ISSUE – NO. 575

11 February 2022

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It was not clear precisely who was interviewing who when activist ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Patricia Karvelas spoke to Defence Minister Peter Dutton this morning concerning his claim that the Chinese Communist Party wants Labor to win the 2022 election.

During this part of the interview, PK interrupted Minister Dutton with a “Sorry, I’m trying to be polite refrain”. She continued:

Patricia Karvelas: This is a democracy in Australia, you’re making a claim about the alternative political party that could govern. It’s serious stuff.

Peter Dutton: Well it is serious, and I wouldn’t be speaking up about it if I didn’t think it was serious. And I think the fundamental problems that the ALP has at the moment are obvious to many internally. There are a number of Labor Party sitting federal members that you can speak with who have great alarm about the influence [of China] within their party.

Patricia Karvelas: Yeah, that’s an interesting thing you say. Because that’s the point, isn’t it? There are many Labor MPs that have been talking about China. In fact, there’s been bipartisanship – has there not? – between you and the Labor Party about the rise of China and its and – and, and critiques of China. Hasn’t that actually been the story of the last few years?

Peter Dutton: I’m not quite sure it is actually. I mean, it’s the story of the last few weeks. And I think it’s fair to say – and again, any independent objective analyst I think would make the same point that Anthony Albanese doesn’t want to be talking about national security or China or related matters….

Patricia Karvelas: I think it is still controversial. I need to talk to you about what happened on the religion discrimination bill…

How about that? Activist Journalist PK was determined to state her opinion before moving on to another topic.  In which case, next time perhaps Peter Dutton should interview Patricia Karvelas on China. Just a thought.

Can You Bear It?


Could The [Boring] Saturday Paper, editor-in-chief Erik Jensen, be attempting to win an award for Australia’s most boring columnist?  How else to explain printing the column last week by John Hewson, who presents as a professor of the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy and a former Liberal Opposition leader.  The description does not mention that Dr Hewson (for a doctor he is) campaigned against the Liberal Party in the 2018 Wentworth by-election.  But there you go.

Last Saturday your man Hewson commenced his boring column in The [Boring] Saturday Paper as follows:

Before the pandemic, at most of my speeches to business and civil society groups, a question or comment was almost always made about why we don’t abolish state governments. The reasons were many and varied but all around a theme: a basic concern was that Australia is over governed; concern about the counterproductive consequences of the governance structures, in terms of blame and competition, or competitive federalism; that there are too many politicians; and that government is too expensive.

Yawn. But your man Hewson went on and on and on.  The obvious answer to the question about why Australia does not abolish State governments is that it’s all but impossible to do so. Even if it were possible, this would invoke at the very least a referendum to alter the Constitution which, to succeed, would require a majority of Australians voting “Yes” nationally and also in a majority of states.

Can anyone imagine a majority of voters in at least four of NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania voting for the abolition of their governments? – which would leave their states even more dependent on the national government in Canberra.  Apart, that is, from a learned professor at the Australian National University?  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of weekly columnists, wasn’t it good to see that Nine Newspapers’ Niki Savva continued to devote her column in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald today to an attack on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and, it would seem, the staff of the Prime Minister’s Office as well?  However, on this occasion, the prime criticism was of Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.

Nevertheless, Ms Savva managed to suggest that the leaking of the 2019 Joyce text which described the PM as a liar and a hypocrite – was “deeply honest”.  Also, Scott Morrison was depicted as Moses promising to take his colleagues to the Promised Land.  In view of the turmoil in the Coalition’s Joint Party Room, this is a bit hard on your man Moses.

As it turned out, Niki Savva (Nine) joined Katharine Murphy (The Guardian Australia) in the anti-Morrison tag team of “pundits” who appeared on Four Corners’  “Election 22” program on Monday.  Along with Grahame Morris – who was described as a “former Liberal Party strategist”.

So Four Corners described the anti-Morrison duo by their job titles – while Grahame Morris was associated with the Liberal Party for which he has not worked for some decades.  In other words, Four Corners  gave the impression that the Savva/Murphy tag team was politically disinterested while Mr Morris is partisan in view of his past Liberal Party links. Can You Bear It?


