GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG

ISSUE – NO. 558

10 September 2021

* * * *

* * * *

  • BBC’S NICK BRYANT’S VACCINE HOWLER

Wasn’t it great to see the BBC journalist Nick Bryant back on Australian TV screens lecturing Australians about Australia on ABC TV News Breakfast this morning?  Your man Bryant was the BBC’s man in Australia for some years before heading off to New York a while ago.

Soon after his stint Down Under, Comrade Bryant wrote a book titled The Rise and Fall of Australia: How a Great Nation Lost Its Way (2014).  It was yet another alienated account by a career journalist who believes that, given a chance, they could do a better job running a democratic country than politicians. Think Australia. Think Nine columnist George Megalogenis – who, needless to say, endorsed your man Bryant’s piss-poor tome as “a terrific account of a great nation cursed by ordinary leaders”.  Groan.

It seems that the BBC journalist has returned to the Great Southern Land to give us mere mortals another lecture or two.  Right now, he’s in quarantine somewhere in Australia where he has managed to find a pulpit.

This is what Comrade Bryant told his adoring interviewers Lisa Millar and Michael Rowland this morning about COVID-19 and all that:

Nick Bryant: ….compared to the rest of the world, you know, Australia really got through COVID pretty much unscathed. So it’s pretty weird to come back now – because it feels almost as if Australia is in 2020 when the rest of the world is in 2021.

Michael Rowland: And you’ll notice something from the front pages here, Nick. Most if not all of them have the percentages of people fully vaccinated or partly vaccinated in Australia – not necessarily a practice followed overseas.

Nick Bryant: Yeah, that struck me straightaway, Michael, you’re always looking at the front pages of newspapers when you arrive in a country for them to tell you something about the state of the nation. And obviously the state of the nation right now is this race to get vaccinated. I haven’t seen that kind of percentage figures on the front pages of the newspapers anywhere else.

And it speaks of how Australia’s trailing behind right now. I mean, that national first dose rate 40.4. You know, you look at Britain, I think they’re at 65 for fully vaccinated, America’s at 54, you’ve got countries like Spain and Portugal, they’re in the 70s right now. And again, it speaks to this strange circumstance that Australia feels, finds itself in right now, this sort of, this slow rollout the stroll-out, obviously, as you’ve been calling it. And I think it’s taken the world by surprise, because Australia seemed so on top of this at the beginning. And the vaccine rollout seems to be such a sort of calamitous failure in many ways.

What a load of absolute tosh.  As Nick Bryant spoke to Comrades Rowland and Millar, News Breakfast showed this graphic from the Herald-Sun, to which Nick Bryant referred:

Perhaps it was jet-lag.  Or perhaps the effect of quarantine.  But the graph to which the BBC’s (latest) man in Australia was referring clearly shows that the national figure for the first vaccine is 65.3 per cent.  Not 40.4 per cent as Bryant claimed which is the percentage of fully vaccinated Australians.

Alas, Michael Rowland and Lisa Millar were so transfixed with The Thought of Bryant that neither corrected his howler.  Nor did either challenge the BBC man’s assertion that the vaccine roll-out in Australia is a “calamitous failure”.

The bad news is that Comrade Bryant seems destined to give Australians lotsa lectures in the short to medium term.  The good news is that he is likely to provide lotsa copy for Media Watch Dog.

  • WHAT LAURA TINGLE DIDN’T SAY ABOUT NORMAN SWAN ON 7.30 LAST NIGHT

What a stunning performance by ABC TV’s 7.30’s chief political correspondent Laura Tingle last night. It is analysed in this week’s Documentation section titled “Laura Tingle Has A Gift for Labor & Norman Swan Claims Vindication”.

It was a matter of ABC comrades protecting ABC comrades.  For example, in her fierce criticism of the Morrison government’s handling of COVID-19, La Tingle neglected to tell viewers that:

▪During an interview with Stan Grant on ABC TV’s 7.30 on 2 December 2020, Norman Swan declared that – with respect to vaccines “We [Australia] can afford to wait, we’re not desperate. Starting a month or two sooner is not going to open the international borders any sooner.  To be blunt, we can learn from their [the US and Britain] mistakes”.

In short, your man Swan was saying in December 2020 that the vaccine roll-out was not a race. Fancy that.

▪ In a tweet dated 30 December 2020, Norman (“Trust me, I’m Australia’s most trusted doctor”) Swan described AstraZeneca as “a second-rate vaccine”. And ABC journalists wonder why there is vaccine hesitancy to AZ in sections of the Australian community.

▪ Norman Swan was reported by Michael Koziol in The Sydney Morning Herald on 23 May 2021 as having said: “I probably did cause some vaccine hesitancy.”

