GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG

ISSUE – NO. 572

24 January 2022

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QUELLE SURPRISE! – JACKIE’S BACK 

  • MWD CHANNELS 7.30’s LAURA TINGLE IN BREAKING PLANNED WELL-EARNED-BREAK

Media Watch Dog  was scheduled to return from what journalists like to call a Well-Earned-Break (W.E.B.) next Friday.  However, due to enormous popular demand, Jackie emerged from her kennel early this morning at around Hangover Time to commence MWD for 2022.

This follows the decision of the ABC TV 7.30 program to return earlier than scheduled.  7.30 executive producer Justin Stevens (an avid, but not uncritical, MWD reader) tweeted recently that 7.30  “will return earlier than planned….due to the magnitude of news around”. He added that Laura Tingle “will anchor in coming weeks while Leigh [Sales] has a well deserved break”.

A what?  It should be a W.E.B. – not a W.D.B.  But there you go.  Meanwhile the toiling masses take holidays while journalists have breaks that are “well-earned” or “well-deserved” or whatever.

On 4 January 2022, your man Stevens tweeted that Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard had declined to come on the program.  La Tingle made a similar whinge-on-air that very night and referred to “the list of our leaders from both federal and state governments who were unavailable tonight to talk to us…” The following names appeared first on the screen:

Prime Minister Morrison

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet

Health Minister Brad Hazzard

Now there are not many TV executive producers or presenters who are willing to draw attention to the fact that prominent politicians will not come on their programs. It’s kind of a reverse-boast.

What’s lacking here is any self-awareness.  It was not so long ago that, in a late-night tweet, Comrade Tingle referred to the (alleged) “ideological bastardry” of the Morrison government. And the Stevens-Tingle duo reckon that the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues have an obligation to rock up to the ABC Soviet to be interviewed by an activist journalist who thinks they are into “ideological bastardry”- whatever that might mean.

Every now and then one will – when it suits them. The fact is that ABC programs do not seem to change voters’ minds. If the ABC was so important in election campaigns then Australia would have had a Green/Left government for decades.

[By the way – what’s wrong with being a bastard in the technical sense of the term? – MWD Editor]

The good news is that the principal author of Media Watch Dog was well brought up and not inclined to engage in abuse (on or offline). And so, MWD commences another year under the direction of Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous) with a little help from Jackie (Dip. Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute). And some others, including The Mysterious Mr. M.

Needless to say, it will take a little time for MWD to catch up with all the media lunacy that occurred during the Silly Season. And there will be a need to look back on some of the howlers of 2021. Now, in the words of the cliché, let the Journey begin.


  • LISA WILKINSON’S WOW! MOMENT AT THE THOUGHT OF EVEN HARSHER RESTRICTIONS IN JACINDA ARDERN’S NEW ZEALAND

Lisa Wilkinson, who co-presents Network 10’s The Sunday Project, was at it again last night – barracking for COVID-19 lockdowns, travel restrictions and all that.  Ms Wilkinson – who is considered an essential worker and does not have to do lockdowns – was very supportive of the decision of New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern to implement harsher restrictions – again.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Lisa Wilkinson: As Omicron breaches New Zealand borders, PM Jacinda Ardern has moved the country to a red Covid alert level. Harsh new restrictions could see household close contacts isolating for 24 days. A person with Covid must isolate for 14 days – and then anyone living with them has to stay locked up for ten more. Ardern has also had to cancel her own wedding….   Wowee, 24 days. If that doesn’t give you an indication that Jacinda Ardern has looked across The Ditch [pronounced with a Kiwi accent] at our bin fire and gone “Not doing that!”. Wow.

Yes, WOW! Let’s follow New Zealand.  Better still – let’s try 48 day isolation. WOW!  Except for Network 10 journalists, of course.

  • NIKI SAVVA REPORTS CANBERRA POLITICAL GOSSIP ON MORNING BREAKFAST

In ABC Radio National Land everything changes – but everything remains the same.  This morning activist journalist Patricia Karvelas took over from Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly as the presenter of RN Breakfast.  It was the case of “out with the Green/Left” and “in with the Green/Left” – as befits the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone.  But Media Watch Dog digresses – already in 2022.

After 8 am, there was a panel on the topic “A Federal election in the era of Omicron” comprising Michelle Grattan (The Conversation), Niki Savva (The Age and Sydney Morning Herald) and Samantha Maiden (news.com.au).  Ms Savva had this to say about election dates and all that:

Niki Savva: But, just on the election timing – this is, you know, one thing that someone threw at me at the weekend, which, sort of made me stop and think for a bit. That, apparently, one of the options that has been canvassed – and I’m not saying this is going to happen, but, obviously, it’s something that was looked at in passing – was to have a half Senate election in May, and a general election in September. And cite Covid as the reason for that. But, like I say, heavy emphasis here, I’m not saying that’s going to happen. But that is, you know, a nuclear option.

