Party staffer who resigned his position in Parliament House this week did so following the claim that he had directed vile abuse at a Greens female politician while he was working on the staff of the Tasmanian Liberal Party premier some years ago. This had nothing to do with the Morrison government.
There is nothing particularly funny – such as would warrant laughter – in the situation whereby the highly talented Liberal Party MP for Boothby, Nicolle Flint, is stepping down from politics at the next election following the personal attacks on her going back some years.
As far as MWD can recall, Insiders did not cover in any depth the campaign which was waged against Ms Flint at the May 2019 election – led by GetUp! along with sections of the trade union movement. Both organisations wanted Labor to defeat the Coalition in Boothby. It should be remembered that Boothby was the only seat that Labor could realistically win from the Coalition in South Australia in 2019. That’s why so many resources were directed at winning the seat.
The vicious personal campaign waged against Nicolle Flint at the time was reported in the media – even at times on the ABC. David Speers wants to believe that Labor was not involved in the attack on Ms Flint in any way and that it was not aware of what GetUp! and certain trade union operatives were up to. You would have to be pretty naïve to believe this – since it assumes that Labor’s skilled operatives do not follow media reports about politics.
NINE’S SHANE WRIGHT ON THE WA LIBERAL PARTY’S (ALLEGED) CAMPAIGN AGAINST ANNE ALY AND THE LATE EDITH COWAN
If Jackie’s (male) co-owner is still awake at the end of Insiders on Sundays – after all, it goes to air at Hang Over Time – he focuses on the “Final Observations” segment. This is how Nine’s Shane Wright used his final comment last Sunday:
Shane Wright: We’ve been talking about Christian Porter and his future. The [Australian] Electoral Commission will on Friday release its draft report into the redistribution of Western Australia. It [WA] has to lose a seat. Pearce is really in the gun because –
David Speers: Christian Porter’s seat.
Shane Wright: Christian Porter’s seat is really in the gun just because of the way it’s shaped. But the WA Liberal Party have come up with a plan where they would get rid of the seat held by Labor’s Anne Aly. That seat is named after Ms Cowan, the first woman ever elected to a parliament in this country. So, you’d get rid of a sitting female MP as well as the seat that’s named after Edith Cowan. Good planning.
What a load of absolute tosh. Political parties are entitled to make submissions to the Australian Electoral Commission when electoral re-distributions are about to take place. Obviously, in such a situation, the Liberal Party will make a submission which favours it. Just as the Labor Party will make a submission which favours it.
Comrade Wright seems to be suggesting that the Liberal Party should step back in this instance because its proposal – if implemented by the AEC – would lead to the abolition of Cowan held by a woman, Anne Aly. Moreover, Dr Aly’s seat is named after Edith Cowan, the first female to be elected to an Australian parliament.
According to Shane Wright, in a mocking tone, this is “good planning” on the Liberal Party’s behalf. Meaning the Liberals are a pack of women-hating, sexist, misogynists who want to get rid of the lively Anne Aly and the late Edith Cowan in one strike. You know, the kind of Green/Left line that is heard frequently in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age as well as Insiders plus The Saturday Paper and The New Daily and The Guardian and Green Left Weekly and – groan.
But it’s nonsense. If Cowan is abolished in a re-distribution, the Labor Party can always find a seat for Anne Aly elsewhere in the House of Representatives or the Senate. Also, if Cowan is abolished, the Australian Electoral Commission can, if it wishes, name another seat after Edith Cowan.
In spite of this, Shane Wright reckons it will be all the Liberal Party’s fault if Anne Aly’s seat is abolished. So he maintains that the Liberal Party should readily surrender a seat to Labor in Western Australia. Can You Bear It?
[I note that breaking news has it that the AEC has not recommended that either Pearce or Cowan be abolished in the current re-distribution. In short, Comrade Wright was talking through his hat. – MWD Editor.]
THE GUARDIAN’S BOWERS/REMEIKIS TAG TEAM BAGS MORRISON GOVERNMENT MINISTERS
While on the topic of Insiders, wasn’t it great to see the leftist online newspaper The Guardian Australia comprising around 30 per cent of the talent last Sunday. The Guardian’s Mike Bowers spoke to The Guardian’s Amy Remeikis in the “Talking Pictures” segment. The rest in the line-up consisted of two ABC employees (David Speers, Laura Tingle) plus Shane Wright (Nine Newspapers) and Gareth Parker (Radio 6PR).
