ISSUE – NO. 569

26 November 2021

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As Greg Brown reports in this morning’s Australian, former ABC journalist Zoe Daniel will run as a “Voices of Goldstein” candidate in the 2022 election.  The “Voices of” movement is an organisation financed by some Australian billionaires and multi-millionaires who want so-called Independents to defeat Liberal Party members in relatively safe Liberal Party seats. Mainly in Melbourne and Sydney.

“Voices of” candidates invariably get soft interviews on the ABC and favourable coverage in Nine Newspapers.  For example, in today’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age,  Miki Perkins defines Voices of Goldstein as “a local non-affiliated group”. It may not be affiliated – but “Voices of” candidates are only trying to defeat Liberal Party candidates – like Tim Wilson in Goldstein. Also, they will receive preferences from the Labor Party and the Greens.

Moreover, Ms Daniel’s campaign will be the financial beneficiary of David Rothfield’s financial largesse.  Mr Rothfield has provided over $500,000 to The Greens, the Labor Party and the leftist GetUp! organisation in recent years (see Rob Harris’s report in Nine Newspapers on 18 November 2018). He now declares that he no longer supports The Greens. Convenient, eh?

Zoe Daniel left the ABC recently. The Nine Newspapers “CBD” column reported yesterday that current ABC presenter Craig Reucassel will host an event in Sydney tonight in support of a “Voices of” candidates in North Sydney and Warringah. Comrade Reucassel will screen material from his ABC documentary Big Deal and ABC TV’s Q&A.  According to the event page it has now been “CANCELLED due to a COVID incident at the theatre. It will be rescheduled in the new year. Stay posted :)”. Stay posted we will.

In Melbourne next week, ABC fave Kerry O’Brien will host a “Voices of” function designed to defeat Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the seat of Kooyong. Stand by for the (false) ABC canine Bluey to host a function on behalf of a so-called Independent “Canine for” candidate anytime soon – complete with footage of the ABC series.


No wonder many political conservatives decline to go on some ABC programs – including Q&A. Put simply, there is a lot of downside and not much upside – since there is invariably an attempt to ambush Liberal Party and Nationals politicians.

Jason Falinksi, the Liberal Party MP from the Sydney seat of Mackellar, is a Liberal backbencher who accepts Q&A invitations and invariably performs as well as possible in an environment which is usually hostile to the Coalition.

This was the case last night when presenter Stan Grant, at the direction of Q&A  executive producer Erin Vincent, took a question from audience member Sarah Baker – who was introduced as “an Independent candidate in the upcoming Northern Beaches [NSW local government] election”. In fact, Ms Baker presented as more Green/Left than Independent and exhibited hostility to Jason Falinski.

The following exchange ensued:

Jason Falinski: …what I would rather do is get the Australian government to commit to net zero by 2050. What I would rather do is get an updated projection to 2030. What I would rather do is see our emissions fall by 20 per cent from 2005 levels [rather than cross the floor and vote against the government.]

[Sarah Baker seen shaking her head]

Jason Falinski: What I would rather do is, if I go alone, I might go fast. But if I go together, I will go far. And my ambition for this country is to go a long way. Not a short way quickly.

Stan Grant: Jason, you’ve outlined your climate credentials, you’ve also been someone pushing for a tougher, better target, a tougher target for 2030. But you voted against protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

Jason Falinski: When?

Stan Grant: Well, that’s, that’s on the record, isn’t it?

Jason Falinski: No, it’s not

Stan Grant: Yes it is.

Stan Grant is the most fair of the various Q&A presenters in that he gives Coalition politicians a fair go and – where necessary – protects them from abuse by other panel members or the audience. But on this occasion Stan Grant got it wrong.

It seems that Erin Vincent was in the possession of an inaccurate document which supported the view that Falinski had voted against protection of the Great Barrier Reef.  It is, in fact a document that aims to discredit Coalition politicians.

The Q&A  production team should have been aware of this. But this was not the case. As Mr Falinski pointed out last night, the only official record of how politicians vote is in the Hansard reports.

