GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG

ISSUE – NO. 550

16 July 2021

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  • LA TRIOLI’S Q&A NEWS – OR “GUESS WHO WOULD NOT COME ON MY PROGRAM LAST NIGHT?”

Could it be that Q&A executive producer Erin Vincent is channelling 7.30 executive producer Justin Stevens?  Media Watch Dog raises this point since last night, Q&A presenter Virginia Trioli read out a list of names of Coalition ministers who would not come on the program – just as your man Stevens has whinged about Coalition ministers who have declined invitations to appear on 7.30.  Usually programs boast about the talent who have accepted invitations. But 7.30 and now Q&A bang on about their rejections.

It seems that Comrade Stevens is surprised that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declined the offers to be interviewed by Laura Tingle – who regards him as leading a government of “ideological bastardry”.  Quelle surprise! And Comrade Vincent wonders why Liberals and Nationals occasionally knock back offers to appear on Q&A panels which are invariably stacked with leftists and before audiences which frequently resemble a Coalition-hating baying mob. Quelle surprise!!

La Trioli’s little list last night comprised – in order – Greg Hunt, Barnaby Joyce, Jane Hume, Bridget McKenzie and David Gillespie. She said that Dr Gillespie will appear next Thursday.

This is what the above quintet missed last night from panellist Alison Pennington, the proud recipient of a B.Soc.Sc from the University of Adelaide along with a M.Pol.Ec from the University of Sydney. Oh yes, Comrade Pennington is an economist at The Centre for Future Work which is associated with the leftist Australia Institute.

Let’s go to the transcript where Comrade Pennington accused the Prime Minister of gaslighting – without saying how this term of abuse fitted into her stream-of-consciousness moment. Here we go:

Alison Pennington: It is like, if there was – if it was possible for Morrison to gaslight anymore… [laughing]. That is like the upper limit of it, it’s like, it’s um, I mean, even talking of, like, the fatigue of lockdowns. I can’t entertain that when, like, everyone’s made huge sacrifices, but until I have something in my arm and an opportunity to access that vaccine, um, I won’t – I can’t entertain that lockdowns, you know, “these have to end”, because we do it and we save lives doing it. I, um, first seeing that ad – distressed. And I thought, why is the Federal Government [ad playing] there we go – why is the Federal Government, uh, why is it trying to instil deep fear in people….

Go on.  Alas she did.  And on and on.  And Comrade Vincent and La Trioli wonder why leading politicians decline to place themselves on the receiving end of such inarticulate tosh.

[Interesting. But perhaps you might have run the Pennington Q&A rant in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment.  Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]


Can You Bear It?

  • FRAN KELLY URGES RN LISTENERS TO DOB IN FLORIST SHOP OWNERS

Whatever position an individual takes on lockdowns at a time of pandemic, it is evident that they hit hardest at small to medium private sector businesses and the less well-off.  Many small businesses are dependent on customers attending their outlets while lower socio-economic individuals tend to live in modest housing and do not have access to computers or a choice of programs to watch via various streaming services like Foxtel, Netflix, Stan and all that which better-off types tend to enjoy.

This partly explains why Australians on the public payroll seem to have been the most enthusiastic supporters of locking individuals down and closing businesses.  This is the position of many taxpayer-funded journalists, public servants and so on.

Yesterday, ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly interviewed NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet – who advocates keeping as many businesses open as possible. Comrade Kelly was insistent that more stores should be closed in NSW than is currently the case.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Dominic Perrottet:..We want to keep people safe, we want to keep people in work, and I think this package right across the board will achieve that end.

Fran Kelly: And just on retail, as we’ve been speaking, a lot of people have been writing in telling us where, what retail is open near them. One person says “in our suburb, the florist and two homewares stores are open and trading”. I mean, should they be, Treasurer? You said most stores are shut –  should a florist, homewares store, should they be open?

Dominic Perrottet: Look, Fran, we’re constantly reviewing it. My view is –

Fran Kelly: But should they be? Let’s get some clarity now.

Dominic Perrottet: Well Fran, the clarity is, from my perspective, the majority of retail, the vast majority of retail should be closed. And these are constant discussions that we will have. I believe –

Fran Kelly: Should a florist be open? If the police see a florist open should they go in and talk to them?

And so it went on. Until at the end of the interview, Fran Kelly had this to say:

Fran Kelly: Okay, we’ll see if that listener will write in and tell us what suburb the homewares stores and florists are open and we’ll let you know.  Treasurer, thank you so much for joining us.

Dominic Perrottet: Okay. Thanks Fran.

