ISSUE – NO. 577

28 February 2022

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Earlier today ABC COVID guru Dr Norman Swan made his regular appearance on RN Breakfast. Here is how presenter Patricia Karvelas introduced the segment:

Patricia Karvelas: Just 35 per cent of the Ukrainian population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Case numbers in Russia are high. Could the invasion cause fresh outbreaks?

Norman Swan: Fresh outbreaks. New variant.

Well, there you have it, the beleaguered people of Ukraine have not only an invasion and fresh outbreaks of COVID to worry about, but also a new variant. Dr Swan then launched into a short lecture on the history of warfare and pandemics. Is there anything the former The Biggest Loser resident doctor isn’t an expert in?

Returning to the topic of Ukraine, Dr Swan offered up the following analysis:

Norman Swan: It doesn’t bear thinking about, just how bad it could get with just the usual diseases, much less COVID-19 going around in a vulnerable population. And as people become malnourished, if indeed they do, then in populations where Omicron might be relatively mild compared to Delta, it may not be mild. And you’ll see serious issues arising and we many never find out how bad it has become because people will be dying at home. As indeed they did in Australia in the Delta outbreak.

It seems COVID may get so bad in Ukraine, that it will even come to resemble the 2021 Delta outbreak in New South Wales and Victoria. Hopefully these warnings reach Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who, believe it or not, has more serious matters to attend to than heeding medical warnings from Norman (“Trust me, I’m Australia’s most trusted doctor”) Swan – who has not practised medicine for several decades.


You’ve heard the cliché about ignoring “the Elephant in the Room” – an impossible task in real life, even if there was one.

Well, on Insiders  on Sunday it was much the same as the presenter (David Speers) once again agreed with the panellists (in this case David Crowe, Bridget Brennan and  Cameron Stewart) on such matters as Ukraine, Russia, China and the future of the power company AGL. No contrary views were expressed as everyone essentially agreed with everyone else on essentially everything.

On this occasion, to invent a cliché, it was the case of ignoring the “Orange Man in the Room”. No one mentioned Donald J Trump or the Trump administration of recent memory.

President Joe Biden’s Democrat administration has not provided significant arms to Ukraine and its government headed by the courageous President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. However, President Trump oversaw the delivery to Ukraine of Javelin weapons – missiles and launchers – along with other weapons.

It was the ability of Ukrainian armed forces to confront the Russian invasion that led to a situation whereby Russian president Vladimir Putin’s initial battle plans were not met.

Without the Trump administration’s military assistance to Ukraine in the period January 2017 to 2021, it is possible that Putin would have conquered Kyiv in but a few days.  Yet on Insiders last Sunday it was the case of “President Trump, President who?”. See also today’s (hugely popular) Outside Insiders segment.

Can You Bear It?


Russian president Vladimir Putin is a very model of a modern major communist. After all, he has a background in the Soviet Union’s KGB and he much admires such communist totalitarian leaders of the Soviet Union as  Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin.  However, Peter Hartcher, The Age  and Sydney Morning Herald’s international editor, reckons that Putin is a fascist.

Your man Hartcher commenced his Comment piece on Friday 25 February concerning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Nine Newspapers with this reflection: “It was unthinkable. Until the moment it happened”. The reference is to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. But the invasion was not at all unexpected.  In fact, it was anticipated by a number of knowledgeable organisations.

Peter Hartcher went on to make this claim:

Fascism, the political ideology that denies all rights to individuals in their relations with the state, was not vanquished by World War II, only subdued temporarily. If a dictator allows his own people no rights, why would he hesitate to crush the rights of his neighbours?…Fascists are threatened by freedom at home and abroad.

This is ahistorical nonsense.  Adolf Hitler was a Nazi (a brand of fascism), Benito Mussolini was a fascist and Vladimir Putin is a communist.  If Peter Hartcher is of the view that communist dictators do not invade other countries, he must have forgotten the Nazi Soviet Pact of mid-1939 to mid-1941, under which Hitler and Stalin divided Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union and the Baltic States were incorporated into the Soviet Union. Also Nine’s international editor must have forgotten the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Putin is dictatorial thug.  But he is one of the communist, not fascist, kind. Yet Peter Hartcher seems to be in denial about this. Can You Bear It?