And so it came to pass that Jason Falinski had to defend himself against fake news about his voting record on climate matters while Sarah Baker was filmed continually by ABC cameras shaking her head in disagreement. She put in a great performance in her capacity as a candidate in next month’s NSW local government elections.

Mr Falinski did as well as could be expected on Q&A  last night. But Liberals and Nationals would be well advised to give a “thanks-but-no-thanks” response when invited on Q&A. Rarely a program passes when an attempt is not made to ambush a political conservative.

[Editor’s note. The Left’s fake news tactic is well explained in the article by Senator Andrew Bragg and Dave Sharma MP in The Spectator Australia on 21 November 2020. – MWD Editor]

Can You Bear It?


Thanks to the avid reader who drew attention to this retweet by Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green which he put out at 1.17 pm last Friday:

Malcolm Farr’s Twitter  rant was replete with abuse but devoid of argument.  Yet the ABC’s Comrade Green thought it was of such moment as to tell the (Twitter) world about it.  Can You Bear It?


Did anyone read the article by Katharine (“Malcolm calls me Murpharoo”) Murphy in The Guardian  yesterday? – titled “Scott Morrison roared like a caged beast and lunged for a human shield in the form of Gladys Berejiklian”.

It was a typical Guardian Australia  rant about Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Coalition and all that.  The occasion this time was the Prime Minister’s defence of his own position on a Commonwealth integrity commission and the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).  In particular, Scott Morrison criticised the NSW ICAC – maintaining that it had acted like a “kangaroo court” in pursuit of former NSW Coalition premier Gladys Berejiklian.

But there was something else.  Comrade Murphy chose to mock Ms Berejiklian – implying that she presented herself as some kind of saint – as the following references attest:

  • “it is entirely possible Berejiklian maintains her saintly status.”
  • a query as to whether or not Berejiklian remains “the Patron Saint of Sydney and Surrounds” and
  • “Saint Gladys” – used twice in one sentence.

In other words, Comrade Murphy made reference to Gladys Berejiklian in the context of sainthood on no fewer than four times in one article.  Does Murpharoo have to repeat her unfunny mockery four times – especially since the former NSW premier has never proclaimed her sainthood?  More importantly: Can You Bear It?



Last Saturday (Australian time) the news broke that Kyle Rittenhouse, the US teen charged with various crimes after shooting three men in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin last August, had been acquitted on all charges. Rittenhouse’s lawyers argued successfully that the then 17-year-old had acted in self-defence when, in the midst of rioting, he had shot the three men attacking him, killing two and wounding the third.

On Tuesday, the verdict was discussed on no less than three ABC programs. First on ABC Radio Sydney’s Drive with Richard Glover, who was joined by David Smith from the US Studies Centre for their regular “Biden Time” segment. Then by Leigh Sales and criminal defence lawyer Bernarda Villalona on 7:30. And finally by Phillip Adams and American journalist Bruce Shapiro on Late Night Live on Radio National.

One would think, given this extensive coverage, that avid ABC listeners/viewers who caught all three programs would emerge with a thorough understanding of the controversial case. Alas, all three programs managed to flub basic elements of the case. A selection of their errors and exaggerations are presented below.

The Shooting of Jacob Blake

The unrest in Kenosha was in response to the 23 August 2020 shooting of Jacob Blake by an officer from the Kenosha Police Department. Blake was shot seven times but survived, although with severe injuries. In his appearance on Drive, David Smith described the “protest” as “following the police shooting of an unarmed black man”.

Although there were initially reports that Jacob Blake was unarmed, it has long since emerged that he was holding a knife at the time he was shot, something Blake himself admitted in a January 2021 interview with CNN. Despite intense scrutiny of the case, the officer has not been charged and has since returned to duty.


State Lines and the Weapon

David Smith, Bernarda Villalona and Bruce Shapiro all felt it necessary to mention that Rittenhouse had travelled from another state to Kenosha. David Smith was the only one of the three to mention the short distance Rittenhouse travelled, around 20 miles.