And so it has come to this.  Comrade Kelly, who presents a program on the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster, encouraged an ABC listener to name the names of the owners of a florist shop and a couple of homewares shops.  Then she promised to dob in the (alleged) offenders to NSW Police via Dominic Perrottet.  As if the NSW Treasurer has got nothing better to do – especially since there is no evidence that the businesses were operating illegally or causing any harm.  As the saying goes – Can You Bear It?

  • MARIAN WILKINSON FUDGES THE CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS DEBATE

Did anyone read Marian Wilkinson’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday titled “Climate recalcitrant baulks at mates’ rates for cutting carbon”.   Needless to say, the recalcitrant was Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Now as readers of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age will be aware – along with ABC viewers/listeners,  Comrade Wilkinson is an activist journalist who runs campaigns.  This is also evident in her recently published book The Carbon Club.

Wilkinson is also something of a Green/Left naïve type.  For example, she takes seriously the fact that United States President Joe Biden, Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau are committed to reducing carbon emissions in 2030 by 50-52 per cent, up to 46 per cent and 40-45 per cent respectively.  Wilkinson commented that all of the above targets are “close to double Australia’s targets” – but did not state how any of the trio will meet their targets.

Now let’s look at what Marian Wilkinson had to say in detail.

According to Comrade Wilkinson:

…the IEA also released its own roadmap in May, warning that if the world wanted to keep to the 1.5 Celsius goal, there could be no new oil and gas fields approved for development beyond 2021, and no new coalmines or mine extensions. The IEA roadmap, “Net Zero by 2050”, flew in the face of both Labor and Coalition support for new fossil fuel developments.

Comrade Wilkinson failed to mention that the IEA Report also stated that nuclear power would be required to back up solar/wind renewable power if such goals are to be met.

According to Comrade Wilkinson:

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are on course to surge again in 2021, the second-largest increase in history, reversing most of the pandemic’s decline.

This is correct.  But Wilkinson failed to mention that Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions are down 23 per cent since 2007.

According to Comrade Wilkinson:

The message to Morrison from the entire G7 leadership was that big-emitting economies such as Australia needed to bring their highest possible ambition to cut emissions to Glasgow.

Ms Wilkinson did not mention that Australia’s emissions are 1.3 per cent of the total global emissions.  The big emitting economies are China, the United States, India, the Russian Federation and Japan – in that order.

According to Comrade Wilkinson:

Australia risks being overrun in this clean energy race. If green hydrogen becomes competitive with natural gas by the end of the decade, the oil and gas industry will react by slashing prices, and Australian liquefied natural gas prices will plummet.

Comrade Wilkinson did not tell readers that Australia is currently providing subsidies to the tune of around $700 million for research into hydrogen as an energy source.

Readers (if readers there were) who got to the end of the Wilkinson piece learnt that it was an edited extract of an essay written for Australian Foreign Affairs. Well, so it was. But it could have been published in a journal called, say, “Australian Fudge Affairs” – since the piece was replete with fudge. Yet Nine Newspapers gave it a two-page splash.

Can You Bear It?

  • NIKI SAVVA TO BOOKEND DAVID CROWE AT THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD & THE AGE

On Wednesday, Tory Maguire, national editor of The Age  and the Sydney Morning Herald announced that Niki Savva will commence as a columnist for both newspapers from 5 August 2021.

As far as Media Watch Dog is concerned, this appointment makes sense – in that it bookends (to use a cliché) the authors of two books. In short, Niki Savva will join David Crowe as a Nine Newspapers columnist. Look at it this way: Both columnists were so sure that the Coalition would lose the May 2019 election that they had a book each, ready to go, with the following titles:

Niki Savva: Highway to Hell: The Coup that Destroyed Malcolm Turnbull and Left the Liberals in Ruins

David Crowe:  Venom: The Vendettas and Betrayals that Broke a Party

You see, both Comrade Savva and your man Crowe believed that the Liberal Parliamentary Party’s decision to replace Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister in favour of Scott Morrison in August 2018 had left the Liberals a ruined (Savva) and broken (Crowe) party.  The only problem was that the Coalition, under Prime Minister Morrison’s leadership, won the election and both authors had to change the titles of their books to:

Niki Savva: Plots and Prayers: Malcolm Turnbull’s Demise and Scott Morrison’s Ascension

David Crowe:  Venom: Vendettas, Betrayals and the Price of Power

MWD still recalls the image of a downcast Savva and Crowe appearing on ABC TV Insiders on the morning after the election night before attempting to come to grips with the result – alongside fellow panellist Patricia Karvelas and presenter Barrie Cassidy, both of whom had also believed that Labor would win. Nevertheless, all three kept their gigs on Insiders. Since no member of the Insiders  team who appeared on the program, during or immediately after, the 2019 election believed that the Coalition could win – they were in good company.  See MWD Issue 458.