Michelle Grattan immediately dismissed the scenario – and rightly so.  After all, it sounded a bit like the late Bob Ellis in conspiracy mode.

Sure in 1964 there was a half Senate election because Robert Menzies called an early election – in November 1963 – for the House of Representatives. The half Senate election was held in December 1964.

For Prime Minister Scott Morrison to call a half Senate election followed by a House of Representatives election would only be the nuclear option if Scott Morrison was intent on dropping the bomb on himself.  He would be accused of a massive waste of taxpayers’ money – along with political cowardice of the first order.

The message is this.  If a commentator is destined to discuss politics on the ABC on a Monday morning – it’s better not to engage in political gossip at the weekend.


Can You Bear It?

  • BREAKING NEWS – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD’s KATE MCCLYMONT REVEALS THAT THE SMH OWES HER ALL OF $45

MWD feels deeply for The Sydney Morning Herald’s Kate McClymont and her various struggles though life in this Vale of Tears in which we all reside.

There was a time when Comrade McClymont told her Twitter followers about the trauma she faced when criticised for taking a taxi from inner-city Sydney to inner-city Sydney. Apparently, the taxi driver had spent some time waiting on a rank and was disappointed with the small fare.  As courteous readers will know, such matters are resolved by providing a generous tip.  It would seem that Comrade McClymont is not a generous tipper.  Who would have thought so?

And then there was a time when Kate McClymont put out a call for advice as to where to buy coffee in North Sydney.  It was at the time when Nine moved from inner-city Pyrmont to North Sydney. Apparently Comrade McClymont wondered whether the natives spoke English on the other side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge – and, if so, whether she could order good coffee in English. Or something like that.  And now this:

Hold the front page! – as the saying goes, or went.  Comrade McClymont is devastated that her $45 expenses claim was rejected by the capitalists in Accounts at the Sydney Morning Herald. Can there ever have been a more malicious attack on a working journalist? As to the hyperbole about Kate asking to be killed for filing her expenses in the wrong column – all MWD can say is – Can Your Bear It?

  • ABC PRESENTER JULIA ZEMIRO BAGS THE MORRISON GOVERNMENT

As followers of Julia Zemiro will be aware, her Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery series on ABC TV invariably looks sympathetically into the lives of left-of-centre types – reflecting the ABC’s reality as a Conservative Free Zone.

So, it came as no surprise when Comrade Zemiro put out this tweet on New Year’s Eve:

So that’s pretty clear then.  Yet another ABC personality railing against Liberal Party prime minister Scott Morrison and NSW Liberal Party premier Dominic Perrottet.  Can You Bear It?

  • PETER FITZSIMONS SUPPORTS THE ENFORCED RESPONSIBILITY OF OTHERS, OF COURSE.

Media Watch Dog has lotsa readers who reside in Western Australia – or who have relatives and friends there.  So it is a matter of disappointment that Western Australian premier Mark McGowan has extended the state’s COVID-19 isolation for an indefinite time. This means that WA, along with New Zealand, has become one of the most isolated places in the world – apart from some dictatorial regimes – like North Korea – and a couple of authoritarian nations.

On the eve of Christmas, Nine’s Peter FitzSimons – aka the Red Bandannaed One – put out this tweet in praise of NSW-born Comrade McGowan.

What a load of absolute tosh. Right now, most Western Australian residents – along with relatives and friends – cannot get in or out of the state. And the Sydney-based millionaire Fitz – who can travel relatively freely within (and to some extent outside) Australia – reckons that Western Australia is the “exemplar of freedom through enforced responsibility”.

Turn it up.  “Freedom through enforced responsibility” sounds like something out of George Orwell’s Animal Farm or 1984. But Orwell was into political satire.  Fitz – on the other hand – is really, really serious. Can You Bear It?

  • IN WHICH MADELEINE MORRIS PROVIDES COVER-FIRE FOR THE WA HEALTH SYSTEM

The evidence suggests that many a Nine and ABC journalist just love Western Australian premier Mark McGowan – Australia’s isolation Czar.  Let’s go to the transcript of ABC TV’s News Breakfast program on 21 January 2022 – just after Mark McGowan announced that WA’s isolation will continue until – well, perhaps (in the words of the song) until the twelfth of never. And that’s a long, long time.