Rittenhouse lives in Antioch, Illinois which lies adjacent to the Illinois-Wisconsin border. Kenosha is to the North-East, just on the other side of that border. The trip from Antioch to Kenosha would take less time than a trip from Tweed Heads to The Gold Coast.

The US media has made a habit of mentioning Rittenhouse crossing the state line when discussing the case, despite it not being relevant. For more see this compilation put together for the blog of US leftist journalist Matt Taibbi:

Bernarda Villalona asked “why exactly did Kyle Rittenhouse get an AR-15 and go to a different state with that AR-15 during a protest” and added that “he wasn’t of age in order to carry a weapon”. Bruce Shapiro claimed that “the fact is that he’s [Rittenhouse] a 17-year-old who cross state lines with an illegal semi-automatic weapon”. David Smith stated that Rittenhouse “drove across state lines, picked up a semi-automatic rifle along the way”. This is all nonsense.

Rittenhouse was initially charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 but the charge was dismissed. Rittenhouse obtained the weapon from a friend who lives in Wisconsin, he did not cross the state line with the weapon.


The Shooting of Joseph Rosenbaum

None of the segments give a clear view of the confrontation between Rittenhouse and the first man shot, Joseph Rosenbaum. Bruce Shapiro referred to a “back and forth chase” between Rosenbaum and Rittenhouse, which is false. Rittenhouse was attempting to evade Rosenbaum who was pursuing him.

David Smith correctly stated that Rittenhouse was running away from Rosenbaum, but after this Richard Glover somehow managed to reverse this and referred to Rosenbaum as running away.

None of the programs gave any details about Rosenbaum, or even mentioned him by name. The audience were therefore left unaware that Joseph Rosenbaum was a deeply disturbed man who had spent much of his adult life in prison and had earlier that day been released from hospital after a suicide attempt.

Rittenhouse testified during the trial that Rosenbaum had threatened to kill him during a confrontation earlier in the night. Footage shown at the trial showed Rosenbaum earlier in the night, acting agitated and yelling “shoot me, n****r!” at another armed (white) man. After this another man present recalled telling Rosenbaum “you’re going to get us all shot”.

Bruce Shapiro referred to Rosenbaum as a “demonstrator” and David Smith called him a “protester”. It is unclear whether Rosenbaum had any interest in the protests taking place that evening in Kenosha. He had previously been homeless and could not stay with his fiancé because of a no-contact order relating to an earlier incident of domestic violence. He had just been released from hospital and had been unable to obtain his mental health medication because the pharmacy he visited had been closed due to the unrest. He was carrying deodorant, underwear and socks given to him by the hospital and had never previously attended a protest.


Displays of astounding legal ignorance

During the Drive segment, the following bizarre exchange took place between David Smith and Richard Glover:

David Smith: The defendant only needs to believe that they’re in fear of their life, it’s actually up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant didn’t think that they were in fear of their life. Now –

Richard Glover: It flips the normal thing you’d have to prove, you’d think you’d have to prove the opposite.

David Smith: Well, I mean, the burden of proof is always on the prosecution.

Thankfully David Smith was there to clarify for Richard Glover that defendants in criminal trials do not have to prove their own innocence.

Not to be outdone by Glover, Phillip Adams and Bruce Shapiro offered up the following:

Phillip Adams: Surprise, surprise, the decision was celebrated by Trump. Is there any hope of something like this heading to the Supremes? [The Supreme Court]

Bruce Shapiro: Well, no this is a criminal verdict and there was not really a lot of grounds for appeal. This one is not going to go anywhere. I do think that there is a real accountability to be had in the civil system. And Rittenhouse’s victims are suing him there. A federal civil rights suit.

So, after his usual gratuitous Trump-bashing, Phillip Adams ponders (ponderously) whether this case is headed to The Supreme Court. Bruce Shapiro shuts this silly idea down but then proceeds to refer to the men Rittenhouse shot as his victims, apparently forgetting that they are discussing a legal decision which found that those men were in fact not Rittenhouse’s victims. Shapiro also invents a civil suit against Rittenhouse – the families of two of the men have filed civil suits against various government bodies and officials but not against Rittenhouse.



