GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 562
8 October 2021
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A FAWNING MICHAEL ROWLAND INTERVIEWS HIS BOSS GAVEN MORRIS (IN DENIAL)
Media Watch Dog just loves it when ABC journalists interview ABC journalists on the ABC about the ABC. And even more so when ABC journalists interview ABC management – that is, their bosses – on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster about the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.
ABC TV News Breakfast co-presenter Michael Rowland has become a bit of a smirking/sneerer in recent times when interviewing Coalition politicians. However, it was all gush when Comrade Rowland interviewed Gaven Morris, who was soon to step down as ABC Director, News Analysis and Investigation, this morning.
Gaven Morris told a totally uncritical Comrade Rowland that the ABC is “in a fitter, better state than we have ever been”. He added that the ABC is “more diverse than we have ever been before” and has “an exceptionally brilliant team”. It is as if the ABC does not have problems (re which see today’s Editorial) and that it is not a conservative-free zone which lacks political diversity. A clear case of denial, it seems.
Believe it or not, the fawning Rowland asked his boss to “nominate one great success”. And, believe it or not, Mr Morris nominated “cultural diversity”. The ABC Director of News even defended such flawed recent ABC TV programs as Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire. And he praised the way the ABC covered Louise Milligan’s article on Christian Porter. This despite the fact that the ABC, which has an in-house legal section of over 20 staff, spent $680,000 on outside legal advice along with $100,000 of Christian Porter’s mediation costs to defend itself from Christian Porter’s legal action. Mr Porter paid no money to the ABC. If this is the example of “great success”, it can only be wondered what failure would look like.
Towards the end of the interview, Comrade Rowland said he was “quite sad” that (allegedly) “News Corp’s Sky News is obsessed with the ABC”. Which would suggest that Michael Rowland does not watch the ABC’s very own Media Watch – or he would know that Media Watch presenter Paul Barry is well and truly obsessed with Sky News and News Corp.
Gaven Morris responded by stating that the ABC is “often in the public eye not because we’re failing but because we’re succeeding”. How about that? The more the ABC pays Christian Porter’s mediation costs and Andrew Laming’s defamation payouts – the more successful the ABC is. It’s a lose-win situation. How very ABC.
The interview concluded with Comrade Rowland showing footage of Gaven Morris when he was an ABC reporter circa 1988. Deciding to lay on the flattery with a trowel, Comrade Rowland told his boss that he was “quite a dashing young man” in 1988 and a “fine reporter as well”. For his part, Gaven Morris described the ABC News Team as “terrific”.
[Perhaps you should have put this in your hugely popular “Can You Bear It”? segment. Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]
FAKE NEWS OUTBREAK AT ABC BALLARAT
The Rowland/Morris on-air love-in had only just finished when an avid Central Victorian reader advised MWD of an interview by ABC Radio Ballarat presenter Nicole Chvastek with the leftist media commentator Denis Muller last Tuesday.
MWD will deal with this in some detail next week. However, here’s a heads-up (as the saying goes). Comrade Chvastek alleged – falsely – that former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has “been charged with corruption offences” by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Not so. And Comrade Muller said that the new NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet is not only a “conservative Catholic” but also a “mixture of the populist right and the Counter Reformation”. Yes, the Counter Reformation which existed between the mid-16th Century and the mid-17th Century. By the way, Mr Perrottet is 39 years old.
This is an example of the “fitter, better” ABC that Gaven Morris praises. Turn it up.
DENNIS ATKINS HAS ANOTHER LOOK AT HIS ELECTION CRYSTAL BALL AND SEES DECEMBER
As avid Media Watch Dog readers will only be too well aware, Jackie’s (male) co-owner recently took the advice of Queensland journalist Dennis Atkins and put a circle around 9 October 2021 on his desk calendar. Why? That’s the date that Comrade Atkins predicted would be the occasion when the next Federal election will be held.