It was one of those in-house discussions when ABC presenter Madeleine Morris spoke to ABC reporter (and soon to become ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter) Patricia Karvelas:

Patricia Karvelas: If you listen to what Mark McGowan is saying, he’s basically conceding that his hospital system, his health system is not up to dealing with it. Well, that’s a huge issue that we need to be having a discussion about, if we’re not able to deal with something that will inevitably arise, look at how contagious it is, in a state as important as WA, that will continue to be cut off, then we have a big fundamental problem in this country. And we need to be having a big discussion about why it is that we can’t have the hospital systems prepared at this stage.

Madeleine Morris: Yeah, well, you say hospital systems there. And I suppose that would be the point that I would make, is that we wouldn’t say that New South Wales and Victoria are coping particularly well at this stage in their hospital systems, either. So it’s maybe not necessarily only WA who has this problem.

Patricia Karvelas: Oh, absolutely….

What a cop-out.  In her rush to defend Comrade McGowan, Comrade Morris overlooked the fact that the Western Australian health system was in deep, deep trouble before COVID-19 made its so far very limited impact on the state.  Whereas the hospital system in NSW is coping relatively well with the virus despite the number of COVID-19 cases.  And, to a somewhat lesser extent, this is true of Victoria.

Western Australia is a wealthy state which runs a very healthy budget surplus.  It is the recipient of significant revenue from mining royalties, particularly from the export of iron ore.  And Madeleine Morris wants to get the WA Labor government off-the-hook on this one – in spite of the McGowan government’s failure to properly fund the WA health system. And Patricia Karvelas did not demur.  Can You Bear It?

  • CRIKEY’S TOILET HUMOUR BELIES ERIC BEECHER’S APPEAL FOR HIGHER STANDARDS IN THE MEDIA

Eric Beecher – the chairman of Private Media which publishes, among other things, the Crikey newsletter – frequently bangs on about the need for high standards in the media.  Which suggests that perhaps he does not read Crikey, edited by Peter Fray.  Come to think of it, Comrade Fray also adopts a holier-than-thou approach to journalism and likes to pretend that Crikey stands above the fray when it comes to setting high editorial standards.

Now for some reality.  On 24 December 2021, Crikey awarded Prime Minister Scott Morrison its “Arsehat of the Year” award. The following illustration appeared under an article by Charlie Lewis headed “He’s slippery, he’s dishonest, he’s the PM – meet Crikey’s Arsehat of the Year”.

Presumably the likes of Eric Beecher and Peter Fray find it funny, oh so funny – and clever – to depict the prime minister with a naked back-side on his head.  It’s sure to bring the house down in a primary school classroom.  But Crikey claims to be better than this which is why Mr Beecher bemoans the lack of standards in the publication of others. Can You Bear It?


DOCUMENTATION

  • RAINA MACINTYRE IN DENIAL IN THE SATURDAY PAPER

Avid readers will be familiar with the output of UNSW Professor Raina MacIntyre. Dr MacIntyre has been a frequent COVID commentator throughout the pandemic, generally arguing for caution and increased restrictions.

On 27 February 2020 Raina MacIntyre warned The Guardian Australia that COVID-19 could cause 400,000 deaths in Australia.

On 20 December 2020, Dr MacIntyre published an article in The Sydney Morning Herald titled “Why Sydney is facing a super-spreading disaster”, in which she claimed that “If we do not act urgently, Christmas Day will be a super-spreader, followed by the mother of all super-spreading events, New Year’s Eve.”

In an 8 January 2022 article on the ABC News website Professor MacIntyre advised that people living in apartments should consider sealing their doors with adhesive strips if they can smell their neighbours cooking – lest COVID invade.

In view of Professor MacIntyre’s record as a false prophet on COVID-19 and all that, it came as no surprise that she was invited by The Saturday Paper (editor-in-chief Erik Jenson) to write an article, published on 16 January 2022, titled “A pandemic of denial”.

In her article Dr MacIntyre took aim at the response to the Omicron variant by the Commonwealth and NSW governments. Here is the opening paragraph:

For most of the pandemic Australia has worked to contain the virus through evidence-based public health measures such as border closures, case finding, contact tracing, quarantine, social distancing, vaccines and, at times, lockdown. Sadly, the weaponisation of lockdown as a pointscoring issue and emotional trigger has led to a conflation of lockdown with all other public health measures, most of which do not impinge on freedoms. Denial is a major theme during the pandemic. Denial of airborne transmission, denial of science, denial of Omicron being serious and denial about what it really means to “live with Covid-19”.