Not surprisingly, the Bowers/Remeikis discussion was a leftist love-in as The Guardian comrades agreed with each other in bagging Coalition ministers Peter Dutton, Christian Porter, Scott Morrison and Linda Reynolds. Even the unfortunate accident suffered by Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews was turned into an attack on Australia’s (alleged) “spineless” Prime Minister.
Oh yes. The Bowers/Remeikis collective praised the cartoonists David Rowe (Nine), Alan Moir (Nine), John Shakespeare (Nine), David Rowe (Nine, again), Jon Kudelka (The Saturday Paper) and Cathy Wilcox (Nine). Not a conservative among this lot.
As is invariably the case with “Talking Pictures”, News Corp cartoonists were “disappeared” – including, naturally, The Australian’s Johannes Leak – whose cartoon in The Weekend Australian on 13-14 March bagged the green/left cause (see below). Not suitable for showing on “Talking Pictures” the following Sunday – since it did not fit The Guardian’s narrative. Can You Bear It?
UWA ACADEMIC MICHAEL DOUGLAS’ AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR HOWLER WHICH NINE FAILED TO FACT-CHECK
Did anyone read the article in Nine Newspapers on Tuesday by Michael Douglas – who presents as a senior lecturer at the University of Western Australia – titled “Remember Porter’s defamation suit next election”? Here’s how it commenced:
Attorney-General Christian Porter’s defamation claim is a case study in conflicts. A senior member of the government that says it believes women — and that made Grace Tame Australian of the Year— is bringing a case that depends on the premise that Porter’s accuser was not telling the truth.
This is hopelessly wrong. Apparently the Sydney Morning Herald editors do not do any fact-checking these days. The Australian of the Year is chosen by an independent body – the National Australia Day Council – a not-for-profit government owned company based in Canberra. Sure, the government appoints the board. But the NADC board is independent of governments – like the ABC Board. In other words, the Australian of the Year is not chosen by the Attorney-General or by the government of the day. Why, in 2007, Tim Flannery was named Australian of the Year – hardly an appointment welcomed by (then) Prime Minister John Howard or his attorney-general at the time. All this information is available by means of a simple Google search – which should not be beyond the ability of a University of Western Australia academic.
And this is how Comrade Douglas concluded his piece:
He [Christian Porter] will face another jury of sorts at the next Federal election. If the weekend’s West Australian election results are anything to go by, Porter is in for a hard time. In my view, our system of representative government is undermined when top pollies sue media organisations attempting to hold them to account. I will remember this at the next election. I hope my fellow Westralians do too.
Funny about that. MWD does not remember your man Douglas rushing to print to condemn Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young when she successfully sued Bauer Media’s Zoo Weekly for defamation not so long ago. But there you go? After all, Douglas LLB does not lecture in consistency. Can You Bear It?
MARK HUMPHRIES PRESENTS THE GRETA THUNBERG MEGHAN MARKLE HELPLINE
Viewers of 7:30 on Thursday 11 March were treated to yet another sketch from Mark (“Leigh, please remember to tell the audience I’m a satirist”) Humphries and his co-writer Evan (“Leigh, please remember to tell the audience I’m Mark’s co-writer”) Williams. The most recent sketch concerned the “Meghan Markle Helpline” – a fictional hotline designed to take calls from those who feel irrational anger towards the Duchess of Sussex.
This may evoke a feeling of déjà vu in regular 7:30 watchers as the sketch bears a striking resemblance to a previous sketch by Humphries & Williams. On 26 September 2019 7:30 debuted the “Greta Thunberg Helpline” – you can likely guess the premise. MWD has previously highlighted Humphries’ habit of playing similar characters in every sketch – but this latest effort takes Humphries’ & Williams’ self-plagiarism to a new level. Indeed, the writing process for this latest sketch seems to have primarily consisted of replacing the name Greta Thunberg with Meghan Markle and calling it a job well done.
