GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 583
8 April 2022
* * * *
Can You Bear It? – The Sydney Writers’ Festival justifies being a leftist stack on the grounds that Jordan Peterson is unwell; The Sydney Morning Herald breathlessly reports on the fate of one Dave Sharma billboard; The Australian Press Council throws its 2019 award to Louise Milligan down the memory hole
* * * *
LA TRIOLI TAKES PRESENTER & PANELLIST ROLES ON Q&A
Gee, on 7 April, Q&A presenter Virginia Trioli seemed to do quite a bit of talking – as if she had the dual roles of presenter and panellist. It was perhaps one role too many.
Early on, discussing the Australian Labor Party’s attitude to religion, La Trioli said that “we don’t need to go back to the split in the DLP”. The reference was to the Democratic Labor Party which was formed after the Labor Split of 1955-57 and formally wound up close to half a century ago. For the record, there was no split in the DLP – but this is of little moment since few viewers would have known what the presenter was on about in this instance.
Later on, La Trioli asked Gideon Rozner of the Institute of Public Affairs whether businesswoman Gina Rinehart was “paying the piper” and your man Rozner was “simply just singing her tune”. Media Watch Dog does not recall a Q&A presenter asking, say, an employee of the leftist Australia Institute to name his or her piper.
Obviously La Trioli has not been to Nancy’s Courtesy Classes since she demanded – with the support of Labor’s Clare O’Neil – information as to who funded Rozner and “from whom” (allegedly) his “views came”. During one brief exchange, Trioli interrupted the man from the IPA on no fewer than five occasions.
It would seem that young Mr Rozner was well brought up. For example, he did not suggest that well-paid ABC presenters should declare all outside income they earn from appearing at various business functions – as compères, interviewers and the like.
For the record, Gideon Rozner – whom La Trioli implied was some kind of Gina Rinehart clone – became the hero of the essentially Green/Left Melbourne audience when he bagged Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Needless to say, Virginia Trioli did not challenge the authenticity of this particular Rozner comment or ask from whom this view came.
ABC RN BAGS AUSTRALIA’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD
Did anyone hear the pile-on against the Australian Human Rights Commissioner on RN Breakfast this morning? This will be discussed in the next issue of MWD. Suffice it is to say that the two-person panel agreed with each other as, encouraged by the presenter, they fanged both the Morrison government and Australia’s human rights record. The ABC could not find one person, not one, capable of offering a contrary view – as befits a conservative free zone. More of this next time.
THE 2022 SYDNEY WRITERS’ FESTIVAL JUSTIFIES ITS LEFTIST STACK ON THE GROUNDS THAT THE ONLY REMAINING “FIERY” POLITICAL CONSERVATIVE IN THE WORLD IS UNWELL
There was enormous interest in Media Watch Dog on 1 April when the list of participants of the 2022 Sydney Writers’ Festival was analysed. Once again, in the area of political and social comment, it is yet another leftist stack. Just like the 2020 and 2021 festivals – which also had Michael Williams as their artistic director.
As previously mentioned in MWD – or was it? – Comrade Williams has more front than Myer or Mark Foy’s (to borrow a term from half a century ago). His pitch this year is that he wants his ideas to be challenged. So he used the taxpayer funded SWF to invite along his left-of-centre ideological mates for a talk-fest where almost everyone will agree with almost everyone else on almost everything. Yawn. And almost nobody will be challenged. Groan.
Writing in her “Come Writers and Critics” column in The Australian on 2 April, the sassy Caroline Overington – who happens to be both The Australian’s literary editor and younger than Kylie Minogue – had this to say:
Not everyone is happy with the line-up for the Sydney Writers’ Festival, with one reader of the Books pages writing to say “they say they want proper debate, so where is J.K. Rowling? Where is Bari Weiss? Where is Lionel Shriver? Where is Sharri Markson with her book about Wuhan, and where is Miranda Devine, whose book about Hunter Biden is selling well in the US? One festival planner, complained to me recently that it’s difficult to get fiery debate going now that Christopher Hitchens and P J O’Rourke are dead, and Jordan Peterson hasn’t been well. But there are more than three names out there.
So how about that? An anonymous 2022 SWF planner told Ms Overington that it is difficult to get a debate going now that Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) and P.J. O’Rourke (1947- February 2022) are dead – and Jordan Peterson is unwell.
What this (taxpayer funded) SWF planner is saying is that, in recent times, there have only been three people in the world capable of engaging in a fiery debate at the Sydney Writers’ Festival and taking on its platoons of leftist authors and other leftists who may become authors – and two of them are dead. What a load of self-indulgent absolute tosh. Can You Bear It?