It didn’t happen, alas. So what’s Comrade Atkins done? – MWD hears avid readers cry. Well, he had (yet) another go. Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to an article by your man Atkins in the 28 September 2021 issue of the In Queensland publication – whatever that is – titled “Why ‘freedom by Christmas’ means we are going to the polls before year’s end”.
Yep – that’s correct. Dennis Atkins has had another go at picking the election date. Instead of conceding that he had got the 9 October election date wrong, Comrade Atkins declared that the Prime Minister had planned to go to the polls on 9 October but changed his mind due to changing circumstances. The Queensland scribbler’s evidence? Zip.
After examining Canberra breadcrumbs – yes breadcrumbs – Comrade Atkins reckons that there will be an election by Christmas. Alas, he did not cite a precise date. So Hendo hasn’t been able to put a new circle around any particular date. Presumably Comrade Atkins has in mind 4 December or 11 December – any other date would be too close to Christmas. We shall see.
In any event, MWD just loved this piece in the Dennis Atkins rationalisation for his false 9 October prophecy:
Those who pointed to an early October 9 election – this columnist included – were wrong and are wearing the egg. That’s what writing political columns is all about.
So there you have it. According to your man Atkins, writing political columns is all about making false predictions and then “wearing the egg”. However, rather than removing the egg permanently, the Queensland scribbler has done an Oliver Twist and come back for more – seeking another possible serving of egg. Can You Bear It?
NIKI SAVVA “THE PM IS HOPELESS BECAUSE…” CONTINUING APACE
While on the topic of why it is unwise to make predictions – especially about the future, as the saying goes – there are some near certainties in many a political columnist’s life. For example, what are the chances of Niki (“I’m a conservative leftie, whatever that might entail”) Savva writing a column for Nine Newspapers (The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald) that is not critical of Scott Morrison and the Coalition? Well, according to MWD’s count, it’s all but impossible.
As documented in Issue 559, since replacing John Hewson as Nine Newspapers’ Thursday political columnist, Comrade Savva has bagged the Prime Minister every week. MWD will not speculate about what will be the lady’s column next Thursday. But the last two have been consistent with the previous eight weeks (after commencing on 5 August 2021). Here they are:
▪ 30 September 2021. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is completely hopeless because – he didn’t follow “a sensible road-map…to get to net zero [emissions] by 2030”. Yes, just nine years away. And because the PM and Barnaby Joyce have been “woefully inadequate” in their handling of Nationals MP George Christensen. Needless to say, Ms Savva did not proffer advice as to how Australia could get to net zero emissions by 2030 or how Mr Christensen might be silenced at any time. No problem here – since Niki Savva is a journalist who never has to say sorry for howlers.
▪ 7 October 2021. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is completely hopeless because – he (allegedly) patronised, bullied and undermined former NSW Liberal Party premier Gladys Berejiklian. What’s more, the PM has upset both the French government and the Queensland Labor premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. The latter, according to the thought of Savva, could lead to the Liberal Party not being able to base its election headquarters in Brisbane. Pretty shocking outcome, to be sure.
Stand by for more predictable Niki Savva epistles about why Scott Morrison is completely hopeless. Which raises the question – Can You Bear It?
JON KUDELKA COMMENTS ON JON KUDELKA’S CARTOONS – POSITIVELY
While on the topic of journalists and the like depicting the Prime Minister as completely hopeless, MWD expresses concern at the apparent demise of ABC TV Insiders’ ABC/Guardian Axis. Why, last Sunday there was only one Guardian comrade on the Insiders team of six – often there are two or three. But last Sunday, Michael Bowers who presents the “Talking Pictures” segment, was the only Guardian comrade on the Insiders payroll.
It’s a shame, really, since the fact that the avowedly leftist Guardian Australia’s four most senior journalists – Lenore Taylor (editor), Katharine Murphy (political editor), Sarah Martin (chief political correspondent) and Amy Remeikis (political reporter) – are all regular Insiders’ insiders, demonstrates the ABC/Guardian Axis in action. And they frequently provide great copy for Hendo.
