GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 548
2 July 2021
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Can You Bear It? – SMH’s Jenna Price on the benefits of lockdown; Sky News UK beats up the Australian lockdown; Gael Jennings brings only confusion to News Breakfast; Jon Faine struggles to manifest “Good Jon”; Annabel Crabb on Liberal voters (alleged) love for Labor prime ministers; Louise Milligan – Asks but does not answer questions
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7.30 EXECUTIVE PRODUCER JUSTIN STEVENS SURPRISED THAT LAURA TINGLE FAILS TO ENTICE AN INTERVIEW FROM THE PM SHE ONCE ACCUSED OF IDEOLOGICAL BASTARDRY
Once upon a time, executive producers used to proclaim that this or that prominent politician was to appear on a certain program. In a novel twist, ABC TV 7.30 executive producer Justin Stevens now advises all and sundry as to who will not be on 7.30.
Yesterday morning, for example, your man Stevens put out this tweet:
The Prime Minister, Health Minister Greg Hunt & Dept secretary Brendan Murphy have declined to come on @abc730 this evening to respond to the QLD Premier interview & explain the advice on AstraZeneca. We’ll keep asking into next week.
— Justin Stevens (@_JustinStevens_) July 1, 2021
It seems that Comrade Stevens has a lack of self-awareness. At the moment, Laura Tingle is presenting 7.30. This is the very same Comrade Tingle who recently accused the Prime Minister, in a late-night tweet, of “ideological bastardry”. And the 7.30 executive producer seems to expect that Scott Morrison will readily accept an invitation from 7.30 to be interviewed by Ms Tingle.
And then there is the fact that, like many ABC news and current affairs program, 7.30 is not a vote changer. It is liked by the Green Left and watched by some Coalition voters. But 7.30 is no longer the place where a prime minister – ideological bastard or otherwise – needs to appear. The same applies to senior Coalition politicians. And departmental secretaries rarely do interviews.
For the record, when Queensland Labor premier Annastacia Palaszczuk appeared on 7.30 on Wednesday she received a soft interview. Laura Tingle did not correct several of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s errors. Namely, contrary to what the Premier told the interviewer, it is incorrect to state that the British government is not “offering” or “allowing” AstraZeneca vaccines for individuals under 40 years of age. Second, it is incorrect to state that “mass vaccination hubs to administer AstraZeneca to the under 40s” have been, or are being, set up by the Morrison government.
Perhaps your man Stevens would be better employed briefing his presenter on vaccines and the like rather than whinging about those who decline 7.30 invitations.
JASON FALINSKI OUTS HIMSELF AS A RISK TAKER BY BEING A LIBERAL WHO APPEARS ON Q&A
Liberal MP Jason Falinski put in a fine performance on Q&A last night in spite of the fact that a majority of the panel was critical of the Morrison government’s handling of COVID-19 and all that.
During a segment where three panel members had effectively told a 34-year old audience member not to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, the following exchange took place:
David Speers (presenter): Are you rushing out to get an AstraZeneca jab yourself now?
Jason Falinski: Yeah, next Tuesday, I’ll get – Listen David, I’m not sure anyone should follow my lead. I mean, I’m a Liberal on Q&A, with you hosting. So clearly I have a very high risk appetite.
Good one. Don’t you think? Believe it or not, Comrade Speers then asked panellist Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah whether Mr Falinski should receive the AZ vaccine. On live television, no less.
It was one of those moments which reflects the reality of the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone. David Speers also let the Premier get away with the claim that a state like Queensland has no control over the number of persons in quarantine at any one time – which overlooked the fact that, in recent memory, Victoria and Western Australia have done precisely this.
OH DEER (aka DEAR) – NINE’S JENNA PRICE LIKES THE SYDNEY LOCKDOWN
At a personal level Jenna Price is a Media Watch Dog fave. But MWD does not play favourites. And she has a background at the Sydney Morning Herald and the University of Technology, Sydney and is currently a visiting fellow at the Australian National University. Oh yes – and Dr Price (for a doctor she is – but don’t call her if you break your arm) writes a column for the SMH and the Canberra Times and lives in inner-city Sydney. You get the picture. Comrade Price is something of a leftist luvvie – albeit of the reasonable kind.