Did anyone read the print and online versions of Antonella Gambotto-Burke’s review of Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s and Hillary Jordan’s edited collection Anonymous Sex (Borough Press) in The Weekend Australian on 19 February?

Here’s the final para of Ms Gambotto-Burke’s review in the print edition:

Spiritually, the sex in this book is that which regularly takes place in many homes – emotionally cauterised, on Zoloft, and with the most recent Stephen Fry tome by the bed: sex nobody really wants to have, ever.

And this is Ms Gambotto-Burke’s final para in the online edition:

Spiritually, the sex in this book is that which regularly takes place on Sydney’s Upper North Shore – emotionally cauterised, on Zoloft, and with the most recent Stephen Fry tome by the bed: sex nobody really wants to have, ever.

Which raises the question as to why the reviewer’s (apparent) knowledge of sexual and reading practices on Sydney’s Upper North Shore was deleted from The Weekend Australian’s print edition – and was replaced with “many homes”.  Also does Antonella Gambotto-Burke believe that such practices in Sydney’s North Shore differ from, say, practices on Sydney’s Lower North Shore?  In short, Can You Bear It?


Lotsa thanks to the avid, woman of colour, reader who drew Media Watch Dog’s  attention to the March 2020 edition of Marie Claire Australia – which contains the cover citation “Rise Up!: Meet The Trailblazers Out For Scomo’s Job”.

The reference is to a story by Kathryn Madden titled “Independents’ Day”, covering the “Voices of” candidates who are attempting to defeat Liberal Party candidates in relatively safe Liberal seats.  Namely, Monique Ryan (Kooyong), Zoe Daniel (Goldstein), Sophie Scamps (Mackellar), Kylea Tink (North Sydney), Jo Dyer (Boothby), Penny Ackery (Hume) and Allegra Spender (Wentworth).

This is how the Famous Seven were described by Marie Claire:

They’re doctors, CEOs, activists, teachers and journalists who are fed up with federal politics and are stepping up to contest the 2022 election as independent candidates.  Meet the women who could change Australia.

Not a butcher, or baker or candle-stick maker among this lot – nor indeed a truck driver, cook or policewoman. Just Famous Seven well-heeled professionals, and dressed appropriately for a Marie Claire photo shoot.

All were photographed as a group by Peter Brew-Bevan – except for Ms Spender who was in isolation on the day.  In spite of the “Voices-of” candidates’ concern about carbon dioxide emissions, at least three of the candidates appear to have travelled by plane to Sydney for the group photo.  Hardly necessary in this day-and-age, but there you go.

In his speech to the National Press Club on 15 February 2022, the billionaire  Simon Holmes à Court – the founder of Climate 200 which is backing the Independents standing against the Liberal Party – focused on climate change, integrity and women.  Towards the end of his address, your man Holmes à Court declared that the “Voices of” movement wanted to see more people with “life experiences formed outside the halls of politics”.

How strange, then, that Marie Claire editor Nicky Briggs and her reporter Kathryn Madden failed to notice that there is not one woman of colour in the Homes à Court endorsed cohort.  So much so that the “Voices of” candidates had to be photographed against a red background rather than a light one.  Come to think of it, the only women of colour in the March 2022 issue of Marie Claire, who posed for photographs, are models. Somewhat elitist don’t you think?  More seriously – Can You Bear It?



As documented in the “Media” section of The Australian today, ABC TV Media Watch presenter Paul Barry was just one of a number of journalists who has provided the latest example of journalists believing what they want to believe.

The Australian’s Sharri Markson reported recently that the Grill’d founder Geoff Bainbridge had used methamphetamine in recent times – and produced a photograph to this effect.  Whereupon Bainbridge dismissed the Markson story and alleged that the footage was taken some six years ago somewhere overseas as part of an extortion racket.

Writing in The Australian last Monday, Markson produced proof that her story was correct and the photo had been taken in Bainbridge’s Melbourne home not long ago. But not before Bainbridge had dismissed Markson in an account given to The Age’s Chip Le Grand. It so happened that Le Grand believed what Bainbridge told him. Then the likes of Paul Barry (ABC), Jenna Price (Nine) and Nino Bucci (The Guardian, Australia) believed what Le Grand believed.  No one seems to have done any fact-checking.