MWD just loves the “Everyday Dilemmas” segment of Crikey where readers write “Dear Leslie” letters to dear Dr Leslie Cannold who “uses her ethical training to help solve your problems” every Wednesday.

At the end of the segment this week, Dr Cannold (for a doctor of ethics she is) answered letters from “Deflated in Darebin” and “Confounded in Carnegie”. Both are Melbourne suburbs – the first inner city, the second suburban.  At the end of the segment, Crikey’s ethicist admitted that it had been a “slow week for letters”.

Deflated’s “Dear Leslie” letter told how a workmate and one-time friend was telling lies about him and passing them on to management to cover his own inadequacies.  What to do?  Answer: Have a word with your “direct and senior managers” and ask the one-time friend to lunch. Easy, eh?

Then Dr Leslie examined Confounded’s (alleged) ethical dilemma.  Confounded is a 50 kilogram “pee-wee” who saw five workers on a tram track on which a tram was heading out of control towards them.  Confounded knew that a pee-wee could not divert a tram – but a fat man could. So the pee-wee pushed a nearby bloke’s burly body on the tram line and “saved the lives of all five workers”. Confounded asked the learned doctor: “Did I do the right thing?”

Dr Cannold’s initial response was “Ha! Very Clever”. What a load of absolute tripe.  Confounded’s dilemma was around when Moses was a boy.

For the record, Cannold said that Confounded’s (alleged) action was not ethical.  But she said nothing about Confounded’s plagiarism.  Can You Bear It?


When Media Watch Dog fave Bob Carr was the long-serving Labor premier of New South Wales between 1995 to 2005, he used to employ the late (and unlamented) Bob Ellis as a speech writer at various times.

It’s not at all clear how many speeches your man Ellis ever wrote for the then NSW premier.  In fact, Ellis’ essential role was to probably act as a kind of court jester to amuse his boss when political life became something of a bore.  As it sometimes does.

Whatever the truth of the theory, it would seem that – in his political retirement – the one-time journalist Bob Carr has decided to amuse himself by being a go-to commentator by means of interviews and/or tweets aimed at gaining media attention.

And so it came to pass this week that, without a skerrick of evidence, Mr Carr declared that Defence Minister Peter Dutton was the Coalition minister who leaked material hostile to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to the media.

Not surprisingly, Minister Dutton denied the evidence-free allegation in the strongest terms – even declaring that your man Carr (born 1947) was like the proverbial boring old uncle at the proverbial boring wedding or something like that.

This led the superannuated former Labor premier to put out this tweet in response:

How about that?  Here’s the one-time leader of the hoi-polloi speaking to today’s teeming masses with the use of such words as “oleaginous” and quoting someone or other from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Can You Bear It?

[No, not really. Could it be that the one-time NSW Labor premier is channelling the one-time Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam – and has taken to using Roget’s Thesaurus or perhaps Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words as a political weapon?  Just a thought.  MWD Editor.]

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 MWD segment will demonstrate.


Did anyone hear the segment titled “should 16 year olds be allowed to vote?” on ABC Radio National Breakfast  last Tuesday?  It turned out that a group of 30 academics and experts is supporting the Australian Capital Territory’s push to change the law to lower the voting age to 16 for the Australian ACT’s Legislative Assembly.  Good idea, eh?  But what’s wrong with giving the vote to 15, or indeed 7 year olds?  Why discriminate against them?

Cathy Van Extel was given the reporter’s job for this one.  For whatever reason, instead of sticking to talking to the so-called “experts” on the issue, she interviewed her 15-year-old son. He thought this was not a good idea but declared that it might be okay for 17-year-olds to vote in ACT elections. Then, for balance, Ms Van Extel dropped in on her neighbours and interviewed their 16-year-old son – he thought this was a bad idea.

It would seem that interviewing your offspring works for ABC journalists.  As Media Watch Dog readers will recall, in November 2016 – just after Donald J. Trump won the 2016 presidential election –  the ABC’s Washington DC bureau chief Zoe Daniel interviewed her children Arkie and Pearl then aged 10 and 8 respectively.

The former declared “Holy Crap” when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton and the latter was a bit of a Bernie Sanders fan.

Oh well, MWD has been known to interview Hendo’s dog Jackie.  Even so, it’s a funny old world when journalists interview their offspring.