It is not just the script that is unchanged from the previous helpline sketch, most of the same cast have returned to play the helpline staff and aggrieved callers. Foremost among them is Charles Firth, best known for being the least known member of The Chaser Boys (average age 44½). Firth has the opening line of both sketches, see if you can spot the difference.
Charles Firth (2019): Hi, I’m a middle-aged man with an embarrassing problem.
Charles Firth (2021): Hello, I’m a middle-aged man with an embarrassing problem.
Viewers who are feeling cruel may wonder if Mr Firth’s embarrassing problem is that he is a middle-aged Chaser Boy who is appearing in Mark Humphries’ sketches while his former castmates have gone on to host such ABC programs as War on Waste and Planet America?
Below is a selection of shots from both sketches. As you can see, the primary innovation in the latest sketch (on the right) is improved lighting compared to the older sketch (on the left), otherwise they are mostly indistinguishable:
As a public service perhaps MWD should establish a helpline for self-described satirists who are out of ideas?
INSULAR INSIDERS IGNORES AUSTRALIA’S BIG NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL STORIES
At 9.17 am on Sunday 28 February 2021, the Sydney lawyer Gray Connolly tweeted:
I realise the show is called #Insiders but the degree of insular Canberra discussions is why this show should be put out of its misery.
— Gray Connolly (@GrayConnolly) February 27, 2021
Now, Media Watch Dog is not suggesting that the ABC TV’s Insiders, which airs at 9 am on Sundays, should be discontinued. Not at all. For starters, it provides great copy for MWD every Friday. But Mr Connolly has a point. In recent times, the program (executive producer Sam Clark, presenter David Speers) has become increasingly insular, as journalists – overwhelmingly from the Canberra Press Gallery – talk to each other essentially about what’s going on in their workplace.
Certainly over the past month, the alleged rape in Parliament House (involving two Coalition staffers who in a drunken state attained access to Parliament House at around midnight) warranted coverage. And the ABC story about an alleged rape by the Attorney-General – when he was 17 and the complainant 16 in 1988 – was a big story. But there is no reason why the allegations, and surrounding gossip, should have taken up so much time on what is now the ABC’s leading current affairs program.
The problem is that Insiders increasingly focuses on matters relating to what is called the “Canberra Bubble”. For example, the big story for the week ending 6 March was the success of the Coalition (led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher) in ensuring that the tech giant Facebook pays media outlets for the use of their journalists’ copy. This was an international story. But it was not discussed by Insiders on 7 March.
Move forward to 14 March. The big Australian story for the previous week turned on Australia’s success, or lack thereof, in obtaining and distributing a vaccine for COVID-19. However, this was virtually ignored as, again, focus turned on alleged sex crimes committed by persons currently associated with Parliament House. Also, there was no discussion on the Labor Party’s change of policy with respect to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
And then, last Sunday, there was no mention of the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) – the meeting of the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the United States – which had taken place at 1 am on Saturday 13 February (AEDT). This is perhaps as significant as the Australia-Japan Trade Agreement of 1957 (which occurred during the Menzies’ Coalition government) and Australia’s role in upgrading the APEC meeting (which occurred during the Hawke Labor government). However the Quad did not rate a mention on Insiders.
Nor was mention made of the fact that former Australian finance minister Mathias Cormann has been chosen to become the secretary general of the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in Paris. This is probably one of the most important international positions attained by an Australian – even outranking former Labor foreign minister Bert Evatt, who obtained the position of president of the United Nations’ General Assembly for a year during the organisation’s third session – not president of the United Nations as is commonly claimed. There is no such position as president of the United Nations – the key UN job is that of secretary-general.
Until recent years, the ABC TV Lateline program, which aired at about 9.30 pm, was the ABC’s most important current affairs program. But it lost its way and was junked by ABC management in October 2017. In recent years, 7.30 (presented by Leigh Sales) has drifted away from hard news and current affairs stories and embraced an increasing number of social issues. Which leaves Insiders, which has become increasingly devoted to journalists talking to other journalists about what goes on – or does not go on – in their workplace.
The high quality Network 9’s Sunday program died In July 2008. Network 10’s The Project is a leftist under-graduate style program aimed at a younger audience. And now, as Gray Connolly (among others) has pointed out, Insiders is into insularity in a big way.
