ISSUE – NO. 552

30 July 2021

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It was an official “So farewell then” to former Q&A presenter Hamish Macdonald on the program last night.  After the final question had been asked and responded to, presenter Virginia Trioli announced what had been known for eons – namely that your man Macdonald had walked away from ABC TV.  He’s gone back to the Network Ten’s The Project.

Media Watch Dog will miss Comrade Macdonald – and not only because he provided a lot of material.  MWD embraced his appointment in early 2020 on the basis that a bloke who proclaimed that he did not watch television and did not own a TV set was ideally suited to present one of ABC TV’s key news and current affairs programs.

Hamish Macdonald has borne much of the blame for Q&A’s declining ratings over recent years.  It’s true that the program’s ratings have improved somewhat in recent weeks when presented by Stan Grant, David Speers and Virginia Trioli. But this coincided with an increase in lockdowns and, consequently, eyes for television. But the numbers are still significantly down on Q&A’s early years when Tony Jones was the presenter.

Q&A has always been a left-wing program as befits the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone.  But there was more political diversity on the program during Jones’ time.  This partly reflects the unwillingness of some conservatives to appear on Q&A – while other conservatives are absent due to being de-platformed by the ABC.

The fact is that ABC programs like Q&A have been declining in audience in recent times due partly to the fact that some conservatives no longer watch ABC TV news and current affairs on account of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s lack of political diversity.  Some have gone to Sky News where they are willing to pay a subscription fee to hear views that cannot be heard on the ABC.

Last night’s Q&A illustrates the problem.  The program reverted to its format of having two politicians. Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen turned up as did Liberal Party backbencher Senator Andrew Bragg.  Both are good performers and both adapted well to a difficult environment.

The problem was that the panel was yet another left-wing stack. Senator Bragg had his government’s opponent Chris Bowen. Fair enough.  But Bragg also had to respond to a trio of Morrison government critics. Namely artistic director/musician Deborah Cheetham, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and author Michael Mohammed Ahmad.  All three opposed both the Coalition and Labor – from a left perspective.  As did presenter Virginia Trioli, who also tackled Mr Bowen on Labor’s decision to junk the tax increase platform which it took to the 2019 election.

Ahmad, who appeared from his lockdown situation in Western Sydney in front of a photo of the Nation of Islam radical Malcolm X (1925-1965), predictably described the Coalition government in NSW as racist.  He also declared that former prime minister John Howard was into racism denial and so on.

To repeat, Q&A was yet another leftist-stacked panel last night – much as it was when the Israel/Hamas conflict was discussed on Q&A on 27 May 2021. Re which see Issues 543 and 549.

As indicated, Andrew Bragg did well in attempting to prevail over four other panellists and the presenter. It seems that Virginia Trioli believes that Q&A viewers are interested in her views rather than expecting her to monitor the discussions and ask occasional sharp questions.  Like so many other contemporary journalists, she herself is an activist.

Earlier in the discussion about the Sydney COVID-19 lockdown, La Trioli had tag-teamed with Comrade Cheetham in contesting Senator Bragg’s comments, including frequently interrupting him. Then, following a question critical of Andrew Bragg’s views on superannuation, the following exchange took place as the Liberal Party Senator attempted to defend his position that, at a time of economic problems caused by the pandemic, Australians should have greater access to their superannuation funds.

Virginia Trioli:  Andrew Bragg, it seems, friendless, here on the panel tonight –

Andrew Bragg:  [interjecting] I’m not surprised.

Virginia Trioli:  Do you wanna have another go at defending it?

Andrew Bragg:   Well –

Virginia Trioli:   [interjecting] Well, I mean, I, I, I – you’ll have to make the case that it’s really necessary, the Government, as you noted, is, is pumping a lot of money into supporting people, and that’s been justly, you know, celebrated and that’s a good thing that the Government is doing that. But going one more to, to the superannuation after what history has already taught us about it?

