GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 542
21 May 2021
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LUKE McGREGOR TAKES OVER Q&A WITH A RAPIDLY SPOKEN ECONOMIC RANT – A ROLLICKINGLY GOOD TRIP
If the ABC senior managers want to understand what the public broadcaster’s Thursday night current affairs has become – they should have a look (or perhaps a re-look) at last night’s Q&A program. As the saying goes, Q&A was so bad it was good.
Hamish (“I don’t watch the telly unless I’m on it”) Macdonald was in the presenter’s chair and the panel comprised – in Q&A’s order – comedian Luke McGregor, Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce, CEDA’s senior economist Gabriela D’Souza, Labor frontbencher Tony Burke and Zoe Whitton, the executive director of Pollination involved in climate finance.
It was a farce over which Macdonald lost control to the fast-talking McGregor, who was introduced as a comedian and an economist. Soon the garrulous McGregor effectively took over the show, dominated the discussion, gave garbled economic analysis and tried to be funny. Sure, there was some laughter in response to McGregor’s jokes – but it was his own. How funny is that?
Indeed the only humour of the night occurred when Joyce made fun of the garrulous McGregor and his habit of asking fellow panellists questions and interrupting their answers. Towards the end of the program, McGregor felt the need to apologise to women on behalf of men for their mistreatment down the ages. How frightfully nice. But he neglected to apologise for having dominated the show and interrupting the female panellists.
Halfway through Q&A, McGregor said that he voted for Labor or the Greens. In fact, he sounded like a Greens voter. Who ever would have thought this? – a Green/Left panellist on Q&A? Still the baying mob which was the audience just loved McGregor’s leftist rants on economics which, on occasions, left Joyce speechless – a real achievement, to be sure.
Towards the end of the program, McGregor – having interrupted D’Souza – declared that debt at any level is not a problem and there is no connection between inflation and printing money. Apparently Comrade McGregor is under the impression that The Weimar Republic Inflation is a fashionable bar in Central Germany.
Last night’s Q&A had the usual stacked panel with four out of five opposed to the Morrison government’s energy policy and nearly every question hostile to the Coalition. But all, except McGregor, had something valuable to say – if they had been able to say it. McGregor even managed to turn a question on comedy into a rant about political funding.
At the end of the program, Macdonald declared that it had been a “rollicking good ride”. On reflection, your man McGregor sounded more like he was on a rollicking good trip. Here’s a transcript of a part of one of McGregor’s early long-winded rants. How rollicking was this particular trip? You be the judge.
Hamish MacDonald: So, Luke McGregor, does it [the Coalition’s policy on gas] make sense to you?
Luke McGregor: Not at, uh, not at all, no, we’re talking about the, we’re talking about the gas power station in the Hunter, is it, uh, how many megawatts was it? It’s gonna be-
Hamish McDonald: -660 megawatts, yep.
Luke McGregor: So, so, this is because the Liddell coal-fired power station is shutting down, right? So, the independent government bodies, what is it, the Energy Security Board and the Australian Market Operator said that the shortfall is 154?
Zoe Whitton: There about.
Hamish McDonald: Something like that.
Luke McGregor: Megawatts? And then this, and then the Liberal Government said, uh, it’s actually 1000, uh, I don’t know if the modelling’s been released for that but um, and then, and then they said ok well it’s not 1000 but it is if you want energy security then, you know, you wanna have 1000. My issue with it is that, like, when I was researching this I thought okay, let’s just look at it from the point of view of – um, doesn’t matter if the whole world sets on fire and climate change is a hoax. But it still doesn’t make any sense because Australia already produces more gas than it uses, we’re the largest exporter of gas next to Qatar? After we fight it out it’s like 77… I can’t even remember what, I don’t even know what the – 77 million something or others, uh, liquid natural gas –
Barnaby Joyce: – Petajoules.
Luke McGregor: Petajoules! We’re the largest exporter of gas…[stream-of-unconsciousness continues for many, many more words.]