Australia’s (self-proclaimed) most trusted doctor sure did.  For more, see this week’s enthralling Documentation section.

  • BALANCE LEFT BEHIND AS Q&A CHANNELS THE LEFTIST MELBOURNE WRITERS FESTIVAL

What a truly exciting time it was on ABC TV Q&A at Post Dinner Drinks Time last night when presenter Virginia Trioli told viewers that “anything could happen” on the program.

Alas. It turned out that nothing much happened, and the big question of the day (and night) was whether Prime Minister Scott Morrison should have travelled from The Lodge in Canberra to Kirribilli House in Sydney – official residences both – on Father’s Day last Sunday. Yawn.

Now, to be fair to La Trioli, the Q&A panel is chosen by the executive producer Erin Vincent and not by the presenter.  In her wisdom, Comrade Vincent decided to pick the panel from those who are appearing at the 2021 Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) – “virtually” for the most part.

As pointed out in MWD Issue 555, the 2021 Melbourne Writers Festival is yet another leftist stack.  So it came as no surprise that one by one the panellists – actor Virginia Gay, followed by sports journalist Tony Armstrong, followed by former politician Julia Banks, followed by lawyer Rachel Doyle, bagged the Prime Minister to a greater or lesser extent.  Only the author/comedian John Safran declined to join the pile-on. No one bothered to mention that it is the States and Territories, not the Commonwealth, that can close national borders.  However, Virginia Trioli did make the point that the Prime Minister acted within the rules.

Discussion soon moved on to the Liberal Party’s alleged women problem.  Tony (“Tax the rich”) Armstrong set a tone when he declared: “I just want to enforce what everyone’s saying”. It was that kind of night.

There was little discussion on the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States – the twentieth anniversary of which is imminent – or on the Taliban rule in Afghanistan or China or the terrorist trial currently underway in France or the apparent news that Australia will not be subjected to a carbon tariff if it fails to please the demands of Britain, the European Union and the United States at the forthcoming 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.

Eventually discussion turned to the economy. Guess what? – for those who were too tired, drunk or drugged to stay tuned, La Trioli introduced an intruder on the panel.  None other than leftist economist Yanis Varoufakis  – all the way from Athens.  It was as if there wasn’t enough left-of-centre types on the panel already.

Q&A ended – in response to La Trioli’s request to be brief and direct – by panellists going on far too long without saying anything of importance. At this time, Jackie’s (male) co-owner decided it was time for a locked-down canine to take her exercise – and so missed the monologue poem recited by Comrade Gay from her show titled Cyrano. An unforgettable experience which will probably not be remembered.

By the way, despite all the Q&A panel being somehow involved in the Melbourne Writers Festival, no one discussed books. Strange, eh?


JOHN LAWS STYLE DELIBERATE MISTAKE

One clear pedant located the John-Laws-Style-Deliberate Mistake in last week’s issue.  Well done L.B.L.  This matter will be covered next week.


Can You Bear It?

  • KAREN MIDDLETON’S PREDICTION ON AFGHAN REFUGEES AS COVID-19 SUPER-SPREADERS

As avid readers know, the government in Kabul fell to the Taliban on 15 August 2021 – with calamitous results for the people of Afghanistan, especially females of all ages.  The United States departed Afghanistan, amid chaos, on 31 August.

Afghanistan was discussed on Insiders on Sunday 22 August 2021.  In her contribution to the “Final Observations” segment – Karen Middleton, The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent, had this to say:

Karen Middleton: There’s a catastrophe in Afghanistan but there’s another one coming because those enormous crowds are gonna be a mass super-spreader event. People are gonna be too frightened to go to the doctor and we’re not going to know about it because the Taliban are in charge. And, just quickly, it’s been raining in Greenland over the weekend instead of snowing, for the first time on record. People are telling me, that’s climate change, uh, and yet we’re pursuing a gas-led recovery.

How about that? Instead of focusing on the likely plight of Afghans under Taliban rule, Comrade Middleton’s comments focused on a prediction that the crowds around Kabul International Airport would result in a COVID-19 super-spreader event.  According to the available evidence, three weeks after the event to which Karen Middleton referred, COVID-19 was not the problem faced by the Afghan crowds.  Indeed, listeners to Mornings with Virginia Trioli on ABC Radio Melbourne 774 this morning heard that none of the 300 plus Afghan refugees who came out of quarantine in Melbourne this morning had contracted COVID-19.  As to the rain in Greenland and gas in a Australia – this was hardly comparable to the plight of Afghans attempting to flee the Taliban. Except, apparently, The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent. Can You Bear It?