Now that The Age and the SMH has a new columnist, Savva can bookend Crowe as two Canberra Press Gallery journos who got the 2019 election hopelessly wrong. Also, the appointment is just what The Age and the SMH needed – (yet) another vehement critic of the Morrison government on the opinion pages.  Can You Bear It?

Woeful tidings – The Insiders Team on the Morning After the 2019 Election Night Before

  • NIKI SAVVA MAKES UP WITH THE AGE

While on the topic of Nine’s new columnist, when announcing the appointment Ms Maguire described Savva as “a political institution who, as anyone who has read her hilarious book So Greek would know, has been in and around Australian politics and journalism since the field of combat was Old Parliament House”.

Now, MWD has read So Greek. And MWD cannot forget Page 95 of the Savva tome – where the author related that she told then Labor frontbencher Bob Hawke that she had become aware of an inappropriate joke he had made about Indira Gandhi, from someone in the Foreign Affairs Department.  In fact, as Savva wrote in So Greek: Confessions of a Conservative Leftie (Scribe 2010), she had learnt of the “joke” about the one-time Indian prime minister from her mate Alan Ramsey who was then working for Labor leader Bill Hayden – a Hawke rival – at the time.

Ms Savva did not want to tell Bob Hawke who was the source of her story.  So she dobbed in an anonymous foreign affairs official. Hawke was smart enough to doubt the story.

From all this, Niki Savva laid down her rule about deliberately telling whoppers:

Journalists can, and do, get away with lying; politicians and staff can’t. Nor should they.

So there you have it. According to The Thought of Savva, it is okay if journalists like her lie – but politicians and political staffers should not lie.  How hilarious is that?

However it’s nice to know that the hilarious Ms Savva and The Age seem to have patched things up. In So Greek  the author relates how she was forced out of The Age in 1997 due to the fact that she was spending too much time caring for her dying sister and not enough time on the job working as The Age’s national political editor.  Turn to Page 104 of So Greek for the full story:

Towards the end of the year, I was told I would be demoted from my job as national political editor. I could take a hint. I couldn’t really blame them, given my long absences.  The Age is really good at delivering lectures on the humane treatment of people, and I applaud them for it, but forgive me if I occasionally become impatient with sermons from the bleeding-heart brigade on how we should all show more compassion. I resigned….

And now Niki Savva has re-joined the compassionate-lite Age. Needless to say, Tory Maguire did not say why her new recruit had parted with the paper.  Can You Bear It?


  • ONE TIME ABC FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT LISA MILLAR REPORTS ON FILING, IN IGNORANCE, FROM LONDON

The ABC is always banging on about the important role played by its foreign correspondents – as if, without them, the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster would not be able to report news from spots such as London and Washington DC. Some ABC critics, on the other hand, have suggested that foreign correspondents are not crucial to the ABC informing Australians about what is going on in a couple of English-speaking nations.

You be the judge.  On Sunday, MWD chanced upon the Sporty program on ABC Radio National, and caught part 3 of a series called ‘Take Control’ – the third part being titled “Sleep”. Yawn.  The ABC journalist Lisa Millar told presenter Amanda Smith that she manages a little over 6 hours sleep a night on weekdays – by going to bed at 8 pm and waking up to 3.10 am and heading off to co-host ABC TV News Breakfast.  Work that out if you can.

But MWD digresses.  This is what Comrade Millar said about one night (it was daytime in Australia) when she was an ABC correspondent in London:

…I can remember one time they rang me at about 1:30 in the morning and they said there’d been a stabbing in Russell Square in London. And I got in the cab, did my makeup in the cab, had my phone on speaker so they could brief me while I was in the cab, got to the studio, walked in, switched on the lights, turned on the camera and started talking. And it was only after I looked at my watch that I realised it was 32 minutes since I had woken up, that I was going live. So, I think it’s a skill that was developed because of those years overseas. There’s a lot of areas with sleep though that – I mean, we laugh on the [News Breakfast] program, Amanda, because even this morning, we were all having conversations about how we’d slept. Did we have a nap? I have never had a job where we have talked about sleep so much. We’re obsessed with it.

Fair enough about presenting a breakfast program in Australia. But how about the life of a foreign correspondent in London?