[Er, no. Now that you ask. It would seem that Comrade Williams and his team have convinced Mark Scott, the SWF’s chair, that the 2022 festival is once again a conservative-free-zone because there is only one conservative still extant in the world, and he is poorly. This is the kind of fudge which Nice Mr Scott accepted when he was managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief of the conservative-free-zone that is the ABC. – MWD Editor]
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD FINDS A “SNAG” IN DAVE SHARMA’S WENTWORTH CAMPAIGN DUE TO THE FATE OF ONE BILLBOARD
At the request of avid readers, Media Watch Dog will be pointing to the BIG STORIES of the May 2022 election campaign as depicted in the media.
[Are you sure there will be a House of Representatives election in May? Didn’t Niki Savva, Age and Sydney Morning Herald columnist, say on RN Breakfast on 24 January 2022 that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a “nuclear option” with respect to elections? Namely, in Ms Savva’s words, “have a half Senate election in May and a general election in September”. Perhaps you might ask Nine’s columnist whether the PM’s (alleged) cunning plan is extant. – MWD Editor.]
Here’s a really-and-truly big election story which appeared on Page 3 of the SMH on 3 April. It started like this:
The Liberals’ bid to retain the formerly blue-ribbon seat of Wentworth has hit a snag, with the local council requesting the removal of Dave Sharma’s billboard in Edgecliff. While the federal election is yet to be called, unofficial campaigning is well under way in the seat where Mr Sharma faces a high-profile challenge from independent candidate Allegra Spender, as well as Labor’s Tim Murray, and Dominic Wy Kanak from the Greens. Mr Sharma’s billboard went up in early March on the side of the Edgecliff Centre, near the train station and metres from both his and Ms Spender’s campaign offices.
What a scoop! Dave Sharma’s campaign to retain the seat of Wentworth (in Sydney’s east) for the Liberal Party at the forthcoming election has “hit a snag” by virtue of the fact that one (just one) resident has complained about a billboard and Woollahra Council has taken up the cause. Go on. The SMH reporter seems to believe that Dave Sharma’s fate in the May 2022 election could be determined by the fate of one sign on one building at Edgecliff. Can You Bear It?
THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS COUNCIL SEEMS TO HAVE SENT NEWS OF ITS 2019 PRESTIGIOUS AWARD TO LOUISE MILLIGAN DOWN THE MEMORY HOLE
There has been enormous interest in recent issues of Media Watch Dog in which it was revealed that the ABC has sent some of ABC journalist Louise Milligan’s coverage of the Cardinal George Pell case down the (taxpayer funded) memory hole.
This has been the fate of the ABC “star” reporter’s 7.30 program – which aired on 27 July 2016. The entire 30 minute program was devoted to the allegations that Pell had committed acts of historical child sexual abuse at the Eureka Swimming Pool in Ballarat in the mid-1970s and at St Patrick’s Cathedral in the mid-1990s. The Swimming Pool Case was dropped by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions for lack of evidence and Pell’s convictions with respect to St Patrick’s Cathedral were quashed by a unanimous decision of the full bench of the High Court of Australia.
What to do? Well as avid MWD readers know, the ABC has withdrawn both the video and transcript of the 7.30 program which aired on 27 July 2016 from its website. It is as if the program never went to air. It’s gone down what George Orwell called ‘the memory hole’.
And now it can be revealed that the high-powered Australian Press Council also seems to have gone into denial with respect to Louise Milligan.
On 30 August 2019, the Australian Press Council proudly announced that it had awarded Louise Milligan its 2019 Press Freedom Medal for her “major contribution to furthering the causes of free speech and freedom of the press”. The media release read in part:
Louise Milligan’s dogged investigation into criminal allegations against George Pell has had a powerful impact. In her reporting more generally, a focus on voices which may otherwise not be heard is a constant feature.
This was a contentious decision. In August 2019 the outcome of the Pell Case had not been determined – his appeal to the High Court of Australia was still to be resolved. Moreover, in the Victorian Court of Appeal, Justice Mark Weinberg QC had delivered a devastating minority judgment in favour of Pell – which demolished the prosecution’s case. At the time, Justice Weinberg was the most experienced criminal law jurist in Australia.
In any event, in its rush to judgment, the Australian Press Council gave Louise Milligan its most important award some seven months before the High Court’s decision in George Pell v The Queen. In football parlance, she was awarded the best on ground award at half time.
Guess what? The Australian Press Council’s media release of 30 August 2019 appears to no longer be on its website – despite the fact that some other of its 2019 media releases are extant.
It would seem that, like the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, the Australian Press Council has sent its 2019 praise for Ms Milligan down the memory hole. Without explanation. Which raises the question: Can You Bear It?