  • IN WHICH SPEERSY’S RUSH-TO-INTERRUPTION MODE REVEALS THAT HE DOESN’T LISTEN TO ANSWERS

What a wonderful roll-up on the “virtual” couch on ABC TV Insiders last Sunday. And wasn’t it great to see that the ABC/Guardian Axis was at strength – with 50 per cent of the talent either from the ABC (David Speers, Laura Tingle) or The Guardian (Michael Bowers).

The panel was replete with Australia’s political journalist experts.  Namely, 7.30 political correspondent Laura (“The Morrison government is replete with ideological bastardry”) Tingle,  Nine Newspapers’ David (“My political experience is becoming president of the Parliamentary Press Gallery”) Crowe and the Herald Sun’s James (“I’m a Melbourne Grammar man”) Campbell.

This trio shares a certain “expertise” in that all got the result of the May 2019 election hopelessly wrong. La Tingle declared on election eve that Bill Shorten and the Labor Party “will” win the 2019 election. Comrade Crowe’s position was so wrong that he had to change the title of his planned post-election book.  And Mr Establishment Campbell completely underestimated the Coalition vote in his home state of Victoria. “Experts” all – hence their (well-deserved) presence on the Insiders’ panel.

It was a typical Insiders couch with everyone essentially agreeing with everyone on essentially everything – although your man Campbell did move away from the Insiders orthodoxy on occasion.

David Speers – whose recent interview with Greens leader Adam Bandt was the softest in media history since Moses was a boy, or so it seems – was back to his interruption best. After all, he was talking to – or, rather, talking at – the Morrison government’s Employment Minister Stuart Robert.

When David (“Call me Speersy”) Speers interviewed Prime Minister Scott Morrison on 22 August 2021, he interrupted on 30 occasions during a 22-minute interview.  On Sunday, Speersy interrupted Minister Robert on 15 occasions during a 13-minute interview.  Here’s how the interview commenced:

David Speers: Stuart Robert, welcome to the program.

Stuart Robert: Thanks, David, and happy Father’s Day.

David Speers: And to you. Now, the Prime Minister is talking about families reuniting, uh, at Christmas. When do you think Queensland, where you are, should open its border?

Stuart Robert: The National Plan, David, is what we need to stick to. And the National Plan at 70-80 per cent starts to dictate those sorts of numbers to us.  And at 80 per cent, the National [full vaccination rate] Plan makes it very clear that Australians should be able to, if vaccinated, move in and out of international borders…

David Speers: [Interrupts] Well, let me just jump in there.

Stuart Robert: – so that would give some guidance…

David Speers:  [interrupts] Sorry to interrupt, I’ve got the National Plan here. It doesn’t actually say anything about interstate borders.

Stuart Robert: No, it says international borders, about when travel’s moving. And it would be pretty difficult to have travel internationally if you don’t have it interstate.

David Speers:  Okay. But it doesn’t say interstate borders should open at any point, does it?

Comrade Speers was so busy getting ready to criticise Stuart Robert that he didn’t bother to listen to his first answer.  The Minister clearly spoke about “international borders”. It was just that Speersy didn’t listen in his rush to contradict the Employment Minister – believing that Minister Robert said “national borders”.  He didn’t.

Stuart Robert did okay in a difficult situation. Sometimes you wonder why any senior Coalition minister fronts up to Insiders on the occasional Sunday.  The problem is that your man Speers rarely gives a political conservative a fair hearing.   It also happens that when a Coalition Minister departs an interview, the panel invariably bags the interviewee – who has no right of reply.  And ABC management reckons Insiders  is fair and balanced.

Here’s an example from last Sunday. Shortly after the Speers-Robert interview concluded, Speersy threw the switch to Laura Tingle who is one of the Morrison government’s most committed critics.  Let’s go to the transcript:

David Speers: I wanna come to the JobKeeper debate this week. But just quickly on “the plan” [i.e. the National Plan]  there, Laura. Does it sound like there’s still some prospect of changing the plan?

Laura Tingle: Well, that was really reassuring, wasn’t it David? You know, this plan that we’re all supposed to stick to, could change any moment, um [laughing]. I’m confused. Uh, look, uh, I think. Uh, I think, probably. Stuart Robert’s a little bit confused as well, by the sounds of things, uh. But, you know, I don’t know that – I’m sorry, but I don’t think that interview actually shed any light on what the Government is actually thinking about doing about Covid in the next two months.

So there you have it. Comrade Speers threw a soft question to Comrade Tingle to comment about the Stuart Robert interview. And La Tingle well and truly weighed in – even to the extent of engaging in mocking laughter – and asserted that Stuart Robert was confused. How rude and unprofessional can an ABC leftist get? More importantly – Can You Bear It?