In recent times, many a journalist reporting Australian national politics has been subsumed with assessing whether or not Prime Minister Scott Morrison lies – a claim made by some of his critics.  Including French president Emmanuel Macron, former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and an anonymous minister who is said to be a member of the Morrison cabinet. But what about journalists?   Are any liars? – and/or do any fudge the truth?

Encouraged by Jackie, her male co-owner Hendo has decided to devote an occasional MWD segment to looking back on what some scribblers have said or written in the past.

First up, step forward Niki Savva – who currently writes a weekly column for The Age  and the Sydney Morning Herald and appears regularly on the ABC. Here’s what Ms Savva had to say about journalists and the truth in her book So Greek: Confessions of a Conservative Leftie (Scribe, 2010).

At pages 94-95, Niki Savva wrote:

As a journalist I lied often, usually about my sources, but about other things too… Journalists can, and do, get away with lying; politicians and staff can’t. Nor should they…. In my later life as a press secretary, I never (knowingly) lied. But I didn’t always tell the complete truth.  Both courses would inevitably land you or your boss in trouble.  Lies are eventually found out, and the whole truth is either misunderstood or misreported.

But there is more – or is there?

Journalist Laurie Oakes wrote an endorsement which appears on the cover of So Greek. On 30 January 2010 – shortly before the book was published – Oakes reviewed So Greek for the Courier Mail.  He would have received a pre-publication copy of the manuscript in order to write the endorsement which he would have used for the review.  In his Courier Mail  piece, Oakes quotes Savva as saying in So Greek:

Savva’s tough assessment belies the affection she clearly feels for her old boss [Peter Costello].  But she has no such sentimentality when it comes to her former journalism profession. She writes: “When it comes to scheming and lying, plain old hypocrisy, and dishonesty, journalists – apart from a few honourable exceptions – win hands down. If you can call it winning.”

MWD currently cannot locate the page on which this comment appears.  So Greek has no index. When it is located, MWD readers will be first to know. It could be that this part of the manuscript was edited out of the version that went to print.

For the record, Ms Savva herself only “confessed” to one lie.  She ’fessed up to lying to Labor’s Bob Hawke in order to protect Alan Ramsey – a mate who worked for then Labor leader Bill Hayden.

There you have it.  A Truthful Blast from the Past


It appears to be all the rage at the ABC for presenters to demand that Prime Minister Scott Morrison say “sorry” for this or “apologise” for that.

At the National Press Club on Tuesday 1 February, NPC president and 7.30 political correspondent Laura Tingle insisted that Scott Morrison “apologise” or “say sorry” for a number of grievances which she raised.  The following morning, ABC Radio AM presenter Sabra Lane (the previous NPC president) did much the same – demanding that the PM say “sorry” for recent events in Australia.

The demand by journalists that politicians apologise/say sorry is a cliché of the interview kind – which takes away from matters of substance.  Moreover, journalists themselves rarely, if ever, say sorry or apologise for their actions or inactions.

It so happened that 7.30 led the media pile-on against Cardinal George Pell. On 27 July 2016, 7.30 devoted its entire 30 minutes to running a series of claims alleging Pell had committed historical acts of child sexual abuse. In the event, not one of the claims could be sustained.  Louise Milligan was the reporter, Andy Burns the producer, Justin Stevens the executive producer and Sabra Lane the presenter for the 7.30 program of 27 July 2016.

Sabra Lane has never said sorry or apologised for her introduction to the program of 27 July 2016 where she declared that the complaints against George Pell told “the full picture”.

As today’s Correspondence segment documents, Ms Lane will not respond to questions about this.  It’s another example of journalists demanding that politicians answer their questions while declining to answer questions themselves.  An unpleasant double standard, to be sure.

But Media Watch Dog digresses. The news on the George Pell Case is that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has “disappeared” the 27 July 2016 edition of 7.30 from its website.  It’s as if the 7.30 program never occurred – and the likes of Lane, Louise Milligan, Andy Burns and Justin Stevens had the day off.

Go to the ABC website if you wish.  It contains transcripts for 7.30 on Tuesday 26 July 2016 and Thursday 28 July 2016. But Wednesday 27 July 2016 has been “cancelled”.  It’s the same with the 7.30 videos.  They can be found on either side of 27 July 2016 – but the program starring Sabra Lane and Louise Milligan has been deleted.  Both cuts have been made without explanation – re which see the screenshot below.