But MWD digresses. Last Sunday, Michael Bowers’ “Talking Pictures” guest was Jon Kudelka, cartoonist for the leftist Saturday Paper. When it came to talking about the week’s cartoons, Comrade Kudelka decided to talk about the work of the cartoonist he most admires. Namely, Comrade Kudelka Himself – along with the output of some other cartoonists.
Let’s go to the transcript as The Saturday Paper’s Jon Kudelka looks down in happiness at the work of the cartoonist Jon Kudelka:
Mike Bowers: Jon, you think that it’s not going to matter much whether Scott goes or not [to the COP-26 meeting in Glasgow].
Jon Kudelka: Yeah, we’ve got Net Zero here. We’ve got “Scott doesn’t attend climate talks” with a chair facing the corner with a dunce hat ready. Then there’s “Scott does attend climate talks” with Scott sitting in the chair with the little dunce hat in the place it was intended. So, I honestly don’t think it’s going to add much to proceedings.
How clever is that? Perhaps the oldest pictorial cliché in cartoonist’s world is to draw someone you don’t like with a Dunce’s Hat on his or her head. Why, MWD has even engaged in such (easy) art itself. And Comrade Bowers and Kudelka thought that this piece of pictorial kitsch was worth discussing on Insiders.. Dunce hats all round. Can You Bear It?
THE ABC’S ANDREW PROBYN PLUGS THE ABC’S THE BRIEF AS TERRIFIC. QUELLE SURPRISE!
While on the topic of ABC TV Insiders, here’s how the ABC’s Andrew Probyn commenced his comment in the “Final Observations” segment last Sunday:
Andrew Probyn: Two things. Firstly, if too much isn’t enough, go to iview and watch The Brief – a terrific program that is produced on the smell of an oily rag…
Now the ABC’s monthly The Brief podcast consists of a 15-minute episode where ABC journalists from the ABC’s Parliament House Bureau talk about their work.
So ABC’s Comrade Probyn used the ABC Insiders’ program to not only praise the ABC’s The Brief as “terrific”- but also to whinge that “it is produced on the smell of an oily rag”. The ABC gets over $1 billion from the Australian taxpayer each year. And Comrade Probyn reckons that he and his ABC mates should get more money to produce The Brief – which, apparently, is so little noticed that it needs a plug on Insiders. Talk about giving public sector journalism a bad name. Can You Bear It?
THE ABC’S SENIOR MANAGEMENT IS ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR UNPROVEN ALLEGATIONS ON ITS ABC PROGRAMS
It is more evident than ever that the ABC has a problem with facts – or, rather, perceived “facts”. In view of this the buck should stop at the desk of David Anderson – the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s managing director and editor-in-chief and those well-paid ABC senior executives who report to him. Thursday’s announcement that Gaven Morris (Director News, Analysis and Investigations) is resigning does not resolve the issue. The likes of Michael Carrington (Director Entertainment and Analysis), Judith Whelan (Director of Regional and Local), Craig McMurtrie (Editorial Director) and John Lyons (Head Investigative and in-depth journalism) – among others – will remain in place. One of them may replace Gaven Morris.
Sophie Elsworth reported in The Australian’s “Media” section on Monday that “there have been discussions at ABC management and board level as to who is ultimately responsible for allowing questionable material in the two-part miniseries Juanita: A Family Mystery, to go to air. She wrote that the editorial failings of the program “are likely to result in job losses at the national broadcaster”.
No such discussions should be necessary. The ABC’s editor-in-chief is ultimately responsible for ABC editorial decisions – including the decision to air Juanita: A Family Mystery. And the ABC board – including ABC chair Ita Buttrose – is responsible for appointing, and if necessary, dismissing, the ABC’s managing director and editor-in-chief. Moreover, in view of the fact that the ABC is effectively a staff collective – in which various programs control their own operations – it is the executive producer and presenters of programs who should be held responsible for their product in the first instance.
As Media Watch Dog has commented in the past, it made no sense for the public broadcaster to get involved with the establishment of the ABC-RMIT Fact-Check Unit. This is designed to draw attention to the (alleged) factual errors of others. What the ABC needs to do is to check its own “facts” before they are aired or published.