  • ELLEN FANNING THROWS THE SWTICH TO PETULANCE WHEN ALEXANDER DOWNER SAYS HE IS DETERMINED TO FINISH HIS ANSWER

While on the issue of interruptions, some avid readers may wonder why Speersy didn’t win this week’s (prestigious) “Media Interrupter of the Week Award”.  After all, 15 interruptions in a 13-minute interview is quite an achievement – even for David “interruptus” Speers. The reason is that MWD did not want to distract from a terrific effort by The Drum  co-host Ellen Fanning on Wednesday 1 September, which was brought to MWD’s  attention by an avid Brisbane reader recently.  But, alas, too late to run last week.

But MWD digresses.  Let’s go to the transcript when Comrade Fanning addresses former Coalition foreign minister Alexander Downer during a discussion on global emissions and all that – on ABC TV’s The Drum  on Wednesday 1 September:

Ellen Fanning: Alexander Downer, um, you know, you, you were the long term Foreign Minister of this country. Um, how much pressure is Australia really under, I mean, uh, to make stronger commitments [on emission reductions], from the British hosts and, indeed, from the Americans?

Alexander Downer: Well, I think, I wouldn’t say Australia was especially under pressure but, um, there’s obviously a broad – number one, there’s a broad global view that’s reflected in those opinion polls you published. And it’s true of public opinion just about everywhere. So there’s nothing surprising about those polls –

Ellen Fanning: [interjecting] And yet, and yet it’s not –

Alexander Downer: – People want to –

Ellen Fanning: [interjecting] – it’s not reflected in the –

Alexander Downer: I’m, I’m determined…

Ellen Fanning: [interjecting] – in the pledges.

Alexander Downer: Throughout the program, I’m determined to get to the end of my sentences. So, it’s reflected around the world – huge difference.

[silence]

Ellen Fanning: Sorry, I just wanted to make sure you’d finished. Vicki [Victoria Treadell, one of the panellists] it doesn’t matter what we do in Australia – it’s the Chinese, it’s, it’s the big guys you should be worried about?

So how about that?  When Alexander Downer insisted on ending his answer (which had only run to 43 words) and did so – Comrade Fanning threw the switch to petulance by means of an extended (and artificial) pause. As in – “Do not dare interrupt my interruptions”. Can You Bear It?

[No. Not really – now that you ask. I note that Comrade Speers and Comrade Tingle and Comrade Fanning all ran the “I’m sorry” line – with respect to matters concerning which they felt no sorrow.  It would seem they have been to ABC’s in-house “I’m sorry in a non-sincere way” School.  If this band of comrades want to learn real sorrow – they would be well advised to enrol in Nancy’s Courtesy Classes which are funded by Jackie’s (male) co-owner Hendo AC (aka Always Courteous) – with security provided by Jackie (Dip. Wellness – The Gunnedah Institute).  Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]


YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS?

“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.

  • CAN SHANE WRIGHT RESOLVE BRITAIN’S CURRENT ENERGY CRISIS WITH CANDLESTICK POWER?

It is not so long ago since Shane Wright, senior economics correspondent for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, confidently declared on the Insiders program on 11 June 2017 that “coal is like candlesticks”.  Meaning that coal is as relevant today for producing energy as were candlesticks in the early 20th Century following the invention of electricity. Or something like that. He waxed lyrical about how the Candle Makers Union of old were wont to say 150 years ago: “These light bulbs, they’ll never catch on.”

Your man Wright was very confident about this gospel which he preached – apparently ignorant of the fact that such nations as China, India and Indonesia do not look like they’re junking coal as an energy supplier anytime soon.

MWD may have missed this. But it appears that the good people who read Nine Newspapers are yet to be advised by Comrade Wright about recent developments in Britain.  This is what The Telegraph  in London reported on 7 September – under the heading “Britain forced to fire up coal plant amid record power prices and winter squeeze”.

Energy prices have spiked to a record high in Britain after calm weather shut down the country’s wind turbines amid a global shortage of natural gas. Wholesale power costs surged to more than four times their normal level, forcing officials to fire up coal-based plants to handle demand.

It is feared the high prices will continue into winter as the weather gets colder, raising fears over household bills and putting a string of energy suppliers at risk of going bust.  One senior energy insider said: “It’s causing a lot of concern. Everything is going up.”

And so it has come to pass that Britain, which has closed down most of its remaining coal power stations to cut carbon emissions, has fired up two coal-fired units at West Burton A station to help with energy demand.

This, surely, would have come as some surprise to readers of Nine Newspapers Down Under – who, sitting at the feet of the Prophet Wright have been taught that coal today is like candle-sticks of old.

