ISSUE – NO. 559

17 September 2021

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As Media Watch Dog readers know only too well, ABC TV’s chief political correspondent Laura Tingle believes that the Scott Morrison government is replete with “ideological bastardry”.

So it came as no surprise when, on 7.30 last night, La Tingle bagged the Morrison government’s decision to purchase nuclear-powered submarines from the United States or Britain – along with the announcement of the AUKUS (Australia/United Kingdom/United States) pact. This is what she had to say:

Laura Tingle: Politics and strategy are never far apart and the contentious nature of a shift to a nuclear-powered fleet has politics written all over it as something on which to try to wedge Labor and to reposition a politically wounded Prime Minister for a khaki election.

A khaki election? – what a load of absolute tosh.  Is Comrade Tingle really suggesting that President Joe Biden (a social democrat) and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (a conservative) got together with Prime Minister Morrison to facilitate a Coalition victory in the forthcoming Federal election in Australia?  You’ve got to be kidding.

The US, UK and Australian governments have come to a common purpose on this issue because they believe that AUKUS – and all it entails – is in the interest of their respective nations. Yet Comrade Tingle seems to be suggesting that AUKUS is all a cunning plan to see Scott Morrison prevail over Anthony Albanese at the next Australian election.  This is the best that 7.30 could come up with last night.

In today’s Nine Newspapers Sydney Morning Herald/Age columnist Tony Wright ran much the same line when he commenced his comment as follows:

We may have just abandoned a 20-year war in Afghanistan, but Australians should stand by for a khaki-shaded election.

In his remarkably lightweight “Analysis” piece, your man Wright declared that Prime Minister Morrison “desperately needed to change the narrative as spin doctors say”. But Comrade Wright provided no information as to how the PM managed to get the leaders of the US and the UK to come along for the ride.  The Nine “Analysis” writer made reference to Australia becoming America’s nuclear-powered deputy sheriff in the region – Groan.


Meanwhile the silliest comments on AUKUS, nuclear-powered submarines and all that have come from the leftists Peter FitzSimons (Nine Newspapers) and Paul Bongiorno (The [Boring] Saturday Paper).

Your man FitzSimons (aka the Red Bandannaed One) and Bonge looked at President Biden, Prime Minister Johnson and Prime Minister Morrison yesterday and saw – wait for it – North Korean communist dictator Kim Jong-un. Really.  Here’s what they had to say:

So there you have it.  Bonge and Fitz agree that Australia’s Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell and the Secretary of the Department of Defence Greg Moriarty are North-Korean-style thugs, bowing and scraping to Dear Leader Morrison.  Really. Which serves as a reminder to Comrade Bonge not to tweet After Dark.

Can You Bear It?


Wasn’t it great to see The Guardian/ABC Axis at work again on ABC TV’s Insiders last Sunday?  The panel comprised David Speers (ABC presenter) plus panellists Waleed Aly (Nine/Ten/ABC), Sarah Martin (Guardian) and Niki Savva (Nine) plus the “Talking Pictures” duo – Michael Bowers (Guardian) and Mark Knight (Herald-Sun).

Early on, Speersy gave Comrades Martin and Savva a free hand to run the line that the Morrison government had botched COVID-19 vaccinations.  It was so predictable.  However, Dr Aly (for a non-medical doctor he is) broke rank and failed to run the ABC/Guardian line on this issue. He said that an earlier deal to obtain the Pfizer vaccine may not have made much difference as to when Australia attained large supplies of Pfizer – he was interrupted on many occasions by David (“Interruptus”) Speers.  Your man Aly’s view is similar to that which MWD argued last week in the hugely popular “Documentation” segment. It’s just that Comrade Speers would not tolerate any comments inconsistent with his opinion.

Not surprisingly, Speersy gave Tanya Plibersek, Labor’s shadow minister for education and women, a soft (and somewhat boring) interview. There were only 10 interruptions all up – most of which occurred at the end of the interview when Speersy asked Ms Plibersek the same question over and over again about Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally being parachuted into the safe Labor seat of Fowler in Sydney without a rank- -and-file preselection.  Needless to say, the experienced Plibersek continued to run her line.  Early on, Speersy only interrupted Ms Plibersek after she had spoken at some length – unlike his recent encounters with Scott Morrison and Stuart Robert – re which see Issue 556 and Issue 558.