Since the ABC is a staff collective which nobody runs, Insiders is unlikely to change anytime soon. So it’s likely that the program will become increasingly insular and lightweight as it focuses on Parliament House at the expense of important national and international matters.
As avid readers are aware, the late Nancy (2004-2017) did not die. She merely “passed” on to the Other Side. Hence MWD has been able to keep in touch and seek her advice about behaviour, courting and all that – with the help of the American psychic John Edward of Crossing Over fame. Your man Edward has demonstrated a first class ability to communicate with the dead, albeit not so much with the living. And so, Nancy’s “Courtesy Classes” continue – albeit from the “Other Side” in a Zoom kind of way.
LAURA TINGLE MOCKS DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER WITH FALSE LAUGHTER AND FAKE APOLOGY
There are few things as rude as mocking laughter – especially when the targets of the feigned laughter are not present to defend themselves or argue back.
Last Sunday, Michael McCormack – the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development – was the guest on the ABC TV Insiders program. He faced some tough questioning from presenter David Speers. And then Speersy – as he likes to be called – threw the switch to the (virtual) Insiders couch (which in these pandemic times is a few chairs and a TV screen). Let’s go to the transcript:
David Speers: All right. Well, let’s go back to our panel and we’re joined once again by Laura Tingle, Gareth Parker and Shane Wright.
David Speers: Let’s quickly pick up on what we heard there.
Shane Wright: I was going to say, are we all going on a collective holiday?
David Speers: It’s probably good advice.
Shane Wright: I think Gareth’s offered his house, over there in Perth.
David Speers: So is the tourism plan any clearer, Laura?
Laura Tingle: [Laughs] Sorry, I’m sorry, David. No, no. [Laughs again]. That was that was not a great performance by the Deputy Premier [sic].
David Speers: Let’s just, let’s just unpack that discussion there on the policy though…
How about that? The Deputy Prime Minister gave up his time to talk to Insiders’ viewers on a Sunday morning – and the immediate response by Shane Wright (Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) and Laura Tingle (ABC TV 7.30 political correspondent) was to mock what he said – sure in the knowledge that he had no right of reply.
Comrade Wright’s “joke” was to suggest that the Perth-based Gareth Parker had made his Perth digs available to travellers taking the benefit of the Morrison government’s half-price airfares to encourage interstate tourism to certain holiday destinations to assist the tourism industry at a time of pandemic. This is overseen by the Deputy Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for Transport. The “joke” was further diminished by virtue of the fact that half-price fares are not available to those with a Perth destination where Gareth Parker resides. But who cares about facts when there’s opportunity to laugh at a Coalition minister?
Then Speersy threw to Laura (“Scott Morrison is into ideological bastardry”) Tingle. When La Tingle made her contribution it was a full 15 seconds after the Speers/McCormack interview had ended. Clearly La Tingle was not laughing with Michael McCormack due to something amusing that had just happened. No – she was using mocking, fake laughs in an attempt to denigrate the Deputy Prime Minister. Also, La Tingle claimed that she was “sorry” to have laughed. No she wasn’t. After a 15 second gap, it was deliberate.
Ms Tingle is 7.30’s chief political correspondent and, as such, expected to act professionally. It’s quite okay to criticise the Morrison government’s transport policies – but they are not funny and no feigned laughter or false prophecies take the place of a considered critique.
La Tingle – off to Nancy’s Courtesy Classes for you. Via Zoom, of course.
ON THE RESPECTFUL (BUT OH SO BORING) DRUM – IN WHICH PANELLIST ADAM CARREL WHO PRAISES “THE POLITICAL LEGACY”OF THE LIBERAL LEADER WHO WAS ABOUT TO LEAD HIS PARTY TO A POLITICAL WIPE-OUT
Is there any panel discussion more boring than The Drum under the reign of co-presenters Julia Baird and Ellen Fanning? As MWD readers are aware, it was a couple of years ago that Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) and Ms Fanning (for a doctor she isn’t) decided to introduce a kinder/gentler Drum where all panel members are expected to engage in “respectful” discussion. This means that disagreement is discouraged and the program ends up with the bland talking to the bland in a situation where essentially everyone agrees with essentially everyone else on essentially everything. Yawn.