The ABC’s 7:30, Drive with Richard Glover and Late Night Live programs all covered the Rittenhouse case. And all three reports contained howlers. The ABC loves to correct the errors of others through its RMIT ABC Fact Check unit. It would be better if the ABC devoted these resources to checking the “facts” which it puts to air.


Media Watch Dog fave William (Bill) Thompson established the website “Outside Insiders” – in which he would attempt (sometimes successfully) to interview politicians and commentators entering and exiting the ABC Melbourne Southbank studio where Insiders is filmed on a Sunday morning.  Mr Thompson, who describes himself as the ABC’s Southbank Correspondent, has been a bit short of talent in 2020 and 2021 – due to the pandemic, since much of the Insiders interviews/panel discussions are currently done online.  So, for a time at least, MWD has borrowed Bill Thompson’s (clever) title – and presents a print version of “Outside Insiders”.



Wasn’t it good to see that the ABC/Guardian  Axis was in action again on ABC TV’s Insiders  last Sunday?  Sure, it wasn’t as prevalent as the line-up of recent memory, which consisted of over 80 per cent of the talent on the panel or in the “Talking Pictures” segment from the conservative-free-zone that is the ABC or from the avowedly leftist The Guardian Australia.

But last Sunday’s 66 per cent is still a good number for the ABC/Guardian Axis – comprising on this occasion, the ABC’s David Speers as presenter and the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas on the panel – along with The Guardian’s Michael Bowers and Amy Remeikis in the “Talking Pictures” segment.

Highlights of last Sunday’s program included this response by Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews to the Prime Minister – who had criticised some States for not emerging quickly enough from the COVID-19 lockdowns. Let’s go to the transcript:

David Speers: He [i.e. on 7’s Sunrise  program] did return fire with this:

Dan Andrews: I haven’t come on your program this morning to have an argument with the Prime Minister, but I will just say this. The Prime Minister’s right to say that we have been, as he says, “in people’s  lives”. Of course, we have. We’ve had lockdowns, we’ve had to do some quite extraordinary things. This is a 1 in 100-year event. But why did we have lockdowns? ‘Cos, we didn’t have a vaccine. Uh, who forgot to order the vaccine? It wasn’t State premiers.

Patricia Karvelas: Whack.

David Speers: Yeah.

Patricia Karvelas: Seriously.

Note that first Comrade Karvelas and then Comrade Speers thought that Premier Andrews’ comment was a real “whack” at the Prime Minister.  But it wasn’t really. It’s understandable why a State Labor premier would choose to make a political point against a Coalition prime minister. What’s surprising is that two members of the Insiders panel agreed that it was a big hit.   For the record, the Morrison government did not “forget” to order the Covid-19 vaccine.  Premier Andrews just made this up.

Initially the Morrison government committed Australia to purchase four vaccines:

  • 51 million doses of the University of Queensland vaccine which had to be dumped after participants in trials received false positive HIV test results.
  • 53.8 million doses of AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca stock from the EU was held back and domestic production of AstraZeneca didn’t hit production targets. On 17 June 2021 the government recommended that under 60s receive Pfizer due to clotting issues with AstraZeneca.
  • Novavax which has not yet been approved (an estimated 51 million doses will be available if this vaccine is approved).
  • Moderna – approved in August 2021, became available in October 2021.

QLD Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young advised against under 60s getting AstraZeneca, commenting “I don’t want an 18-year-old in Queensland dying from a clotting illness who, if they got COVID, probably wouldn’t die.”

Among others who contributed to vaccine hesitancy were the Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and the ABC’s very own Dr Norman Swan.

Soon after, Comrade Karvelas turned her attention to Scott Morrison declaring, in Green/Left mode, “we’ve gotta cut out the lies” that the Liberal Party is (allegedly) putting about.  Soon after, Ms Karvelas expressed her excitement about the outcome of the 2022 election:

Patricia Karvelas: And he [Scott Morrison] knows that he is the first prime minister, since John Howard, to have his full-term record tested by the electorate. And I am so excited about this campaign because full-term records should be tested by the electorate.