By the way, there are no reports out from Britain, which is committed to zero carbon emissions as soon as possible, that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reached out (to borrow a cliché) to your man Wright in Canberra and sought his advice about how to fire-up Britain’s energy with, er, candle-stick power.

Shane Wright on coal today as akin to candle sticks of old. You Must Remember This.


HISTORY CORNER

  • NINE’S “CBD” EXAGGERATES THE ROBERT MENZIES/B.A. SANTAMARIA WHISKY-O’CLOCK MEETINGS

Today’s CBD column in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald carried a report titled “Gone to Dust” and written by Samantha Hutchinson and Noel Towell:

GONE TO DUST

It’s devastation stations for parliamentary history buffs after a Victorian home once owned by former prime minister Robert Menzies was demolished on Wednesday. Menzies and his wife Dame Pattie lived in the elegant two-storey home at 2 Haverbrack Avenue in Malvern in Melbourne’s east from his retirement from politics until his death at the home in 1978. Crusading anti-communist B.A Santamaria visited most days for an afternoon drink, while Queen Elizabeth is even reported to have stopped by for a visit. But this week, it was hit with the wrecking ball to make way for a new three-storey dwelling with a basement and a pool.

MWD regrets the destruction of 2A Haverbrack Avenue, Melbourne.  But this is no reason to put a wrecking ball through history.  It’s true that, in the 1970s, Bob Santamaria dropped around to see Robert Menzies at his Melbourne home on occasions around Whisky-O’clock.  As BAS told Pru Goward for her 1994 ABC TV documentary The Liberals, this occurred “every three weeks or so at about five o’clock in the afternoon”.

Which is a long way south of “most days”.   As to the suggestion that Queen Elizabeth II dropped in on the Menzies abode. Well, it seems unlikely.


BORING FOR AUSTRALIA

As avid readers will recall, Jackie’s (male co-owner) has always been a fan of British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-90) since he read Muggeridge’s 1940 book titled The Thirties. Writing in the New Statesman on 11 February 1956, Saint Mug (as he sometimes was called in later life) had this to say about the British Conservative parliamentarian Sir Anthony Eden:

He is a Disraeli hero who has moved into a service flat, or perhaps a deep shelter; a Bertie Wooster who has turned from the Drones Club to Toynbee Hall.  As has been truly said, he is not only a bore but he bores for England.

This segment is devoted to those who – as citizens, residents or visitors – bore for Australia.

  • JOHN HEWSON BORES ON AT THE SATURDAY PAPER

Just when you thought that Morry Schwartz’s leftist The [Boring] Saturday Paper  could not become even more boring – lo and behold the (Saturday only) newspaper’s editor-in-chief Erik Jensen commissioned John Hewson to write a weekly “Comment” column. To do so, Comrade Jensen appeared to have disposed of the services of Sami Shah, who once wrote the “Gadfly” column in the same space. A pity really – since your man Shah provided quality material for MWD.

As avid readers will be aware, MWD has been following the Teachings of Dr Hewson (for a doctor he is) since he found refuge in The Saturday Paper – after being politely asked to depart the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age  to improve the gender balance on Nine Newspapers’ Opinion Page.  Your man Hewson was replaced by another vehement critic of the Morrison government, albeit of a different gender – to wit, Niki Savva.  But that’s another story.

Last Saturday, Professor Hewson – whom former prime minister Paul Keating used to call “the visiting professor” – wrote a comment piece with title “My own privatised Idaho”. Presumably the paper’s sub-editor is referring to the 1991 independent film My Own Private Idaho, about a narcoleptic hustler and a buddy searching for his estranged mother. MWD doesn’t quite understand the reference. But there you go. It commenced as follows:

One of the most compelling public policy initiatives globally over the past several decades, but unfortunately one of the most poorly implemented, has been privatisation. That is the concept of transferring business, industry or services from public to private ownership and management control.

The “Comment” piece was around 1200 words.  In it, your man Hewson mentioned only three names.  Namely, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims.  There was one reference each to “the Howard government” and “the Morrison government” – along with an occasional reference to Australian cities and companies.  Oh yes, the learned Professor told readers (if readers there were) that he was once “chairman of ABN Amro Australia”. Well done, don’t you think?

And that was about it.  For the rest there were words followed by words followed by words in support of the proposition that privatisation needs to be saved from something or other.  All very worthy, no doubt.  But frightfully dull.

John Hewson. Not only boring – but Boring for Australia – via The [Boring] Saturday Paper.


DOCUMENTATION

  • Laura Tingle has a gift for Labor and Norman Swan claims vindication

7:30 chief political correspondent Laura Tingle has spent this week reporting on controversies relating to the acquisition and distribution of Pfizer vaccines by the Federal Government.