Towards the end of the program, Niki Savva – a Morrison government antagonist – decided to give some advice, of the gratuitous genre, to the Prime Minister during the “Final Observations” segment. Here it is:

Niki Savva: If Scott Morrison wants to mitigate some of the damage that’s being caused by his branding as the Prime Minister for NSW, then one thing he could do is seriously consider moving his family from Sydney, to move into The Lodge and live in The Lodge. This might sound like a very radical move, but in fact, that’s what The Lodge is for.

David Speers: Indeed….

What a load of nonsense. In her (free) advice, Ms Savva overlooked the fact that there are two official residences – The Lodge in Canberra and Kirribilli House in Sydney.  In recent times, such Sydney-based prime ministers as Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott, John Howard and Paul Keating have based themselves in Kirribilli House. Malcolm Turnbull preferred his abode in the Sydney suburb of Point Piper.

[As far as MWD can recall, Kevin Rudd lived in The Lodge – since there is no official residence in Brisbane. – MWD Editor.]

MWD does not recall Niki Savva or Speersy telling any of the above to move from their home base in Sydney and live in The Lodge.  Also, the Sydney Morning Herald/Age columnist seems completely unaware of the disruption to the lives of the Prime Minister’s school-age children necessitated by any move of the Morrison family to Canberra.

In any event, Niki Savva seems to believe that if the PM moved permanently to The Lodge, his Labor Party opponents would cease to call him the “Prime Minister for New South Wales”.  How naïve can a Morrison-antagonist columnist get? More importantly – Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of the Morrison children, it seems that Media Watch Dog fave Mike (“I’ll pour the Gin”) Carlton has also weighed in on publicly discussing the Morrison family.

This so happens to coincide with a huge demand from avid MWD readers for a report on how your man Carlton is doing in these days of lockdown on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.  Well, the good news is that Australia’s angriest columnist – who doubles up as the Sage of Avalon Beach – is alive and well. Or so it seems.

Around Gin & Tonic Time last Monday – not long after Media Watch Dog  went out – your man Carlton put out this tweet:

In his apparent anger at around 6.30 pm last Monday evening, Comrade Carlton thought it appropriate to criticise a 14-year old girl. This despite that the fact that some specialists have suggested that it’s probably best to vaccinate those over 16 years of age before vaccinating those under 16 years of age. It is unclear what Carlton was suggesting with this tweet. The PM was one of the first Australians to be vaccinated, so clearly this particular family has no problems with vaccines.

Your man Carlton – who hands out criticism but cannot take it – reacted in a predictable way by immediately blocking anyone who criticised his tweet about a female teenager who happens to be the PM’s daughter. On Tuesday morning he tweeted about the number of critics he has blocked over the years:

Mike Carlton: And here he is ! Blocked F-ckwit No 5,000 !

What a way for the one-time leftist journalist to spend his semi-retirement.  Especially since he could be plucking the wings from butterflies or some such. Can You Bear It?


There was enormous interest in last week’s Stop Press titled “BBC’s Nick Bryant’s Vaccine Howler”. As avid Media Watch Dog readers will recall, the BBC’s man Down Under had only been in Australia for five minutes (or thereabouts) – and was still in hotel quarantine – when he sounded forth last Friday morning about how the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in Australia is “a calamitous failure in many ways”.

It turned out that, no doubt due to jet-lag and all that, Comrade Bryant was not able to read the graphic he was citing. And so it came to pass that your man Bryant claimed last Friday that only 40.4 per cent of Australians had received their first vaccination – when, in fact, the correct figure was 65.3 per cent.

But MWD digresses, sort of.  A number of avid readers wanted to know what Jackie’s (male) co-owner was on about in referring to Nick Bryant’s 2014 book The Rise and Fall of Australia: How a Great Nation Lost Its Way, as “piss-poor”. Well here’s why:

Comrade Bryant wrote The Rise and Fall of Australia not long after he ceased being the BBC’s man in Sydney and headed to New York.  His tome reads a bit like large chapters from, say, The Green Left Weekly – and was replete with abuse and ridicule directed towards conservatives. Comrade Bryant had this to say about:

  • John Howard. Comrade Bryant quoted favourably Robert Hughes’ comment that the former Australian prime minister is a “visionary with eyes in the back of his head”. Abuse.
  • Scott Morrison. According to Comrade Bryant, Scott Morrison comes across “as a modern day Captain Mainwaring – the blustering and blinkered comic figure of the Home Guard army”. The reference is to the BBC sitcom Dad’s Army. More abuse.
  • Bronwyn Bishop. Comrade Bryant, throwing the switch to misogyny, wrote about Ms Bishop’s (alleged) “hurricane-proof hair”. Ridicule.
  • Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard. Comrade Bryant claimed that “for Abbott, like Gillard, the international stage was outside his comfort space”. This claim is not correct with respect to either former Australian prime minister.