Comrade Barry went so far as to tweet “Jeez – what a story” on 16 February 2022 about Bainbridge’s refutation of the Markson story.  Only to be corrected with a “Whoops” on 21 February – five days later.  It was not much of a correction in view of Paul Barry’s gross case of gullibility.  It remains to be seen whether Barry will cover his own howler on Media Watch tonight.

On Tuesday 22 February 2022, Nine issued a correction which was published at the bottom of Page 2.  Here’s the version that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald:


A story in last Thursday’s Herald  that businessman Geoff Bainbridge had been subject to an extortion attempt has been cast into doubt by new evidence that suggests our reporters and others were seriously misled.  The Herald has removed the story from its website.

That’s the way that media corrections should be done – promptly and in a prominent position. Unlike most of the ABC apologies which are rarely if ever shown or read on ABC programs – and are only published online.

Also, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald have publicly acknowledged that the story has been removed from Nine’s website.  This stands in contrast to the ABC which has removed Louise Milligan’s 7.30 report on George Pell, which occupied the entire program on 17 July 2016.  This has been sent down the ABC’s memory hole – as if Milligan’s “exclusive” never went to air.  This is documented in Gerard Henderson’s Weekend Australian column on 19 February 2022 – see here.


Media Watch Dog fave William (Bill) Thompson established the website “Outside Insiders” – in which he would attempt (sometimes successfully) to interview politicians and commentators (but not David Marr or Laura Tingle who were always in no-comment mode) 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, was a bit short of talent in 2020 and 2021 – due to the pandemic, since much of the Insiders interviews/panel discussions were 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


It was a novel event on Insiders on 20 February when – for a  while – there was a disagreement on the panel. As avid Media Watch Dog  readers are aware, on Insiders in recent years the presenter (David Speers) and his three panelists invariably agree with each other on almost everything – as befits the Canberra focused journalistic bubble.

So rare is disagreement on Insiders that its production team boasted that someone on the panel had disagreed with the others about something. Quelle Surprise!  This is what Insiders  tweeted:

On this occasion David Speers had agreed with Jennifer Hewitt who had agreed with Niki Savva who had agreed with Speersy about the political donations system. But the Herald-Sun’s James Campbell disagreed.

However, earlier on, Insiders lived up to its predictable reputation.  David Speers introduced the issue of the attacks by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Peter Dutton on Opposition leader Anthony Albanese in particular and the Labor Party in general, concerning China.

Here David Speers led off by condemning the Morrison government on this issue.  James Campbell agreed with Speersy and Jennifer Hewitt agreed with James who agreed with Niki Savva who agreed with David who agreed with James who agreed with Niki who agreed with herself. No other view as heard. It was as boring as that.

Yet there is a different view, less critical of the Prime Minister and Minister Dutton on this issue.  It was well expressed, for example, by Chris Mithcell in his media column in The Australian  on Monday 21 February.  But the likes of Mitchell rarely, if ever, get a gig on Insiders  these days. So expect the Insiders echo-chamber to continue.

As to Speersy, anyone who watched Network Ten’s leftist program The Project on the previous Friday would have seen Speers doing the political commentary slot.  Comrade Speers used the occasion to bag the Prime Minister for what he termed “over the top” behaviour and accused the Coalition government of improperly using politics against Labor.

In general, Speersy supported Anthony Albanese.  However, he did agree with the criticism of Labor by the Leftist Guardian that the Albanese-led Labor Party is not sufficiently to the left.  In short, Speersy endorsed the view of The Guardian Australia that Albanese Labor is into “bitch and run”. That is – complain about the Morrison government’s legislation and then let it through.

So here was the ABC’s David Speers answering questions by the leftist Lisa Wilkinson on the leftist The Drum  and bagging both the Coalition and Labor from the left in the process – while endorsing The Guardian’s  analysis.  Yet another example, of The Guardian/ABC Axis in action. Then, on Sunday, Speers rocked up on Insiders identifying as an impartial ABC presenter.

[Interesting. Which raises the question: Why would senior ABC management approve of one of its key presenters appearing as a political commentator on The Project, an avowedly left-wing program?  – MWD Editor.]


What great news.  Media Watch Dog welcomes the announcement that well-heeled leftist Jane Caro is running for the Senate in New South Wales at the forthcoming election. Here’s how Comrade Caro announced the news last Thursday:

Walkley Award winning author and columnist Jane Caro AM is standing for the Senate at the forthcoming Federal election. She is standing as a candidate for Reason Australia and her running mate is Hannah Maher.