During the Russell Square terrorist attack in London on 3 August 2016, Ms Millar was woken out of a deep slumber at about 1.30 am and caught a taxi to the ABC’s London studio. On arriving at around 2am, she told ABC viewers in Australia about what her producers had told her about the Russell Square attack.  Lisa Millar had not followed the story on British media and she had not been near the scene of the crime.

The ABC would have had a more informed live report if they had taken a feed from, say, a BBC journalist who was working in the early hours of the morning. And Lisa Millar would have been better off remaining asleep.

  • THE CASE FOR KEEPING THE MODERN DAY INSIDERS AS A JOURNOS POLITICAL CORREPONDENTS’ CLUB WHERE EVERYONE AGREES WITH EVERYONE ELSE ON ALMOST EVERYTHING

As avid readers are aware, when it comes to the ABC – Josef Stalin is correct.  Worse is better. Put it this way – if the ABC ceased to be a Conservative-Free Zone and embraced political pluralism, then Gerard Henderson would have a lot less to comment about in MWD and elsewhere. So any ABC reform should not be rushed – MWD needs the copy.

That’s one reason why MWD likes the recent years of the ABC TV Insiders program which celebrated its 20th Anniversary last Sunday.  By the way, David (“Call me Speersy”) Speers waxed lyrical about the program and its history.  In particular, he praised those who had been influential in setting up Insiders.  Speersy named Barrie Cassidy, Michael Bowers and Gaven Morris – plus current executive producer Samuel Clark.

But Speersy failed to mention Insiders’  inaugural executive producer Kate Torney – who set up the program and was fundamental to the success of Insiders during its first decade.  It was the case of ABC blokes talking about ABC blokes and forgetting the sheilas – the kind of behaviour which many an ABC journalist criticises in others. By the way, in the day of Kate Torney and her successor Kellie Mayo, the Insiders panel was politically diverse.

What MWD likes about Insiders in its current format is that, during the panel discussion, everyone essentially agrees with essentially everyone else on essentially everything – in a left-of-centre kind of way – with the encouragement of David Speers.

News.com.au journalist Samantha Maiden referred to this phenomenon – which has occurred on the watch of Comrades Clark and Speers – in her contribution to the “Final Observations” segment last Sunday:

Samantha Maiden: Look, I still remember the day that we learned that Matt Price had passed away. It was the day after the 2007 election and it was such a distressing day, and such a brutal day. He was a hero of this program. But I should say that one of the things I enjoyed about the early years was there were more villains. You know, who can forget, you know, Gerard Henderson and David Marr pecking – like seagulls pecking at a chip. You know, a little bit of Piers Akerman. You know, I think bring back more villains, David. That’s my advice. You need more Darth Vader to your Luke Skywalker.

David Speers: Thanks – we’ll consider that Sam, thank you.

It’s not going to happen.  Just as well.  MWD just loved Insiders on 4 July where Karen Middleton, David Crowe and Isabella Higgins agreed with each other on virtually everything and there was no dissent on anything.   On two occasions Speers felt the need to say to Isabella Higgins and Annabel Crabb: “I agree with you” – or words to that effect. How nice.

It was much the same last Sunday where Speersy and panellists Annabel Crabb, Malcolm Farr and Samantha Maiden essentially agreed with each other. Except on the issue of how Prime Minister Scott Morrison handled Julia Banks in 2018 after she quit the Liberal Party and became an Independent.  Samantha Maiden seemed to be the only one of the foursome who understood the problems that the PM faced at the time and recognised that he was handling Ms Banks with courtesy since he was very keen for her to remain in the Liberal Parliamentary Party.

MWD’s suggestion – get rid of Samantha Maiden on the Insiders panel – and engage a female version of Luke Skywalker. That way all the Insiders team will continue to agree with each other – and continue to provide copy for Hendo.


JACKIE’S COMMENT ON WELLNESS ISSUES

  • JACKIE (DIP WELLNESS, THE GUNNEDAH INSTITUTE) COMMENTS ON NORMAN SWAN – AUSTRALIA’S SELF-DECLARED “MOST TRUSTED DOCTOR”

I wasn’t around in the early years of Media Watch Dog but I understood that, some years ago, it was known that the comrades at the Crikey newsletter were avid MWD readers. Maybe this is still the case judging by Adam Schwab’s article in Crikey on Bastille Day titled “Not all experts are equal – and that’s a problem in the fight against COVID”.