On Tuesday, JPs SMH column was headed “Deer [sic] Sydney, we can do this lockdown”. This is how it commenced:
When the pandemic first hit, I remember how enthusiastic we all were at the bathroom sink, singing happy birthday twice – or Jolene – as we soapily slathered our hands under streams of water. We were going to cleanse our way to freedom. But for a few months now, I’ve spent a longer time than usual in public toilets watching the behaviour of people at those basins (the gender neutral bathrooms give me some insight into male behaviour. Terrifying). Turns out habits don’t stick. We were good once. Now, not so much.
Now, Jackie’s (male) co-owner does not devote time to watching hand ablutions in the unisex public toilets. Hendo has better things to do, like reading Karl Marx’s comrade Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in the original German in a private bath with the cold water running to keep awake. So he accepts that Comrade Price’s observations about hand washing at a time of pandemic are correct. But agreement ends at JP’s praise for the current lockdown in parts of NSW which will probably run for two weeks or more.
According to the ANU visiting fellow (presumably Comrade Price visits virtually these days) there are “benefits” in this lockdown. Last time JP spent time “poking strangers with umbrellas” which she concedes as “a strange thing to do”. But this time – well, let’s hear directly from the SMH columnist herself about what’s good about lockdowns:
It’s the quiet I love. The disappearance of obligation. The time to plan for fun. The lack of commute for my deers (sorry). Melbourne science communicator Tanya Ha says she decided to go full-on for fitness during that city’s long lockdown. Bought a stationary bike. Downloaded a running app. Now she can easily do five kilometres without panting. The near-disappearance of time pressure really helped some families, say University of Melbourne researchers Lyn Craig and Brendan Churchill. Craig Dalton tells me sexually transmitted infections have dropped, which shows fewer people are having casual unprotected sex.
MWD had no ideer [sic] what the reference to “deer” and “deers” in this column means. It may have something to do with the fact that two blokes on the NSW South Coast beach were disturbed by some deer when sunbathing starkers and sought refuge in a forest – after which they were fined by NSW Police for breaching COVID-19 restrictions. But then it might be some kind of secret message extended by ANU academics. Feel free to let MWD know if you have any idea what Dr Price is on about here.
Earlier in her column Dr Price conceded that “the lockdown is hard for many”. But it would seem that, from an ANU and the University of Melbourne’s perspective there are benefits of locking people up. In which case, what about a permanent lockdown?
But there’s more. Inner city academics, science communicators and university researchers and the like seem to be of the view that all Australians have enough money to buy stationary bikes and download apps and benefit from “the lack of commute” for their deers – whatever that might mean. How self-obsessed can an ANU academic be? Can You Bear It?
SKY NEWS UK BEATS UP THE AUSTRALIAN LOCKDOWN
While on the topic of lockdowns, this is the exchange which took place at around Post Dinner Drinks Time (AEST) last Monday when Sky News UK presenter Kay Burley spoke to Dr Peter (“Please call if there is a pandemic”) Openshaw about ending the lockdown in England and Wales by “Terminus Day” on 19 July:
Kay Burley: Thanks for joining us on the program this morning. Do you think we can bring Terminus Day any further forward than 19th July at the earliest?
Peter Openshaw: I think it would be a mistake. Kate, I mean, we are fortunate to have had this four-week delay, which allows vaccination rates to get really high for us to gather a lot more data about how the Delta agent is spreading. And I think bringing the date forward would be a definite mistake…
Kay Burley: Do you feel we might have to push the 19th of July back further?
Peter Openshaw: I think it’s a possibility. This Delta agent is ferociously infectious, and we can see the impact it has in relatively unvaccinated populations, in Australia, for example….