Come to think of it, MWD does not recall PK objecting to the fact that when Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as prime minister in 2015 it prevented the electorate from testing Tony Abbot’s full-term record.  But there you go.

For its part, MWD has no prediction about the outcome of the 2022 election – nor is it excited about the result, whatever it is.  But MWD does recall that Comrade Karvelas got the outcome of the 2019 election hopelessly wrong and that no member of the Insiders’ panel who appeared in the lead up to, and immediately after, the election gave Scott Morrison a chance of prevailing over Bill Shorten.  Needless to say, the Insiders  “experts” who got the 2019 election result so wrong were invited back on Insiders  in 2020 to provide their (inside) expertise.  Another example of nothing succeeding like failure.

Soon after, it was time for “Talking Pictures”.  Early on, Michael Bowers blew what he called a “dog whistle”. This was audible.  Apparently, Comrade Bowers – in his eagerness to claim that the right-wing is into dog whistling – forgot that humans cannot hear dog whistles, only canines can.

Needless to say, all the cartoons in the “Talking Pictures” segment which depicted Australian politicians targeted Scott Morrison and his Coalition colleagues.  The segment ended with Comrade Bowers sneering with Comrade Remeikis at the prospect of Australia attaining nuclear-powered submarines.  Then Michael Bowers again blew a  whistle which we are not supposed to be able to hear.  How very Guardian.


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


Last Thursday saw the launch of The Menzies Institute at the University of Melbourne – where Sir Robert Menzies had studied law and where he was chancellor from 1967 to 1972.  The Robert Menzies Institute’s chief executive officer is Georgina Downer and it is supported by the University of Melbourne, the Menzies Research Centre and the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Speakers at The Menzies Institute’s inaugural conference included David Kemp, Troy Bramston, Justice James Edelman, Anne Henderson, Frank Bongiorno, Scott Prasser and Judith Brett.  In short, the conference brought together a diversity of views about Australia’s longest serving prime minister.

The presence of Emeritus Professor Judith Brett on the program demonstrated just how tolerant some political conservatives are. The conference’s “Overview”, written by The Menzies Institute’s academic coordinator Dr Zachary Gorman, had this to say about Judith Brett:

Judith Brett’s award-winning Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People, which in 1992 managed to narrowly predate [Allan] Martin’s first volume [of his Menzies, biography] stands out as an early and enduring example of historians realising the importance of Menzies’ contemporary relevance.

Not so. Judith Brett’s Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People, first published in 1992, was a criticism of Menzies from the left.  Now, by 1992, most commentators regarded communism as an example of despotic totalitarianism.  After all, Brett’s book was published in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of European communism.  However, in 1992 Brett regarded Robert Menzies’ anti-communism as an aberration deserving of psychological analysis.  Turn to Page 87 of Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People and the author had this to say:

The human body is a particularly rich source of imagery for the understanding and organisation of social life. The body’s margins and internal divisions, along with images of bodily pollution and integrity, provide ways of thinking about threats to the social order – the body politic – and means of combating them. Much anti-communist rhetoric has drawn on bodily imagery: the imagery of sickness and disease (a social cancer) and the anal erotic imagery of the attack from behind (rooting rats out of holes). There are occasional uses of such imagery by mainstream Australian non-labour politicians like Menzies, but they are surprisingly few.

What a load of absolute tosh.  Menzies’ anti-communism made good sense during his time in Australian national politics – the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Yet Brett alleged – without providing a scrap of evidence – that Menzies on occasions used homophobic imagery in his anti-communist rhetoric. In fact, Menzies’ anti-communism made sense then – as it does now.