Your man Schwab looked at a number of a “small class of [COVID] experts who have become modern-day rock stars”. First up, he examined MWD fave Dr Norman Swan.  And guess what?  The Crikey scribe revealed what MWD has been banging on about for ages – namely, that the ABC’s “Doctor in the House” is not someone who would normally be regarded as a go-to medical doctor these days. Here’s what Mr Schwab had to say:

The granddaddy of COVID experts hasn’t actually practised as a health professional for almost four decades. Norman Swan, the ABC’s health guru, has been a radio producer (and briefly a Biggest Loser star) for most of his career. Swan, who has accumulated 118,000 Twitter followers and 2.6 million podcast listeners, is usually entertaining but not always accurate. Most famously, in March 2020 he warned Australia would soon record 80,000 daily infections, “14-20 days behind Italy” (Australia’s record was during Melbourne’s second wave when we hit 721). Swan was also accused of undermining the vaccination program in Australia when he suggested “we’d learn a lot by waiting” to roll out the Pfizer vaccine.

Now MWD has been banging on for eons about Norman (“Please call me doctor but if you are in rigor mortis you better call someone else”) Swan and his full-time gigs at the ABC and his years weighing fat on Network 10’s The Biggest Loser and his many false prophecies about COVID-19 and so on and so on.

However, it seems at times that my (male) co-owner has been too subtle in some of his comments about the doctor. As when Hendo wrote this in Issue 547:

For any readers looking to consult with Australia’s most trusted doctor, according to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency Dr Swan is registered as a general practitioner in the suburb of Ultimo, Sydney. Presumably, his rooms are located at or near the ABC Ultimo Centre at 700 Harris Street.

The reference was to Norman Swan’s book So you think you know what’s good for you (Hachette), the cover of which refers to Comrade Swan as “Australia’s most trusted doctor”.  In interviewing her ABC fellow comrade on ABC Radio National’s Life Matters program on 25 June 2021, Tamara Oudyn referred to Dr Swan as “arguably Australia’s most trusted doctor”. For the record, Dr Swan did not demur at the “most trusted doctor” reference – arguably or otherwise.

At the Gunnedah Institute, students in the Dip Wellness course were told not to argue.  The point here is that “Australia’s most trusted doctor” does not appear to have any patients.  This is what an avid (medical doctor) reader wrote to MWD when he did not get my (male) co-owner’s “joke” about Dr Swan having rooms at or near the ABC Ultimo Centre at 700 Harris Street:

Norman Swan is indeed on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency website shown as having the registration type “General”. What he doesn’t have is the endorsement of “Specialist”, which is required for any Doctor in Australia, now including humble “just” GPs such as my (recently retired apart from the occasional locum) self. Yes, I know AHPRA’s website is vague on this and if you checked my registration you’d see it’s listed as both “General” and “Specialist” even though I’m a GP.

What that means is that in order for our favourite media doctor to treat patients he would be required by the relevant Medical Board/Council to be supervised by a suitably qualified colleague, for example in a public hospital or public health environment. He would also be unable to obtain a Provider Number which would enable him to put Medicare item numbers on his accounts, the key to financial security for those doctors who wish to make a living actually seeing and treating patients out in the real world, even Ultimo.

I thought that MWD readers would like to know this about the man whose blurb in his book describes him as Australia’s “most trusted doctor”.  For my part, growing up in Gunnedah, with a mother who walked the streets, I most trusted Dr Who. But then I was never sick.

I hope the comrades at Crikey read this – my first column – of which I hope my alma mater will be proud.

Jackie (Dip Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute)


A DOCTOR NORMAN SWAN MOMENT

  • NORMAN SWAN’S COMPLEX ASTRAZENECA HISTORY

Avid readers will recall, MWD’s previous coverage of Dr Norman Swan’s complex history with the AstraZeneca vaccine. In November 2020, while expressing some scepticism of the promising early results of the Pfizer vaccine, Dr Swan said it was “lucky” Australia had also backed the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, by December 2020 Swan’s attitude towards the AZ vaccine had begun to sour:

In March and April 2021, Dr Swan devoted considerable airtime to discussing the rare clotting complications associated with the AZ vaccine. On 8 April, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommended that those under 50 years old receive the Pfizer vaccine.

On 5 May 2021, Dr Swan received the AstraZeneca vaccine on News Breakfast. Despite this, the perception that AstraZeneca is a “second rate vaccine” when compared to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has become widespread in certain corners of Twitter. One needs only look at the replies any time Dr Swan tweets about Australia’s vaccine program to find examples. In a 23 May profile in the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Swan admitted to Michael Koziol that he “probably did cause some vaccine hesitancy” with his coverage of AstraZeneca.