Here are some of the ABC’s recent problems with what the taxpayer funded public broadcaster presents as facts:
Juanita: A Family Mystery
This is how the ABC initially presented its Unravel True Crime episodes on the 1975 kidnapping and murder of Juanita Nielsen – whose body has never been found.
The unmissable two-part series follows Juanita’s family members, Keiran McGee and Pip Rey, as they work alongside the ABC’s award-winning Unravel True Crime podcast team, to uncover the truth behind Juanita’s mysterious disappearance…. Featuring compelling archival footage, actual voice recordings of Juanita and intimate interviews with friends and family as well as an investigator and an underworld figure who have never spoken publicly before. Juanita: A Family Mystery brings to life Juanita’s world, and pieces together the events leading up to her disappearance.
And this is how, on 2 September, the ABC corrected its “true crime” documentary of just a month previously:
Episode 7 of Unravel: Juanita featured an interview with a source, John Innes, who claimed to have been placed in jail as an undercover investigator to extract information from key suspect Eddie Trigg. Excerpts from the interview were also included in episode 8.
Following publication, new information came to light casting serious doubt on some of Innes’ claims. Some of this information had been unavailable to the content makers; some was available but not discovered. Episodes 7 and 8 have been temporarily removed from the ABC website and podcast platforms in order to address concerns about the accuracy of Innes’ claims.
The experienced journalist Peter Rees, who wrote in his book Killing Juanita, was not asked about the ABC program before it aired. He told The Australian (28 September 2021) that the ABC has been “duped” by “preposterous claims” that an undercover sting had found her murderer.
The problem here is that those who worked on the ABC Unravel True Crime podcast team believed what they wanted to believe. They simply took for granted what John Innes said, without fact-checking. Innes, who is regarded by some who know him in Sydney, as an erratic personality, told the program that he knew who, where and how Nielsen was killed. In fact, there is no evidence that Innes has any special knowledge about the Nielsen murders. Likewise there is no evidence that he spoke to Eddie Trigg about the case when both were in prison.
Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire
In March 2021, ABC TV ran a three-part series titled Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire. The thesis of the program was that the Luna Park fire in Sydney in 1979 – in which six boys and one man (a father) died – was an act of murder by arson as part of the corruption which went right up to the top of the NSW government. In 1979, Labor’s Neville Wran was premier of NSW.
Milton Cockburn, a former Wran staffer who became editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, complained about the documentary to the ABC managing director and editor-in-chief David Anderson. Anderson flicked the matter to the bureaucrats in the ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs Department in Canberra headed by Kirstin McLiesh. On 11 June 2021 McLiesh emailed Cockburn dismissing all aspects of his complaint to the following effect: “We are satisfied that the program complied with the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy.”
Cockburn took the matter up with the ABC chair Ita Buttrose. Subsequently, the ABC board commissioned an independent report by former ABC journalist Chris Masters and retired University of Sydney academic Rodney Tiffen. Both are ABC-friendly types – not ABC critics. On Monday, 27 October 2021, the ABC released Editorial Review 25 titled Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire.
The Tiffen/Masters Report praised large parts of Exposed – even to the extent to seeming to accept some of the program’s untested theories. But the authors criticised Exposed with respect to its allegations concerning Neville Wran. Namely that Wran was corrupt and helped to cover up the Luna Park murders. For the record, there is no clear evidence that the Ghost Train fire was deliberately lit – the fire could have been sparked by an electrical fault.
The Tiffen/Masters report found that Exposed gave a strong impression that the program “concluded that Wran was complicit” in corruption, arson and murder – but failed to support the claim with evidence.
The problem here was that the ABC presenters Caro Meldrum-Hanna and Patrick Begley believed the testimony of Wayne Evans and Rosemary Ortiz because they wanted to believe what they heard about Neville Wran – without checking the facts.
Despite the fact that the Tiffen/Masters report was commissioned by the ABC board – its findings were dismissed by ABC management and Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire remains unchanged on the ABC iview channel. In other words, it seems that senior ABC management has defied the ABC board’s intention.