Monday 6 September – Tingle gets the ball rolling

On Monday Laura Tingle presented a story concerning the allocation of Pfizer vaccine doses via the primary care network (primarily GPs). The key claim of the piece was that NSW was unfairly receiving Pfizer doses at the expense of other states, in particular Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. The piece was, according to Tingle, based on “an analysis of publicly available data”. She did not specify who conducted the analysis.

The obvious explanation would be that any discrepancy was caused by extra doses which the Federal government previously announced were being directed to New South Wales to help curb the current outbreak. On 15 July, it was announced that 150,000 doses of Pfizer were being distributed to NSW early. This was supplemented by another 50,000 doses on 24 July. On 15 August, Australia secured an additional 1 Million doses from Poland, 530,000 of which were going to Sydney’s Local Government Areas (LGAs) of concern. On a per capita basis NSW would have received around 320,000 doses, so that’s 210,000 extra doses NSW received from the Polish Million.

So, it had been well publicized that around 410,000 extra doses of Pfizer had been sent to NSW, in addition to the amount allotted to the state on a per capita basis. Was Laura Tingle just rehashing months old news about NSW receiving additional doses during an outbreak, just as Victoria had in June 2021? Tingle did mention the Polish doses in the story but assured viewers that “that’s not the whole story”. She did not mention the other 200,000 extra doses previously announced for NSW.

The remainder of the story was heavy on implication but light on facts. Comrade Tingle desperately wanted the audience to believe that something nefarious has been going on with vaccine distributions but did not appear to have any firm numbers to back it up. There was plenty of talk about how NSW had received extra doses in August, but at no point did she lay out exactly how many doses or how this compares to previously announced figures.

Tuesday 7 September – Daniel Andrews weighs in

On Tuesday Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews seized on the report and declared that “I signed up to a national plan to vaccinate our nation, not a national plan to vaccinate Sydney” and accused the Federal government of engaging in “secret” and “under the table” deals with NSW.

That same day, ABC COVID data guru Casey Briggs took to Twitter to examine the claims by Tingle and Andrews. Briggs, equipped with his trademark graphs, has been a regular feature on ABC News broadcasts, becoming the equivalent of election analyst Antony Green for COVID figures. Unlike Laura Tingle, a political reporter, Briggs has a background in mathematics and has been closely tracking the vaccine numbers since the start of the rollout.

Briggs found that, as of 29 August, NSW had received around 420,000 additional doses above what they would have received on a per capita basis. Note this closely tracks the 410,000 extra doses that had been public knowledge for some time. Casey Briggs did not mention 7:30, Tingle or Andrews but nonetheless offered up a strong rebuke of their conspiratorial claims:

In future any ABC political journos who want to weigh in on the vaccine rollout should probably run their numbers past Briggs. That is, assuming their goal is accuracy.

Apparently unaware (or unwilling to admit) that her story had been exposed as old news, Laura Tingle returned to 7:30 on Tuesday night. Here is how Leigh Sales and Laura Tingle introduced the topic:

Leigh Sales: Laura Tingle joins me. Laura, on the revelation that the Commonwealth has been prioritising New South Wales over other states with Pfizer vaccine supply, how have the other states reacted?

Laura Tingle: Not well, Leigh. Most of them were vaguely aware that this was happening, but they didn’t have enough vision of what was happening in the primary care amongst the GPs until now and it’s really focused their minds. They have basically sort of called out the unfairness of it and the fact that it leaves them way behind in terms of trying to get their vaccination rates up.

Sales and Tingle stuck with the line that there had been a “revelation”, despite nothing new having actually been revealed. And they took at face value Dan Andrews’ claims to be shocked and appalled by this information, despite the fact he had been aware of it for weeks.

Wednesday 8 September – Labor releases some emails and Dr Swan claims vindication

On Wednesday another, somewhat related, story broke when a 2020 email exchange between representatives from Pfizer and the Federal Health officials was released by Labor. Labor has claimed that these emails demonstrate a lack of urgency by the Federal government in procuring a deal with Pfizer. 7:30 regular Dr Norman Swan has been banging on about a 10 July 2020 meeting between Pfizer and the Feds for months. Here is what Dr Swan had to say about the subject in a 1 June 2021 interview with Raf Epstein:

Norman Swan: I’ve now had three sources telling me the same story, one including [sic] from the United States, of what happened with Pfizer last June [2020]. And if these three separate sources are right, what happened last June is that they [Pfizer] wanted to make Australia an example to the world on how to roll out, a bit like Israel or other places. And they said how much do you want and when do you want it? And on the 10 July [2020] there was a meeting and what I’m told happened at that meeting was that there was an inexperienced person [from the Commonwealth Health Department] there with procurement. And they said oh – they were pretty rude at the meeting, and they said: “Well you’re going to have to give us all your IP [Intellectual Property]”, which is an amazing thing to have said. And [the Australian official] started nickel and diming on the cost and essentially the conversation stopped. And then they came back in November [2020], the Commonwealth, and we got 10 million doses.