Dr Norman Swan’s on-again off-again love affair with the AstraZeneca vaccine took another turn on 17 June when ATAGI began recommending only those over 60 receive the AstraZeneca vaccine after the death of a 52-year-old woman in NSW. Appearing on ABC Radio Melbourne’s Drive program with Raf Epstein, Dr Swan expressed regret over his role in promoting the vaccine:

Norman Swan: To see somebody arriving late, with a catastrophic stroke, in that 50–59-year-old age group. Beyond the cut-off, when every clinician has been hearing the same thing, you’ve heard it on talkback as well which is “I’m 52, what’s the difference between 49 and 52?”. It’s a perfectly rational question to ask.

Clinicians started to ask this question and people started to have a crisis of conscience. Um, I have to confess, I did too. You know, I went off with Michael Rowland to the convention centre [The Melbourne Exhibition Centre] to have my Astra. Did that 52-year-old woman see me have my Astra and say: “Well if Norman and Michael are having it, it’s okay for me to have it”.

In the same interview, Dr Swan unhelpfully speculated that, were it not for the ongoing pandemic, the AstraZeneca vaccine would have been taken off the market.

The last week saw two more developments in Dr Swan’s relationship with the AZ vaccine. First, a Sunday 11 July tweet announcing that he had brought forward his second dose of the vaccine:

Not that it matters but Dr Swan appears to have slightly flubbed his primary school maths when counting the length of time between his doses – May 5 to July 11 is 9 weeks and 4 days. Which is, on MWD’s count, more than 9 weeks.

Dr Swan then appeared on the 14 July episode of 7:30 to discuss the changing vaccination advice in the context of Sydney’s Delta variant outbreak. The segment featured interviews with Associate Professor Chris Blyth, the co-chair of ATAGI and Professor Terry Nolan, a former chair of ATAGI.

Norman Swan: The other new advice from ATAGI was that in a Delta outbreak, people who have had their first Astra dose should get their second dose sooner, within four to eight weeks rather than three months.

Chris Blyth: ATAGI has always said, although the preferred interval is 12 weeks, in the settings where the risk is greater and the risk of exposure is greater, the interval should be shortened.

Norman Swan: You could be forgiven for being confused because for months now we’ve been told that a 12-week gap between AstraZeneca doses gets you maximum immunity. The obvious question then is whether an earlier dose lowers your protection? Professor Terry Nolan is a former chair of ATAGI and a vaccine expert.

Terry Nolan: We’re dealing with very imperfect or imprecise data that doesn’t give us a clear black and white answer.

Norman Swan: What Professor Nolan is referring to is that the data suggesting a better immune response with a 12-week gap were based on small numbers in a clinical trial of the Astra vaccine last year. What was not at all clear in the findings was the difference if you had your second dose at six or eight weeks. In fact the evidence, such as it is, is reassuring.

Swan and Blyth also discussed the new advice from ATAGI that under-60’s living in an outbreak zone should reassess whether or not to receive the AstraZeneca shot despite the small clotting risk. This is how Dr Swan ended the segment:

Norman Swan: The message in New South Wales and from today’s news in Victoria is that we need to think hard about this revised advice. In New South Wales, if you are infected with the COVID-19 virus, your chances of ending up in ICU are 1 in 40. Those are not good odds compared to the 1 in 50,000 risk of getting a blood clot after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The re-emergence of COVID in Australia and the rapid spread of the Delta strain in Sydney (where Dr Swan resides) appears to have swept aside some of Dr Swan’s concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine. Time will tell whether this is a temporary phenomenon or a permanent change in his attitude.


Step aside David Speers, there’s a new media interrupter in town. This morning on RN Breakfast, Sally Sara was in the host’s chair and interviewed – or should we say interrupted – Health Minister Greg Hunt. A total of 8 interruptions by our count, most of them occurring towards the end of the interview when Sally Sara took up the cause of an anonymous, “tough as nails” GP Sara had spoken to. Here’s an excerpt:

Sally Sara: Minister, I was speaking to a number of GPs last night, and one of them I spoke to, a country GP with more than 30 years of experience, tough as nails, seen it all and done it all. And Minister she was on the verge of tears. And the reason for that is that she said that her patients that she’s cared for over decades, have simply stopped listening, especially over 60s who are unsure and scared of having AstraZeneca. Her words were that the current situation is soul destroying. And in terms of GPs, she said, “it is gutting us”. If GPs as tough, as capable and experienced as that, are in such distress, do you acknowledge that there is a communication problem?