And so it has come to pass that the ABC is opposed to political censorship – except when it chooses to censor one of its own discredited programs.



On 19 December 2021, Channel 10’s The Project featured an interview with Dr Dan Suan, an Immunologist with The Garvan Institute. According to Hamish Macdonald, who was one of The Project’s panelists that night, Dr Suan contacted the program because he felt there was an urgent need to get a message to the community. Let’s go to the transcript:

Hamish Macdonald: What is that message tonight?

Dan Suan: The message is that the Omicron variant has some characteristics which mean that it is a profound public health threat. And because of our social mobility at the moment, it’s spreading very quickly. And in the lead up to Christmas we’re going to have a huge super spreader event, which will almost certainly cause a hospital-based disaster in January unless we take immediate action now.

When asked by panelist Jan Fran if he was concerned about stoking unnecessary fear, Dr Suan had this to say:

Dan Suan: But we now know everything we need to know about this variant. We know how contagious, we know that it escapes the vaccines, we know how severe it’s going to be, and we know how quickly it spreads because we can already see that by the vertical nature of the case curve here in Sydney. So, we know enough to know that if we let it spread we’re going to have a huge hospital related disaster in January.

Hamish Macdonald: So, what does that look like? What does a hospital-based disaster mean for us?

Dan Suan: If you infect enough people with Omicron, a certain proportion of people need to go to hospital. That proportion is reduced by vaccines, that’s the whole point. But not enough, that’s the whole point. The Omicron variant means that the protection from severe disease falls. And it falls sufficiently, so that if you infect enough people, you still have a huge number of people that will need to go to hospital. A number that well exceeds the hospitals ability to cope.

So, Dr Suan’s warning on The Project was quite clear. The rapid rise of Omicron cases around Christmas 2021 was going to cause New South Wales hospitals to be overwhelmed by January 2022. Hamish Macdonald ended the interview with this:

Hamish Macdonald: So, it is scary times for everyone, particularly going into Christmas. But we’ll keep making sure we provide all the relevant information.

As it turns out, there was a very rapid increase in COVID-19 cases around Christmas, which continued into January. As would be expected there was also an increase in hospitalisations. However, hospitalisations peaked in late January, well below where the New South Wales government’s modelling suggested. They have now declined significantly from that peak.

Dr Suan is right that the Omicron variant has shown some ability to escape the protection from infection and severe disease conferred by vaccination. But those vaccine protections, combined with the reduced severity of Omicron compared to the Delta variant, have held up well enough to prevent the NSW hospital system from being overwhelmed.

In short, the “scary times” referred to by Hamish Macdonald for early 2022 have not occurred – so far, at least.

The Guardian is an avowedly left-wing newspaper.  Always has been. Malcolm Turnbull wrote in his autobiography A Bigger Picture (Hardie Grant, 2020), that he was primarily responsible for the establishment of The Guardian Australia. He proposed the idea to Alan Rusbridger, the then editor of The Guardian in London, in June 2012.  Malcolm Turnbull later introduced Alan Rusbridger to, in his own words, “two seasoned Canberra political writers, Lenore Taylor and Katharine Murphy (aka Murpharoo)”.  The Guardian Australia – which Malcolm Turnbull has described as “a paper avowedly of the left” – commenced operations in 2013. In recent years there has been an increasing number of the leftist Guardian journalists appearing on ABC News and current affairs programs leading to The Guardian/ABC Axis.


It’s official. There has been an additional consummation of The Guardian /ABC Axis. Katharine Murphy – aka Murpharoo as Malcolm Turnbull likes to call her – is to fill the weekly Thursday commentary slot on the ABC Radio National Breakfast  program. The presenter is Patricia (“call me PK”) Karvelas who recently replaced Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly in the gig.

It was a matter of out with a Green/Left activist journalist (Comrade Kelly) – and in with a Green/Left activist journalist (Comrade PK).  And now the ABC – a conservative free zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets – has found another leftist activist in The Guardian Australia’s Comrade Murphy to fill a weekly commentary role. A further manifestation of The Guardian/ABC Axis in operation.