Professor MacIntyre appears to be engaged in some denial herself. Her assertion that “most” public health measures do not impinge on freedoms relies on a very generous definition of “most”. Lockdowns impose enormous restrictions on freedom, as do border closures and quarantine. Social distancing, QR codes, masking and isolation have all been, at times, made mandatory and enforced through ever-increasing fines, which certainly qualifies as a restriction on freedom. Vaccines do not inherently impinge on freedoms, but vaccine mandates, whether you agree with them or not, obviously do.

As an example of the denial of science, Professor MacIntyre offers up the following:

Australia only acknowledged airborne transmission after the Delta epidemic in mid-2021, almost a year after the WHO acknowledged it. Globally, 18 months was spent on hygiene theatre and actively discouraging mask use. As a result there is low awareness among the general public of the importance of ventilation and masks in reducing their personal risk.

It is not clear who “globally” is supposed to have spent 18 months actively discouraging mask use. As for the good professor’s claim that the general public is unaware of the importance of mask use in reducing personal risk – it is not clear how anyone who has regular contact with members of the Australian general public could believe this.

Professor MacIntyre has this to say regarding the relative severity of the Omicron variant:

Omicron may be half as deadly as Delta, but Delta was twice as deadly as the 2020 virus. Importantly, the WHO assesses the risk of Omicron as high and reiterates that adequate data on severity in unvaccinated people is not yet available. Even if hospitalisation, admissions to intensive care and death rates are half that of Delta, daily case numbers are 20-30 times higher – and projected to get to 200 times higher.

The missing piece of information from this comparison is vaccination rates. The Omicron variant may be equally as deadly as the 2020 virus and half as deadly as Delta, in an unvaccinated population. But that does not mean that will hold true in the Australian population where vaccination rates are high, particularly among the vulnerable. And indeed, while hospitalisation and death numbers have increased during the Omicron wave, they have not nearly kept pace with the much larger increase in case numbers.

Professor MacIntyre then moves on to another “denial”:

As for denial of the risk in children, the majority of vaccine-preventable diseases that we vaccinate children against are mild in most children. Only a small percentage suffer serious complications. Polio and measles are examples where well over 90 per cent of children who become infected do not have severe complications, but in a small percentage there are serious and potentially fatal complications. SARS-CoV-2 is similar.

The comparison to Measles is absurd. Across the entire pandemic COVID-19 is estimated to have killed far less children than die from Measles every year. This is despite the existence of a highly effective Measles vaccine which can be administered to children. Most deaths from Measles occur during childhood, COVID deaths are overwhelmingly concentrated amongst the elderly. Professor MacIntyre knows all this but fudges these differences to convince her readers that they are “similar” viruses in children.

She goes on to say:

Other than long Covid and multisystem inflammatory syndrome, we are only now learning about other longer-term complications of infection. For instance, there is more than double the risk of developing diabetes in children following Covid-19. A study from the United States showed the virus persisting in the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and almost every other organ after the initial infection. A rare brain inflammation has been described in adults and children. Another study found a significant drop in cognitive function and IQ in survivors. The virus directly kills heart muscle. It is too early to know if Covid-19 will result in early onset dementia or heart failure in a decade’s time, but the evidence warrants a precautionary approach.

Professor MacIntyre does not offer up any specific sources for this deluge of potential symptoms. The US study which showed “the virus persisting in the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and almost every other organ after the initial infection” appears to be a reference to work done by the National Institutes of Health (Professor MacIntyre was quoted in a Bloomberg News article about the study). It did find virus particles present in multiple organs. What Professor MacIntyre does not disclose is that the study found these traces not only “after the initial infection” but also post-mortem. The study examined 44 autopsies on patients who had died with COVID-19.

The implication from Professor MacIntyre is that this result sheds light on possible long term symptoms among COVID survivors. This may be true, but when trying to measure the persistence of a virus within the human body, whether or not that person survived the virus seems likely to be an important variable. Readers of The Saturday Paper were not informed of any of this.

So who does Raina MacIntyre blame for the many “denials” she hopes to debunk? She appears to have identified two key culprits:

Both the federal and New South Wales governments made a conscious decision to “let it rip”, but failed to plan for adequate TTIQ (test, trace, isolate, quarantine) capacity.

If one were to attempt to categorise the various Australian government responses to the Omicron wave, the most obvious groupings would appear to be 1) Western Australia, 2) Everyone Else. However, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania do not get so much as a mention in the article and Victoria is only discussed in reference to their 2020 second wave. Daniel Andrews appears just as committed to “let it rip” as NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, yet somehow manages to avoid attracting the same ire in the pages of The Saturday Paper.