Andrew Bragg:   Well, because superannuation is the people’s money, it doesn’t belong to the superfund –

Virginia Trioli:   [interjecting] But it’s –

Andrew Bragg:  – managers –

Virginia Trioli:  – for – it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, –

Andrew Bragg:  – or the unions –

Virginia Trioli:  – the people’s –

Andrew Bragg:    – or the banks.

Virginia Trioli:   – it’s the people’s money for the future –

Andrew Bragg:   [interjecting] It’s their money.

Virginia Trioli:  – not for right now.

Andrew Bragg:  But it’s, it’s their money and if they want to pay down their mortgage because, uh, having a house is more –

Virginia Trioli:   [interjecting] So, it’s not superannuation then? It’s not super, it’s something else. It’s just a, it’s just a slush fund of money –

Andrew Bragg:  Well, as you –

Virginia Trioli:   – that you have there.

Andrew Bragg:   – know, Virginia, I mean, fewer and fewer Australians will be able to afford a house and one of the things that can be done with super is for people to pay down their mortgage. So, that’s what happened last year, when we had early release, so I just think, if people want to do that, why would we deny them that opportunity? I mean –

Virginia Trioli:   [interjecting] So, rather, rather than dealing with…

And so it went on and on.  It was Senator Bragg taking on four fellow panellists plus the presenter.

And ABC management wonders why many senior Coalition ministers decline to appear on Q&A with its stacked panels (which are chosen by the program’s executive director) and activist presenters.  Plus an invariably Green-Left audience when such is possible at a time of pandemic.  Many conservative viewers who once watched Q&A have tuned out because they regard the program as a turn-off.

As to the highlight of last night’s panel.  It was, surely, Malcolm X fan Michael Mohammed Ahmad who declared towards the end of the program: “I don’t think rich people should exist”. Not good news for ABC chair Ita Buttrose AO OBE, surely.  This was a comment which presenter Trioli did not challenge or interrupt.

Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of the apparent unwillingness of some senior Coalition figures to appear on some leading ABC news and current affairs programs – thanks to the avid Melbourne reader who drew Media Watch Dog’s  attention to the interview between Virginia Trioli and Health Minister Greg Hunt on ABC Radio 774’s Mornings with Virginia Trioli last Friday.

Towards the end of the interview, La Trioli lectured Minister Hunt that Prime Minister Scott Morrison must always follow the advice of the members of ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation).  Greg Hunt responded that the government was doing so – but made the reasonable point that the Morrison government’s job “is to ensure we are seeking continuous review” of immunisation issues. Quite so – especially in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Soon after, La Trioli opened the 774 phone line to listeners.  Rusty from Springvale accused Greg Hunt of using weasel words and doublespeak.  La Trioli then read out similar comments from several other listeners.  No other view was heard.

Bruno objected to the tendency of Greg Hunt to use the term “with respect” in responding to activist journalists like La Trioli.  To Bruno, this was a worn catchphrase.  But not to La Trioli – who knew more:

Virginia Trioli: Bruno, I’ll disagree with you. When a politician says to you, in answer to a question, “with respect”, that is not without meaning. Let me tell you what the meaning is. I actually can’t say it on air because it’s a rude word. What it means is “Stuff you. Sit down. Shut up”. It actually means the opposite of “with respect”. It means “I hate what you’re asking, and I hate your guts right now”. So, that’s actually [laughing] what that phrase means. So, not meaningless – just, um, a different meaning.

And then it was off to the ABC 10 am news.  To some, the term “with respect” is frequently used by lawyers to make a courteous but dissenting point before a judge or in disagreement with a legal challenge. To La Trioli, when Greg Hunt said, “with respect”, he really meant “F—k you”, “stuff you” and “shut up”.  And also “I hate your guts right now”.

In other words, Greg Hunt went on Mornings with Virginia Trioli and, after the interview, La Trioli verballed the Health Minister by claiming that he had really told her to f—k off and declared that he hated her guts.  And activist journalists like La Trioli wonder why some senior Coalition politicians will not come on the program. Can You Bear It?