And now for some facts. As of Monday 28 June, there were 30 new COVID-19 infections in Australia with only 2 people in intensive care and no one on a ventilator. In England on 28 June some 22, 868 Brits tested positive for COVID-19 and there were 1,724 people in hospital and 297 in ventilation beds.
Yet Sky News UK reckons that the Delta version of COVID-19 is having a huge impact in Australia which would justify the British government extending its own version of lockdowns beyond 19 July. Which indicates that Sky News UK might be getting its media news about Australia from the scaremonger Dr Norman (“Call me doctor”) Swan. In which case – Can You Bear It?
CONFUSION REIGNS WITH GAEL JENNINGS ON NEWS BREAKFAST
Thursday morning ABC News Breakfast viewers hoping for a little clarity re the ongoing debate about administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to those under the age of 60 were left sorely disappointed. Presenters Michael Rowland and Lisa Millar were joined by Gael Jennings from the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne to discuss news coverage of the vaccine rollout. Let’s go to the transcript:
Michael Rowland: Good morning. Bit to talk about.
Gael Jennings: Yeah, oh, my god endlessly. It’s so, it’s a very complex time, isn’t it? I know that it’s been madly covered all day yesterday. But in fact, the papers are still completely full of the fact that the Prime Minister said that under 40s should go and get AstraZeneca because they’ll be indemnified for it. And now, all papers are reporting a real backlash. So, The Age digital is saying that they’ve mangled the message and this is causing vaccine, vaccine hesitancy. The Herald Sun is calling it ‘COVID cheap shots’, because they’re all fighting amongst themselves.
Basically, as you know, the AMA, which is the professional group of all the GPs, have come out straight out and said: “Well hang on a sec, this is a bad message to give them because they need to, there’ll be individuals within that group of younger people who will need to be checked by their GP. And so you’ve kind of confused everything”. And first of all, you know, the AstraZeneca was for the over 60s, then it was for the over 50s. And then it was for young people for five minutes. And now it’s gone back, and then it’s gone back again.
It is almost impressive how many errors Dr Jennings (for a medical research doctor she is) managed to fit into the space of a minute. Here is a quick summary of this spray of misinformation:
- It is doctors not patients who have been indemnified for AstraZeneca.
- The Australian Medical Association is not “the professional group of all the GPs”. In fact, it offers membership to all Australian doctors (though less than 30 per cent are members) and has a somewhat strained relationship with GPs, who join the organisation at lower rates than specialists. Perhaps Gael Jennings is confusing the AMA with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP)?
- Dr Jennings’ paraphrasing of the AMA is hard to make sense of. Why would the AMA object to Scott Morrison telling young Australians to consult with their GP on the grounds that some young people will need to be checked by their GP? The AMA’s criticism of the Prime Minister has focused on the lack of consultation and coordination of messaging around the decision, but they have been broadly supportive of the decision itself.
- Dr Jennings’ timeline for the changing advice on AstraZeneca bares almost no resemblance to reality. AZ was approved for everyone over 18, then recommended only for those over 50 and then later only for those over 60. It is still recommended for those over 60 and available after consultation with a GP for those under 60. It was never “for young people for five minutes”.
All of this went unquestioned by Michael Rowland and Lisa Millar. The Jennings/Rowland/Millar trio then went on to further lament the amount of mixed messaging surrounding the issue of administering AstraZeneca doses to young Australians. At no point did they reflect on the media’s role in creating this confusion. Can You Bear It?
THE CONFUSION OF JON FAINE’S “GOOD JON” v “BAD JON” AGE COLUMN
As long term avid readers will be aware, Charles Sturt University academic Clive Hamilton has spoken in the past about his two personas. You see there are two Hamiltons. [Oh no. Surely one is enough. – MWD Editor.] There is your man Clive – who’s a pretty decent kind of bloke. And there’s your man Jacob – who’s to be avoided.
But MWD digresses. Earlier this week, it emerged that the dual personality phenomenon has spread to Melbourne. How else to explain that, in The Age on Monday, former ABC Radio presenter and all-round luvvie Jon Faine wrote a column titled: “The good, the bad and Sydney’s COVID outbreak”.
