GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 628
24 March 2023
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THE ABC’S NON-COMMUNICATING COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT SHORTLISTED FOR MUMBRELLA’S MEDIA COMMUNICATIONS GONG
It has just been drawn to Media Watch Dog’s attention that the shortlist for the 2023 Mumbrella CommsCon Awards is out. Jackie’s (male) co-owner remembers when the word “communications” was extant. It seems to have been replaced, in the business world at least, by “Comms”.
But MWD digresses. Thanks to the avid reader who drew attention to the category “Best PR Team of the Year: In-House” in the Mumbrella Awards. Here’s the shortlist:
Best PR Team of the Year: In-House
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Australian Wildlife Conservancy
How about that? As far as MWD can work it out, the ABC’s PR team is based in its Communications Division – headed by Nick Leys with Sally Jackson as “communications lead” for ABC News, Analysis and Investigations.
What’s notable about the ABC Comms team is that it doesn’t communicate – it is well-known for “No comment” responses or even no comment at all.
As to PR – well the ABC has had a few publication disasters of late. There were the flawed documentaries on the Luna Park Ghost Train Fire plus the murder of Juanita Nielsen. Then ABC managing director David Anderson saw fit to counsel/caution the likes of Laura Tingle, Patricia Karvelas and Phillip Adams for unfortunate social media comments.
Then the ABC stepped up to pay for Louise Milligan’s personal defamation expenses.
Then there were the George Pell and Christian Porter reports – shortly after which Mr Anderson told the Senate Estimates that the ABC published accusations against people which met no standard of proof – not the criminal (beyond reasonable doubt) or civil (balance of probabilities) benchmarks.
And the good folk at Mumbrella have short-listed the ABC to win its Best PR Team of The Year glittering prize. Really.
GEOFFREY ROBERTSON’S HOWLERS ON THE 1967 REFERENDUM
Media Watch Dog’s avid readers will be delighted – absolutely delighted – to know that the somewhat pompous Geoffrey Robertson AO KC (aka GR AO KC) has been awarded the prestigious “Media Fool of the Week” gong for the period ending 24 March. See the segment below – which this week was judged by Jackie (Dip. Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute). Your man Robertson scored for a truly stunning performance on the 20 March ABC TV’s Insiders program.
Thanks to the avid reader who drew attention to the fact that Q+A on 20 March extended beyond that part which went to air – and, consequently, is not included in the ABC’s transcript of the event or on the Iview video. So, this is very much a MWD exclusive – taken from Twitter.
The Q+A time extension included a discussion about whose face should be on the $5 note. Presenter Stan Grant threw the question from an audience member to GR AO KC who immediately declared: “King Charles is a very fine fellow; I know him.” Wow! But your man Robertson believes that the King’s image should not be on the Australian $5 note. Fair enough.
Discussion soon turned to the forthcoming referendum on The Voice. Geoffrey (“I know the King”) Robertson looked back in happiness to the 1967 Referendum concerning “Aboriginals”. Stan Grant stated, correctly, that this was the most successful referendum passed in Australia. Now let’s go to the transcript:
Geoffrey Robertson: It was indeed. … 91 per cent of Australians voted to change the Constitution to allow Aboriginals to vote and to be counted as Australians. It’s incredible it took till 1967.
This is hopelessly wrong – but the speaker was not corrected by Stan Grant. The 1967 referendum – in so far as it referred to Indigenous Australians – sought to give the Commonwealth power to make laws with respect to Aboriginals wherever they lived in Australia – previously this had been prohibited under Section 51 (xxvi) of the Constitution. It also sought to make it possible to include Aboriginals in the national census – previously this was prohibited by Section 127.
All Indigenous Australians were citizens of Australia by no later than 1948 – in other words, contrary to Robertson, they were regarded as Australians before 1967. Moreover, some Indigenous Australians had the right to vote at around the turn of the 20th century – in other words, contrary to Robertson, they were entitled to vote before 1967.
In the 2021 edition of Who’s Who in Australia, GR AO KC refers to himself as “Justice Geoffrey Robertson” and cites his various degrees as “BA, LLB (Syd), BCL (Oxon), Hon LLD (Syd)” and advises that he took silk in 1988.
Yet your man Robertson flashed legal ignorance of the Constitution – without correction on Q+A. Can You Bear It?