It’s good to know that the present and former presenters of RN Breakfast are so well regarded – in the view of the taxpayer funded broadcaster at least.  According to the blurb which accompanies the ABC’s The Party Room podcast (which airs on Thursday afternoon), its presenters Patricia Karvelas and Fran Kelly are “highly respected” and “respected” respectively.  It’s not clear why PK is somewhat more respected than Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly – but there you go. It’s the ABC’s call.

In any event, Patricia Karvelas interviewed Katharine (“Malcolm calls me Murpharoo”) Murphy on RN Breakfast yesterday.

It started as follows:

Patricia Karvelas: In the studio with me now, I’ve got Katharine Murphy. She’s a regular of course for us on a Thursday. Katharine Murphy is the political editor with Guardian Australia. Welcome. …

Katharine Murphy: Good morning love. It’s lovely to see you across this bench.

After discussing Australian national politics with Comrade Murpharoo, Comrade PK concluded the interview as follows:

Patricia Karvelas: Katharine, lovely to speak to you.

Katharine Murphy: Always good to be here.

Patricia Karvelas: And you also happen to be our guest for our first Party Room episode with Fran Kelly, who’s back, meeting me after I get off air. So thanks so much. Katharine Murphy, political editor with Guardian Australia.

So, there you have it. Another manifestation of The Guardian/ABC Axis at work – as Green/Left PK and Green/Left Comrade Kelly spoke to Green/Left Murpharoo.  Needless to say, PK essentially agreed with Murpharoo who essentially agreed with Comrade Kelly who essentially agreed with Comrade Murphy who essentially….  Groan.

As avid readers will recall, in MWD Issue 57 (11 June 2010) Matt Canavan drew attention to that part of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop in which the snobbery of the leftie journalist Pappenhacker was revealed.

Waugh’s line was that a wealthy communist, university-educated chap named Pappenhacker believed that the best way to undermine the capitalist system was to be rude to the members of the proletariat.  This would make them angry and help to bring about a revolution. Sandalista Snobbery Space is devoted to recording the snobbish views of the Pappenhackers of our day.


On 2 February 2022 The Drum featured amongst its panelists Nareen Young, a Professor from the University of Technology Sydney. Professor Young is evidently a favourite of The Drum, having also appeared only 8 days earlier on the 25 January edition of the program. During this earlier appearance she noted, by way of disclaimer, that she has known Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese for many years and that he was the Best Man at her wedding.

During her 2 February appearance, the discussion turned to remarks made earlier by the Prime Minister during an appearance on Channel 7 morning show Sunrise. Asked by presenter David Koch which type of bread he preferred, the PM replied that he likes “normal white bread”. After the Sunrise exchange was played, here is how The Drum presenter Ellen Fanning broached the subject to panelist Jennifer Hewitt.

Ellen Fanning: Jennifer Hewitt, we understand as journalists who dabble in politics that, that was the only possible answer. Why was white bread the only possible answer?

Jennifer Hewitt: Well because I think he is just trying to identify with what an ordinary bloke he is. It wasn’t actually the only possible answer and I think it’s actually going to come back to haunt him. But he could have actually said a few other things on that.

Ellen Fanning: Like what else could he have said, congee? Muesli with yoghurt?

Jennifer Hewitt: No, he could have said, oh you know, just your basic bread, you know sometimes I like a bit of wholemeal. I mean really, I think he’s been put on the spot and he’s been embarrassed by not being able to answer the questions about the price of bread. Now he’s trying to emphasise that he understands ordinary families and the fact that many families will just choose the cheapest available, which is often white bread, sliced white.

Ellen Fanning: [Laughing]

Ellen Fanning did not explain why she believes white bread was the only possible answer, nor did Jennifer Hewitt clarify how she believes Scott Morrison’s preference for white bread will come back to haunt him. After comments by panelists Lech Blaine and Ruth Stewart about class in Australian society, Fanning asked Nareen Young for her views:

Nareen Young: I think the comment about bread, the white bread, was really interesting. Who eats white bread in this country? Anglo men. I come from a working class background, we had brown bread, because we were healthy. I think it shows a deep lack of understanding as to who works in this country. I think that there is a deep intersection of race and class.