Your man Faine seemed somewhat divided as to whether the recently imposed lockdown in Sydney was a good thing. Good, because it would stop Sydneysiders from being so smug about Melbourne’s long and many lockdowns of recent memory. And then there was the possibility that the Sydney lockdown was a bad thing for all Australians. Or something like this.
And so it came to pass that Faine Esq divided himself – Clive Hamilton like – into two personas. There was “Good Jon” and “Bad Jon” and they had different views until they got together and declared that COVID-19 was bad for all Australians. Er, that was it. Can You Bear It?
[Er, no. Not really now that you ask. I note that The Age – presumably editor Gay Alcorn – was wise enough not to run an 1800 word article by your man Jon Faine who had obtained a special interview with Victoria’s Labor (of the Socialist Left faction) premier Daniel (“Call me Dan”) Andrews on his return to work after sustaining a serious injury. It seems that the powers-that-be at The Age decided that the newspaper should commission interviews by its journalists with premiers – and not accept copy from one of its columnists. A wise decision, to be sure. Especially since Comrade Faine presents as an active member of the “I stand with Dan” Fan Club.
MWD feels sorry for Jon Faine being deprived of an expected fee for his 1800 word unpublished article. MWD believes that Comrade Alcorn should give Comrade Faine double his normal fee for last week’s column. After all, it involved twice the usual effort since Mr Faine had to interview both “Good Jon” and “Bad Jon” for his piss-poor effort. Just a thought – which I hope is helpful. MWD Editor.]
ANNABEL CRABB DELIVERS FAKE NEWS ABOUT THE VIEWS OF LIBERAL PARTY AND NATIONALS VOTERS
There has been enormous interest in Media Watch Dog’s analysis of the ABC’s much proclaimed (by the ABC) Australia Talks series. The ABC presents this as providing an insight into the views of Australians. However, as MWD has pointed out, Australia Talks essentially surveys anonymous Australians who are in contact with the ABC. That is, Australia Talks is essentially a survey by the ABC of the views of ABC viewers/listeners/readers.
This helps explain the tweet put out by Annabel Crabb on 22 June 2021 about how Australia Talks respondents ranked Australian prime ministers:
When asked to name their favourite PM, here's how #AustraliaTalks respondents ranked them:
John Howard 22%
Bob Hawke 15%
Julia Gillard 14%
Gough Whitlam 12%
Paul Keating 11 %
Kevin Rudd 8%
Malcolm Turnbull 6%
Scott Morrison 4%
Tony Abbott and Bob Menzies, tied on 2%
— Annabel Crabb (@annabelcrabb) June 22, 2021
Robert Menzies became prime minister of Australia (for the second time around) in December 1949. From January 1950 until January 2021, Australia has been led by a Coalition government for around 48 years and by Labor government for around 20 years.
However, 60 per cent of Australia Talks respondents chose a Labor figure as their favourite PM while only 36 per cent chose a Liberal prime minister.
Then there was this survey:
From the #AustraliaTalks data ..
Among Lib/Nat voters, John Howard is #1 with 45 %.
2nd place is a three-way tie on 9% between Morrison, Turnbull and Hawke!
Then Keating on 7%, and Whitlam and Menzies tied (😳)on 4%
Only 3% backed Tony Abbott who tied with… Julia Gillard.
— Annabel Crabb (@annabelcrabb) June 22, 2021
This amounts to 93 per cent of respondents.
So, according to Australia Talks, a total of 23 per cent of its Liberal Party and Nationals respondents regard a Labor type as their favourite PM rather than a Coalition type. And more than twice as many Coalition voters prefer Malcolm Turnbull (who lost 14 seats in the only election in which he led the Coalition) to Tony Abbott (who won 25 seats from Labor in the two elections in which he led the Coalition). And, according to Australia Talks, the favourite prime minister of almost a quarter of Australia Talks respondents is a Labor leader (Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Gough Whitlam or Julia Gillard). Turn it up.