DAVID SPEERS IGNORES GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION IN SETTING RENEWABLE ENERGY TARGETS
Here’s part of the exchange this morning on ABC TV’s News Breakfast between co-presenter Michael Rowland and Insiders’ presenter David (“Call me Speersy”) Speers. It occurred when attention turned on the announcement by Energy Minister Angus Taylor that the Morrison government will underwrite the building of a 660 megawatt gas power plant at Kurri Kurri in north east NSW to partially offset the forthcoming closure of the Liddell power station. The intention is for the Kurri Kurri plant to provide energy to the grid at a time of high demand and/or low supply – aimed at preventing blackouts and rapid increases in energy prices.
This is how the issue was handled by Speersy this morning.
Michael Rowland: Hunter Valley, big move by the government and causing a bit of debate in the Labor Party as well.
David Speers: It sure is – and maybe that was part of the aim here as well. Look, there’s so much to unpack about this. Is gas really where we need to be going – given it is a fossil fuel? Can batteries do it? The other point is, you know, should government at all be intervening in the market? And Liberals traditionally will fight against any sort of market intervention like this. But the main argument from the Prime Minister is that this will drive down prices. Well, will it?
What a load of absolute tosh. It was John Howard’s Coalition government which introduced the Renewable Energy Target in 2001 – initially aimed at sourcing two per cent of Australia’s energy generation from renewable sources. This was increased by the Labor government in 2009 and was continued, in various forms, by Liberal Party prime ministers Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.
As the Commonwealth government’s website puts it: “Since its beginning in 2001, the Renewable Energy Target has increased the number of installations of small-scale renewable energy systems and successfully stimulated investment in renewable energy power stations”.
Sounds like a government intervention in the market place, don’t you think?
- NEW ABC BOARD APPOINTMENTS WILL NOT ALTER ABC’S LEFT-OF-CENTRE CULTURE
Last Monday, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher announced three new five-year appointments to the ABC Board. Namely Fiona Balfour (whose background is in information and communications technology), Peter Tonagh (formerly of News Corp) and Mario D’Orazio (formerly of Channel 7 Perth). They replace Kirstin Ferguson and Donny Waterford (whose terms expired in November last year) and Vanessa Guthrie (who resigned in March this year).
The appointments led to the usual objections from the Friends of the ABC Set – as was illustrated on the Sydney Morning Herald Letters Page on Tuesday under the heading “It’s chum change on the ABC Board”. Here they are:
Do the latest ABC board appointments demonstrate the Coalition’s “meritocracy” in action (“ABC appoints three to board after delays”, May 17)? One a former News Corp exec, another a best mate of Mathias Cormann, and the Minister for Communications has known the third “for a number of years”. I guess we should be grateful they didn’t appoint Andrew Bolt? – Phil Bradshaw, Naremburn
The government hopes that by appointing a former News Corp executive to the ABC board that those pesky inner-city, latte-sipping socialists will be silenced. Must be an election coming up. – Paul Duncan, Leura
One substantial letter from Naremburn on Sydney’s North Shore, the other from affluent Leura in the NSW Blue Mountains. Apparently the SMH Letters editor believed that this duo had something important to say – with its view that the Morrison government is stacking the ABC Board and that this will somehow affect ABC content.
It’s a myth. The ABC Board does not run the ABC – nor should it. The role of a board is to oversee management and, every now and then, appoint the managing director. In a normal business or organisation, it’s management that is in control of day to day operations. However, this is not the case with the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – which is essentially a staff collective in which various producers and presenters run their own programs.
This is not a problem which has developed on current managing director David Anderson’s watch – it goes back decades. As a consequence of producers and presenters employing and promoting their own, the ABC has become a Conservative Free Zone – without one presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. Change to the ABC Board will not change this reality.
In view of the fact that the ABC is a staff collective – where management cannot even prevent ABC TV’s 7.30’s political correspondent from accusing the Prime Minister of “ideological bastardry” or describing him as “a goose” (re which see today’s Can You Bear It? segment) – there is little that any ABC Board can do with respect to content. Even deliberate political appointments of conservatives to the ABC Board would not lead to political diversity among ABC staff. That’s not how boards work – and that’s not how staff collectives work.