[I understand you have a copy of the 7.30 transcript for 27 July 2016 along with a video of the event (supplied by an avid reader). Have you thought about putting both up on the MWD website? I would give favourable consideration to any such proposal. Come to think of it, you could put the Australian Press Council’s (disappeared) media release of 30 August 2019 on your website as well. Let me know. MWD Editor.]
ABC SETTLES – BUT WILL NOT REPORT – ITS VERY OWN HISTORICAL PEDOPHILE CASE
As Media Watch Dog readers know only too well, the ABC has a record of covering up its own history of child sexual abuse. Moreover, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse did not undertake any case studies on the media – including the ABC.
The ABC has consistently failed to report that in 1975 Professor Richard Downing, then chair of the public broadcaster, said that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”. This statement took the form of a letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 July 1975. It was written in the context of the ABC Radio Lateline program which was presented by Richard Neville, a self-confessed pedophile. The late Richard Neville (1941-2016) interviewed, in the ABC’s Sydney studio, three pederasts. ABC management took no interest in the plight of the pederasts’ victims and did not report the matter to NSW Police. Subsequent ABC chairs – Professor Downing’s successors – have refused to distance the ABC from Downing’s statement but current ABC chair Ita Buttrose has made a small move in this direction. See MWD passim.
In recent times, the ABC has declined to report that former ABC producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty on 15 June 2017 to historical child sexual abuse while on ABC duties in the Gosford area in 1981. Stephens’ victim – Simon Major – was 14 years old at the time. Stephens was 34 years old. Stephens was sentenced to a year in jail but was released within six months. Stephens’ conviction was covered in the News Corp media but ignored by the ABC – in spite of the fact that the ABC covered such crimes in other institutions.
Stephens died in December 2019. At the time he was facing trial on additional charges of child sexual abuse with respect to two complainants. Stephens’ death meant that he never faced court on these matters.
Simon Major took a civil action against the ABC in April 2019. The ABC failed to report this. In recent years, MWD has sought information from the ABC about this matter – without success. Despite the fact that the ABC is a member of the Right to Know Coalition, the ABC has a habit of not revealing information when it adversely affects the ABC. Eric Abetz, a Liberal Party senator for Tasmania, asked a number of senior ABC managers in Senate Estimates about the Simon Major case over the years – but obtained little information.
The matter was finalised a couple of weeks ago. Once again, the ABC did not report in its news bulletins or elsewhere the final outcome of the civil case Simon Major v The Australian Broadcasting Corporation but buried it in Senate Estimates documents.
On 15 February 2022, Senator Abetz asked this question in Senate Estimates of ABC managing director and editor-in-chief David Anderson:
Senator Abetz: I’ve asked questions in the past in relation to Mr Stephens, the convicted paedophile. The person against whom he offended—has that case been fully settled now with the ABC, or is it ongoing?
Mr Anderson: My understanding, and I haven’t revisited that lately—I’ve been ready for you to ask that question for a while now—is that, yes, that case was settled.
Senator Abetz: And the total cost to the taxpayer?
Mr Anderson: I’m going to have to confirm on notice. I don’t want to get it wrong. It’s been a while since I looked it up.
Note that Mr Anderson did not voluntarily supply this information to Senator Abetz. Instead he had waited for an additional question from the Tasmanian senator.
On 17 March 2022 the following response was provided to Senator Abetz and also placed in Hansard:
Answer: As the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Managing Director indicated at the Budget Estimates hearing on 21 October 2020 (see Attachment A), the proceedings were settled on mutually acceptable, confidential terms, without admission of liability. As to the costs of the proceedings, the ABC confirms the costs set out in its answer to Committee Question 130 from the 2020–21 Budget Estimates. The answer stated that “The ABC’s legal fees for an external barrister were $25,960. The external solicitor costs associated with the District Court case were invoiced to the Department of Finance/Comcover for $77,910.12 inclusive of GST” (see Attachment B).
In fact, Attachment A makes no reference whatsoever to Jon Stephens’ case. And Attachment B refers to the $25,960 and $77,910.12 amounts – without making any specific reference to Jon Stephens. A somewhat unprofessional response, to be sure.
So there you have it. After a number of years, the ABC finally settled Simon Major’s civil claim for the sexual assault inflicted on him when a young teenage boy by Stephens. However, the ABC did not admit liability – despite the fact that Stephens pleaded guilty to the crime. This contrasts with the position of such ABC reporters as Louise Milligan and Sarah Ferguson who tend to regard the testimony of all other complainants as compelling. Neither Ms Milligan nor Ms Ferguson has commented on former ABC producer Jon Stephens’ offending.