Louise Milligan, Sarah Ferguson, Annabel Crabb
There are many more such examples which have been discussed in detail in MWD over the years. Namely (i) Louise Milligan’s allegations against Cardinal Pell, Christian Porter and Andrew Laming, (ii) Sarah Ferguson’s allegations against Cardinal Pell in the Revelation series and (iii) Annabel Crabb’s allegations in Ms Represented against the former Coalition senator Cory Bernardi and Labor’s John Dawkins. All were instances of ABC journalists believing what they wanted to believe without a proper and professional investigation.
ABC Online’s unproven allegations against Tom Wills
In more recent times, there was the article on the ABC website titled “Second discovery suggests AFL pioneer Tom Wills participated in massacres of Indigenous people” by Russell Jackson. Jackson alleged that Wills took part in a revenge attack against Indigenous people in the 19th Century which became a massacre.
There were numerous factual errors in the ABC article on Wills. The Jackson account was challenged by Martin Flanagan in The Sunday Age on 26 September 2021. His article, titled “Tom Wills remains a major figure in Australian history” discredited many of Jackson’s claims – but not before Jackson’s assertion that Wills took part in a mass murder that had received international attention. Once again, an ABC allegation was not fact-checked.
ABC’s Policy that Allegations are Good Enough
Senior ABC managers have dismissed the criticism of the work of such leading journalists as Louise Milligan, Caro Meldrum-Hanna and Sarah Ferguson. The ABC believes that it is entitled to present unproven allegations about both the living (George Pell, Christian Porter) and the dead (Neville Wran, Tim Wills) which do not meet any evidentiary standard. To the ABC, it’s okay to present claims against individuals despite the fact that they are not proven beyond reasonable doubt (the criminal standard) or even the balance of probability (the civil standard).
In view of this no one should be surprised that Juanita: A Family Mystery contains unchecked errors. That’s what the contemporary ABC does – for which the ABC managing director and editor-in-chief is ultimately responsible.
Whatever Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper is – it is not a newspaper, in that it contains scant news. More like a weekly leftist house-journal. The problem is that The Saturday Paper goes to press on Thursday evenings. So, when it comes out on Saturday morning (and is delivered to sandal-wearers in inner-city coffee shops when they are not in lockdown) its “news” is already 36 hours old. That’s why Hendo reads it around Gin & Tonic Time on Monday – what’s the hurry? Even Martin McKenzie-Murray (The Saturday Paper’s chief correspondent) acknowledges that he writes incoherently and is inherently uninteresting. (See Issue 404). But the hyphenated-name one is still on the Schwartz payroll – a self-declared boring correspondent for a boring newspaper.
THE SATURDAY PAPER MISSES THE BEREJIKLIAN RESIGNATION BUT MIKE SECCOMBE, PAUL BONGIORNO AND JOHN HEWSON BORE ON ABOUT OLD NEWS
Take Saturday’s edition (2 October 2021) for example. Without question, the big news of last week was Gladys Berejiklian’s decision to resign as premier of NSW, following the decision by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption’s decision to hold public hearings into her role. Ms Berejiklian announced her resignation at 11 am on Friday 1 October. As avid readers will recall, this was covered in the Stop Press section of last week’s MWD.
And how did Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper cover this big story? Well – it didn’t. Instead the leftist house journal’s front page featured a photo of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi from a boring piece by the oh-so-boring Mike Seccombe’s familiar Saturday Paper boring story about how bad Energy Minister Angus Taylor really is. It spilled to Pages 10 and 11 and – zzzzzzzz zzzz.
The previous week, Comrade Seccombe had the lead story in Comrade Schwartz’s vanity-publishing effort. It was all about the fact that Cardinal George Pell had travelled from Sydney to Rome – and Seccombe got the dates wrong. Media Watch Dog is not clear as to when was the last time Comrade Seccombe went to a Catholic Church. But rumour has it that he dumped copies of The Saturday Paper outside St Mary’s Cathedral not so long ago in the hope that they would be taken by passers-by who mistook them for The Catholic Weekly – thus artificially boosting The Saturday Paper’s readership figures. For the record, Comrade Seccombe covered the divisions between Catholic liberals and Catholic progressives over the current Plenary Council in his story – but only interviewed those opposed to the conservatives.