LA TINGLE TAKES A GANDER IN CALLING THE PM “A GOOSE” ON INSIDERS
It was only late last year that Laura Tingle, ABC TV 7.30’s political correspondent, accused the Prime Minister of “ideological bastardry”.
Sure, it was a late-night tweet – but it was despatched with feeling. The Prime Minister did not appear on 7.30 between 9 October 2020 (when the tweet went out) and last Wednesday (12 May).
This was presented as a post-budget interview, but 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales went off topic and – replete with interruptions – argued with Scott Morrison about an alleged late at night rape in Parliament House, the behaviour of a Liberal Party backbencher and more besides. The interview was well analysed in Chris Mitchell’s column in The Australian’s “Media” pages on Monday. But MWD digresses.
La Tingle was on the ABC TV Insiders’ panel last Sunday – along with Nine Newspapers’ Peter Hartcher and news.com’s Samantha Maiden. David Speers was in the presenter’s chair. It was one of those Insiders’ panels where essentially everyone agreed with essentially everyone else on essentially everything. But there was one remarkable section of the program when discussion turned on COVID-19 vaccinations. Let’s go to the transcript:
David Speers: But anyway, does it really matter at the end of the day, whether it’s [i.e. the completion of the vaccinations] a few weeks either side of Christmas? Or, you know, or is it a consequence of not wanting to have any sort of targets anymore that you get this bit of confusion? What do you think?
Samantha Maiden: The Prime Minister is now fully panicked, having given us all these vaccination deadlines back in January – how many people were going to be done and when the aged care – still aged care workers aren’t fully vaccinated. Now, you know, the Prime Minister wants to move into a sort of post-truth, post –
Laura Tingle: [Interjecting] There are two things here, I think. One of them is he’s [Scott Morrison] so scared of making a target about anything. He’s actually looking like a goose when he gets up and goes: “Oh, well, I didn’t say that and I didn’t really mean that” and all those sorts of things. So there’s the goose factor. And then there’s the second factor….
So there you have it. Comrade Maiden had just declared that Scott Morrison has “fully panicked” and is into “post-truth” when Comrade Tingle opined that Scott Morrison was “looking like a goose” and exhibiting “the goose factor” – whatever that might mean.
It would seem that the 7.30’s political correspondent does not understand the difference between criticism and abuse. Nor did the rest of the Insiders’ team last Sunday – since no one challenged the comment. But just imagine what would the Twitter Soviet have said if a conservative commentator had referred to Prime Minister Julia Gillard as, say, a “gander” who was exhibiting the “gander factor”? Can You Bear It?
NINE’S PETER HARTCHER PLUGS HIS NEW BOOK WHILE PRETENDING NOT TO DO SO
By the way, did anyone catch Peter Hartcher’s self-promotion in the “Final Observations” segment of Insiders, where he gave his new book a plug without mentioning its name:
Peter Hartcher: During the week, David [Speers], you were the one who pointed out that Josh Frydenberg’s budget speech did not mention the five-letter word – China. And yet this is a big factor overhanging our economy and a big risk factor. The – during the week, immediately after the budget, China’s party-owned news outlet, The Global Times, threatened Australia with “economic carnage” and yet more trade sanctions. It’s interesting that the budget completely ignores this risk factor. There’ll be more emerging next week – I confidently predict some revelations about how Australia got to this position in this crisis with China –
David Speers: Is this in your book?
Peter Hartcher: Oh, funny you should mention that David. Yes, I’m, the book I’ve written is releasing, releasing next week.
David Speers: I’m looking forward to reading it.
Well fancy that. Peter Hartcher confidently predicted the revelations in his very own book. And then the international editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age said that it was “funny” that Speersy should have mentioned the Hartcher tome The Red Zone: China’s Challenge and Australia’s Future (Black Inc) when your man Hartcher had hinted about it in the first place. Can You Bear It?