Brett’s book also contains psychobabble of this kind:

The picture that emerges of Menzies’ relationship with his parents is not unusual: of a boy closer to his mother than his father, of a father whom the son regards as stern, difficult, irrational even, not appreciating his son and not doing as well by the mother as the son thinks she deserves.  His discomfort with his father’s passion and emotionalism hints as well perhaps at discomfort with his parents’ sexuality. It is one of the common variations on the Oedipal triangle in which the boy is for a time locked in rivalrous combat with his father for his mother’s love.  Two very different evaluations of the young Menzies emerge from the evidence: the admired, highly valued self reflected in his mother’s doting gaze; and the bumptious upstart who needed his father’s firm hand. Menzies’ early scholarly success and his determined ambition seemed designed to prove his mother’s valuation right and his father’s wrong.

For the record, when writing Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People , Judith Brett did not interview any of Menzies’ immediate family – his widow, his children, his siblings, his grandchildren and so on.

It should not have come as a surprise that in 1992 Judith Brett chose to criticise Menzies from the left.  After all, she was editor of the left-wing journal Meanjin from 1982 to 1987 and, for a time, was the editor of the leftist Arena Magazine.  Yet, then – as now – some Liberal Party supporters regard Brett as one of them.

In 2007, a new edition of Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People was published.  In her introduction to the 2007 edition, Brett criticised Gerard Henderson’s book Menzies’ Child: The Liberal Party of Australia (1994) for maintaining Menzies founded the Liberal Party – arguing that it defies common sense to maintain that one man founded a party.  Henderson had never claimed this.  He wrote to Brett asking a simple question: Would the Liberal Party of Australia have been founded in late 1944/early 1945 without Robert Menzies’ input?  Judith Brett did not reply.  No wonder.

Judith Brett also used her new introduction to criticise Allan Martin – the author of the two-volume Menzies biography – having this to say:

I admire enormously Martin’s achievements…. Even so, I think he fudges some of the most difficult questions about Menzies: his struggle with ambition in the first twenty years of his political career  and its often transparent rationalisation, and his shifting, ambivalent positionings on civil liberties during the Cold War.

Later on, Brett went beyond accusing Martin of fudging and asserted that on some issues he was “wilfully naïve”. Not just naïve – but wilfully so.  And she ran the old left-wing line that Menzies had a “role in the defection of the Soviet diplomat Vladimir Petrov on the eve of the 1954 election”.   This is just a left-wing myth designed to discredit Robert Menzies’ victory over the Labor Party’s leader Bert Evatt in the May 1954 election. Petrov’s defection was not the issue at the time – it became so after the 1954 election.

In fact, the left-wing conspiracy theory that the (then) Prime Minister Robert Menzies manipulated the defection of the Soviet Union diplomat Canberra-based Vladimir Petrov in 1954 to help win the 1954 election, and to discredit Labor’s Bert Evatt in the process, was totally discredited by Brett’s friend Robert Manne in his 1987 book The Petrov Affair.

Towards the end of her introduction to the 2007 edition of Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People, Judith Brett was still banging on about Menzies’ anti-communism.

…the question which interested me about Menzies’ anti-communism was: What symbolic strategies did he use to strengthen the paranoia in his make-up to enable him to do what he believed was necessary?  Some of my argument seems quite speculative now, but I stand by its underlying assumption that Menzies had to do a good deal of psychological work on himself to overcome his commitment to civil liberties for the fight against communism, and that the ways in which he activated his paranoia are revealing of deep emotional structures.

It says much about The Menzies Institute’s commitment to pluralism that it invited Judith Brett to speak at its inaugural conference – Judith Brett who has never renounced her view that Robert Menzies’ anti-communism was activated by paranoia.  Yet she provided no evidence that Menzies was into paranoia.

Apparently, Emeritus Professor Judith Brett did not attempt to discredit Menzies’ anti-communism at the conference last Thursday.  However, Media Watch Dog  maintains – with respect to Judith Brett’s attitude to Robert Menzies in the past:

You Must Remember This.

[Yes, I will. You betcha.  As I recall, in the “Documentation” segment of the March 2008 edition of The Sydney Institute Quarterly (which is available online), Gerard Henderson published his correspondence with Allan Martin concerning Judith Brett  – which took place in August 1997.