This tale has been disputed by the Federal Government and Pfizer. The emails leaked this week do not say anything about Australia replacing Israel as the site of Pfizer’s test rollout, nor do they mention Pfizer handing over IP, or Australia “nickel and diming on the cost”. To the extent they confirm anything from Dr Swan’s tale – it is the existence of a meeting on 10 July 2020, something acknowledged by both parties at the meeting months ago anyway.

In interviews throughout the pandemic, Dr Swan has claimed that he would like nothing more than to be proved wrong in his dire COVID predictions. However, when confronted by any evidence he was wrong he inevitably makes excuses and claims to have been right all along. It is no surprise then that he took to Twitter on Wednesday to claim his reporting had been vindicated:

On Wednesday night Laura Tingle concluded her report on the Pfizer email leak with this:

Laura Tingle: It really does sort of look like Pfizer with increasing exasperation, trying to get through to the Government and was having no success as of course, Norman Swan has been reporting for some months.

The leaked emails are primarily concerned with the logistics of proposed meetings between Pfizer and Australia. They obviously do not include any discussion of what went on at the 10 July meeting and so do not support Dr Swan’s reporting.

Thursday 9 September – Tingle sticks to her story

Yesterday The Age published a piece by Paul Sakkal analysing the claim by Dan Andrews that there had been a “secret” or “under the table” arrangement between the Federal Government and NSW concerning Pfizer doses. The article comes to the same conclusion Casey Briggs had earlier in the week, that NSW had received extra doses but that all these extra doses had been publicly announced well ahead of time.

Last night Tingle aired a lengthy report touching on both the extra doses for NSW and the leaked Pfizer emails. Here is how Tingle described the extra doses issue:

Laura Tingle: Some of that was thanks to extra vaccines like the delivery from Poland but the extent to which other states’ access to Pfizer was being affected by this had not been entirely clear to most people including some state premiers.

Ms Tingle once again skates over the fact that the remaining extra doses had been publicly announced in July. Perhaps it’s true that most people had forgotten this, but surely a journalist reporting on the issue should have reacquainted herself with this fact? At no point does Tingle tell her viewers that her initial report was just rehashing old news. Indeed, she claims that her reporting has been “further confirmed”. “Further confirmed” is in this case an interesting euphemism for “contained no new information”.

[I get it. MWD can report that Scott Morrison did, in fact, emerge victorious in the 2019 Federal Election, we expect this breaking news to be “further confirmed” in the coming weeks. – MWD Editor].

Laura Tingle then turned to the Pfizer email story. Here’s how she categorised the release of the emails:

Documents released under Freedom of Information laws revealed the global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer approached the government in late June last year.

Note the absence of any mention that it was Labor who released the documents – apparently this is a fact 7:30 viewers don’t need to know. Tingle goes on to say that a letter from a Pfizer representative claimed that Pfizer had the “potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020″. This would seem to support Dr Swan’s claim that Australia was being considered as a site for an early rollout of the Pfizer vaccine – except here is that quote in context:

We have the potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020, subject to technical success and regulatory approvals, then rapidly scale up to produce hundreds of millions of doses in 2021

In context this is very obviously a reference to Pfizer’s global production capacity, unless you happen to think Australia needs hundreds of millions of doses, enough to vaccine every man, woman and child in the country several times over. But Tingle chose to leave her viewers with the impression that Pfizer had claimed they could supply millions of doses to Australia by the end of 2020.

Here is Laura Tingle’s concluding statement in the piece:

Laura Tingle: The revelations have been a rare gift to the Opposition.

Well then, we know the Pfizer email release came from Labor, although Tingle neglected to mention this, so that would seem to be a gift Labor gave itself. As for the false “revelation” that NSW received extra doses, something Dan Andrews seemed well prepared to seize upon. That was a gift from none other than Laura Tingle.


  • THE ABC’S “QUESTION EVERYTHING” – OR “SMUGNESS ALWAYS”?

Thanks to the avid Melbourne and Newcastle readers who drew MWD’s attention to the new ABC news/comedy hybrid Question Everything – as in QE.

If you missed it, Question Everything follows a similar sort of format as the rest of ABC’s news/comedy programs, with a slightly less coherent format than the usual suspects. Wil Anderson co-hosts with Jan Fran, who describes herself as “fact-checker and truth arbiter”. Various comedians appear as guests. There are buzzers and other elements of a quiz show, and a reference to Jan Fran forgetting to keep score. But we are also told the panel is competing against disinformation rather than against each other.