So what, in particular, does Raina MacIntyre hold the Federal and NSW governments responsible for:

Instead, when it was clear testing capacity was exceeded, they restricted testing to a small fraction of people. Very few people are now eligible for a polymerase chain reaction test (PCR), and rapid antigen tests (RATs) are in short supply.

Which people Raina MacIntyre believes are no longer “eligible” for a PCR test is left unsaid. As far as MWD is aware, pretty much anyone can wander down to a testing site and receive a free PCR test, no questions asked. Since this vague claim could lead to confusion amongst The Saturday Paper readership, it would probably be wise for an upcoming edition of the paper to include some sort of clarification (or failing that, a correction). Lest publisher Morry Schwartz be accused of spreading medical misinformation at a time of pandemic.


In 1967 the music hall entertainer Ken Dodd (1927-2018) sang the song “It’s a Funny Old World” in his album For Someone Special. The term was popularised by British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in November 1990 when she was forced by her Conservative Party colleagues to step down. At her final cabinet meeting the Iron Lady reflected: “It’s a funny old world”.  And so, it is – as this new MWD segment will demonstrate.

  • WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE WA LIBERAL PARTY – IN TWO WORDS

Little wonder that the Liberal Party in the Western Australian House of Assembly has only two seats and is not even Her Majesty’s Opposition – that role is fulfilled by The Nationals, which has four seats.

Last night on Sky News, WA Liberal Party leader David Honey told Sharri Markson on Sharri  that “Dr Norman Swan…[is] probably the most respected public commentator on health”. How about that?  Norman Swan is not an epidemiologist and has not practised medicine for four decades. Even the gossip columnists are calling Norman (“Trust me, I’m Australia’s most trusted doctor”) Swan a “celebrity doctor”.  But he’s obviously tops in the very small Liberal Party room in Perth.

  • ANNE DAVIES’ “SCOOP” – LABOR WILL PREFERENCE SELF-PROCLAIMED “PROGRESSIVES” AHEAD OF LIBERAL PARTY CANDIDATES

Believe it or not, Amanda Meade, the author of “The Weekly Beast” column in the leftist Guardian on 17 December 2021 referred to Hendo as being somewhat “obsessed” with certain matters.  Good grief.  Where could Comrade Meade have got that idea from?

Meanwhile, here are some insights offered by one of Ms Meade’s colleagues to Guardian Australia readers.  On 11 January, Anne Davies wrote an article titled “Labor preselects human rights law professor to run in federal seat of North Sydney”. In the 2022 election, the sitting Liberal Party MP Trent Zimmerman is being challenged by (so-called) Independent Kylea Tink and Labor’s Catherine Renshaw.  Here’s Comrade Davies’ insight into the forthcoming Battle for North Sydney:

The fact that Labor is putting up a fight is also likely to help Kylea Tink, though she needs to come at least second on primary votes to stand any chance of winning the seat.  Labor has not yet decided on preferences but is almost certain to preference Tink ahead of the Liberals.

So, there you have it. Comrade Davies’ “scoop” for Guardian readers is that the Labor Party is almost certain to preference self-declared “progressive” Independents ahead of Liberal Party candidates.  It’s a funny old world when leftist Guardian readers need to be told that the left-of-centre Labor Party is “almost certain” to preference an Independent against the Liberal Party.

  • PAT CUMMINS BAGS WEATHER FORECASTS NOW – BUT NOT IN THE FUTURE

Did anyone read the profile of Pat Cummins in the Weekend Australian magazine on 6 October 2021?  If so, readers will recall that the Australian Test cricket captain expressed considerable concern about the impact of climate change on cricket and more besides, judged apparently on the basis of long-term weather forecasts. Let’s go to the transcript where Pat Cummins was interviewed on Fox News after the Australia v England Test finished in a draw on the fourth day – 9 January 2022.

Interviewer:  You mentioned the weather. I’m interested in – can you take us inside your mind with the captaincy experience in this Test match? The declaration, and, just the decision making; the field settings, the bowling changes in what was a very tense environment.

Pat Cummins: Uh, yeah, first of all the weather, the weather forecasts are hopeless. I learnt that this week.

It’s a funny old world when Pat Cummins believes forecasts about what the weather will be like in, say, 2050 but has learnt not to take notice of weather predictions for tomorrow.

  • DAISY COUSENS’ (POLITICAL) DANCE CARD

Didn’t the Brisbane-based Daisy Cousens do a you-beaut job when filling the role as a stand-in presenter on Sky News in the first half of January?