[Er, no. Not now that you ask. As I recall, Australian Financial Review editor Michael Stutchbury was wont to plug AFR products when he was on the Insiders’ panel. But at least Stutch did not attempt to disguise what he was up to. Come to think of it – it would be good to have the AFR editor back on the Insiders’ couch – unlike virtually all Insiders’ panellists, Michael Stutchbury did not predict a Labor Party victory in 2019. Perhaps that’s why Stutch is no longer on the Insiders’ panel. – MWD Editor.]
PROFESSOR MARK KENNY’S ROLE IN PICKING THE ABC BOARD
While still on the topic of Insiders, isn’t it great that Mark (“Please call me professor”) Kenny is on the panel which makes recommendations to the Commonwealth Government about who should be appointed to the boards of the ABC and SBS.
MWD is full of admiration for your man Kenny who did a few years at Adelaide University before getting a job working for a Labor left faction politician in the South Australian parliament. He graduated from the South Australian Labor left and into the ABC – an obvious ideological journey when you think about it. Then it was on to (the then) Fairfax Media with gigs at the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times – along with a seat on the Insiders’ couch. Then it was “Arise Professor Kenny” – and a gig at the Australian National University. A brilliant career, to be sure.
Along the way, Dr Martin Parkinson – the (then) Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – announced on 22 May 2019 that Mark Kenny had been appointed to “the nomination panel responsible for recommending candidates for the boards” of the ABC and SBS.
Again, a stunning achievement. Mark Kenny was formally appointed to this position on 21 May 2021 – just three days after the May 2019 Federal election, when the Morrison government was in caretaker mode. According to Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher recently accepted two out of three recommendations by the panel for ABC board appointments – re which see today’s Editorial. Apparently Ms Balfour was the Minister’s own choice.
As avid MWD readers are well aware, Insiders’ executive producer Samuel (“Call me Sam”) Clark is forever banging on about the need for full disclosure and all that. But MWD cannot recall when Professor Kenny has told Insiders’ viewers about his role in the appointment of the ABC and SBS board members. Can You Bear It?
ABC’S COVERAGE OF THE HAMAS-ISRAEL CONFLICT LACKING IN BALANCE
Here’s an example of the ABC’s balance in reporting the current conflict between Hamas and Israel. Early in the conflict, ABC TV reported that Hamas had indiscriminately fired rockets at Israel in response to Israel’s air attack on Gaza. It was, in fact, the other way around – with Hamas indiscriminately firing rockets into Israel in the first instance.
On Monday it seems that ABC Radio National Breakfast decided to provide balance to its coverage of the issue. Presenter Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly gave a 10-minute interview to Izzat Salah Abdulhadi in his capacity as head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia. Followed by an interview of the same length with Jonathan Peled, Israel’s Acting Ambassador to Australia.
As it turned out, Mr Abdulhadi got pretty soft questions. The RN Breakfast presenter did not drill-down on the relationship between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (which he represents in Australia) and the Gaza-based Hamas leadership (which he doesn’t represent in Australia). The PA diplomat focused his argument on the fact that Israel’s attacks on Gaza have resulted in deaths of children – to which Fran Kelly responded: “It’s heart-breaking; it’s heart breaking”. Yes it is – but no more heart-breaking than the death of Israeli children following Hamas rocket attacks.
Then it was Ambassador Peled’s turn. Comrade Kelly’s line was that the Israeli response was not proportionate. She commented that Israel had attacked the al-Jalaa building which housed a number of media outlets including Al Jazeera and Associated Press. Kelly then suggested that this might have been a tactic by Israel to stop the media showing the rest of the world what’s going on inside Gaza City. Overlooking the fact that there was no shortage of news out of Gaza.
Then Kelly claimed that Israeli authorities had “ordered the evacuation of six Palestinian families from East Jerusalem”. This statement is false. And the Israeli ambassador was asked to defend his nation against the suggestion that it was practising apartheid. This is the line of Israel’s enemies.