ABC ELECTION ANALYST ANTONY GREEN OVERLOOKS THE FACT THAT SOME DID FORESEE A TRUMP VICTORY IN 2016
Lotsa thanks to the avid reader from Melbourne’s Sandalista Land at Merri-Bek (near Moreland) who drew Media Watch Dog’s attention to Peter FitzSimons’ “5 Minutes with Fitz” column in Nine’s Sun-Herald on 12 March 2023. On this occasion, the Red Bandannaed One interviewed Antony Green, who is the ABC’s chief election analyst.
Here’s your man Green’s answer to this question by Fitz – it is not in the print edition but was published in the online version:
Peter FitzSimons: Did you see Trump’s election win in 2016 coming or not?
Antony Green: No, nobody did. Upsets like that are rare. I’ve done something like 90 results in Australian elections. There would be half a dozen which were surprises. [Paul] Keating’s victory in 1993, [Jeff] Kennett’s defeat in 1999, and [Scott] Morrison’s victory in 2019 … to some extent.
What a load of absolute tosh. Quite a few Australians predicted that Donald J Trump would prevail over Hillary Clinton at the November 2016 United States presidential election. Including Rowan Dean and Mark Latham (who was then on the Sky News’ Outsiders program) along with Liberal Party operative Teena McQueen. Then there were others who did not regard his victory as an “upset”.
For his part, Jackie’s (male) co-owner holds to the philosophy that it’s unwise to make predictions – especially about the future. But Hendo said this in his concluding comment on the ABC TV Insiders’ program on 11 September 2016 – much to the annoyance of presenter Barrie Cassidy. Let’s go to the transcript:
Gerard Henderson: I am no fan of Donald Trump. But the dismissive attitude of many Australian journalists to Trump overlooks one central fact. If the Republicans hold all the States they won four years ago under Mitt Romney and if Trump wins, say, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania he will be president next year.
Barrie Cassidy: No chance.
But it happened. Trump won Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania plus Wisconsin and Michigan. And your man Green reckons that “nobody” foresaw Donald Trump’s election victory.
Can You Bear It?
NINE’S THOMAS MITCHELL WRITES ABOUT BABIES, DOGS, CATS AND, YES, HIMSELF
As avid readers know, MWD just loves it when journalists/commentators write about the subject they know best. Namely themselves. So, Jackie’s (male) co-owner was delighted to read Thomas Mitchell’s column titled “I’m sorry but your ‘fur baby’ is not the same as my child”.
It turned out your man Mitchell, a culture reporter for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, has a baby boy. Well done, Tom. And Comrade Mitchell doesn’t like dogs. It’s not that he hates dogs. It’s just he’s “not a dog person”. But he does hate cats. Groan.
The father of one (baby) was sitting in a café somewhere or other when an “older woman” approached his table and described baby Mitchell as “cute”. Then the said woman introduced a canine named Willow and asked Mitchell if he would like to pat said mutt. The answer was in the negative. Groan again.
Then a “second lady with a dog” arrived on the scene and – you get the picture. She was told that he was not a dog person. Yawn. It went on and on until winding up with this piece of written sludge:
Ultimately, though, I think we must focus on the larger picture. We don’t have to agree to get along; it’s fine to be a dog person or a non-dog person. The thing I really don’t get are those who don’t like babies. Like, who wouldn’t want to hold my baby?
Which raises the question: Can You Bear It?
ABC’S SENSITIVITY TO CRITICISM SEES THE EXIT OF PETER FRAY FROM CRIKEY
The word is that Peter Fray, the one-time editor-in-chief of the left-wing Crikey newsletter, has been retrenched. As MWD readers will recall, Comrade Fray is reported to have got somewhat tired and emotional at the Walkley Awards held at the International Conference Centre at Sydney’s Darling Harbour last November. The matter was discussed at some length in MWD on 2 December 2022 (Issue 616).
It turned out that Crikey’s editor was somewhat miffed that his team had not won the Gold Walkley for its reporting on the issue of public trustee agencies. Instead, the gong had gone to the ABC Four Corners program for a report on the same topic, which aired somewhat after the Crikey report was published.