For those who don’t know, and there may be many, Jane Caro writes a column for Nine’s Sunday Life magazine and appears regularly on, yes of course, the ABC.  The Reason Party – founded by Fiona Patten – was until recently called The Australian Sex Party – which emerged from the Eros Foundation (a sex industry lobby group).  It is not clear why the Sex Party became the Reason Party. Perhaps it was a case of Comrade Patten and her colleagues finally deciding that it was time for more reason and less sex.  Whatever the reason, the name change worked.  Ms Patten was re-elected to the Victorian Legislative Council in 2018 with a mere 3.3 per cent of the primary vote.

As avid readers will recall, in a late night tweet after the Coalition was returned to office in May 2019, Jane Caro declared that voters who elected the government led by Scott Morrison were “truculent turds”.

Just three years later, Comrade Caro is aiming to get NSW’s “truculent turds” to vote for her.  Can You Bear It?

[Interesting development to be sure.  It’s always fun when present and past columnists run for parliament.  I note that former Sydney Morning Herald columnist Elizabeth Farrelly ran as an Independent in the February 2022 NSW State by-election for the inner-city seat of Strathfield.  She scored 9.6 per cent of the primary vote – and her corflute read “Dr Elizabeth Farrelly: The Independent Voice for Strathfield”. It is now established that the good people of Strathfield did not want this particular doctor in the NSW House of Assembly. To win a Senate seat, Ms Caro would probably need a primary vote of around 10 per cent of the whole of NSW – including areas occupied by, yes, truculent turds. – 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.


At Hangover Time on a Saturday, Jackie’s (male) co-owner is wont to read about the latest house or apartment purchases by Sydney’s rich and famous in the Sydney Morning Herald.

And so it came to pass that Hendo was oh-so-excited when he read in the SMH’s “Title Deeds” section on Saturday 5 February 2022 of multi-billionaire businessman and eco-catastrophist Mike Cannon-Brookes’ most recent property purchases.

Your man Cannon-Brookes, who is a member of what Paul Keating once called Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs’ Hyphenated Name Set, has – in Title Deeds’ words – “just settled on another holiday house at Pittwater’s secluded Coasters Retreat” and is “already rumoured to be in negotiations to buy another”. Well done.  By the way, Coasters Retreat is only accessible by boat.

On 3 February 2022, writing in the SMH, Samantha Hutchinson and Stephen Brooke reported that Cannon-Brookes has also recently purchased very expensive properties near the water at Palm Beach, Newport and Scotland Island (also accessible only by boat). As MWD readers are well aware, M C-B bought Fairwater in Point Piper on Sydney Harbour for a mere $100 million in 2019. It’s Australia’s most expensive house.

What’s wrong with that? – MWD hears avid readers cry.  And the answer is nothing. Except for the fact that, as one of Australia’s leading eco-catastrophists, M C-B should surely be concerned about rising sea levels spoken about by such fellow eco-catastrophists as the American Al Gore, the Swede Greta Thunberg and Australia’s very own Tony Jones (of ABC fame).

Indeed, on the (then) ABC TV Lateline program on 7 April 2009, Comrade Jones declared that sea level rises by the end of the 21st Century “could be as much as six metres”. Yes. Which is about three times the height of Australia’s best known member of The Hyphenated Name Set and would either drown, or turn into islands, all of Cannon-Brookes’ coastal properties.

It’s a Funny Old World when those who are most concerned about even small to moderate rising sea levels are buying up properties near the water – some of which can only be accessed by boat.  But there you go.


David Anderson is the ABC’s managing director and editor-in-chief. However, you would not know this if you purchased a copy of his recently published booklet Now More Than Ever: Australia’s ABC – 87 pages all up. The booklet blurb makes no mention of Mr Anderson’s additional role as editor-in-chief at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

When at Melbourne University Publishing, Louise Adler initiated the “On…” series of booklets – which turned out to be primarily an opportunity for left-of-centre types to state their case on this or on that in some 10,000 words or more. In recent times, Comrade Adler has established the “In the National Interest” series at Monash University Publishing – another set of brief booklets which are written primarily by left-of-centre types.  Recent publications in this series include senior ABC executive John Lyons’ piss-poor rant Dateline Jerusalem: Journalism’s Toughest Assignment. Re which see MWD Issues 563 and 565.