Then on Wednesday, in the “Newspapers” segment of the ABC TV News Breakfast program, Melbourne University academic Inala Cooper used the occasion to quote from a CNN story about the views of an Arab-Israeli parliamentarian.
Inala Cooper: I think this is really important to highlight, we’ve seen really sad and shocking scenes in the news over the last week or two of what’s happening in Gaza. And this Arab-Israeli lawmaker, her name is Aida Touma Suleiman…who describes what’s happening as “ethnic cleansing”. This is really important language, and ethnic cleansing is considered a war crime. And Aida highlights, you know [that] evacuating entire neighbourhoods of people, can’t be described as anything else other than ethnic cleansing. So she was involved in, she joined the thousands of people who’ve been protesting this war overnight, Jerusalem has been declared occupied territory. And once again, that’s really important language. And also whether or not the border to Gaza should be described as a border, or described as a prison fence or other terminology. So I think this is an important story to highlight, because it really looks at the human rights aspect of what’s happening to Palestinians over in Gaza. And yeah, the language around ethnic cleansing is really important.
Presenters Madeleine Morris and Michael Rowland went along with this analysis. But Israel is not practising ethnic cleansing. Moreover, Jerusalem is not occupied territory – West Jerusalem has been part of Israel since the nation was created by the United Nations in 1948. Ms Cooper made no reference to Hamas firing rockets from Gaza into Israel or the fact that the Hamas regime crushes the human rights of Gaza’s citizens. It was as imbalanced as that.
ON THE RADICAL LEFT’S RE-BURNABLE “DRAFT CARDS” OF HALF A CENTURY AGO
There was enormous interest in last week’s story about the book Radicals: Remembering the Sixties by Meredith Burgmann and Nadia Wheatley – especially concerning David Marr’s once upon a time (almost) radical moment when he almost threw a flour bomb at a copper. But he didn’t.
MWD commented about the report of the launch of Radicals at the Cyprus Club in Sydney on 6 May 2021 by Andrew Hornery in his “Private Sydney” gossip column in the Sydney Morning Herald on 8 May. Comrade Hornery referred to a certain Wayne Haylen as “Australia’s first draft-card burner”. Comrade Haylen was among the Sandalista Set who attended the Burgmann/Wheatley launch.
In the United States at the time, military service was determined according to the draft administered by local draft authorities. Americans who were drafted were given a draft-card. Australia, on the other hand, had a national service scheme whereby young men were balloted in, or balloted out, according to their date of birth drawn by a lottery. The results of the ballot were announced in a letter issued to all individuals who were in the ballot.
Last week’s MWD re-printed a photo from Peter Edwards’ official history A Nation At War of some Sydney radicals burning something or other over a caption which stated:
Greg Barker (left), Wayne Haylen (centre) and Barry Robinson burn their national service registration cards in Belmore Park, Sydney, on 3 February 1966. This form of protest, like many of the tactics used in anti-war demonstrations in Australia, was borrowed from the United States, where American protestors burned their draft-cards.
MWD opined that this radical trio might have been burning a parking ticket or a university library card or possibly a birthday card. This led to the following email by an avid reader who was a student at Sydney University in 1970:
Excellent Media Watch Dog last Friday.
I was interested to read that Barry Robinson was burning alleged draft-cards as early as 1966. I saw him do it at a Sydney Uni Front Lawn Demo in 1970. He either kept getting replacements to burn or he faked it. A friend inspected the 1970 remains and told me that Barry had burned an expired student bus pass. He was widely mocked over this and never tried the stunt again.
So Jackie’s (male) co-owner wasn’t far out. It would seem that the favoured flammable object, in the absence of a draft-card, was an expired bus pass – not an extant library card. How fake can a radical get? In the absence of a draft-card, a real radical would have burnt an extant bus pass and borne the financial cost involved as a gesture towards the revolution.