I think Lech is right when he talks about access to property. I think that there is, one of the things Ruth said was about unemployment, but I’d argue that because of wage stagnation and the issues around the casualisation of the workforce in the last 20 years. People are not doing work that pays them enough to live. And so they are having to do a couple of jobs and they are working in jobs that aren’t stable and aren’t permanent. And so they can’t rely on an income, they don’t know necessarily how much they are going to earn.

So I think we’re not talking about that, we’re not talking about the things that you identified Ellen. But I do think there are some politicians who understand what the working class looks like. It’s not white Anglo men, and I think that what Ruth’s talking about [high unemployment in rural areas] is an underclass that really largely is made up of white people.

Obviously Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but I think our community is making a lot of effort around change and mobility. And there is increased entry of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into the middle class. I think that white people in Australia are the underclass.

Professor Young appears to be torn between two urges. On the one hand, she wants to look down her nose at the white-bread-loving “Anglo men”. While on the other, she wants to make it clear that she is a champion of the working class.

This leads to her bizarre conclusion the Australia has a white underclass who don’t eat healthy and are being pandered to by Scott Morrison and a proud multi-racial working class who supposedly love only brown bread. She makes sure to note that there are “some politicians”, presumably her mate Albo, who have a proper understanding of Australia’s workers.

Apparently, a reporter has since asked Anthony Albanese about Young’s remarks and he was quoted as saying “I think people should eat whatever bread they like”. He may want to ask Professor Young to make less frequent appearances on The Drum prior to the federal election, lest voters think the Member for Grayndler spends his time hanging out in Sandalista Snobbery Spaces.


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.  But he was back in action for the first episode in 2022. Nevertheless MWD – which acquired the “Outside Insiders”  term on a temporary basis last year – will continue to present a written version of “Outside Insiders”. Here’s hoping Bill Thompson doesn’t object.


One thing that can be said with confidence about the inaugural ABC TV Insiders’ program for 2022 is that it was up to standard. Insiders’ standard.

There was a 33 per cent representation from the leftist Guardian Australia.  Namely, panellist Sarah Martin and “Talking Pictures” supremo Michael Bowers.  The ABC’s David Speers, as usual, was in the presenter’s chair. The other panellists were Andrew Probyn (ABC) and Karen Middleton (The [leftist] Saturday Paper).  Not a conservative in the room – as befits a Conservative Free Zone.

Five topics were on the run-sheet. To wit, (i) asylum seekers, (ii) aged care, (iii) the Prime Minister’s appearance at the National Press Club on the previous Tuesday, (iv) the Religious Discrimination Bill and (v) Labor’s about-turn on the proposed Kurri Kurri gas plant.

As might be expected, David initially asked a soft question of Sarah Martin who agreed with him. Then the panel worked through the designated topics as Andrew agreed with Karen who agreed with David who agreed with Andrew who agreed with Sarah who agreed with Andrew who agreed with himself. No dissenting view was heard.

The only light relief took place when Andrew Probyn had this to say about Scott Morrison’s speech to the National Press Club:

Andrew Probyn:  This was the Prime Minister leading with his chin. This was all meant to be about contrition. That was the tone of the speech. Yes, he got some tough questions. But you know, that’s the nature of the Press Club. I’ve been at plenty of those with prime ministers, previous prime ministers, and they’ve had equally tough questions.

Turn it up.  Has your man Probyn no self-awareness?  As Gerard Henderson documented in his Weekend Australian column last Saturday, Comrade Probyn asked an oh-so-soft question of Labor leader Anthony Albanese at the NPC on 25 January and an antagonistic one to Scott Morrison on 1 February.

As it turned out, Andrew agreed with Sarah on this – and Sarah agreed with Andrew. Then Karen agreed with Andrew and Sarah:

Karen Middleton: As Andrew and Sarah have said, you know, the job of journalists at the Press Club is to ask hard questions, especially of government but also of opposition….

Clearly Ms Middleton is in denial. Opposition leader Anthony Albanese received no hard questions when he appeared at the NPC this year. Such instances of denial invariably take place when like-minded journalists talk to other journalists about journalism. Stand by for future editions of this (increasingly) popular Media Watch Dog segment.