As avid readers only know too well, Media Watch Dog goes out at around Gin & Tonic Time on Fridays.  Jackie’s (male) co-owner had advanced beyond G&T time to Pre-Dinner Drinks Time last Friday when he was shocked to read this tweet from Barrie Cassidy, sent out at 8.27 pm:

Now Professor Cassidy (for, like Kerry O’Brien, a professor he is) lives in inner-city Melbourne – not far from lotsa restaurants.  MWD would have suggested – if asked – that the learned professor drive or walk to the restaurant and collect his grub.  Or order a taxi to pick up and deliver the goods.  Or something like that.

Instead, the semi-retired, but still occasional ABC journalist, decided to whinge about Uber’s delayed deliveries on Twitter.  Barrie Cassidy’s complaint seems to fit into the category of a First World (Media) Problem.  In other words, Can You Bear It?


In this time of pandemic with stress and all that, you don’t need to be a La Trioli to get all steamed up against Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Coalition government.

Sure, it was Post-Dinner Drinks Time last night.  But Jackie’s (male) co-owner is 103 per cent sure – give or take a numerical unit or two – that he heard Alan Jones equating the Morrison government with – wait for it – “Stalinism”.   It took place on Sky News’ Alan Jones Show.  Sure, the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin murdered many millions, but Mr Morrison wants some Australians to wear masks some of the time.  Sounds a bit like Uncle Joe, don’t you think?

This was but eight hours after, from her base in Brisbane, Sky News contributor Daisy Cousens sent out this tweet:

Now here’s a [MWD] modest proposal.  Ms Cousens, who believes that the Prime Minister is a “vile authoritarian”, should co-present a show with ABC TV 7.30 political correspondent Laura Tingle, who believes that the PM is into “ideological bastardry”.

Ms Cousens could bag the Prime Minister from the right and La Tingle could bag the PM from the left.  On the other hand, to change tense somewhat: Could You Bear It?


Thursday saw the release of a new report by The Grattan Institute titled Race to 80: our best shot at living with COVID. The release of the report seems to have been timed to pre-empt the presentation of modelling by The Doherty Institute to national cabinet today. As you would expect, the report received uncritical coverage from Nine newspapers, The Guardian and the ABC.

The report’s primary conclusion is that Australia should not open international borders and not cease responding to outbreaks with lockdowns until 80 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated. Note this is 80 per cent of the total population, including children. The Pfizer vaccine was recently approved for children as young as 12. The Grattan report’s optimistic scenarios for when Australia could reach 80 per cent vaccination assume children as young as 2 will be vaccinated.

Having 80 per cent of the population vaccinated is a lofty goal. This would place Australia well ahead of where even the countries with the most advanced vaccination rollouts currently sit.

The Grattan report also modelled scenarios where Australia opens up with only 50 per cent of the population vaccinated. Here its predictions are apocalyptic, with peak daily case numbers in the hundreds of thousands and a total death toll in the tens of thousands. It is interesting to note that these numbers are not currently being seen in countries with 50 per cent of the population vaccinated. Indeed, in the UK (55 per cent vaccination rate) case numbers have declined since “Freedom Day” when most COVID restrictions were lifted.

The Doherty Institute modelling being presented to national cabinet is expected to break down vaccination rates by age with a focus on vaccination rates among older Australians.

The Grattan model makes assumptions about how the total vaccination rate will correlate with the vaccination rate among older Australians. For their 50 per cent total population vaccination scenario they assume an 80 per cent vaccination rate among 71-80 year-olds and a 90 per cent vaccination rate among people 81+. For their preferred 80 per cent total population vaccination scenario, they assume a 95 per cent vaccination rate among people 71+. However, in the UK, which currently has a total vaccination rate of around 55 per cent, the vaccination rate among people aged 71+ is already over 95 per cent.

The Grattan model assumes that UK levels of vaccination in the most vulnerable population are not possible until a much higher percentage of the total population is vaccinated. They do not test a UK-style scenario in which vaccination levels among older Australians are very high while vaccination levels among younger Australians remain lower. They then conclude that high total population vaccination rates are the only way to safely open.