You’ve heard about journalists who quote taxi-drivers about this or that when looking for some evidence to support a case.  Well, Ms Cousens has other sources.  She told Sky News viewers that she had learnt something from her dance instructor concerning the controversy about tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa status. It’s a funny old world.


Media Fool Of The Week

  • MALCOLM FARR BELIEVES HELEN GARNER’S FICTION

Lotsa thanks to the avid Moreland reader (yes Moreland in Melbourne’s Sandalista Central) who advised MWD of this tweet sent out by former News Corp journalist and occasional ABC TV Insiders panellist Malcolm Farr on 18 January – at around Gin & Tonic Time, no less:

It would seem that Comrade Farr is one of those lazy journalists who believe what they want to believe – and do not check what they maintain are “facts”.

It’s true that Helen Garner wrote about her experience in delivering The Sydney Institute’s 1995 Annual Dinner address.  Unfortunately, she has a clear “recollection” of something that never happened.  Malcolm Farr would know this if he had done a web search – for the issue was dealt with in Media Watch Dog Issue 568 – or if he had contacted Hendo to find out if there was another side to the story.

What happened was that, a quarter of a century ago, Comrade Garner was offered a certain amount for the rights of her Sydney Institute speech by The Australian – and her literary agent accepted the amount. All Gerard Henderson did was to advise Helen Garner that (the then) Fairfax Media was offering a significantly bigger amount for publication rights in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. That’s all. It seemed the most appropriate thing to do with respect to a freelance writer who relied on payments to remain in the profession.

The Sydney Institute did not need publicity for the dinner which was already booked out. As it turned out, Helen Garner and her agent accepted The Australian’s  offer and, in business speak, left money on the table.

Helen Garner’s account in what she purports to be her contemporary diaries for 1993 to 1998 is littered with errors.  Malcolm Farr would have known this if he had bothered to check the account of one of Australia’s top story tellers. It’s called professional journalism.

Malcolm Farr – Media Fool of the Week.


  • CLEVER SHANE WRIGHT SEES WHAT OTHER SHORT-SIGHTED COMMENTATORS COULD NOT SEE – THE BIGGEST ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

The “Elephant in the Room” cliché is fast becoming perhaps the most over-used platitude in the English language.  The term is supposed to refer to an obvious matter which is being overlooked.  However, it invariably is used to refer to an issue which is not being ignored – by someone who wishes to pretend otherwise. And, so, assert their (perceived) cleverness.

For example, Shane Wright (Nine Newspapers’ chief economic correspondent) used the term when in a panel discussion on ABC Radio National Breakfast on 3 January 2022 – which was chaired by Hamish Macdonald.  Comrade Wright claimed that his fellow panellists in a discussion on the Australian economy – Chris Richardson (economist at Deloitte Economics) and Sarah Hunter (chief economist, B.I.S. Oxford Economics) had overlooked the forthcoming election.  Let’s go to the transcript to hear the wisdom of Shane Wright:

Shane Wright: Well, I think, um – both my economic friends are very accurate. But they’ve ignored the biggest elephant in the room and that’s the Federal election. And we know around Federal elections, people – especially if they’re unsure as to the result – you can get an economic impact where people hold back [their spending].

It was a pretty obvious point – which, as it turned out, both Chris Richardson and Sarah Wright were well aware of. But to make his point, Comrade Wright referred not to the elephant in the room – but to the “biggest elephant in the room”.  It must have been a big room to hold so many elephants. Groan.  The real problem was the cliché in the RN Breakfast room?


This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson about something or other. And Hendo, being a courteous and well-brought up kind of guy, replies. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its avid readers.

There are occasions, however, when Jackie’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order. Publication in MWD invariably follows. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply. Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record – and in the public interest, of course.

  • GERARD HENDERSON & DAVID ANDERSON ON THE ABC’S COVERAGE OF THE CARDINAL GEORGE PELL CASE

David Anderson is managing director and editor-in-chief of the ABC.  Like his predecessors – Mark Scott, Richard Balding and more besides – Mr Anderson rarely acts as editor-in-chief.  He tends to pass editorial decisions down the line, as befits a company run by a staff collective.

Despite the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s long campaign against Cardinal George Pell, the ABC’s journalists have not been willing to publicise books about the Pell Case – following the decision on 7 April 2020 of the High Court of Australia to quash the conviction for historical child sexual abuse in a 7 to Zip unanimous decision.