In Media Watch Dog  Issue 573, the Sydney University academic and human rights advocate Tim Soutphommasane was criticised for linking the deportation of tennis star Novak Djokovic in 2022 with that of Egon Kisch in 1935.

Step forward Guy Rundle who presents as the correspondent-at-large at Crikey.  Now, as avid readers know, Guy Rundle is MWD’s fave Marxist comedian.  Comrade Rundle, who used to co-edit the Marxist Arena Magazine with Judith Brett, objected to Gerard Henderson’s account of the Kisch case and had this to say in Crikey  on 1 February:

Kisch was compelled to take our ridiculous “dictation” test, in which arrivals could be tested in any European language – and deported if failed. Trouble was the Mitteleuropean Kisch knew every European language that the authorities could test in.  So he was retested in Scots Gaelic which sent the case to another High Court challenge on the grounds that it didn’t count as a European language.  Which passes the Djok test, and what Soutphommasane was unquestionably referring to.

Why would Hendo omit this key detail?  Because the dictation test was an embarrassing joke, eagerly supported by the right-wing UAP government.  And possibly because Kisch’s visit saw him address huge crowds in Sydney about Nazism and concentration camps – in 1935, three years before Robert Menzies was praising Hitler as a “very fine gentleman” in 1938? Too embarrassing for a Menzies loyalist to include? – Guy Rundle

By the way, no source was cited for Menzies’ comment about Hitler.

What’s missing from Comrade Rundle’s analysis is that Egon Kisch was a member of Josef Stalin’s Communist International who lied on his immigration entry form about his political affiliations. He attempted to jump ship in Fremantle and, injured, was taken to Sydney.  He was given a dictation test in Gallic which he failed and was imprisoned pending deportation. Kisch was subsequently released on technical grounds by High Court Justice Bert Evatt and won a High Court case since Gaelic was found not be a European language.  However, in time, the authorities caught up with Kisch and he agreed to leave Australia in March 1935.

In his re-write of Australian history, Guy Rundle overlooked some matters:

  • It is true that the immigration dictation test was in existence in the 1930s. It was supported by the United Australia Party led by Prime Minister Joseph Lyons (which has nothing to do with Clive Palmer’s contemporary party of the same name). But the dictation test was also supported by the opposition Labor Party. If it was as ridiculous as Rundle claims – then Robert Menzies is not the only person to blame.  In fact, the dictation test was placed in the Immigration Act in 1901 and remained in the legislation until 1958.  It was supported by Labor prime ministers Jim Scullin, John Curtin and Ben Chifley.
  • Certainly, as Comrade Rundle points out, Egon Kisch was opposed to Nazism and fascism. But he was also a supporter of the communist totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union – along with Stalin’s forced famine in Ukraine and Stalin’s purges in the 1930s. Kisch was deported from Australia because he was a communist – not because he was anti-fascist.  Left-wing historians like to ignore Kisch’s Communist Party membership. For example, it was not mentioned by Stuart Macintyre in his book The Reds (Allen & Unwin, 1998) or by Judith Brett in her book Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People (MUP, 1992).  It was a matter of “Don’t talk about Kisch’s Communist Party membership just focus on his anti-fascism”.  In his book Revolutionaries and Reformers (ANU Press, 1975), the left-wing historian Robin Gollan acknowledged that Kisch “probably was” a member of the Communist Party but suggested that he was entitled to lie about this.
  • In the 1930s, the Communist Party of Australia – along with its financial backers in the Soviet Union – wanted to destroy Australia’s democratic system. That’s why Kisch was deported. It’s absolute tosh for Dr Soutphommasane (for a doctor he is) to compare the Kisch and Djokovic cases.
  • Sure Robert Menzies, who became UAP prime minister in April 1939 after Lyons died in office, was an appeaser who made some regrettable comments about Hitler. But in September 1939, Menzies followed Britain in declaring war against Germany. Whereas the pro-communist left in Australia, which had backed Kisch, supported the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 23 August 1939 and opposed the Allied war effort – until Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. Comrade Rundle in his Arena days must surely have mixed with some comrades who supported the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

As to appeasement, Robert Menzies was an appeaser in the late 1930s.  But so was Labor Party leader John Curtin at the time and nearly all Australian politicians with the exception of Billy Hughes.  Soon after war was declared against Germany, the Menzies UAP government despatched the Australian Imperial Force to fight Nazi Germany and its allies.  John Curtin opposed the deployment of Australian forces overseas to the European and North African theatre of war.  This is something which the contemporary left, like Comrade Rundle, don’t want to remember.