Perhaps the magic number of 80 per cent total vaccination will become entrenched in the minds of some as a prerequisite to opening Australia’s borders and ending the use of lockdowns. But journalists would be well advised to look critically at the Grattan Institute’s model which seems unduly pessimistic when compared with available international data. If the Grattan Institute’s model were to be implemented, Australia could be in various stages of lockdown for years to come.

“You Must Remember This” is based on the chorus line in the song As Time Goes By which was popularised by the film Casablanca. It is devoted to reminding the usual suspects of what they and/or those they once supported or wrote or said or did.


Media Watch Dog was moved, deeply moved, by this tweet which Paul Bongiorno – he of The [Boring] Saturday Paper – sent out on 24 June 2021 when news emerged that columnist Niki Savva was leaving The Australian:

It would seem that – united in opposition to such Liberal Party prime ministers as Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison – Bonge appears to have let bygones be bygones when it comes to Comrade Savva.  In short, they now share a trench – so to speak – in the battle against the Morrison government and are intent on taking no prisoners (and other such clichés).

How times change.  Jackie’s (male) co-owner recalls that Niki Savva was not so kind to Comrade Bongiorno in her 2010 book So Greek: Confessions of a Conservative Leftie. There Ms Savva wrote about the time she worked in the Prime Minister’s Media Office during the final weeks of the Coalition government as John Howard attempted (unsuccessfully as it turned out) to prevail over the Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd.  Turn to Pages 267-268 to find out all about Bonge’s opposition to the Howard government at the time – according to the “insightful” Ms Savva :

The media was only too willing to take up anti-Howard stories and there were too many people willing to supply them. Paul Bongiorno, for example, was one of the senior people in the [Canberra Parliamentary Press] gallery who made clear his distaste for the government, and who couldn’t wait to see it booted out. Ten’s news menu always seemed to be laden with anti-Coalition government stories and its 2007 campaign coverage was, if anything, worse than in the past…

It was hard enough getting good people to spruik reliably on the government’s behalf, and in my view, there was little point in serving up ministers for [Paul Bongiorno’s] Meet the Press. Hardly anyone watched it, and people could make more headway with a doorstop on Sunday.

Bongiorno was furious that he was having trouble getting anyone senior on his [Network Ten’s Meet the Press] show, and worried about what his superiors in Sydney would think. He warned me that there would be “grief” if we did not field senior people for his programme during the campaign….

So, once upon a time, the author of So Greek told readers that Paul Bongiorno was a vehement opponent of the Howard government who presented the Channel 10 Meet the Press program which hardly anyone watched.  Yet nowadays Bonge maintains that Ms Savva is an insightful journalist.  In any event – You Must Remember This.

[Yes, I do – very much so.  It seems that in the Kingdom of Bongiorno not much has changed. Bonge is once again intent in ensuring that the Coalition government is booted out – while he writes a column for The Saturday Paper which hardly anyone reads.  MWD Editor.]



There was enormous interest in last week’s Flann O’Brien Gong for Literary or Verbal Sludge which went to the Texas-based philosopher Timothy (I’m a They pronoun kind of person”) Morton for his interview with Jonathan Green on the ABC Radio National Blueprint program on Saturday 17 July 2021.  It was one of those discussions when both the interviewer and guest are almost equally incomprehensible – but Dr Morton (for a doctor They is) prevailed and, consequently, won the gong.

After listening to this verbal sludge, Jackie’s (male) co-owner had little choice but to seek recovery by means of an early Gin & Tonic.  After all, it was as late as 9.20 am on a Saturday.  This meant that Hendo did not hear the following interview – in which your man Green spoke to Chef Annie Smithers about, wait for it, dumplings.  The matter was brought to Hendo’s attention by an avid reader. Here’s how the taxpayer funded public broadcaster described the occasion:

Chef Annie Smithers and Jonathan head into the kitchen to chat, cook and bake their way through the skills that will help make you a more confident home cook. This week on “Kitchen Rudimental”, Annie and Jonathan assemble and fry their dumplings.