Greg Hunt: Well, I can’t speak for individuals, although for obviously, for this particular GP, there are supports and services available. We focus very much on the stressors. That’s why we have introduced new –

Sally Sara: [Interjecting] Minister they’re looking –

Greg Hunt: Telehealth items so patients don’t have to come in, that they can receive that complex support over the telephone. Our over 60s vaccination rate is more than two thirds of over 60s –

Sally Sara: [Interjecting] But this is, what I’m talking about Minister here is communication. Last Thursday, the Prime Minister went in front of the media, and was encouraging people to bring forward their second doses of AstraZeneca. General practitioners were given no warning of those comments and were subsequently overwhelmed by patient inquiries. How does the government expect to work with doctors if you’re not giving them basic warning and communication?

Greg Hunt: Well, with respect, we’re working with the RACGP and the AMA, I’ve spoken –

Sally Sara: [Interjecting] But you didn’t warn them before that press conference by the Prime Minister, and that had a huge effect on the number of calls to GPs.

Greg Hunt: Well, what we’ve seen is the number of daily doses in GPs go from approximately 80,000 to 94,000, they –

Sally Sara: [Interjecting] Exactly, but they weren’t given warning that that was coming. Can you give assurances that GPs will be notified ahead of time, by the appropriate scientific authority, so that they can plan and respond appropriately, with the numbers you’ve just given, that is exactly what’s happened, there’s been a huge upsurge.

Greg Hunt: Well, there’s been a continuous increase, which is exactly what we’ve talked about and plan for. So we work and provide information throughout the course of every week with GPs –

Sally Sara: [Interjecting] Could you have done that better when the Prime Minister comes out in front of the national media and there’s an explosion in calls to GPs, you know, what happened at GPs offices? Can you do that better in the future?

Greg Hunt: We’re always working with them, but let me make this point. Firstly, the general practice program is the backbone of vaccination in Australia. Secondly, it has provided in particular, for our over 60s and our over 70s –

Sally Sara: [Interjecting] Minister we’re not talking about the contribution of GPs, that’s been very clearly demonstrated. We’re not talking about what they’re doing. What they’re asking for is better communication…

Now MWD is sympathetic that it is a trying time for many GPs. Even those of the “tough as nails, seen it all” variety. But in not letting Greg Hunt get a word in about the vaccine rollout, it sounds as if Sara is holding the Health Minister responsible for failing to personally notify approximately 37,000 Australian GPs of updates to constantly evolving health advice. For a journalist and daily news presenter, Sara is very dismissive of the idea that GPs may be getting their news from the media.

The Health Minister could have had some valuable information for listeners – patients or GPs – regarding accessing vaccines. But thanks to a barrage of interruptions, we’ll never know.

Sally Sara, Top Media Interrupter of the Week.


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.

  • ADRIAN BROWN AND GERARD HENDERSON: RE HOW LISA MILLAR & MICHAEL ROWLAND CAN HELP OUT WITH RESPECT TO ETHNIC DIVERSITY

MWD’s Correspondence segment is a fave with avid readers who appreciate following the exchange of ideas. MWD works best when someone other than Jackie’s (male) co-owner bounces the ball (to use the AFL term). It is not clear who Adrian Brown is. However, his email was gratefully received as it gave MWD the opportunity to state how ABC types like Lisa Millar and Michael Rowland, who are concerned about the lack of ethnic diversity, could help out by handing over their co-presenter jobs on ABC TV News Breakfast to a woman and a man of colour. Now read on.

 

Adrian Brown to Gerard Henderson – 9 July 2021

Gerard,

You may like to mention the following as part of your regular section – the John Laws Deliberate Mistake

Jeremy Fernandez- television news presenter
Tony Armstrong – former AFL player turned TV presenter
Lydia Feng – reporter for ABC News Sydney with a focus on local communities
Stan Grant – television presenter
Miriam Corowa -ABC Indigenous journalist
Clarence Slockee – Gardening Australia
Karina Carvalho – ABC news presenter
Isabella Higgins – Aboriginal affairs presenter
Patricia Karvelas – host of Afternoon Briefing
Nas Campanella  – ABC reporter on disability affairs
Charles Brice -ABC News reporter from Adelaide for News Breakfast
Iskhandar Razak – ABC summer breakfast show

Yours

Adrian Brown

 

Gerard Henderson to Adrian Brown – 14 July 2021

Adrian

Lotsa thanks for your email of last Friday at 11.21 pm.  It was well worth staying up for – beyond Post Dinner Drinks Time. And it’s great to know that you are an avid (although, perhaps, not uncritical) Media Watch Dog reader.