Last Friday, on the eve of the 13 March 2021 Western Australian State election, the ever respectful Comrade Baird asked the respectful Adam Carrel (from EY’s Perth office) what he respectfully thought about the likely outcome of the following day’s election. It was very much a contest between Labor Premier Mark McGowan and the recently installed Liberal Party Opposition leader Zak Kirkup. This is how the (respectful) discussion commenced:
Adam Carrel: He [Mark McGowan] has been a picture of what a centrist can really achieve, particularly in a state like Western Australia, which is generally relatively centre-right. But I can say though, can I just say though, as someone that cares a lot about climate change – and if I don’t get the microphone again on this topic I do want to say, that if Zak Kirkup gets wiped out tomorrow, and people start to wonder what his political legacy is, please let it be remembered that he was the first Liberal politician ever to outflank Labor on climate action.
Julia Baird: Tell us why you think that is significant.
Adam Carrel: It’s significant… because it’s never been done. It’s significant because he’s done it in the face, I’m sure of, flame-a-grams that would have come at him from his peers in Canberra. But because we have been tied up in the culture wars of climate change for 15 years – and it’s been basically a product of the Coalition being opportunists in playing with the fears of people regarding climate transition – Zak Kirkup’s come out and done the exact opposite. And in doing so, he’s really highlighted how weak McGowan is on climate change….
All this occurred on Friday evening. Within 24 hours, Mark McGowan had led Labor to a stunning victory – one of the biggest ever achieved in Australian political history. And the Zak Kirkup Liberal Party had been reduced to perhaps two seats in the Legislative Assembly and Kirkup had lost his own seat. Also, Labor attained a majority in the Legislative Council. Mark McGowan may be weak on climate change – but he is hugely popular in Western Australia. Mr Kirkup thought it was a you-beaut idea to promise that a Liberal Party government would close WA coal mines by 2025 and cut emissions much faster than Labor. Mr Carrel supported Mr Kirkup on this – the WA electorate did not. The swing against the Liberal Party was 10 per cent. The premier obtained a swing to him of 14 per cent in his seat. The Opposition leader experienced a swing of 14 per cent away from him in his seat.
Sure, Zak Kirkup was the first Liberal Party leader to outflank Labor on climate action policies. And he is the first Liberal Party leader to experience such a massive political wipeout.
As a partner and principal of EY (formerly Ernst & Young), your man Carrel provides advice on management and the like. He predicted that Kirkup’s “political legacy” would be to highlight Premier McGowan’s weakness. In fact, it highlighted McGowan’s strengths. Pretty good advice, eh? – which was not challenged by anyone on The Drum, presumably because they wanted to be “respectful”.
Adam Carrel – (Respectful) Media Fool of the Week.
ABC TV DECLINE TO SHOW BBC DOCUMENTARY ON THE CARL BEECH CASE
Due to enormous demand, this segment will cover programs and issues which the ABC will either not run and/or not cover.
Despite its extensive coverage of matters pertaining to historical child sexual abuse, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster will not run on either its main or second TV channel the BBC documentary The Unbelievable Story of Carl Beech.
Vanessa Engle’s documentary has been praised by reviewers in the conservative Spectator and the leftist Guardian. As MWD readers will recall (see Issue 513), Carl Beech (aka “Nick”) alleged that he had been sexually abused by former British prime minister Sir Edward Heath and others. The Metropolitan Police in London said that Nick’s testimony was compelling – until it realised that the complainant was making it all up.
The Unbelievable Story of Carl Beech tells the full story – which, if ABC management has its way, you will not see on free to air television in Australia.
Meanwhile, ABC TV has recently shown its BBC 1 documentary The Truth About Getting Fit at Home exactly a year after the COVID-19 lockdowns commenced. A somewhat dated documentary, to be sure.
MWD will keep readers posted on this. Meanwhile, stand by for more in what is destined to become a highly popular segment.
CRIKEY’S LESLIE CANNOLD HAPPY TO LOOK AT BOTH SIDES OF TRUMP – BUT NOT SO WITH CRIKEY’S HARDAKER
It was 27 November 2020 when the leftist newsletter Crikey proudly announced a new column titled “Both Sides Now”. Crikey readers (if readers there are) were told that “In this new column, educator, ethicist and philosopher Dr Leslie Cannold presents both sides of an argument”.