As Sophie Elsworth has revealed in The Australian, the ABC has a legal department of over 20 persons. In spite of this, ABC used $103,870 of taxpayers’ money on the Simon Major civil action claim, for outside legal advice – in addition to taxpayer money presumably used to settle the civil claim, the details of which will remain confidential.
It is not clear why the ABC took so long – and was responsible for spending so much taxpayers’ money – to settle a civil case with respect to a criminal assault by an ABC adult employee on an ABC underage employee concerning which the pedophile Jon Stephens pleaded guilty.
According to the Melbourne-based ABC-watcher William Thompson, if you go on to ABC News Online and enter “Jon Stephens” or “Simon Major” into the search engine there are no relevant hits, not one. It’s a cover-up – which none of the ABC journalists who present as investigative reporters are willing to cover. In other words, an example of the ABC in the public-has-no-right-to-know mode and in the business of self-interested censorship.
SPEERSY INTERRUPTS JOSH FRYDENBERG ON 27 OCCASIONS
Media Watch Dog has listened to its readers and heard the cry: “Whatever happened to MWD’s “Interrupter of the Week” award? It’s a good question. The problem is that for MWD to hand out a gong there has to be a contender. And, alas, in recent weeks there has been an absence of talent in this regard.
It being Hangover Time on Sunday 3 April, as is his wont, Jackie’s (male) co-owner tuned into the ABC TV Insiders program. Early up, David (“Oh yes, I’m the great interrupter”) Speers interviewed Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. The good news is that Speersy, as he likes to be called, didn’t disappoint.
In a stunning performance, your man Speers interrupted the Treasurer on no fewer than 27 occasions. This was a considerable step up from 27 March when Labor’s Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers was the Insiders interview talent. On this occasion, Speersy interrupted Chalmers only on 15 occasions. In other words, the Treasurer received close to twice the interruptions that the shadow treasurer had to handle.
So, well done Speersy. And thanks for firing up this segment of MWD again.
David Speers – Media Interrupter of the Week.
MARK HUMPHRIES TAKES A (BRIEF) BREAK FROM COALITION-BASHING
Regular 7:30 viewers must have been shocked when, on Thursday 31 March, the program’s self-described satirist Mark Humphries offered up a sketch critical of the Federal Labor Party. Usually, the allegedly satirical sketches cooked up by Humphries and his co-writer Evan Williams are aimed at either the Federal or NSW Coalition governments.
The sketch was inspired by the Labor Party “parachuting in” businessman and former Labor staffer Andrew Charlton to run for the Western Sydney seat of Parramatta, despite Charlton recently having acquired a $16 Million mansion in leafy Bellevue Hill in Sydney’s east.
It turned out to be one of the stronger efforts Humphries & Williams have produced since being hired by 7:30. Humphries plays Garry White, the ‘Local’ Labor Candidate for the fictional Western Sydney seat of Scrum. Humphries’ characters are inevitably smug, clueless and unlikable and for once these traits made sense for the sketch. The co-writers even managed to come up with a good joke:
Garry White: The idea that some kind of backroom factional deal has allowed me to land in this safe seat is just absurd. Besides this isn’t a safe seat at all. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen some very scary looking teenagers around here.
Apparently, when not forcing themselves to churn out Liberal-bashing sketches, Humphries & Williams are capable of at least approximating comedy. Alas, they seemingly do not have the self-awareness to realise this. A week later during the 7 April episode of 7:30, they returned with a dreary sketch about the upcoming Federal election. This time Humphries plays an election analyst, a thinly veiled excuse to offer up a series of incredibly weak jokes about the election. Here is a representative example:
Mark Humphries: In the beachside electorate of Thong we can see 31 per cent of voters are expected to rock up in the polling booth in their speedos, 58 per cent in a wetsuit and 11 per cent, well they’re just going to let it all hang out.
The joke here is that apparently if there was a beachside electorate named Thong, then the residents of that electorate would apparently all vote after coming straight from the beach. And although most would vote in their speedos and wetsuits, some of them would be naked. Perhaps in future 7:30’s crack satirical team could write some jokes based on the actual names of real electorates?
Here is another attempt at humour from the same sketch:
Mark Humphries: As for name recognition – 94 per cent of Australians are aware of ScoMo but at this stage, 72 per cent of Australians still believe Albanese is a brand of mid-tier prosciutto.
On Friday morning Comrade Humphries stopped by RN Breakfast to chat with Patricia Karvelas. They were joined by Charles Firth, the only one of the Chaser Boys (average age 48½) to not have moved on to other things. Let’s go to the transcript:
Charles Firth: But I have a bit of breaking news, that I heard from the [Chaser] interns this morning. Which is that, according to Sky News the election has already happened.