It seems that Annabel (“I can detect a strange dude politician when I see one”) Crabb is unaware that whatever Australia Talks is surveying it is not a representative sample of Australian voters. In other words, the much proclaimed Australia Talks is Fake News. Can You Bear It? [No, not really. Not after I read this week’s “An ABC Update” – see below. – MWD Editor.]
LOUISE MILLIGAN – ASKS BUT DOES NOT ANSWER QUESTIONS
It is a constant theme of Media Watch Dog that the ABC, which is signed up to the Right To Know Coalition, is reluctant to give anyone the right to know about what’s going on at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.
For example, on The Bolt Report on Tuesday, The Australian’s Sophie Elsworth said that she could not get the ABC to answer the question as to whether it had paid a fee for an article by Jon Faine on Victorian premier Daniel Andrews – which was accepted by its Melbourne office but spiked as being not sufficiently newsworthy by the ABC powers-that-be in the Sydney headquarters in Ultimo.
As MWD has commented, Nick Leys – ABC’s Head of Communications – invariably does not communicate. Hence Hendo’s long list of unanswered questions – an issue not to be dwelt on at the moment.
ABC producers and reporters demand that individuals, including the prime minister, answer their questions. But the ABC does not reciprocate. Thanks to the avid reader in Devonport who drew MWD’s attention to this tweet that ABC “star” reporter Louise Milligan sent out on 5 June 2021:
The reference was to Louise Milligan’s Four Corners program “The Great Awakening: A family divided by QAnon” which aired on 14 June having been originally scheduled for 7 June. It alleged that, somehow or other, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is associated with an international extreme right wing conspiracy. Or something like that.
That’s pretty clear, then. Comrade Milligan reckons that the Prime Minister’s Office should respond to her questions. It’s just that she does not respond to the questions of others.
Louise Milligan’s Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell was published by Melbourne University Press in 2017. It was a controversial book which ran allegations of historical child sexual abuse against Pell. As is widely known, all of the allegations against Pell cited in Cardinal were either dropped by the prosecution before going to trial or quashed in a unanimous 7 to Zip judgment by the High Court.
On 7 May 2017, Gerard Henderson sent Louise Milligan 11 questions concerning Cardinal. After pointing to a factual error in one part of Cardinal, he asked 11 questions about such issues as (i) anonymous sources, (ii) the fallibility of memory, (iii) the use of direct quotation marks with respect to unrecorded conversations, (iv) hearsay evidence and more besides. It is of special relevance due to the fact that some of the claims in Cardinal were discredited by the High Court’s unanimous judgment in Pell v The Queen on 7 April 2020.
Louise Milligan not only declined to answer Gerard Henderson’s questions. She handed the matter over to Louise Adler – the head of MUP – who emailed Hendo effectively telling him to desist. This despite the fact that, at the time, Hendo was a published MUP author. In short, the author of Cardinal could not, or would not, defend her own book with respect to accuracy, consistency and scholarship – and sought protection from her publisher.
So Ms Milligan demands that others answer her questions. But she does not answer the questions of others. How about this for a lack of self-awareness. And, more importantly, Can You Bear It?
IN WHICH C.D. NAILS PETER FITZSIMONS’ FALSE MEMORY ABOUT ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE IN THE 1970s
As avid readers will recall, last week Media Watch Dog drew attention to the fact that Peter (“I wore a red bandanna on my head for a decade until I had to wash both”) FitzSimons told readers (if readers there were) of his Sun-Herald “Fitz on Sunday” column about his $80,000 Tesla electric car. Yawn. This look-at-moi-auto piece was essentially a boast about how Teslas never break down – and so (wealthy) Tesla owners do not need roadside-assistance, such as the NRMA in NSW.
MWD’s point was that, when a young man with a bomb of a car, Fitz relied on the NRMA – which was in a healthy financial position because most NRMA members did not own bombs which frequently broke down. This made it possible for the organisation to provide roadside assistance to not so well-off students such as your man FitzSimons.