It was, after all, a journalist dinner. So it came as no surprise that Comrade Fray decided to interrupt the self-indulgent speakers with the cry “What about Crikey?”. MWD understands that your man Fray’s public intervention relieved the boredom of the evening. But Justin Stevens, the ABC’s Director of News, took offence and demanded an apology from Crikey’s management for the slight on Four Corners. This was, in turn, provided. In the meantime, your man Fray hit the Mea Culpa button – as in “Through my fault/through my fault/through my most grievous fault” mode and apologise profusely for even implying that perhaps the Crikey report was more Award-Worthy than the Four Corners one.
Alas, no apology appears to have been good enough – despite Mr Fray’s comment that his behaviour on the night “totally unwarranted, inappropriate and out of character”. This included his issuing of a tweet on the night which declared “Dear ABC, you are a fraud”. It is not clear how many likes this received before it was taken down in some haste by Fray himself.
Peter Fray then took time off to reflect on his behaviour. And now – four months later – the word is that he has been retrenched.
What is the media world coming to? – MWD hears readers cry. A bloke gets a bit tired and emotional and challenges the judges’ decision. He then repents and spends time in sackcloth and ashes – only for news to emerge later that he has been retrenched for having offended some ABC folk.
Jackie’s (male) co-owner is of the view that the likes of the ABC and Crikey are taking themselves too seriously. If such good behaviour requirements pervaded the media of old, there would have been few journalists around to win Walkley Awards. Can You Bear It?
ABC STRIKERS DEMONSTRATE THEIR REVOLUTIONARY FERVOUR BY GOING TO WORK IN ORDER TO GO ON STRIKE
What happens when the toiling (journalistic) masses of the professional kind close their computers and go on strike? The answer is, er, not much at all if the strike at the ABC on Wednesday 22 March is anything to go by.
The taxpayer funded public broadcaster is a unionised worksite. It was planned that ABC workers in the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) would go on strike on 22 March. But the MEAA reached some kind of deal with management for increased pay and improved conditions and abandoned industrial action, for the moment at least. This left the CPSU alone to man – perhaps “person” is the appropriate word – the barricades.
As it turned out, production staff on the programs presented by Patricia Karvelas (Radio National Breakfast) and Michael Rowland/Lisa Millar (ABC TV News Breakfast) were disrupted for a while. But it is not clear if anyone noticed that they were listening to/viewing fill-in programs.
The union bosses at the CPSU instructed their ABC members who were working at home along these lines: “For God’s sake – get out of your PJs and turn up at the ABC studio today, wearing red if possible!!” As Clarissa Bye reported in The Daily Telegraph (22 March), the CPSU’s precise message to its ABC members was as follows:
Come into the office on Wednesday and wear RED so that union members are visible. Taking action if working from home is less likely to be noticed or effective. Attached signage can also be displayed in workplace too.
The Communist Party of Australia was wont to defend the lack of strikes in the workers’ paradises (read communist dictatorships) by claiming “You can’t strike against yourself”. The CPSU’s message is: “You can’t strike in your pyjamas” – or something like that.
On 23 March, The Sydney Morning Herald carried a photo of British socialist folk-singer Billy Bragg, in a red top, singing The Internationale or some such to around 30 strikers – some of whom were dressed in red. It was not quite Australia’s miners’ strike of 1949 – but at least the assembled comrades had made it out of bed and got to work in time to strike – even if it was a, well, motley occasion.
JON FAINE LECTURES READERS THAT ONLY ABC JOURNOS WORK IN JOBS WHICH PAY LESS THAN WHAT THEY COULD EARN ELSEWHERE
Did anyone read Jon Faine’s column in The Sunday Age on 19 March about the ABC – his former employer? It commenced: “There are few things as sad and silly as a retired person trying to tell their successor how to do their job – but here goes.” And he went. Whereupon, your man Faine threw the switch to sad and silly and told the ABC management about how to handle the Albanese government, ABC staff and more besides. However, Jackie’s (male) co-owner was touched, profoundly touched, by this comment by Comrade Faine:
An embarrassing ABC secret is that Aunty survives on the unpaid overtime of the staff. The commitment of program makers to the output and the audience is absolute. … Just about everyone is paid well under industry rates. Two of my highly experienced former colleagues have recently got new jobs elsewhere with immediate pay increases well over 50 per cent. The talent drain is endless. Long-term ABC staff forgo much better pay elsewhere in the media in exchange for the cachet of working for the public broadcaster.
Turn it up. Your man Faine seems to believe that only ABC staff work “unpaid overtime” because they like their job. Many do this in the public and private sectors. Moreover, no one has to work at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. Many people who could earn more in alternative employment work for less because they are committed to their jobs. Why should ABC types be praised for such a decision?