Each episode also features a pre-recorded “Jansplaining” segment where Jan Fran explains something to camera. Similar to “The Frant” videos Fran has done for the leftist Guardian and SBS. In one episode, the pun-loving Jan Fran educates us on the Taliban’s recent PR efforts on social media. The phrase “Talibranding” is used multiple times. Get it?

The show has been promoted as “dissecting the news” and fighting disinformation, but overall QE is essentially the same as the other ABC comedy/news mashups – playing clips from other parts of the media, making themselves laugh while they comment on it, with a bit of disdain for morning television and Sky News thrown in.

Anderson said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that he came up with the idea when Donald Trump won the 2016 US election, but he wanted to wait until Trump had left office to make the show so Trump wouldn’t dominate the program.

For an idea he came up with so long ago, the program comes across as remarkably half-baked. Anderson is correct that the ABC didn’t need another news/comedy show complaining about Donald Trump, but at least some Trump might have livened this up a bit.

Predictably, the show covers the usual ground for an ABC program. Episode One devotes a big chunk time of to climate change and mocking LNP senator Matt Canavan. But the program appears to already be running out of disinformation to debunk – as QE then takes us back to old news such as the mice plague that earlier this year was rumoured to be headed for Sydney, and the Melbourne quarantine hotel security guard scandal of early 2020. Is anyone still thinking about this? This may be interesting news to someone who has been in a coma since April 2020. But surely they would have better things to do than sit around and wonder where the mice are.

In later episodes, the program covers some more current Covid related matters – vaccine messaging and hesitancy, ivermectin and so on. At one point the panel expressed surprise that it isn’t “boomers” who are the least vaccinated, it is the 19-44 age group. Who would have guessed that the older age group, most likely to die of Covid, who had earlier access to the vaccines and clearer messaging on vaccine eligibility, would also be the most vaccinated? Thankfully we have the great minds at Question Everything to set us straight.

The panel also mocks the idea of using ivermectin as a Covid treatment, and the fear some have of vaccination. MWD suspects that nobody with an already established fear of vaccines – or who believes the conspiracy theory that  ivermectin is being withheld as a Covid treatment – is going to be persuaded otherwise by comedians on the payroll of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. People do not tend to change their minds on these sorts of things because some of the smuggest people in the media tell them they’re wrong. Even less so because some comedians made themselves laugh about it on the ABC – even when they are wrong. If there are any examples of someone changing their minds on “misinformation” because of an ABC-type looking down on them, MWD is happy to stand corrected.

This is a point Question Everything actually agrees with in Episode Four. The panel discusses how to get through to conspiracy theorists and quotes an ABC article that says “calling them names, telling them they’re stupid and ramming them with facts” doesn’t tend to work. Interestingly, Jan Fran lets us know that social and psychological support is the key to rescuing theorists from their conspiracies – not a bunch of taxpayer-funded comedians laughing at them on television. Who would have ever thought this?

Jan Fran also states in Episode Four that Australians are very conspiratorial – one example used is that 6 per cent of Australians believe one-time prime minister Harold Holt didn’t drown in 1967. Sure, that’s quite a few people – but not that many, considering a prime minister disappeared without a trace. Compare this to the US, where polling suggests that 61 per cent of Americans are JFK conspiracy believers – and that percentage is the lowest it’s been in fifty years. It’s almost as if conspiracy theories are not as widespread in Australia as this show wants us to believe.

Like many an ABC show, QE prompts us to wonder why the ABC continues to make these news/comedy hybrids rather than just a straight up news or comedy show. The ABC is lacking in both. Perhaps the answer is that, however the ABC presents it, shows like Question Everything don’t actually exist to inform – they exist to be smug. They exist so that the people on it can feel important. They are not mere comedians, they are Fact Checkers doing Very Important Comedy. And perhaps so the viewers can feel superior to those poor misled fools that watch morning TV and Sky News and read Woman’s Day.

Now, MWD doesn’t like to be too negative, so one plus of Question Everything is that Anderson decided to use the program to feature some lesser-known comedians on the panel. It’s a shame they haven’t been given a better platform because some of them are actually funny. One can even imagine a world where the ABC produces a watchable comedy show if Wil Anderson gets out of the way and gives one of them – say, Luke Heggie – a go.

Question Everything has a few episodes left to go. If you feel misinformed, think you need to be re-educated through puns, or feel like punishing yourself after Gin & Tonic Time on a Wednesday, give it a go.

* * * * *

Until next time.

* * * * *