Mark Humphries: [laughing]
Charles Firth: And the Libs have won. So, and I think it’s really unfair, the gall of Anthony Albanese to be saying that there should be another election is just outrageous. When he lost fair and square.
Mark Humphries: [laughing].
Patricia Karvelas: Ahhhh. Funny. Mark?
Mark Humphries: I’ve got nothing on that. [laughing] Just let Charles run.
Evidently PK could not even manage a fake laugh, though your man Humphries seemed to find the whole thing hilarious. Later in the interview Firth reveals that he and another writer recently needed an entire day to write a single joke about Anthony Albanese. Perhaps he could borrow Humphries’ fascinating observation that Albanese is an Italian word and therefore could also be the name of a kind of Italian food.
PATRICIA KARVELAS AND HER GUEST PROFESSOR JOTZO AT ODDS OVER THE IMMEDIATE CAUSE OF THE RECENT STORMS ON NSW’s EAST COAST
This is how the eco-catastrophist and presenter of ABC Radio National Breakfast Patricia Karvelas introduced her guest Professor Frank Jotzo on 5 April – following the storms which lashed Sydney the previous day:
Patricia Karvelas: It’s not what you’re used to seeing. Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach with no sand as huge swells lashed Sydney and swallowed the beach whole. This, on the back of disastrous flooding in New South Wales and Queensland, means many Australians are experiencing the effects of climate change firsthand.
And this is how the interview with Professor Jotzo – who was the lead author of the IPPC’s working group report on the mitigation of climate change concluded:
Patricia Karvelas: We’ve had fires rip through parts of the country two years ago, and now some states are facing devastating destruction from flash flooding and coastal erosion. Will these events become more frequent?
Frank Jotzo: Climatic change is associated with changes in weather pattern and also more frequent extreme events. It is difficult to attribute any particular extreme weather event to climate change, but the frequency of those events will increase.
It seems that Comrade Karvelas is blissfully unaware that similar storms lashed Sydney and more besides in May 1974 – almost half a century ago – during a previous La Nina weather event.
So at the commencement of the interview PK (as she likes to be called) declared that the April 2022 storms in Sydney were due to climate change. Yet, at the end of the interview, Frank Jotzo declared that this was not necessarily so.
As avid readers are well aware, a certain William (Bill) Thompson – who identifies as the ABC’s Southbank Correspondent – set up the “Outside Insiders” video segment some years ago. This is the print edition of the Bill Thompson initiative.
DAVID CROWE’S BELATED RECOGNITION OF KAREN MIDDLETON’S STORY
On 2 April, The Saturday Paper ran a lead story by Karen Middleton titled “`Actually a Moslem’: The true story of Morrison’s ruthless preselection”. It told the story of how Prime Minister Scott Morrison allegedly gained pre-selection for the safe Liberal Party seat of Cook in 2007 on account of a racial attack on Michael Towke, a pre-selection rival. The words “allege” or “alleged” were used on four occasions. The reporter also cited statutory declarations signed in 2016 concerning the alleged events of 2007 by Towke and one other. This is not much of an evidentiary base to launch such an attack on the Prime Minister’s character.
On 3 April, the Sun-Herald ran a story by David Crowe titled “How Michael Towke’s brutal takedown came back to bite Scott Morrison”. It made no reference to Middleton’s article in The Saturday Paper on 2 April but referred to an interview with Mr Towke on the night of Saturday 2 April conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
On Insiders on Sunday 3 April, the matter was discussed at length by panellists David Crowe (Nine Newspapers), Phil Coorey (Australian Financial Review) and Laura Tingle (ABC). No one referred to Middleton’s article. Only your man Coorey had fresh information about the issue.
However, when it came to the final comments section of the program, Crowe felt the need for some (belated) clarification as to a key source of the Morrison/Towke story. Let’s go to the transcript:
David Crowe: The other shout out I want to do is to Karen Middleton, who wrote about the Michael Towke affair in The Saturday Paper. Sometimes these things are a wild ride in the media, trying to track down people to speak out about events that happened a long time ago. And she got there – and, uh, well done.
Sure. Well done – and all that. The acknowledgement of Karen Middleton’s story was (very) late. But better late than never – as the saying goes.
Revisiting a 2021 non-story about Pfizer offering “millions” of vaccines to Australia in 2020
There was enormous interest in last week’s Documentation segment discussing a 28 March 2022 report by 7:30 concerning emails from May 2020 between Health Minister Greg Hunt and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy. Following on from that it is worth revisiting a political controversy from last year which involved a related group of emails.
On 8 September 2021 Federal Labor released a series of emails from June 2020 between Pfizer and the Federal Health department. One of the emails, sent by Pfizer on 30 June 2020 contained the following claim:
We have the potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020, subject to technical success and regulatory approvals, then rapidly scale up to produce hundreds of millions of doses in 2021.