This is how Blueprint (aka Blueprint for Living) commenced:

Jonathan Green: “Kitchen Rudimental”, a series here on Blueprint For Living, in which Annie Smithers will investigate the very basics of kitchen craft. Recently, on “Kitchen Rudimental”, uh, you’ll recall, uh, regular and dear listener, that the last time Annie Smithers – hello Annie.

Annie: Hi Jonathan.

Jonathan Green: – uh, made the filling for dumplings – which today we are going to complete. This is exciting, uh – Exciting and slightly intimidating. However, we’re going to give it a crack.

Annie Smithers: It’s not intimidating. I’m not the world’s best dumpling, former –  um –

Jonathan Green: “I’m not the dumpling pleater –”

Jonathan Green and Annie Smithers in unison: – “I’m the dumpling pleater’s son”.

Groan. There followed a 13-minute or so discussion on dumplings which Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green described as exciting and intimidating.  The correct description was just plain boring – as the dumpler (Comrade Smithers) and dumpler’s apprentice (Comrade Green) constantly interrupted each other as they, er, dumpled together.

The pleaters went on and on and on.  Listeners (if listeners there were) were expected to understand the talk about what was going on without being able to see what they were talking about.  Then towards the end – after the music interval – the big question of our time was asked. Namely – what should a comrade eat his or her dumplings with?  Let’s go to the transcript:

Annie Smithers: But we could, before they do cook, um – what do you like to eat your dumplings with?

Jonathan Green: Um, oh, a spot of soy or maybe some chilli or maybe some sweet chilli. And I know that anyone with any, uh, credibility out there will say that sweet chilli sauce is an excrescence – Annie is making such a face.

Annie Smithers: Yep. It’s not my favourite thing in the world, but if you like it.

Jonathan Green: What would you do?

Annie Smithers: Soy. Soy. Maybe soy with a bit of vinegar. Soy with chilli.

[music interval]

So there you have it. The ABC’s Fox Hunting Man is a sweet-chilli-on-dumplings kind of guy, despite the fact that sweet chilli sauce is an excrescence (whatever that means).  And the paddock to plate chef is a soy-with-a-bit-of-vinegar plus chilli on dumplings kind of sheila. How frightfully interesting.

As The Friends of the ABC are wont to say: “What would Australia do without the ABC?”. To which MWD responds: Eat dumplings cold turkey.

Your Taxes At Work.



Media Watch Dog  has yet to read, or even attain, a copy of Gideon Haigh’s The Brilliant Boy: Doc Evatt And The Great Australian Dissent (Simon & Schuster, 2021) – it being pandemic lockdown-time in Sydney.  But Jackie’s (male) co-owner did read the review of Gideon Haigh’s 284-page tome by Geoffrey Robertson AO QC, the Australian-born patriot and republican, who is now said to enjoy dual Australian/British citizenship.   Work that out if you can.  By the way, the review appeared in The Weekend Australian on 17 July 2021.

Now as avid readers are aware, your man Robertson has an Epping accent.  What’s an Epping accent?  – MWD hears you cry. Well, it’s the kind of accent that a chap, who was born in the north-west Sydney suburb of Epping and educated at Sydney University, develops when he goes to London.  You know, a fake upper-class British accent designed to disguise an Australian’s humble birth in humble Epping.

But MWD digresses.  Gideon Haigh’s book focused on Bert Evatt’s dissent, when a High Court judge, in the 1939 Chester v Waverley Council  case. This was a torts action following the sad death of 7 year old Maxie Chester who fell into an unprotected trench in the Waverley Council area in Sydney and drowned.  Mrs Chester sued – unsuccessfully as it turned out, despite Evatt’s dissent in the High Court – for the mental injury caused by her son’s death.

In his review, Geoffrey Robertson recognised Dr Evatt’s failure, as Labor Party leader in the late 1950s, to hold the organisation together – which resulted in the disastrous Labor Party split of 1955.  And he acknowledged Evatt’s sad mental decline in the 1950s and early 1960s.