The “highlight” of last Saturday’s paper was a column by Coalition-hater Paul Bongiorno – who bagged the Prime Minister by stating that Scott Morrison “drew flak on Father’s Day for using a special exemption to fly back to Canberra after a weekend at Kirribilli House”. Bonge failed to mention that he fired lotsa this flak himself.
And then there was boring John (“call me Hewie”) Hewson’s boring weekly column in which he bagged the Morrison government. Yawn. In passing, Dr Hewson (for a doctor he is) claimed that China is “moving beyond coal”. This would have surprised readers (if readers there were) who are aware that the Chinese government is currently constructing around 50 coal-fired power stations in China, in addition to coal-fired power stations outside of China under its Belt and Road Scheme.
If any big news occurs today – rest assured that it will not be covered in The Saturday Paper tomorrow. And rest assured that Mike Seccombe, Bonge and Hewie at the Boring Team will come up with yet more stories hostile to the Morrison government. After all – they bore for the Green/Left.
DOCTOR SWAN GOES FROM “GUINEA PIGS” TO “VACCINATION IS THE ONLY WAY OUT OF THIS”
On Wednesday the ABC’s doctor in the house returned to 7:30 to give an update on the COVID situation in New South Wales & Victoria. Here is Dr Swan and COVID data analyst Anthony Macali on 7:30 on Wednesday:
Norman Swan: With [Victorian] lockdown not holding very well and breakouts linked to recent protests and grand final day gatherings, vaccination is the only way out of this. But if Victoria was following what happened in New South Wales, the curve should have started to flatten before this.
New South Wales COVID numbers peaked at just over 1,600 a day, on September 11 – when the vaccination rates there were 78 per cent first dose and 46 per cent second dose. Yesterday the daily numbers in Victoria were 1,763 despite higher vaccination rates of 82.9 per cent first dose and 53.5 per cent second. According to Anthony Macali this paradox may reflect the Victorian vaccination strategy.
Anthony Macali: New South Wales had a real directed approach of going to specific LGAs and driving vaccination where cases were very high. In Victoria it’s still a very widespread state approach. The vaccinations overall are quite good but perhaps some of the more vulnerable LGAs, ones where cases continue to rise, haven’t got the vaccination rates just yet.
Norman Swan: But there is some really good news in the Victorian data which clearly show that vaccination is working. Hospitalisation, intensive care unit, and death rates have been slashed.
It is good to see Doctor Swan singing the praises of the New South Wales vaccination program, but avid readers may remember Doctor Swan has not always been so positive. Here is what he had to say on a 3 August 2021 appearance on ABC TV’s News Breakfast:
Norman Swan: I don’t think this has been tried anywhere else in the world, where you are trying to use vaccination to curve an outbreak. And, um, in a sense New South Wales, the residents of New South Wales are guinea, or at least Greater Sydney, are guinea pigs in this. To see whether or not, if you can really intensify vaccination, can you bend the curve downwards?
At the time this received a strong pushback from former Chief Deputy Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth:
No, Dr Swan, they are not guinea pigs. I vaccinated during measles in Chad in 2005. Rapid vaccination during an epidemic is part of epidemic control. And it’s what every other country has done with #covid19 #auspol #astrazeneca #pfizer Restrictions plus rapid vaccines works https://t.co/sWn1o3bCOO
— Dr. Nick Coatsworth (@nick_coatsworth) August 2, 2021
Nick Coatsworth has been proven right – rapid vaccination has clearly worked to bring down case numbers in Sydney. When offering up dire predictions, Norman Swan likes to remark that he would love to be proven wrong. However, when he has actually been proven wrong – mea culpas have generally not been forthcoming.