Documents released today confirm that Australians are locked down because the Morrison-Joyce Government didn’t think it was a priority to meet with Pfizer last year.
That’s despite Pfizer seeking to get millions of doses to Australia in 2020.https://t.co/DvhtRqglG5
— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) September 8, 2021
Labor claimed that Pfizer had offered “millions of doses by the end of 2020” and the story was widely reported throughout the Australian media and even appeared in The New York Times. Health Minister Greg Hunt rebutted the claim, pointing out that the Pfizer reference to millions of doses concerned their projected global production. This was obviously correct as Pfizer also referred to hundreds of millions of doses in 2021, enough for the entire Australian population to be vaccinated many times over.
Nevertheless, the term “millions of doses” appeared prominently in coverage of the controversy. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian both chose to include the term within their headlines. The Sydney Morning Herald did at least explain that the quote was in reference to global capacity early in the article. The Guardian chose to bury that explanation in the final paragraph.
Interestingly, on 6 October 2021 the New Zealand National Party attempted to copy the Australian Labor Party’s success in creating a controversy around Pfizer procurement. National Party COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop revealed an email sent by Pfizer to the New Zealand government, the email contained the following quote:
We have the potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020, subject to technical success and regulatory approvals, then rapidly scale up to produce hundreds of millions of doses in 2021.
Especially canny readers will notice this quote is identical to the one contained within the email to the Australian government. Unsurprisingly this email was sent on 30 June 2020, the exact same day as the email to the Australian government. To the credit of the New Zealand media this identical revelation appears to have caused far less controversy across the Tasman.
Of course, the New Zealand media had the advantage of the email to Australia already being public information and so could more easily identify that the quote about millions of doses was just a standard Pfizer talking point. How could the Australian media have known that this was not a secret offer by Pfizer to provide Australia with millions of doses in 2020?
Well, if you Google the phrase “we have the potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020” you can find a blog post on the website Linkedin made by Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer. Within this post you can find the following claim:
We have the potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020, subject to technical success and regulatory approvals, and then rapidly scale up to produce hundreds of millions of doses in 2021.
This time the quote is very slightly different, with an extra “and” appearing after the second comma. And when was this article posted? 20 May 2020. Over a month prior to the emails to Australia and New Zealand, and over a year prior to the Australian political controversy around a supposed offer of millions of doses to Australia.
HENDO CORRECTS ERROR RE MATTHEW (“YAWN”) RICKETSON
As avid readers are well aware, Jackie’s (male) co-owner is willing to correct errors or make clarifications. Following Sydney radio personality John Laws, Hendo calls such moment deliberate mistakes. But mistakes, nevertheless. In the April Fool’s Day edition of MWD, the following comment appeared concerning the recently published piss-poor book, by academic Matthew Ricketson and academic Patrick Mullins, titled Who Needs the ABC? (Scribe Publications, 2022):
This truly boring chapter [Chapter 6] is so boring it would seem to have been written by Comrade (“Yawn”) Ricketson. After all, young Mr Mullins has written lively books on former prime minister William McMahon and on the publication of Portnoy’s Complaint in Australia. Whereas his co-author specialises in, well, sludge. By the way, your man Mullins has addressed The Sydney Institute, where he was treated with courtesy by Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous). Comrade Ricketson was invited to address the Institute, but the invitation must have got lost.
This is an error. In fact, the invitation was sent and accepted and your man Ricketson spoke at The Sydney Institute on 18 May 2012. Hendo forgot. Apologies. For lots more, see this week’s (hugely popular) “Correspondence” segment – where a challenge is issued to the groves-of-academe comrades.
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.
MATTHEW RICKETSON AND GERARD HENDERSON re WHO NEEDS THE ABC? (SCRIBE PUBLICATIONS, 2022)
As those who have read this week’s “John-Laws-Style-Deliberate Mistake” segment will be aware, in MWD Issue 582 it was stated that Deakin University academic Matthew (“Yawn”) Ricketson, who has co-authored Who Needs the ABC? , had not replied to an invitation to address The Sydney Institute some years ago. In fact, your man Ricketson accepted the invitation and did address the Institute. This lead to the following correspondence:
Matthew Ricketson to Gerard Henderson – 4 April 2022
Hi Gerard, can you please give me your email address.
Gerard Henderson to Matthew Ricketson – 4 April 2022
Good morning Professor Ricketson. How lovely to hear from you after all these years. My email address is xxxxx.
Matthew Ricketson to Gerard Henderson – 4 April 2022
Thanks, Gerard. I’ve sent you an email.