The point being that once Fitz became wealthy enough to afford a reliable car – he no longer sees the point in supporting the NRMA to help it provide road service to the less reliable cars of the less well-off (including contemporary students).
But avid reader C.D. thought this story was really all about Fitz being Fitz – and making things up on the way. Here’s what C.D. had to say:
I note that MWD quoted Peter FitzSimons as saying this in his Sun-Herald column on 20 June 2021: “Circa 40 years ago, at Sydney uni’s Wesley College, while others would simply grab their keys to start their cars, I would call the NRMA on 632 0500 and ask them to please send Bluey or Jacko over with some jumper leads and WD-40 so I could get my old mini-moke going.”
I too had bomb cars in the 1970s that required the regular attendance of the NRMA. But, as I recall it, the NRMA had hundreds of patrolmen in Sydney handling thousands of calls a day. To be able to ring up and demand a specific patrolman must have been a special service for Fitz. All I got was someone would be there in an hour. Or more. Sure, I saw the same person more than once. That actually promoted the NRMA to say it would cease to provide roadside service because the car was unable to proceed too often. Methinks this story has been written the same way as Fitz produces his books. A framework of fact padded out with fiction.
Quite so. It seems that Fitz’s account of his contact with NRMA in the 1970s is about as reliable as his account of the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux during World War I in his book Victory at Villers-Bretonneux which was torn apart by historian Peter Stanley in his review in the Sydney Morning Herald – re which see MWD Issue 342.
C.D.’s account of NRMA’s roadside assistance four decades ago sounds plausible – don’t you think? Which suggests that Fitz has a clear “recollection” of an event that never happened.
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, courtesy 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 post-mortem kind of way.
PHILLIP ADAMS & HIS JABBER
Some of Media Watch Dog’s avid readers were shocked, absolutely shocked, by last week’s report that ABC Chairman Ita Buttrose AO OBE had suggested that one of her apartment’s lift co-riders had proposed to send around a group of his mates to fix up ABC critics. This did not seem the kind of “joke” which Ita, the Queen of Manners, should make at a luncheon in Sydney. Consequently, MWD proposed that Queen Ita should attend one of Nancy’s Courtesy Classes – and repent and reform.
The evidence suggests that the use of threats by ABC staff is increasing following Ita Buttrose’s example – including the ABC’s man-in-black who presents Late Night Live on ABC Radio National. Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to this tweet sent out last Sunday by Phillip (“I was a teenage commo”) Adams AO, AM, Hon DUniv (Griffith), Hon DLitt (ECU), Hon DUniv (SA), DLitt [sic] (Syd), Hon. DUniv (Macquarie), FRSA, Hon FAHA:
I’m hereby volunteer to jab Joyce, Hanson, Palmer,Henderson,Jones,Devine, Hadley,Bolt any other RWNJ with my very blunt and unsterilised jabber.
— Phillip Adams (@PhillipAdams_1) June 27, 2021
Now Comrade Adams is a teetotaller. So he sent out this tweet cold sober. For his part, Gerard Henderson felt so threatened that – being Sunday at just after 1 pm – he brought forward Gin & Tonic Time by several hours. Just to ease his pain and calm his nerves.
Now just imagine what the leftist Sandalista Set would have said if, say, Alan Jones proclaimed he wanted to jab Jane Caro with a very blunt and unsterilised jabber. The Sandalista Twitterati would have risen as one in defence of a fellow comrade with demands that Jones be sacked and so on. But when your man Adams jokes about inflicting violence on the likes of Miranda Devine – it’s just a “joke”.
Except it is, at best, a joke in bad taste. So Phillip Adams – collect all your gongs since it’s off to Nancy’s Courtesy Classes for you too – where you can compare assassination notes with the ABC chair.
THE ABC BEATS THE AUSTRALIA TALKS DEAD HORSE
Did anyone catch any of the ABC’s many televised looks at the results of its Australia Talks survey? That is, the one mentioned in Can You Bear It? today that is supposed to give us an insight into what Australia is thinking.