The series contains a preamble by Professor Margaret Gardner AC, President and Vice-Chancellor at Monash University – which maintains that the In The National Interest series is an important part of the university’s “commitment to free intellectual inquiry”. By the way, you can buy the book for $19.95 – which puts a small premium on free enquiry.

Asking the ABC’s managing director to write about the ABC is akin to, say, commissioning the chief executive officer of Coles to write a booklet about Coles.  Imagine if Monash University Publishing put out a booklet in which the boss of Coles wrote about how the company’s distribution of fresh fruit was an essential contribution to Australia and that, since 2010, its Ultimo store provided the best potatoes around.

Well, Now More Than Ever: Australia’s ABC is a bit like this – if anyone bothers to plough through this mini-tome which reads like it was written by a committee of bureaucrats.  Which, in fact, it was.  In the Acknowledgements section, the ABC’s managing director praises the “impact of many ABC people, and particularly my public affairs team” in putting this booklet together.  He also thanks Louise Adler who invited him to be part of this “important” series.

In the section headed “Australian Democracy”, David Anderson writes that “the federal election is always a very big deal at the ABC”.  But he makes no reference to the fact that in May 2019 the ABC’s leading political commentators – including the likes of Barrie Cassidy, Patricia Karvelas, Andrew Probyn, Fran Kelly and Laura Tingle – got the election outcome hopelessly wrong.

The ABC’s coverage of the 2019 election campaign was severely criticised by Kerry Blackburn in a study commissioned by the ABC Board. An experienced journalist, she was highly critical of the failure of anyone on the ABC TV Insiders  panel in the lead-up to the 18 May 2019 election to recognise that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a path to victory.  ABC chair Ita Buttrose attempted to prevent the release of this taxpayer funded document – but was overruled by the Senate.

Ms Blackburn contended that Insiders (executive producer Samuel Clark) should have invited columnists from The Australian  and The Spectator Australia on to the panel since some of them did not regard a Coalition loss as a certainty.  No wonder ABC management wanted to effectively censor this. And no wonder that David Anderson fails to mention the ABC’s 2019 election embarrassment in his booklet. For details of the Blackburn Report see MWD Issue 526.

In his “Australian Democracy” section, David Anderson depicts everyone who attended the demonstration at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 – which, in part, became a riot – as belonging to a “horde”. Everyone, apparently.  Sounds like Hillary Clinton’s 2016 depiction of Americans not intending to vote for her to be president as “deplorables”.

On Page 49, David Anderson maintains that the ABC is “dedicated to journalistic objectivity” and adds:

We do not accept the proposition, promoted by some, that “fair and impartial” reporting means allocating the same degree of weight to positions on the “left” or “right” of the political spectrum on any issue regardless of any gross imbalance in expertise or credibility.  On the long-term consequences of climate change, for example, the ABC will give more weight to the informed view of leading scientists working in the field than to those with no scientific knowledge but vested economic interests in fossil fuel extraction.

The ABC is a staff collective which is run on a day-to-day basis by journalists and not by managers or editors.  It would seem that Mr Anderson is unaware that the ABC runs numerous commentators on climate change who have little if any scientific knowledge – some of whom have vested economic interests in renewable energy production.  Moreover, the ABC promotes the likes of Greta Thunberg and  Al Gore – neither of whom have specialised knowledge about climate change.

Journalists singled out for praise by David Anderson include Phillip Adams,  Fran Kelly, Norman Swan and Holger Brockmann.  But no conservative is cited – as befits the public broadcaster which is a Conservative Free Zone.  David Anderson also maintains that “there is no underlying agenda with our reportage”.  This overlooks the fact that the ABC promotes various causes – a form of agenda setting.

The ABC’s managing director’s lack of self-awareness is evident when it writes at Page 67: “An Australia without the ABC would be like a person who has lost interest in their own inner life.” Groan. Imagine the reaction among the ABC’s business reporters if Coles’ chief executive officer wrote that “an Australia without Coles would be like a person who has lost interest in their own food consumption”.

According to Professor Gardner, David Anderson’s Now More Than Ever: Australia’s ABC  makes an important contribution to encouraging “informed debate about matters of great significance”. Not so. It’s just a rationalisation of the ABC by the ABC for the ABC.