- CLOVER MOORE BOOKS IN FOR A CONSULTATION WITH DOCTOR NORMAN SWAN
In recent weeks there has been public debate between the City of Sydney Council and the New South Wales government concerning the 9pm New Year’s Eve fireworks show in Sydney Harbour. Although at one point it looked like the Council would decide to cancel this year’s show (as occurred last year), it has now been decided that the 9pm fireworks show can go ahead.
On Tuesday the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had admitted to consulting with ABC COVID-19 guru Dr Norman Swan and UNSW Professor and frequent ABC guest Raina MacIntyre, but not with health experts from the NSW government. Here are the Lord Mayors remarks, as reported by SMH:
Asked by councillor Linda Scott during an extraordinary council meeting on Tuesday what health advice she received, Cr Moore replied, “I sought advice from [epidemiologist] Raina MacIntyre and Norman Swan.”
“I had also discussed these issues with them last year when I was really concerned about how the council would manage the fireworks,” Cr Moore said, clarifying later in the meeting she had spoken to the pair most recently within the past two weeks.
Pressed on whether she had spoken to NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant or the government about health advice, Cr Moore said she had spoken to them last year, “but on this occasion, I had the Doherty Institute’s advice, and I also was very, very impressed with Professor Raina MacIntyre and with Norman Swan, and I just wanted to become as fully informed about what could happen.” When councillor Craig Chung later referred to Dr Swan as a journalist, Cr Moore said Cr Chung was being “quite disrespectful to Dr Norman Swan.”
The Lord Mayor says she also spoke to the two before New Year’s Eve 2020 – which makes her decision to consult with them again strange. In December 2020 Sydney was dealing with a small number of cases, on 19 December the Northern Beaches were locked down. On 20 December The SMH ran an opinion piece by Professor MacIntyre with the alarming headline: “Why Sydney is facing a superspreading disaster”. Here is how she saw Christmas and New Year’s playing out in Sydney:
People infected today and tomorrow may travel halfway across Sydney for the family Christmas lunch and maybe to another household for dinner, possibly infecting a minimum of 360 new people. The 360 people infected on Christmas Day will be at their peak infectiousness on New Year’s Eve, and could infect more than 1000 others. We could be looking at 3000 cases by January 8. You could not plan a disaster more perfectly if you tried.
Not to be outdone, Norman (“Trust me, I’m Australia’s most trusted doctor”) Swan used his frequent media appearances to repeatedly call for all of Sydney to be placed into lockdown. On 30 December the good doctor spent much of the day on Twitter, sending out a series of dire warnings:
Every day NSW delays can be an added week to get out of it at the other end. Half hearted measures are not effective if contact tracing isn’t buttoning it down.
— Norman Swan (@normanswan) December 29, 2020
The Parafield cluster was 33. This one from the Northern Beaches which may soon be known as the Greater Sydney outbreak is 129 as of 9am. Not a success story. Can’t say it’s population size because in a vulnerable population it doesn’t matter. Ref Israel. And no vaccine to help.
— Norman Swan (@normanswan) December 29, 2020
The Premier just said that NSW always acts on the precautionary principle. If so on the bases of the numbers and locations now is the time for a Greater Sydney lockdown.
— Norman Swan (@normanswan) December 30, 2020
It is very frustrating to see that the lessons from Victoria have not been learned by NSW. Half measures fail. Act fast.
— Norman Swan (@normanswan) December 30, 2020
Greater Sydney was not locked down over Christmas and New Year’s and the Northern Beaches cluster petered out with a total of 151 cases. Despite this Dr Swan is still apparently happy to offer up advice on how to handle New Year’s Eve 2021.
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Next week’s Media Watch Dog will cover John Lyons’ extraordinary comment in his new book, Dateline Jerusalem, that a media gig in Israel is journalism’s toughest assignment. This is an example of a serious case of hyperbole – as Michael Gawenda pointed out in Nine’s newspapers on Wednesday [I can barely wait to read this and I’m sure that Jackie’s (male) co-owner can barely wait to write it – MWD Editor].
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Until next time.
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