As to his sermon – well, The Rise and Fall of Australia  relies on the (alienated) work of the likes of Robert Manne, Waleed Aly, David Marr, Hugh White, Phillip Adams, George Megalogenis and Tim Flannery.  [What about John Pilger? MWD Editor.]  All blokes – not a sheila in this lot.  Not a conservative either.

Towards the end of his piss-poor tome, Nick Bryant asked this question: “If Australian politics is so bad, then why has the country done so well?”.  Good question – don’t you think?  But not one that the author answered.  Now here are Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s questions: “If Australia is so bad, why does Comrade Bryant want to live here again?” And – Can You Bear It?


As mentioned in last week’s MWD, ABC TV News Breakfast presenters Lisa Millar and Michael Rowland were so enthralled to be interviewing a cool left-of-centre BBC guy like Nick Bryant on Friday 10 September, that they did not correct his COVID-19 vaccine howler.  Here’s how the interview  ended – with everyone praising everyone else, in the BBC/ABC kind of way:

Lisa Millar: Hey, Nick, it is also great to have you back in the country. Good for journalism in Australia to have you back here.

Nick Bryant: Oh, look, it’s lovely to see you guys. You are two legends and two greats. And it’s fantastic to be with you this morning. Thanks for having me.

Michael Rowland: I didn’t hear what you said. Legends and what? Greats?

Lisa Millar: Nick, you know what he’s like.

Michael Rowland: You can come back anytime.

Lisa Millar: Yeah, love to have you back. Thanks, Nick.

Michael Rowland: Okay, yeah. No, he’s fantastic too….

Yeah, that’s correct. Lisa told Nick that he’s not only great – but “good for journalism in Australia”.  And Nick told Lisa and Michael that they are “two legends and two greats” and that it was fantastic to be interviewed by them.  And fantastic Michael told the fantastic Lisa that the fantastic Nick was “fantastic too”. This ran the risk of giving mutual back-scratching a bad name. Can You Bear It?



SBS recently showed the documentary Strong Female Lead. Now showing on SBS On Demand, this is how it is described by SBS:

An exploration of the gender politics during Julia Gillard’s term as Australia’s first female prime minister, including the response and tone from media commentators, the Australian public, and within parliament itself.

And this is how SBS advertises the documentary on its SBS On Demand site:

This is simply FAKE NEWS.  When Opposition leader at the time of Julia Gillard’s prime ministership, Tony Abbott never held up a sign which declared “Ditch the Witch”. It is true that some demonstrators held up a sign behind Mr Abbott which expressed this sentiment about Prime Minister Gillard.  But there is no evidence of any kind that Tony Abbott was aware of the sign.  SBS On Demand has just made this up.



Media Watch Dog  just loves it when ABC journalists interview other ABC journalists about ABC journalists.  And so it came to pass that ABC presenter Patricia Karvelas interviewed ABC TV Four Corners executive producer Sally Neighbour on ABC Radio National Breakfast on 16 August. Discussion turned on Four Corners’ 60th anniversary – on the morning before ABC TV showed its self-serving program on Four Corners titled “Fearless and Forensic”.  Alas, Four Corners was not fearless enough to concede that it had ever made an error in six decades – but there you go.

Let’s go to the transcript where Comrade Karvelas invites Comrade Neighbour to discuss political pressure from (unnamed) political figures who have objected to some Four Corners programs:

Patricia Karvelas: A lot of backlash comes from political figures, many of whom have reportedly put pressure on the ABC to drop stories. How do you withstand that political pressure? I mean, you’re the executive producer – that must be incredibly difficult.

Sally Neighbour: Yeah, well, look, for the most part, the role of management is to protect the program from that pressure. So, um, recently when we ran a couple of stories that, um, the Federal government wasn’t that happy about, um, there were calls made from government ministers, uh – not the ministers themselves, but government ministers’ staff – to people in news management and even to, um, the chair, as I understand it and at least one member of the board.

And their [the Board’s] role, really, is to be a buffer between that political pressure and the program, and for the most part that works pretty well. But, of course, it does filter down, um, to the program team. Particularly, for example, when you’re trying to get answers to questions out of the government ministers or the Prime Minister’s Office. And in their responses, in which they say nothing and refuse to give any answers, they copy in, you know, everyone from the managing director to the, uh, director of news down. So, um, you know, that’s one of the methods used to just try and exert subtle pressure. So, you know, we’re often aware that it’s happening. But, um, generally everyone at Four Corners knows that part of the job is to stand their ground.