David Anderson did not address any of the considered criticism of the ABC – much of which focuses on the public broadcaster’s lack of political balance and its unwillingness to readily correct mistakes. His booklet is an example of the ABCD in action – i.e. the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Denial, ABC-D.


Like many a forum for debate and discussion, Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre has been doing it tough during the last two years of pandemic.  However, as The Australian  reported recently, the good news is that the taxpayer subsidised Wheeler Centre – which describes itself as a “Victorian government agency” – has been able to put together a program for Autumn 2022.  As Venessa Francesca put it in The Australian on 17 February:

Leading American feminist writer Roxane Gay, sitcom genius Michael Schur, and Bill and Chloe Shorten are among the “audacious and attention-grabbing” line-up for the Melbourne cultural institution The Wheeler Centre’s long-awaited return to live events.

It all sounds frightfully interesting, don’t you think?  But, just like the forthcoming Adelaide Writers’ Week, it seems to be a left-wing stack, when it comes to politics and all that. Here’s a little list of Australian guests of the Wheeler Centre who will be performing in coming months:

Sophie Cunningham, Satyajit Das, Michelle de Kretser, Bill Gammage, Antony Loewenstein, Rick Morton, Bruce Pascoe, Alice Pung, Jamila Rizvi, Bill Shorten, Clare Wright and Alexis Wright.

MWD can’t find a conservative in this lot. Which indicates that, channeling the ABC, the various taxpayer subsidised festivals and centres are increasingly becoming Conservative Free Zones.


“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.


Media Watch Dog sends its best wishes to avid readers in parts of Queensland and northern NSW who have been caught up in the current devastating floods.

However, it’s timely to recall what Professor/Dr Tim Flannery said about internal water matters on 11 February 2007 – before the floods that devastated south-east Queensland in 2011 and again this year. Between 2011 and 2013, your man Flannery was chief commissioner of the Australian government’s Climate Commission.  In other words, his public and private comments had the capacity to affect the policies of Commonwealth, State, Territory and local governments at the time and into the future.

This is how the interview between Sally Sara and Tim Flannery commenced on the ABC TV Landline program on 11 February 2007 – after Comrade Sarah referred to the fact that Comrade Flannery had said that, due to climate change, “Sydney can expect to receive 60 per cent less rainfall than it does at present”.:

Sally Sara : What will it mean for Australian farmers if the predictions of climate change are correct and little is done to stop it? What will that mean for a farmer?

Professor Tim Flannery: We’re already seeing the initial impacts and they include a decline in the winter rainfall zone across southern Australia, which is clearly an impact of climate change, but also a decrease in run-off. Although we’re getting say a 20 per cent decrease in rainfall in some areas of Australia, that’s translating to a 60 per cent decrease in the run-off into the dams and rivers. That’s because the soil is warmer because of global warming and the plants are under more stress and therefore using more moisture. So even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems, and that’s a real worry for the people in the bush. If that trend continues then I think we’re going to have serious problems, particularly for irrigation.

As of this morning – some of the dams which Professor Flannery said would not fill are at the following levels:

Warragamba dam (Sydney) – 98.7 per cent

Thomson (Melbourne) – 91.6 per cent

Wivenhoe (Brisbane) – 182.9 per cent

Enoggera (Brisbane) – 201 per cent

Hinze (Gold Coast) – 125.2 per cent

Neither Tim Flannery nor the ABC has ever corrected the Flannery howler. At the time of flooding, it’s appropriate to remember this.



Believe it or not, James Curran – Professor of Modern History at Sydney University and Australian Financial Review columnist – used to be something of a Media Watch Dog  fave. But, alas, in recent times he seems to have levitated himself into the ranks of the Whateverists.  To wit, that group of commentators on China who appear to accept whatever the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing is on about with few, if any, criticisms.  You know, the likes of Mao Zedong/Zhou Enlai, Hua Guofeng, Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jingping.  Most of these Chinese leaders have had an understanding academic audience in the West – despite their somewhat differing policies.

In the AFR on Monday 21 February, your man Curran wrote a column titled “PM’s playing of China card trashes the national interest”.  This was primarily a criticism of Prime Minister Scott Morrison but it ended up with praise for John Curtin – who was Labor prime minister of Australia between 7 October 1941 and his death in office on 5 July 1945.