However, as is his wont, your man Robertson goes over the top in his admiration of Doctor Evatt.  For example, Robertson refers to Evatt’s appearance as a counsel before the High Court (when Opposition leader) “to eviscerate the Robert Menzies’s McCarthyite statute banning the Communist Party”. There was a good case for and against banning the Communist Party of Australia in 1951.  But it was not an issue of the McCarthyite kind. The CPA at the time was an agent of the Soviet Union and some of its members were engaged in espionage for their communist masters in Moscow.

Many Australians agreed with Prime Minister Menzies at the time.  The September 1951 referendum to ban the Communist Party of Australia at the time of the Cold War failed narrowly – with a nation wide 49.4 percent for “Yes” and 50.6 per cent for “No” – with “Yes” obtaining majority support in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.  Around 50 per cent of Australians in 1951 were not followers of the American Joe McCarthy – despite what Robertson QC might believe.

By the way, Robertson had this to say about some of Evatt’s fellow judges circa 1939:

Chief Justice Latham had a second-rate mind as did Justice Rich (who was too lazy to use it), while Justice Starke was personally insufferable. Owen Dixon had the best legal mind in Australia (if not in the world) and on the occasions when it agreed with Evatt’s, the result could be incandescent – as when they tried to stop the hanging of an obviously insane killer. But both were difficult men at opposite poles politically, and Dixon was unavailable to sit on the Chester case.

That’s just abuse.  Geoffrey Robertson provided no evidence that John Latham had a “second-rate mind”.  The late Zelman Cowen, for one, did not believe so. As to Robertson’s assertion that Justice Starke was “personally unsufferable” – that’s a bit much coming from the oh-so-pompous Robertson.

Also your man Robertson (and perhaps Haigh, pending a reading of his most recent tome) is somewhat naïve in his depiction of Bert Evatt as a great civil libertarian.

When Attorney-General in the war time Labor government (commencing on 7 October 1941), Evatt acted as an authoritarian with scant interest in human rights. In the second volume of the official war history, The Government and the People (Australian War Memorial, 1970), Paul Hasluck wrote this about Evatt’s treatment, as attorney-general, of The Australia First Movement and its leader P. R. (Inky) Stephensen:

The detention of some of the 21 persons concerned was undoubtedly the grossest infringement of individual liberty made during the war and the tardiness in rectifying it was a matter of shame to the democratic institution and to the authorities concerned.

And then there is the matter of internment of aliens during the Pacific War when Evatt was attorney-general and his mate Bob Wake was involved in national security.  Evatt presided over the brutal internment of Italians and German residents in Australia – the overwhelming majority of whom were not a threat to the war effort. As Dr John Fahey has written in Traitors and Spies about the outbreak of the Pacific War in late 1941 and after:

…This [the outbreak of the Pacific War] resulted in action being undertaken against possible Japanese sympathisers especially in relation to any Italians living in Australia. Queensland would see the highest number of internments in Australia as [Bob] Wake and his organisations stripped farms of their farmers and cane fields of their cane workers, to such an extent that shortages of sugar now afflicted Australia.  There were also complaints from the protecting powers – that is consulates of nations charged to watch German and Italian interests in Australia – that the wholesale arrests had left stock-in-trade of shops, livestock, growing crops and personal property unattended and thus open to theft and misappropriation. When this was raised formally by Forde, Evatt didn’t comment at all.

Frank Forde was the Minister for the Army at the time.  Robert Frederick Bird (Bob) Wake was in charge of Commonwealth security forces in Queensland in the early 1940s.  He was a bitter anti-Catholic who disliked Italians – and an ally of Evatt.  Evatt never attempted to stop Wake in his efforts to persecute Italians – especially in Queensland.

The idea that Evatt was a civil libertarian when he, as attorney-general, had the authority to act in accordance with civil liberties is a myth. Geoffrey Robertson’s attempt to present Bert Evatt as some kind of legal progressive is just, well, absolute tosh.

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Until next time.

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