Patricia Karvelas:  Sure is. Sally, thanks for speaking to us.

Sally Neighbour: You’re very welcome.

Media Watch Dog  has argued consistently that the ABC is a staff collective – or soviet – in which the staff essentially run the taxpayer funded organisation independent of the managing director, chair and the rest of the board.  This is precisely what Comrade Neighbour told Comrade Karvelas in this interview.

Now, the government of the day appoints the ABC chair (Ita Buttrose) and the rest of the board. With one exception. The ABC board appoints the ABC managing director, who sits on the board.  Consequently, when Comrade Neighbour is discussing her view as to the role of the ABC board – she is including ABC managing director David Anderson.

Now, Sally Neighbour is one of a small number of senior staff who really run the ABC.  Comrade Neighbour made this clear when she told Comrade Karvelas that the “role” of the board “is to be a buffer” between political pressure and ABC programs.  That’s all, apparently.

That’s a view from the ABC soviet. According to legislation, the role of the ABC board is to exercise oversight with respect to the taxpayer funded public broadcaster and to ensure that it observes the ABC Charter.  This requires, for example, that the ABC is balanced. As MWD readers know, this is not the case.  In fact, the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

As previously mentioned, Sally Neighbour told Patricia Karvelas that the role of the ABC board, which includes ABC managing director and editor-in-chief David Anderson, is to be a buffer between politicians and ABC program makers.  In other words, the role of the ABC managing director and his fellow board members and chair – is to defend the ABC programs. Irrespective of whether they are unprofessional, inaccurate, defamatory or whatever.  For his part, Mr Anderson seems to oblige – telling Senate Estimates on 7 June 2021 that the ABC “stands by its journalism”.

That’s how staff collectives work.  They run organisations independent of management.



Regular readers of MWD will be well aware of Dr Norman Swan’s history with the AstraZeneca vaccine. In December 2020, the ABC’s COVID guru referred to AZ as a “second rate vaccine”. In the early months of Australia’s vaccine rollout, Swan used his frequent media appearances to report on a rare clotting complication associated with the AZ vaccine.

In May 2021 Norman (“Trust me, I’m Australia’s most trusted doctor”) Swan received his first dose of the AZ vaccine and admitted to SMH’s Michael Koziol that he “probably did cause some vaccine hesitancy”. However, in June he fretted that someone could fall victim to the clotting complication after receiving the vaccine at his urging. Your man Swan also claimed that if were it not for the ongoing pandemic, AZ would have been taken off the market.

The spread of the Delta variant in Sydney (where the good doctor resides) appears to have allayed Dr Swan’s fears concerning the vaccine. In July, he received his second dose of AZ early and encouraged others to do the same. In August, he reported on new research showing that the AZ vaccine may give a longer lasting immunity than the Pfizer vaccine.

Last Tuesday, Swan made one of his regular appearances on ABC News Breakfast. During the interview he was asked to comment on the decision by the Northern Territory and South Australian governments to offer the Pfizer vaccine to over 60’s. Here is his response:

Norman Swan: This is Boomer entitlement, I mean it’s just, you know. It must mean that they’ve got loads of Pfizer doses that they’re not telling anybody about. If they’ve got Pfizer doses to waste on over 60-year-olds, when 12-year-olds need to be immunised, 12-year-olds should be in front of any 60-year-old who isn’t otherwise contraindicated to get AstraZeneca. Because they deserve the Pfizer more than over 60s. Over 60s can get Astra, they can get Astra safely and protect themselves against severe disease. Pfizer should be reserved for the under-60s and now the 12 to 15-year-olds. They must have stocks of Pfizer they haven’t told anybody about that they can afford to do that.

Michael Rowland: But uh, once that mindset is established, and it appears to be established in some sections of the over-60s population Norman, it’s very hard to change isn’t it?

Norman Swan: It’s very hard to change and they will be vulnerable when we do open up. And in states where they’re not opening up it will keep them locked down for longer.

It seems that, these days Dr Swan has little time for anyone over the age of 60 who prefers the Pfizer to AstraZeneca. But both Michael Rowland and Norman Swan may want to reflect some more on how that “mindset” became established. If some over-60s believe that AstraZeneca is a second-rate vaccine that should be taken off the market, generational entitlement may not be the only cause. Maybe the “Boomer entitlement” attitude to AZ was facilitated by those who follow the warnings of Australia’s self-proclaimed most trusted doctor.



There’s nothing quite so heart-string-pulling as when The Guardian’s David Marr – a Media Watch Dog  fave if ever there was one – emotes during media interviews/discussions.