This increasingly popular segment of MWD is inspired by the Irish satirist Jonathan Swift’s proposal in 1729 to relieve the plight of the Irish under British control by certain suggestions which he proffered in his writings. As a consequence of such irreverence, your clergyman Swift never attained his due rank within the Church of Ireland (i.e. the Anglican Church in Ireland). But that’s another story. This is the current one.
SOME NEW SUGGESTED TALENT – OF “QUERULOUS & ALIENATED” DISPOSITION – FOR Q&A
As avid readers are aware, Media Watch Dog likes to help. In this instance, the intention is to provide new leftist talent for Q&A – on the understanding that more leftists on Q&A panels can never be enough.
Last Saturday, Nine Newspapers (the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) carried Declan Fry’s positive review of Fiona McGregor’s collection of essays Buried Not Dead (Giramondo, 2021). MWD is yet to purchase the latest McGregor tome but did read an earlier work titled Strange Museums: A Journey Through Poland (see The Sydney Institute Quarterly, June 2009).
In any event, MWD just loved this part of Comrade Fry’s review:
Her [Fiona McGregor’s] depiction of the Australian scene, needless to say, contains multitudes; all the ironies of a country whose government is both obsessed with crushing art and enlisting it to nationalist ends. Each Constable Care attempt at glad handing is usually only a handshake away from unleashing the pepper spray and retraining the sniffer dogs to hunt down artists and queers.
So there you have it. It would appear that Comrade Fry agrees with Comrade McGregor’s apparent view that the Morrison government and its mild-mannered Arts Minister Paul Fletcher are obsessed with crushing art and enlisting it to nationalist ends. And that the Morrison dictatorship is only a handshake away from unleashing spray and retraining the sniffer dogs to hunt down artists and queers.
If this is the collective view of McGregor/Fry, then surely each warrants a place on the Q&A (aka Querulous & Alienated) panel as soon as possible. Hence this Modest Proposal.
LENORE TAYLOR ON THE GUARDIAN’S “RIGOROUS” AND “INDEPENDENT” COMPLAINTS PROCESS
Media Watch Dog understands that avid (but not uncritical) reader Lenore Taylor, editor of The Guardian Australia, got somewhat upset at last week’s “Can You Bear It?” segment titled “Amanda Meade Fails To Mention That The Guardian Australia Has Not Signed Up To The Australian Press Council”. Ms Taylor had this to say:
There’s an inaccuracy in Gerard’s Media Watch Dog column. He claims the Guardian has no independent complaints process. In fact we have an independent readers’ editor, whose team evaluates and assesses all complaints. Her decisions can also be appealed to an external review panel. I have cc’ed our current readers’ editor Elisabeth Ribbans on this email in case you need any more information about this rigorous and independent process. I would appreciate a correction to Gerard’s column, which is clearly inaccurate.
Gerard Henderson made the point that “The Guardian Australia is the only major newspaper in the nation which is not a member of the Australian Press Council or the Perth based Independent Media Council”. This is correct. The “Can You Bear It?” piece concluded:
The Guardian Australia targets many a conservative politician and commentator. But it allows no right of independent review – even for gross howlers – and there is no way to make a complaint against The Guardian to an independent body. To summarise, Lenore Taylor and her leftist comrades constantly bang on about accountability. But they preside over an online newspaper which is accountable to nobody.
The fact is that Lenore Taylor and her political editor Katharine Murphy lecture-at-large about the need for transparency, independence and so on. However, Ms Taylor is asking readers of Media Watch Dog to accept that The Guardian’s readers’ editor – who is employed by The Guardian and based in London – is the appropriate person to evaluate and assess all complaints made to The Guardian Australia. Ditto the London-based review panel which has been set up in Britain by The Scott Trust. As far as MWD is aware, no member of The Guardian’s review panel is based in Australia.
So The Guardian Australia’s editor reckons that the work of its Australian journalists can be suitably reviewed by individuals appointed by The Guardian in London whom it declares as independent.
In any event, Media Watch Dog is happy to draw readers’ attention to what Lenore Taylor describes as The Guardian’s “rigorous…independent complaints process”.
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Until next time.
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