MWD has covered Australia Talks’ methodology in previous issues (see MWD Issues 544 and 546), but for non-avid readers, here is a summary:
Australia Talks – a joint project of the ABC, the University of Melbourne and Canadian data science firm Vox Pop Labs – surveyed respondents chosen from a pool of people who had previously filled out the ABC’s ‘Vote Compass’ tool in the lead up to recent Australia federal elections who agreed that they were willing to participate in future surveys.
- What Australia Talks Respondents Have In Common
This means all survey respondents have a few things in common – they all visited the ABC News website in the lead up to an election, all chose to complete the Vote Compass survey and all volunteered to participate in future surveys. Considering this, it is fairly meaningless for the ABC to keep telling us that “every federal electorate across Australia” was surveyed – there are surely a few ABC loving lefties in every electorate.
It is unclear if those at the ABC truly believe that the results of their little audience survey actually reflects the views of all Australians. It’s not impossible as the ABC often engages in self-delusion. For example, when prior to the 2019 election (then) Q+A presenter Tony Jones suggested that Prime Minister Scott Morrison should appear on the program if he wants to know what the electorate is thinking. Morrison didn’t turn up and the Coalition won the election in a result that no prominent commentator at the public broadcaster predicted. ABC presenters and producers frequently whinge publicly that senior government ministers do not want to appear on their programs – as if this doesn’t reflect poorly on them.
Whether the ABC has faith in its own data is irrelevant, as instead of focusing their energy on reporting on actual news, the public broadcaster has now produced hours of television and seemingly endless articles analysing the results of their audience poll.
- The Hussain/Crabb Show
This includes three comedy debates and the Australia Talks special, hosted by Nazeem Hussain and Annabel Crabb.
Here’s a snippet of the pair’s commentary, if you’re wondering what you’re missing:
Nazeem Hussain: I still can’t believe what the ABC has created here, are you guys excited?
Annabel Crabb: Australia Talks surveyed thousands of you at home, a lot of questions, some quite nosy, and tonight we can bring you as a result, an extraordinary snapshot of what the country thinks.
Nazeem Hussain: That’s right, we asked everything like, if you like your boss, if smacking your kids is okay, even how often you change your sheets. And I found out…you’re meant to change your sheets.
This is what passes for comedy at the public broadcaster.
The rest of the Australia Talks special feature the Hussain/Crabb double act taking us through the results, interviews with “everyday Aussies” on their answers to the survey questions as well as a series of ABC types attempting to be amusing.
- Capitalists vs Trotskyites In Which Trotskyites Prevail
Also featured is self-described “half-Asian queer inner-west Sydney leftie” Nina Oyama, who dons what looks like a farmer Halloween costume and heads off to interview the people of Capricornia in Rockhampton – where according to the survey, the highest percentage respondents say they have trouble making ends meet. Viewers are told that Oyama is on the case as she doesn’t have a lot in common with the people of Rockhampton, and as such can provide insight that apparently none of the reporters from ABC Capricornia could help out with. It is not clear what the ABC spent on Australia Talks but it clearly included a travel budget.
This leads into the ABC’s results for the question “Capitalism as it exists today does more harm than good”. Apparently 50 per cent of Australians think it does. The ABC proves these results must be correct by showing us some clips of Australians who live outside capital cities who agree. Quite a few Trotskyites filled out Vote Compass it would seem.
- John Howard Gives “Incorrect” Answers
The Crabb-Hussain duo invite former Prime Minister John Howard onto the program as he was the winner of the Favourite PM gong, despite the results favouring Labor Prime Ministers. Howard was asked his views on corruption, racism, his time in office and so on. Viewers may have come to the view that Howard was not giving the “correct” answers – especially when Hussain got the impression the former PM may have been daring to question the data.
Nazeem Hussain: Mr Howard, almost three out of four Australians don’t think politicians are accountable for their actions. Whose fault is that?