Professor Martin supported Henderson’s critique of the likes of Judith Brett who engage in psychological analysis which is presented as biography.  Allan Martin’s letter dated 16 August 1997 contained this sentence: “I don’t mind Judith giving her opinion about how lives might be understood, but I don’t like the arrogance with which it is said that there is no other way of understanding them except according to her precepts.”  It would be worth it for avid readers to check this out. – MWD Editor.]



Writing in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 September 2021, the author, journalist and academic Margaret Simons had this to say about an article written by 7.30  presenter Leigh Sales, who criticised the bullying of journalists on Twitter.

Sales spends a lot of her opening paragraphs emphasising that journalists are not thin-skinned. It’s true that we learn very early to be robust in dealing with furious reactions in private phone calls and emails from the subjects of our journalism. But as those of us who report on media know, that is not the whole story. Journalists ARE thin-skinned, sometimes ridiculously so, when they are criticised in public. Too often they react like stung cats, lashing out and defensive.

Once, media organisations could largely control this kind of criticism. I used to sit in The Age newsroom next to the man who edited the letters to the editor page. His judgment was final. There was no appeal, no alternative channel. What he called the circular filing cabinet – his waste bin – was liberally used. That has changed. Journalists are now subjected to constant scrutiny.

Dr Simons is correct. Journalists are extraordinarily sensitive to criticism.  They like to criticise – but they do not like being criticised.

Recently Simons interviewed Gaven Morris, who is about to leave his job as the ABC’s director of news and current affairs which he has held for six years – having been appointed to the position when Mark Scott was ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief.

Simons used her interview with Morris in an article in Inside Story, titled “Taking the Arrows” which was published on 12 November 2021. It’s well worth reading. But Simons does not apply to Morris the judgment which she has made about journalists in general – namely, that they do not like personal criticism.

What’s particularly interesting in the Simons/Morris exchange is that he presents himself as being somehow above any errors the ABC has made over the past six years. A few examples illustrate the point:

▪ Morris told Simons a recurring pattern at the ABC is “taking too long” to resolve controversies – adding: “Applying a little more triage to some of our dramas would have assisted us in not letting them get as big as they sometimes got.”

The problem is that Gaven Morris was head of ABC News and Current Affairs for six years – during which time no such triage system was implemented. This must have been someone else’s fault, apparently.

▪ Morris had this to say about leaking from within the ABC to the media about the ABC:

I think there’s something good about that creative tension… The difference with the ABC is almost every word of it plays out publicly in a way that would never happen at any of the commercial broadcasters or any of the newspaper organisations.

I like being straight up and honest with people. But when that then gets played out immediately in a leak to a newspaper or a website, it makes you much more reticent than you might otherwise have been. That’s one of the real difficult parts of the ABC culture. I’ve always struggled with that.

Fair enough. Gaven Morris is saying that ABC journalists – unlike journalists who work for commercial broadcasters and newspapers – are compulsive leakers about their own. But what did he do about such unprofessional behaviour when at the ABC? Well, according to Simons’ report – nothing. Absolutely, nothing.  It was someone else’s responsibility, it seems.

▪ Simons had commented briefly about the many controversies around ABC TV programs over which Morris had authority: There’s the constant rumble surrounding Q&A, and more recently Four Corners’ “Inside the Canberra Bubble” report, followed by the rape allegations against then attorney-general Christian Porter, which Porter vigorously denies.

However, Morris failed to address how the ABC TV Q&A program became even more unbalanced on his watch – with panels stacked with left-wingers and audiences which gave the impression that they arrived at the ABC Studio for filming having just left a comradely meeting with The Greens. Moreover, Morris did not comment on what passes for journalism at Four Corners. On 30 May 2021, the ABC placed a note at the end of an article by Louise Milligan – one of Four Corners’ leading journalists – which stated that the “serious accusations” made against former attorney-general Christian Porter could not be substantiated to the applicable legal standard – criminal or civil. In other words, Morris is untroubled by the fact that the ABC makes allegations against individuals which cannot be substantiated to any evidentiary standing.