Matthew Ricketson to Gerard Henderson – 4 April 2022
I’m emailing about the item in issue 582 of Media Watch Dog about the book Patrick Mullins and I have co-authored, Who Needs the ABC? Why taking it for granted is no longer an option. I’ll refrain from commenting on the content of the item – everyone is entitled to their opinion. But not their facts.
You write that an invitation to me to appear at the Sydney Institute must have been lost in the mail. In fact, you not only sent me one a decade ago, but I accepted and spoke at the institute in May 2012. If you want to refresh your memory, look at issues 143 and 145 of Media Watch Dog where you and I exchanged emails about an item you wrote following the talk. I would appreciate it if you could correct the record.
That said, Patrick and I would be happy to come to the Sydney Institute and talk about our book Who Needs the ABC?
Gerard Henderson to Matthew Ricketson – 4 April 2022
I have received your email sent today. I will forward a considered response in a couple of days when I have read more of your Who Needs The ABC?
Unlike the ABC, Media Watch Dog is always willing to correct errors and publish clarifications. Consequently, I will record in MWD next Friday (Issue 583) that you addressed The Sydney Institute in May 2012 – along with Gail Hambly.
The problem is that your speech was so forgettable that I forgot it. Apologies for this. Unlike Patrick Mullins’ appearance at the Institute – which I remember.
Keep Morale High.
PS: By the way, re the comment in your email that “everyone is entitled to their opinion; but not their facts” Yawn. This is one of the leading cliches of our time – don’t you think?
Matthew Ricketson to Gerard Henderson – 6 April 2022
Thanks for your reply.
Are you planning to publish this email correspondence between us on Friday or just a correction of the error?
Gerard Henderson to Matthew Ricketson – 8 April 2022
Good afternoon Mr Ricketson
I refer to your email of Wednesday evening. Apologies for the delay in responding but I have been very busy of late.
The answer to your question is: Yes, MWD will contain a correction of the error along with correspondence which puts the matter in context – which continues below.
Since last Friday, I have had time to read large sections of your (somewhat boring) book. I was falling asleep for a while – but ploughed on with a little help from a Gin & Tonic or two. Concerning Who Needs the ABC?, I make the following comments:
- The main reference to me appears in Chapter 6 which bears a somewhat poorly expressed title “Identifying Bias Everywhere But Yourself: The ABC and the media watchdoggers”. I assume that this is some kind of reference to my Media Watch Dog blog.
The first sentence of the first paragraph equates the sentence “The ABC is funded by taxpayers, so its news and current affairs must be held to a higher standard than the rest of the media” with “the opening lines of a Jane Austen novel: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged…’”. Somewhat hyperbolic, don’t you think?
Who Needs The ABC? is a turgid work replete with dull writing and excessively long paragraphs. I am surprised that a talented writer like Patrick Mullins signed on as your co-author. However, at Page 95, you and your co-author manage to be concise with reference to Piers Akerman, Tim Blair, Chris Mitchell, Andrew Bolt and myself. You write:
Rarely will you find these members of the “commentocracy” writing anything positive about the ABC. Their resting face is by turns scabrous (Akerman), sneering (Blair), sour (Henderson), scathing (Mitchell) and sanctimonious (Bolt).
Not one of these single-word put-downs is supported by examples of writing which is either “scabrous” or “sneering” or “sour” or “scathing” or “sanctimonious”. But there you go.
- By the way, at Page 97 you write:
…there is little evidence that ordinary members of the [ABC] audience are particularly exercised about the “left-leaning groupthink” that Gerard Henderson et al believe infests the ABC.
This comment is intellectually dishonest. I have not argued consistently that members of the ABC audience “are particularly exercised” about the lack of political balance on the ABC. Indeed, over the years, the ABC has lost many of its politically conservative viewers/listeners/readers – and, in some cities of Australia, the public broadcaster has become the left speaking for the left. However, my focus has been on what the ABC puts to air.
In your Acknowledgements section, you write that a certain “Ken Haley read through a decade of Media Watch Dog for us…’. Yet you, Patrick Mullins and your man Haley do not address my consistent criticism of the taxpayer funded broadcaster over the years which is this:
ABC is a Conservative Free Zone which does not have one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. Not one.
Sure, at Page 86 you quote my comments about the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone – but you claim that my description of the ABC:
…excludes Radio National programs Counterpoint (hosted by former Howard-government minister Amanda Vanstone) and Between the Lines (hosted by Tom Switzer, executive director of libertarian think tank the Centre for Independent Studies).