Gerard Henderson recently wrote to David Anderson, in his capacity as ABC editor-in-chief, to draw his attention to recent instances of ABC censorship.  He did not get any action – but he did get a reply.  Now read on – the correspondence is complete, except for a couple of brief exchanges unrelated to the main subject matter.

Gerard Henderson to David Anderson – 15 December 2021

Dear David

I am writing to you in your twin roles – as ABC’s managing director and as the ABC’s editor-in-chief….

  • In your capacity as ABC editor-in-chief I am writing to formally advise that my book Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On and Collective Guilt (Connor Court) was recently launched by Margaret Cunneen SC.

As you may or may not know, many ABC producers/presenters are inclined not to ask individuals on to their programs who are perceived to be critical of aspects of the ABC – or who are regarded as holding unfashionable conservative views.

Since I was never invited to appear on any ABC program to discuss the Pell Case before he was convicted – or after he was acquitted by the High Court of Australia in a unanimous decision – I assume that I will not be invited to discuss my Pell book on the public broadcaster.

Since there is little point in sending books to ABC producers/presenters if they are to be ignored – I will not do so. However, if you are aware, in your capacity as editor-in-chief, of any significant programs which want to discuss Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt you might wish to advise them to contact me direct.

It is only fair to advise that there is criticism of some ABC journalists in the book. Also, the point is made that while Sky News had presenters who believed or disbelieved in Pell’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, there was not one ABC presenter on a prominent program who expressed in public the slightest doubt about Cardinal Pell’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.  Noel Debien is quoted in the book as saying that he held the view that Pell was not guilty beyond reasonable doubt but he felt he could not say so in public or even in private at the ABC.

By the way, if you would like a copy of  Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt, let me know.

All the best for Christmas and the New Year….

Yours sincerely

Gerard

Gerard Henderson

Executive Director

The Sydney Institute

Gerard Henderson to David Anderson – 12 January 2022

Dear David

As you may recall, I emailed you about a couple of matters on 15 December 2021 – see below –  one of which concerned the publication of my recent book Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt .

This correspondence is addressed to you in your capacity as ABC editor-in-chief. My book is about the go to a second edition. In it, I will write an entry titled “A Note on the Second Edition”.

Since I have not been approached by any ABC program to discuss my book, I propose to mention that part of my email to you which deals with the unwillingness of the public broadcaster to hear more than one side of the George Pell Case.

I believe it is courteous to let you know my intentions in advance.

Your sincerely

Gerard

Gerard Henderson

Executive Director

The Sydney Institute

David Anderson to Gerard Henderson 14 January 2022

Dear Gerard

Thank you for your emails of 15 December 2021 and 12 January 2022….

On the…matters you raise concerning Cardinal Pell and your book – thank you for formally advising me that the book has been launched and that it is about to go to a second edition.  Thank you also for the courtesy of notifying me of your intention to include commentary in the second edition of what you believe to be “the unwillingness of the public broadcaster to hear more than one side of the George Pell case”.

I certainly respect your right to make that assertion, but I do not agree with it. The ABC has previously responded to similar commentary (see https:/about.abc.net.au/statements/the-abcs-reporting-on-cardinal-george-pell …) and seeks to act in accordance with its statutory obligations.

All the best with your book and I wish you good health for 2022.

Yours sincerely

David Anderson

Managing Director

Gerard Henderson to David Anderson – 19 January 2022

Dear David

Thanks for your email of 14 January 2022 – following my emails of 15 December 2021 and 12 January 2022. In response, I make the following comments:

As you know, I wrote to you on 15 December 2021, in your capacity as the ABC’s editor-in-chief, concerning the public broadcaster’s coverage of Cardinal George Pell. I drew your attention to the fact that ABC’s producers/presenters are inclined not to ask on to their programs individuals who are perceived to be conservatives.

In view of this, I wrote that I assumed that I will not be invited onto the ABC to discuss my recently published book Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt. I offered to provide you with a copy of this. You did not respond to either comment. So I take it that you did not need a copy of the book.

Following the quashing of Cardinal Pell’s conviction by the High Court on 7 April 2020 in a unanimous Seven to Zero decision, three books have been written about the case by well-known authors. Namely, Keith Windschuttle’s The Persecution Of George Pell, Frank Brennan SJ’s Observations on the Pell Proceedings and my book (which was released in late November 2021). Keith Windschuttle obtained just two interviews across all the ABC outlets – one by Tom Switzer on Between the Lines and one by Andrew West on The Religion and Ethics Report. Neither Tom Switzer nor Andrew West had been involved in the Pell pile-on and neither presents a prominent ABC program.