▪ According to Simons:

Morris has recruited leading political journalists David Speers and Laura Tingle and seasoned investigative journalist John Lyons, and overseen an increase in diversity in the newsroom. He says his team, and its capacity to reflect a broader spectrum of Australian experience, is the thing of which he is most proud.

Earlier this year, Laura Tingle, ABC 7.30’s  political correspondent, accused Scott Morrison’s government of “ideological bastardry”. Yet the ABC continues to present her as a balanced reporter. John Lyons has recently written the booklet Dateline Jerusalem in which he attacked two leading members of the Australian Jewish community – Mark Leibler and Colin Rubenstein – without bothering to interview either of them. This is unprofessional journalism. As to David Speers, who was recruited from Sky News, Morris is unaware that he has embraced the ABC’s left-of-centre culture. On Speers’ watch, Insiders has become part of the ABC/Guardian Axis – in that all of The Guardian’s  four most important journalists have a gig on the Insiders’  couch.

▪ Morris’ inability to accept criticism – a phenomenon which he shares with many other journalists – is evident with respect to many of the controversies currently afflicting the ABC. Let’s go to the Simons article:

As to current controversies, he [Morris] rejects the rumble from the government and its fellow travellers in News Corp that the ABC, and Four Corners in particular, has become a haven for “activist” journalism. He signed off on the recent controversial programs and has no regrets. He also continues to defend the ABC’s three-part documentary on the Luna Park fire, Exposed, despite its being criticised — as well as praised — by an independent review….  Exposed was “an extraordinary achievement,” he says; and while the review should be “reflected on” it is “not the law.”

In fact, Exposed effectively accused the late Neville Wran, a former long-serving Labor Premier of NSW – of complicity to murder with respect to the Luna Park fire of 8 June 1979. The ABC Board commissioned two ABC-friendly types – Chris Masters and Rodney Tiffen – to review Exposed. The criticisms made in the Masters/Tiffen review were simply dismissed by Morris who remains happy to go along with the unproven assertion that Wran was complicit in an alleged murder.

▪ Gaven Morris expressed only one regret – in his account about his time at the ABC during the last six years – as told to Margaret Simons:

“I am not a regrets kind of guy,” he says, but he regards one issue as “still a work in progress”.  It is the quest to overcome the worldview of most journalists and better reflect the views of the Australian population. This is not a matter of left–right bias, he says. That is not how most Australians think. The ABC should spend less time worrying about the “noise” that comes from the Australian and its News Corp stablemates.

Rather, he worries whether the ABC tunes in to the breadth of experience and views of the audience — working-class people, people living with a disability, people most journalists never meet. He worries, for example, about whether the organisation adequately reflected the views of the 30 per cent of Australians who voted “no” in the marriage equality referendum. “I’m not talking about religious zealots. I’m talking about genuine Australians who have a point of view that’s different to the 70 per cent. Are we at least making sure that is reflected? I don’t necessarily think we struck that right.”

How about that? Morris rejects the “noise” that comes from News Corp in general and The Australian  in particular.  And he accepts that the ABC knows little about the views of “working class people” and the disabled along with the views of those who voted “No” in the same-sex marriage plebiscite.  But he dismisses the critique of the ABC presented in some News Corp outlets – despite the fact that they are similar to his own concerns.

In short, Morris told Simons that the ABC is out of touch with around 50 per cent of the Australian population – i.e. the working class, the disabled and social conservatives.  This is hardly surprising since the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is a Conservative Free Zone without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its television, radio or online outlets.  But Gaven Morris maintains both the ABC newsrooms have become more diverse over the past six years – while acknowledging that the public broadcaster is out of touch with around half the Australian population.

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The question is – what did Gaven Morris do about the ABC’s lack of understanding of around 50 per cent of Australians during his six years as the ABC’s director of news and current affairs?  The answer is at best “not much”- and at worst “nothing”. Yet somehow this is someone else’s fault.  Demonstrating, once again, that journalists like Morris are super-sensitive to criticism of their own actions or lack of same.



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Until next time

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