This is what Dr Curran (for a doctor he is) had to say about the Labor Party hero John Curtin:

The conventional wisdom is that this use of national security for domestic gain has its origins in the Cold War. That’s true, but last week’s rhetorical pyrotechnics mirror more closely those preceding the 1937 federal election. The then Labor leader, John Curtin, was desperate for a debate on national security, free of the emotional trammels that had plagued him and his party over the previous two decades, especially since the poisonous debate over the conscription referendums of 1916-17.

Those pleas fell on barren ground. A year earlier, Curtin had questioned the viability of imperial defence, expressing public doubts about Britain’s capability to come to Australia’s aid in the event of a simultaneous war in Europe and the Pacific. Never mind that Curtin’s warning proved tragically accurate when Singapore fell in February 1942: his stance attracted the charge of “disloyalty” to Britain and the Empire.

During the subsequent election campaign, then prime minister Joe Lyons depicted Curtin’s “policy of isolation from Great Britain” as “suicidal”. And he was backed by The Sydney Morning Herald, which thundered that “Mr Curtin would leave the seas open to our enemies, deprive us of the right to any succour from Great Britain and her navy, and wait for invasion to prove that a fool’s paradise is only the ante-chamber to a wise man’s hell”.

Yet, Curtin it was who shouldered national leadership in the darkest days of late 1941 and early 1942. He had restored Labor’s credibility on foreign affairs and defence. He did so by espousing a practical patriotism and by articulating an affection for the country and its wellbeing that wasn’t strangled by a Union Jack.

What a load of absolute tosh.  Sure John Curtin did a good job as Prime Minister of Australia during the Pacific War – even if he left many of the decisions about the deployment of what is now termed the Australian Defence Force to the American General Douglas McArthur, Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Theatre.

John Curtin was a pacifist during the First World War.  To some, this was a noble cause. But if the pacifist cause had succeeded during 1914-1918, then the Kaiser’s Imperial Germany would have been allowed to conquer whatever parts of Europe it wanted to acquire – Belgian and France in the West, Russia in the East and more besides.  Moreover, in 1914-1918 Germany was also a Pacific power with possessions as close to Australia as North East New Guinea – then called German New Guinea.  In short, Curtin did not wish to confront German militarism in the Pacific.

John Curtin became leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party on 1 October 1935 – succeeding James Scullin. The fact which left-wing historians don’t want to talk about is that, when Labor leader in Opposition, John Curtin opposed every attempt by the United Australia Party government under the leadership of Joseph Lyons and (after his death in office) Robert Menzies to increase Australia’s defences.  Every one.

Curtin also was cold on Australia’s reliance on Great Britain.  This overlooked the fact that, in the 1930s and early 1940s, Britain was the only nation Australia could hope to rely on to help secure its sea-lanes and, to a lesser extent, air-lanes. In his criticism of Lyons in the AFR, Curran just ignored this point.

Historian John Edwards, like James Curran, is a member of the John Curtin Fan Club.  Moreover, like Dr Edwards, Dr Curran is a harsh critic of Joseph Lyons and Robert Menzies.

Even so, a reading of John Edwards John Curtin’s War: Volume 1 (Viking, 2017) documents that Curtin opposed every attempt by the Lyons and Menzies governments to increase defence spending and the size of the Australian Army in the lead-up to Australia’s declaration of war against Germany in September 1939.  Some examples illustrate the point.

At Page 124, John Edwards had this to say about Curtin in 1936:

…obedient to the party platform, Curtin opposed reintroduction of compulsory military training, and complained of additional defence spending.  He was unwilling to propose the spending necessary to create the vastly expanded land and air forces on which Australia should rely.

And, at Page 167, John Edwards had this to say about John Curtin’s position as Opposition leader in April 1940:

Labor was still formally opposed to conscription even for home defence, still formally opposed to sending forces abroad, still isolationist in outlook. He could not take that platform to a general election. As Menzies had expected, once Britain and Germany were actually fighting Australians cheered Britain on.  It was clearly not possible [for Curtin and Labor]  to withhold support from the AIF in the Middle East.

In other words, John Curtin was forced to drop his opposition to the Second Australian Imperial Force taking the fight to Nazi Germany due to the pressure of public opinion at home. James Curran knows this.  Indeed he favourably reviewed Edwards’ book in The Australian on 26 January 2018.  That’s why Dr Curran’s “history”- as told to AFR readers last week – was just bunk.


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Until Next Time

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