So far, I have received no requests for interviews. Moreover, you did not indicate, in your capacity as ABC editor-in-chief, that any interview request would be forthcoming. So it would appear that my assumption has turned out to be correct.

In view of the fact that the ABC was a driver in the Pell pile-on and literally gave hours of coverage to such Pell antagonists as Louise Milligan, David Marr and Sarah Ferguson, this reeks of censorship by the public broadcaster. An example of the cancel-culture in action.

In your email, you take issue with my reference to “the unwillingness of the public broadcaster to hear more than one side of the George Pell Case” – by referring me to a 20 April 2020 document titled The ABC’s reporting on Cardinal George Pell. As I understand, this unsigned document was drafted by Craig McMurtrie in his capacity as the ABC’s editorial director – he is referred to at the bottom of the statement.

Imagine what ABC journalists would say if the Prime Minister sought to defend his government’s coverage of an issue by referring critics to a report written by his employees in the Prime Minister’s Office. Such behaviour would, no doubt, be laughed out of court by the likes of Louise Milligan, Sarah Ferguson and Sally Neighbour. However, you expect that everyone should accept the ABC’s Craig McMurtrie’s work of self-justification as the final world on the ABC’s coverage of the Pell Case.

The fact is that the ABC put out three statements rationalising its coverage of the Pell Case. The first, on 11 April 2020, titled Why the ABC’s reporting of the George Pell Case wasn’t a witch-hunt was signed off by Craig McMurtrie. The second, dated 18 April 2020 and titled Response from an ABC spokesperson, was unsigned. And the third, dated 20 April 2020, titled The ABC’s reporting on Cardinal George Pell referred to Craig McMurtrie and presumably was written by him. I believe that all three statements were drafted by Craig McMurtrie.

The statement of 18 April 2020 and the initial statement of 20 April contained an incorrect – and damaging – comment on George Pell. As you may or may not recall, I emailed you about this howler on 21 April 2020 and the statement was corrected the following day. This correction, dated 22 April 2020, is at the bottom of the statement which you forwarded to me in your email. In my view, so senior an ABC executive as Mr McMurtrie should not have made the error in the first place and that it should not have been up to me to draw your attention to this.

As documented in my book, the ABC’s amended statement of 20 April 2020 contained – and still contains – errors of commission and omission concerning which (as the ABC editor-in-chief) you should be aware.

Paul Barry took up the issue of the media’s reporting of the Pell Case in his ABC TV Media Watch program on 20 April 2020. In his broad defence of the ABC, Paul Barry relied substantially on Craig McMurtrie’s work. However, Mr Barry made a couple of criticisms of the Four Corners program which aired on 9 March 2019 (reporter Louise Milligan, executive producer Sally Neighbour) and the 7:30 program of 7 April 2020 (reporter Tracey Bowden, executive producer Justin Stevens).

Even today, the ABC’s Media Watch website carries the erroneous ABC statement concerning Cardinal Pell of 18 February 2020 (which was corrected in the second statement dated 20 April 2020). So, almost two years after the High Court’s decision in George Pell v The Queen, Paul Barry and his large team at Media Watch still cannot get their “facts” correct concerning Cardinal Pell. I mentioned in correspondence with Media Watch executive producer Timothy Latham on 10 June 2021 that there was an erroneous statement about George Pell on the Media Watch website – but he expressed no interest in inquiring as to what it was and did not reply. I sent a copy of this correspondence to you at the time – also without response.

I understand that, for many decades, the ABC has been a staff-collective over which the ABC managing director/editor-in-chief has scant influence with respect to the ABC’s most influential news and current affairs programs. However, you and your senior colleagues would have to be in a state of denial to maintain that the ABC was not one-sided in its reporting of the George Pell Case over many years.

If the ABC is not conceding it’s been one-sided on the George Pell Case – then how do you explain the fact that the ABC gave substantial coverage to books on the Pell Case by the likes of Louise Milligan and David Marr – yet all but ignored works on the same subject by Keith Windschuttle, Frank Brennan and myself? This is despite the fact that – as demonstrated in my book – the comments and predictions on the ABC on the Pell Case by Louise Milligan, David Marr and others proved to be hopelessly wrong, in view of the High Court’s unanimous decision.

In conclusion, I expect that you will not respond to this email. However, I believe that it would be professional for you to instruct Paul Barry and Timothy Latham at ABC Media Watch to place the (corrected) ABC statement of 20 April 2020 on its website – rather than continue its practice of nearly two years in running the statement of 18 April 2020 containing false comments about Cardinal Pell.

Best wishes for a successful 2022.

Yours sincerely,

Gerard Henderson.

 

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Until next time

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