So Dr Cannold (for a doctor she is) became Crikey’s “Doctor in the House” who would provide some diversity in between its left-wing rants.
The first “Both Sides Now” column ran arguments in favour of and against the proposition “Trump destroyed American democracy and Australia is next – or is it?”
A good move, eh? Alas, it did not last. On 27 November 2020 Comrade Cannold was into balanced mode arguing for and against President Donald J Trump. However, on 8 March Crikey ran a piece by Leslie Cannold titled “Call To Action: Men should shut the f- -k up about things they know little about”. In short, Comrade Cannold broke out of “on the one hand this/on the other hand that” mode.
It turned out that Dr Cannold’s “shut the f- -k up” missive was directed at Crikey contributor Peter Hardaker who had written an article about the Christian Porter matter in Crikey the previous Friday. She declared that “all thinking people” agree with her. Which suggests that those who do not are not of the thinking genre. And Cannold wrote that Crikey should not have published Hardaker.
Then the learned doctor threw the switch to cliché and bagged your man Hardaker as being of the “pale, straight and male” variety. And then Dr Cannold declared what “half the nation” believes. And she concluded with a message consisting of single words – namely “And. Shut. The. F- -k. Up.”
The point being – can someone who holds such strong views be entrusted to present a “Both Sides Now” column?
“You Must Remember This” is based on the chorus line in the song As Time Goes By which was popularised by the film Casablanca. It is devoted to reminding the usual suspects of what they and/or those they supported once wrote or said or did.
NIKI SAVVA’S VIEW THAT MATHIAS CORMANN WAS NO LONGER SOMEBODY
Very few, if any, Australians have been chosen for an international post as significant as Mathias Cormann’s appointment as Secretary-General of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). This was a personal triumph for Mr Cormann and very good news for Australia – since the OECD secretary-general has a certain authority along with excellent contacts, especially in Europe and the Americas.
MWD fave Niki Savva was one of the Canberra Press Gallery journalists who resented the fact that (then) Senator Mathias Cormann had been involved in Malcolm Turnbull losing the Liberal Party leadership – and the prime ministership – on 24 August 2018. All this is discussed in MWD Issue 458 (5 July 2019). Mr Turnbull’s political demise came after he lost the support of the majority of his colleagues in the Liberal Party room.
On Sunday 30 June 2019, Mathias Cormann was discussed on the ABC TV Insiders program. Presenter Annabel Crabb and panellists Niki Savva, Annika Smethurst and Laura Tingle all criticised Cormann to a greater or lesser extent. This despite the fact that the Coalition, under Scott Morrison’s leadership, had won the May 2019 election, to the surprise of almost all Insiders’ panellists and presenters.
Ms Savva was the loudest critic. She declared that Cormann “is a vastly diminished figure within the government”. Then a year later, in her Australian column on 11 June 2020, Ms Savva commenced with the refrain “Mathias Cormann used to be somebody”.
Now, in March 2021, Mathias Cormann is not at all diminished and he is not someone who “used to be somebody”. Rather he is the Secretary-General of the OECD. Which is something to remember.
This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson about something or other. And Hendo, being a courteous and well-brought up kind of guy, replies. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its avid readers.
There are occasions, however, when Jackie’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order. Publication in MWD invariably follows. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply. Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record – and in the public interest, of course.
GERARD HENDERSON AND NICK LEYS (HEAD OF COMMUNICATIONS, ABC) WITH A LITTLE HELP (SORT OF) FROM ABC MANAGING DIRECTOR DAVID ANDERSON AND ALSO LOUISE MILLIGAN
What luck. An inaccurate report by ABC News in Adelaide led Gerard Henderson to write to the ABC’s Head of Communication Nick Leys. Only to find that he does not communicate. Which led to Hendo remembering that he wrote to ABC editor-in-chief David Anderson some time ago about an editorial matter. Only to find that he does not regard himself as responsible for editorial output of the likes of Louise Milligan. So the ABC editor-in-chief Mr Anderson does not function as an editor-in-chief. And the ABC’s Head of Communications Mr Leys does not communicate beyond seven words and one word responses. What fun. Now read on.