John Howard: Well, I don’t agree with that conclusion –
Nazeem Hussain: [Interjecting] That’s what three out of four Australians think –
John Howard: No, no, no, I’m not saying the numbers you’ve produced are inaccurate as an assessment of what people have said. I didn’t always agree with majority opinion when I was Prime Minister. I accepted majority opinion at elections…
- Australia Debates – Some Of The Worst Comedy The ABC Has Ever Produced
MWD had a go at watching a bit of “Australia Debates” – where comedians debate survey questions in a juvenile high-school style debate – but could not get through it, even with a strong Gin & Tonic. Although it is stated in the introduction that “This debate is closely linked to the ABC’s Australia Talks survey..”, it is hard to tell exactly what that link is, who the target audience is or why these were produced at all.
It appears the ABC is trying to have it both ways with their Australia Talks content. Australia Talks is presented by the ABC as a very serious and accurate survey of the thoughts of all Australians. And also a bit of light-hearted fodder for some of the worst comedy the ABC (and possibly Australia) has ever produced.
Perhaps the ABC’s Australia Talks survey represents not Australia, but the way many at the ABC wish Australia was – full of left-leaning, climate conscious, anti-capitalist Green/Left voters and Malcolm Turnbull Liberals. Who, most importantly, are willing to complete ABC surveys.
“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 once wrote or said or did.
ON GOUGH WHITLAM – AND JOURNALIST ERIC WALSH – IN BEIJING HALF A CENTURY AGO
Next Monday is the 50th Anniversary of the meeting in Peking (as it was then called) between Labor Opposition leader Gough Whitlam and China’s premier Zhou Enlai in the Great Hall of the People. Gerard Henderson has referred to this in his column in The Weekend Australian tomorrow.
There were six members of the Gough Whitlam-led delegation. They were accompanied by nine journalists – among whom was the Fairfax Media’s Eric Walsh – who, not long after the Beijing visit, became Gough Whitlam’s press secretary. Your man Walsh is reported by Mike Smith in today’s AFR as follows:
Both Walsh and Stephen FitzGerald are critics of the Morrison government’s approach to Xi Jinping’s China, warning that relations are now worse than they were before they visited in 1971.
Walsh says the goodwill from the Whitlam-Zhou visit lasted for years and was felt as far away as Canberra years later, when he was invited to regular dinners at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra. “We had really friendly relations. Mick Young and I would go out to the embassy and they would give us a feed and a glass of mao-tai. It was a very easy relationship which this government has f—ed up,” he says.
This motivated Jackie’s (male) co-owner to dive into his files to check out what Comrade Walsh reported following his visit to China when, in 1971, the nation was in the middle of the Cultural Revolution. At the time, among other professions, Chinese journalists were being purged.
Writing in the leftist National Times on 26-31 July 1971 after his return to Australia, Eric Walsh claimed that in China “poverty” had been “eliminated”. Really. He added:
China and Chairman Mao, with 20 years of rather remarkable achievement behind them, are faced with a task which no country, large or small, has previously been able to achieve: the establishment of a truly classless society controlled by machinery which raises no threat of the rampant bureaucracy which characterised the nation before its eradication by the Cultural Revolution.
What a load of absolute tosh. Comrade Walsh reckoned that, by 1971, Mao Zedong’s China was on the way to being a “truly classless society” and he supported the Cultural Revolution which lead to 100 million Chinese purged and around two million killed.
No wonder the somewhat naïve Eric Walsh used to get lotsa invitations to the Chinese Embassy in Canberra in the 1970s where lotsa maotai was consumed in praise of Mao Zedong.
[Avid readers. If you would like to know what some other members of the journalist group which accompanied Mr Whitlam to China in 1971 had to say – let MWD know. MWD Editor.]
Photo of Journalists – provided by the Whitlam Institute and published in The Australian on 28 June 2021.
From left: Phillip Cast, John Stubbs, Willie Phua, Ken Randall, Eric Walsh (wearing cap), Phillip Koch, Alan Barnes, Laurie Oakes and David Barnett. Photo: Whitlam Institute.
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Until next time.
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