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In any event, what was missing from Comrade Rundle’s missive is that the communist Kisch was a communist.  Clearly the Marxist comedian is into denial – or perhaps attempted humour.

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.


As mentioned earlier, it is common for journalists to demand that non-journalists say sorry, or apologise, with respect to this or that.  However, many a journalist refuses to say sorry, or apologise, for their own errors of commission or omission.  The latest example is ABC Radio AM  presenter Sabra Lane.  Now read on.

Gerard Henderson to Sabra Lane – 8 February 2022

Good afternoon Ms Lane

I refer to your interview with Scott Morrison on 2 February 2022:

Sabra Lane:  Former Premier Peter Beattie made an art form of saying sorry, and voters seem to really value that and reward him for it with re-election. Are you worried that voters might punish you for not saying sorry?

Prime Minister:  I think I’ve been very honest with people. I was very honest with them yesterday where I thought the lessons were –

Sabra Lane:  [interjecting] Sorry. Usually, usually when people do take responsibility for a problem, they say sorry.

Prime Minister:  Well, what I think’s important is the experience that you get from working through those challenges….

As you may recall, on 27 July 2016 you introduced the 7.30 program on ABC TV that was presented by Louise Milligan and entirely devoted to allegations that Cardinal George Pell had committed historical acts of child sexual abuse with young boys.  The introduction commenced as follow:

Sabra Lane: In an investigation over several months, reporter Louise Milligan and producer Andy Burns spoke to scores of witnesses and other sources, piecing together the complaints being examined by the police. Many of those they spoke to are concerned that the full picture may never emerge and that’s why they’ve decided to tell their story publicly.

As you will be aware, the charges against Cardinal Pell with respect to the Eureka Pool in Ballarat were discontinued by the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions due to a lack of evidence.  And Cardinal Pell’s convictions for child sexual assault at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne were quashed by a unanimous decision of the High Court of Australia.

In other words, the introduction you read on 7.30 on 27 July 2016 was completely flawed.  According to the Australian judicial system, 7.30  did not present a “full picture” about the complaints made against Cardinal Pell – with respect to Ballarat or Melbourne. If it had, Cardinal Pell would be in prison today.

I understand that the powers-that-be at the ABC have “disappeared” the transcript of the 7.30 program of 27 July 2016 from the ABC website. However, there are extant copies of this transcript in various collections – including my own.

My questions are as follows:

  • Do you take any responsibility for the damaging errors you made which are referred to above?
  • Do you intend to say “sorry” to Cardinal Pell and ABC TV viewers for your mistakes?
  • In other words, do you stand by the same standard as you demand of the Prime Minister?

In view of the fact that, as a journalist, you expect that others will answer all your questions, I hope that you will answer mine.

Best wishes


Gerard Henderson

cc:  David Anderson, Managing Director & Editor in Chief, ABC


Sally Jackson to Gerard Henderson – 9 February 2022

Hi Gerard, your email was passed on to me as I handle media inquiries for News. We don’t have any comment to make for your column.



Gerard Henderson to Sally Jackson – 9 February 2022


Some mistake, surely.

Contrary to your email of today, I did not ask Sabra Lane, David Anderson or you for a “comment” to be used in my column.  I wrote an email to Sabra Lane on an issue unrelated to my column in The Weekend Australian on Saturday.

In yesterday’s email, I simply asked Ms Lane whether she was willing to say sorry or apologise for comments she made when presenting 7.30 on 27 July 2016. As you will be aware, all the charges levelled at Cardinal George Pell in the program – which was presented by Sabra Lane with a significant introduction by her – were either abandoned by the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions or quashed by the High Court of Australia in a unanimous decision.

Sabra Lane’s non-response suggests that she is one of the cohort of journalists who ask questions of others but decline to answer questions directed at them.

Best wishes – and Keep Morale High.

Gerard Henderson


cc: David Anderson, ABC managing director and editor-in-chief

Sabra Lane, ABC AM presenter


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Until Next Time

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