It so happened on ABC Radio National’s Saturday Extra  on 11 September 2021 – the 20th anniversary of Al Qaeda’s terrorist attack on the United States –  presenter Geraldine Doogue invited author and journalist David Marr and The Sydney Institute’s deputy director and author Anne Henderson on her program to discuss what was titled “Tampa’s judgment 20 years on”.

The reference was to the action of the captain of the Norwegian M.V. Tampa who picked up more than 400 asylum seekers from a boat which was sinking off the coast of Australia.  As the Saturday Extra program notes put it: “The following political events led to Australia’s hardline border policy dubbed the Pacific Solution”.   The Tampa incident and 9/11 were not related – but the events occurred close together.

Leading off, Geraldine Doogue asked your man Marr about the 12,000 asylum seekers who had arrived in Australia by boat between 1999 and 2001 – mainly from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan during the time of the John Howard-led Coalition government.  She asked David Marr to remind us of “some of the feelings at the time”. Comrade Marr immediately focused on Pauline Hanson and her right-wing One Nation party as sparking opposition to asylum seekers, stating: “The politics within Australia, always pretty foul around refugees from the time of Arthur Calwell through to Malcolm Fraser – always foul and difficult – were particularly poisonous through the middle of 2001.” In fact, refugees were not an issue during the time Labor’s Arthur Calwell was in national politics, and Malcolm Fraser’s government was the most accepting of refugees.

When Ms Doogue said that the feeling about asylum seekers arriving by boat was massively augmented by the events of 11 September 2001 – Comrade Marr threw the switch to hyperbole. And guess what? – attacked John Howard’s Coalition government, which was in office in 2001.

There were references to “dear old Philip Ruddock” – the former Minister for Immigration Philip Ruddock, who is four years older than Marr. Then dear old David Marr (to coin a phrase) went on to suggest that in 2001 Prime Minister John Howard said that “if you let in this boat [Tampa] 70 million people would follow”. No evidence was cited to support this claim. Comrade Marr went on to accuse Prime Minister Howard of engaging in the politics of “real fear” – in claiming that unless the boats were stopped, Australia “would, in fact, be invaded”. Again, no evidence was cited to support these claims.

Then it was the turn of Anne Henderson – who happens to be Jackie’s (female) co-owner.  She commenced by “unpicking some of David’s rhetoric” – making the point that Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam was “one of the most vociferous opponents of refugees” – having described anti-communist South Vietnamese in 1975 as “f-cking Vietnamese Balts”.  Ms Hendo added that, under Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition government, which came to office in November 1975, 95 per cent of Vietnamese refugees came to Australia by plane – having been processed in camps outside of Australia.

The point being that, unlike the asylum seekers on the Tampa, the Vietnamese refugees came to Australia with visas, along with known identities. Anne Henderson also pointed out that mandatory detention in Australia was an initiative of the Keating Labor government in the early 1990s. She added that the prime opposition to asylum seekers arriving in Australia unlawfully by boat came – not from the right-of-centre types like Pauline Hanson – but from Labor supporters in Labor seats who objected to those they called “queue-jumpers” getting into Australia before other refugees and migrants – many of whom were family members. Around this time the ABC’s line fell out. Alas. Contact resumed later, after the initial discussion had moved on.

While Anne Henderson was off-line, Geraldine Doogue then put it to David Marr that Labor was “very confused” on this issue at the time – he replied, in emotive mode:

David Marr: Geraldine, could I first say, how baffled I am that Anne Henderson imagines that I’m pushing some kind of Labor barrow here.  She’s probably not read my book –  in which I excoriate Keating, for instituting mandatory detention, for which I quote Whitlam saying those appalling things about refugees, where I praise Fraser for the work he did to bring, um, to bring Vietnamese refugees into this country.  I don’t know why everything has to be reduced to this crude political contest. I agree with everything she said, which she puts forward as an answer to me. But anyway, but anyway…

But anyway, but anyway. The point here is that Anne Henderson was responding to what David Marr had told Saturday Extra listeners on 11 September 2021 – not to what he wrote in his 2003 book Dark Victory, published nearly two decades ago.  The fact is that, in his opening remarks to Geraldine Doogue, your man Marr did not mention Gough Whitlam or Paul Keating. And he implied that the politics around refugees were pretty foul during the time of Malcolm Fraser’s government. It wasn’t – quite the contrary.

So, your man Marr got into a hissy-fit on Saturday Extra  because in responding to what he said in 2021, Anne Henderson did not mention what he wrote in 2003.  How about that?


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Until next time.

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