As most avid readers will be aware, the (hugely popular) “John Laws Deliberate Mistake” segment focuses on MWD’s mistakes – deliberate or otherwise.  Your late night email does not identify one mistake – deliberate or otherwise – in MWD last week.

MWD Issue 549 focused on Jieh-Yung Lo’s criticism of the lack of ethnic diversity in the photos of the Australian 2021 Olympics team – he specifically supported the criticism made by basket baller Liz Cambage, whose mother is Australian and whose father is of Nigerian background. Jieh-Yung Lo’s criticism was enthusiastically endorsed by ABC TV News Breakfast co-presenters Lisa Millar and Michael Rowland. MWD commented last week:

There was more diversity in the pics of Australia’s 2021 Olympians shown on News Breakfast  on Tuesday than there is among the key presenters of ABC news and current affairs programs. Have a look at this lot below.  The only colour in their collective faces would occur if they stopped at the entry of the ABC headquarters in inner-city Sydney (Ultimo) or Melbourne (Southbank) and landed head first in a bucket of red paint left over from a meeting of an ABC staff collective soviet. As MWD commented in Issue 501, the ABC’s main presenters are so white they could fulfil the role of a white sight-screen behind a fast bowler in a red ball cricket match.

There followed photographs of the following:

Lisa Millar, Michael Rowland, Leigh Sales, Laura Tingle, Juanita Phillips, Sabra Lane, Sally Sara, Linda Mottram, Raf Epstein, Richard Glover, Virginia Trioli, Phillip Adams, Wendy Harmer, Robbie Buck, David Speers, Ellen Fanning, Julia Baird, Sarah Ferguson, Tony Jones and Annabel Crabb.

No mistake – deliberate or otherwise – here.

The problem with your list is that no one on it is a key presenter of a prominent ABC news and current affairs program.  Not one.  Here’s why:

° Jeremy Fernandez is a presenter of ABC News 24 – the tax payer funded public broadcaster’s second channel. It’s not a key ABC news and current affairs program.

° Tony Armstrong does the sports report on ABC TV News Breakfast.  That’s all. He is not one of the presenters. MWD’s solution – put Mr Armstrong in the co-presenter’s chair with Lisa Millar – and give Comrade Rowland the sport reporter job. How about that?

° Lydia Feng is an ABC local communities reporter.

° Stan Grant is not a regular presenter of any main ABC news and current affairs program – he writes articles on international affairs for ABC News Online and hosts the occasional ABC TV program.

° Miriam Corowa co-presents Weekend Breakfast on ABC News 24, the ABC’s second channel. MWD’s solution – give Comrade Corowa the News Breakfast gig and move Comrade Millar to Weekend Breakfast.

° Clarence Slockee is one of seven Gardening Australia presenters – yes, seven.  By the way, the host of Gardening Australia is Costa Georgiadis who is of Greek background.  MWD’s solution – give the gig to your man Slockee. Also Gardening Australia is not a key ABC news and current affairs manager.

° Karina Carvalho presents the evening edition of ABC News – it is not a key program, having special appeal to those with alcohol and drug problems who find sleep difficult since it interferes with their preferred lifestyle.  This I well understand, with respect to the former (liquid) habit.

° Isabella Higgins is an Indigenous Affairs correspondent for ABC News – she is not a presenter of any main program.

° Patricia Karvelas is the host of ABC TV’s Afternoon Briefing on ABC News 24.  It’s not a main program.  Comrade Karvelas’ parents migrated from Greece in the late 1960s. If Comrade Karvelas is a person of colour – then so was Plato (the Athenian philosopher).  Likewise your man Aristotle.  Certainly Prince Philip (who was disrespectfully called “Phil the Greek”) was not a man of colour.  But, then, he may not have been Greek.

° Nas Campanella is an ABC reporter on disability affairs.  She looks white and, reportedly, is the daughter of Italian Australian parents.

° Charles Brice is an Adelaide-based reporter for ABC TV News Breakfast. He looks white and also has an Anglo/Celtic name.

° Iskhandar Razak is a producer for the ABC’s Asia Pacific News Centre and fills in on occasions as a presenter, usually when leading ABC types go off on what journalists like to call a “well earned break” – or W.E.B.

Being a well brought up kind of guy, I will mention your little list in next Friday’s MWD.  But I will note that not one on your list is a key presenter of a prominent ABC news and current affairs program. Consequently avid reader, you did not identify a Mistake – Deliberate or otherwise – in MWD Issue 549.

Best wishes – and Keep Morale High.

Gerard Henderson

 

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Until next time.

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