If you had read my work – or if you had asked Ken Haley – you would know that I had constantly said and written that neither Counterpoint nor Between the Lines is a prominent ABC program. Even former ABC TV Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes – whom you quote frequently in your book – agrees with my assessment on this. Writing in The Age on 5 April 2016, Jonathan Holmes had this to say:
The leftiness of ABC radio output is doubly problematic when it comes to Radio National. It may not have a huge audience, but it doesn’t have commercial competition. No other radio channel in the nation tries to cover serious issues in a serious way, for a national audience. And yet, if I were a supporter of Tony Abbott, or even of John Howard, I would feel that the vast bulk of RN’s output was not for me.
For decades, Coalition senators have been asking ABC managing directors at estimates hearings: “Where is the right-wing Phillip Adams?” The ABC’s answer has been to give half an hour here and there on Radio National to the likes of Amanda Vanstone and Tom Switzer – neither of them more than mildly right of centre. Frankly, it is little better than mockery.
In this respect, Mr Holmes is not in denial. Only Mr Mullins and yourself.
You and Patrick Mullins know very well what are prominent ABC programs. Namely, the main ABC News bulletins plus ABC Radio’s AM, Conversations, The World Today, PM along with Mornings and Drive programs. Plus ABC TV’s News Breakfast, The Drum, 7.30, Insiders, Media Watch and Q&A.
If the ABC has one conservative with respect to the prominent programs listed above – you and your co-author should be able to name such a person or persons. But you have not. In short, like so many of the Friends of the ABC tribe, you are into denial – once again.
- The problem with Who Needs the ABC? is that it is essentially a book written by ABC barrackers for ABC barrackers. The Acknowledgements section contains the following comment:
…we know only too well that journalists have reported extensively on the ABC and made important disclosures. Among the many, we would particularly like to acknowledge the reporting and analysis of Andrew Dodd, Jonathan Holmes, Amanda Meade, Denis Muller, Kerry O’Brien and Margaret Simons…. Thank you to those who read the manuscript and provided valuable comments: Andrew Dodd, Emma Dawson, Lisa Millar and Denis Muller. Thanks also to colleagues and friends with whom we’ve discussed the ABC over the years: Peter Browne, Paul Chadwick, Phillip Chubb (sadly no longer with us), Cait McMahon, Katharine Murphy, Margaret Simons, Rod Tiffen and Daniel Ziffer.
Not a conservative among this lot. Clearly you and Patrick Mullins are talking with those who agree with you. All of the above are friends of the ABC – including comrades from The Guardian, as befits The Guardian/ABC Axis. According to your own account, you did not speak to, or correspond with, one critic of the ABC. Not one. And you argue in your book about the need for “balance”.
- At Page 96, you describe me as “obsessive”. Shock, horror. How could anyone have come to this conclusion? Then you add:
For someone whose mantra is the need for balance on the ABC, these figures [that Henderson mentioned the ABC 987 times in a decade of his weekly MWD] reveal a decidedly imbalanced focus of attention. To say he [Henderson] is a Media Watch Dog with a bone is simply accurate.
You seem to overlook the fact that my Media Watch Dog is a work of opinion. As is my newspaper column – which Who Needs The ABC? all but ignores – but which has been published, variously, in The Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Weekend Australian since 1987. Also, as explained, the ABC is great for my MWD blog in that it provides such terrific copy. If the ABC was not the voice of the Green/Left, I would have to look elsewhere every week for additional material.
Whether or not I am politically balanced with respect to the need for debate and discussion is best judged by what happens at The Sydney Institute. Over the last decade or so, guest speakers have included Tony Abbott, Bob Brown, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull. You and Patrick Mullins have spoken at the Institute – as have three out of the pro-ABC quartet whose endorsements appear on the cover of your book. Namely Mark Scott, Judith Brett and Clare Wright. Isn’t that balanced enough for you? The point is that The Sydney Institute provides for political diversity but the ABC does not. The Sydney Institute does not have opinions – nor should the ABC.
- Now, you tell me that you and “Patrick would be happy to come to the Sydney Institute and talk about….Who Needs The ABC?”. Fancy that.
Pray tell me – why would you want to do this, in view of your claim that the Institute’s executive director is “sour” and “unbalanced”. Moreover, why would you want to spend an hour at The Sydney Institute in such (allegedly) unpleasant company? There must surely be a better way to spend your time.
I’ll do a deal. I will give you another invitation to address the Institute if you can arrange for some of your ABC besties, who run prominent programs, to invite me to talk about my recently published book Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt. The ABC has “cancelled” me with respect to this book and more besides. Frank Brennan and Keith Windschuttle have experienced a similar fate concerning their considered and well-balanced books on the Pell Case. And you reckon that the ABC is “balanced”. Turn it up.
Over and out. I’m off for a Gin & Tonic.
Lotsa love – to you and Patrick.
* * * *
Until next time – after Easter.