Gerard Henderson to Nick Leys, 20 January 2021
Good morning Nick
I have just read your “ABC response to Sinclair Davidson” piece written in your capacity as ABC Head of Communications.
I think that you are the person to whom I should be writing. Last time I had a query with the ABC, I wrote to Sally Jackson – since she was the contact for “The ABC reporting on Cardinal George Pell” statement which was released on 20 April 2020. However, Sally flicked my recent note to you. Hence this note is directed to you in the first instance.
On Sunday 17 January 2021, ABC News posted an article titled “Philip Wilson, former Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, dies at age 70”. It contained the following comment:
In a statement, the Adelaide Archdiocese says while he’d suffered ill health, including cancer, his death this afternoon was sudden. It says despite the court case, Emeritus Archbishop Wilson was an important figure in introducing reforms to help the church respond to child sexual abuse.
In fact, the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide’s Media Release did not say what ABC News claims – it would seem that the (anonymous) reporter just made this up. The correct reference – which was, in fact, a quote from Archbishop O’Regan is as follows:
Archbishop O’Regan said while his predecessor had been charged with failing to respond adequately to allegations of child sexual abuse while a priest in the Hunter region, he was acquitted of all charges. “A harrowing period of allegations, charges, conviction and eventually acquittal was a significant chapter on Philip’s life, but his record of supporting and advocating on behalf of victims and survivors is part of his legacy,” Archbishop O’Regan said. “Philip knew what pain many people had endured and suffered as a result of the sickening actions of some within the Church. He was part of the solution, and widely recognised as such.”
In short, Archbishop O’Regan did not qualify Archbishop Wilson’s role in reforming the Catholic Church’s approach to clerical child sexual abuse by using the words “despite the court case” as the ABC claimed. In fact, Archbishop O’Regan did not make any qualification at all – since he said that Archbishop Wilson was acquitted of all charges.
I believe that the ABC’s misrepresentation should be corrected – especially in view of your statement of Monday that the ABC is “Australia’s most trusted and valued media organisation”.
PS: Please note I do not want this letter to be referred as a complaint to the ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs department. I can find a better way to waste my time than to become one of the 96 per cent – or is it 97 per cent? – of complaints about the ABC which are rejected by ABC personnel.
Nick Leys to Gerard Henderson – 20 January 2021
We are having a look at it.
Gerard Henderson to Nick Leys – 20 January 2021
Gerard Henderson to Nick Leys – 17 March 2021
Good afternoon Nick
As you may recall, on 20 January 2021, I emailed you concerning a report on ABC News (17 January 2021) which misquoted a statement made by Archbishop Patrick O’Regan on the death of Archbishop Philip Wilson.
You responded promptly the same day stating that “we are having a look at it”. I know you are busy. But the correspondence occurred two months ago and I have heard nothing from you or your staff.
If you are still having “a look” at this, that’s fine. But it is my experience that delays by ABC management are sometimes permanent.
For example, my Weekend Australian column on 16 November 2019 covered the High Court decision (three days earlier) that Cardinal George Pell’s case be referred to a Full Court of the High Court for argument as an appeal. This was a considered column which quoted from comments made in the County Court of Victoria (Chief Judge Kidd) and the Victorian Court of Appeal (Justice Weinberg) and criticised how some journalists (David Marr, Louise Milligan) had reported the Pell Case.
Following the publication of my article, Ms Milligan, in a tweet, described me as a “vile bully” who was into “pedophile protecting”.
On 21 November 2019, I emailed David N Anderson and Gaven Morris and asked the following question: “Does the ABC’s editor-in-chief and/or the ABC director of news regard such unprofessional abuse as suitable to be engaged in by a senior ABC journalist?”
Mr Anderson emailed me on the morning of 22 November 2019 as follows:
Thank you for your email. I will look into it and get back to you.
That was 16 months ago – and I have still not heard from David Anderson on this matter.
Here’s hoping I hear back on the Archbishop O’Regan report from you sometime before, say, May 2022.
Best wishes – and Keep Morale High.
cc: David Anderson
Nick Leys to Gerard Henderson – 17 March 2021
cc: David Anderson
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Until next time.
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