It would appear that the former ABC presenter believes that only the pure at heart work at the ABC. Hence his support for the decision by “loyal ABC staff to down tools unless structural concerns about pay and conditions are addressed”. This despite the fact that many employees in the commercial media are experiencing tough times, while ABC types want more money from taxpayers.
Clearly your man Faine spent too much time within the ABC bubble in the inner-city studio in Melbourne’s Southbank.
THE 2023 SYDNEY WRITERS’ FESTIVAL – STARRING BARRIE CASSIDY, NIKI SAVVA, LAURA TINGLE, KATHARINE MURPHY PLUS SIMON HOLMES À COURT BUT NOT ONE POLITICAL CONSERVATIVE
There was enormous interest in the 17 March issue of Media Watch Dog which ran a list of Australians who will appear as individual speakers at the 2023 Sydney Writers’ Festival. It will take place between 22 and 28 May. MWD took this information from the SWF’s website on 17 March. In short, the 2023 SWF is (yet) another leftist stack. MWD could not find one political conservative on the program – which is replete with leftist and left-of-centre types. In other words, the 2023 SWF is a conservative free zone.
This is another instance when a band of lefties and left-of-centre types get together and acquire a load of taxpayers’ money and proceed to use it by inviting their leftist and left-of-centre ideological comrades to a get together at an intellectual love-in where almost everyone agrees with almost everyone else on almost everything.
The core funders of this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival are the NSW government and the City of Sydney – i.e. NSW state taxpayers and City of Sydney ratepayers. There is also some Commonwealth taxpayers’ support through the Australia Council of the Arts and the ABC.
On 18 March, The Sydney Morning Herald carried an 8-page “Highlights Guide” to the 2023 SWF. Here are some examples from that part of the program titled “The World Around Us”.
Barrie Cassidy & Friends: State of the Nation
Sunday, 28 May, 10-11am
Relive all the thrills and spills of the year in Australian politics with veteran journo Barrie Cassidy and his hand-picked squad of the country’s sharpest pundits. From ScoMo’s secret ministries to the climate reckoning of the Teal wave and the verdict on Labor’s first year in office. It’s all up for dissection as they take the pulse of the nation. Barrie shares the stage with Katharine Murphy, Niki Savva and Laura Tingle.
Talk about Barrie Cassidy and his ideological besties. Barrie Cassidy (ex ABC), Katharine Murphy (The Guardian Australia), Niki Savva (occasional columnist for Nine’s The Age and Sydney Morning Herald) plus Laura Tingle (ABC TV 7.30’s political correspondent and columnist for Nine’s Australian Financial Review). All are critics of the Scott Morrison led Coalition government and the Peter Dutton led Opposition. Not one of the quartet is a political conservative. Not only is this panel one-sided – it is also BORING since there will be scant disagreement.
Professor Cassidy delivered a speech at RMIT University in October 2019 which was essentially a rant aimed at the political conservatives of the United States (Donald Trump), Britain (Boris Johnson) and Australia (Scott Morrison). Laura Tingle described Scott Morrison, when in office, as committing acts of “ideological bastardry”. In the lead-up to the May 2022 election, Niki Savva wrote column after column in the Nine newspapers attacking the Morrison government. You get the picture. By the way, Comrades Savva and Tingle got the result of the May 2019 election hopelessly wrong. And Katharine Murphy is political editor of the avowedly leftist Guardian Australia.
Fifty Shades Of Teal
May 28, 12–1pm
MP Helen Haines, Simon Holmes à Court and Margot Saville examine the ascension of Independent candidates and how they might shape our politics, in conversation with Barrie Cassidy.
Then there is the discussion on the Teal Independents. The Teals won five seats from the Liberal Party in the May 2022 election – two in Melbourne, one in Perth and two in Sydney. They did not attempt to win seats from the Labor Party or the Greens.
Here we go again. Professor Cassidy will be chairing a discussion with Helen Haines, the Independent MP for Indi (who invariably votes with the Teal Independents in the House of Representatives), Simon Holmes à Court (whose Climate 200 organisation financed the successful Teal campaigns) and Margot Saville (who writes for the left-wing newsletter Crikey and is the author of The Teal Revolution which is part of The Crikey Read series published by Hardie Grant).
Yet another session likely to be boring – with essentially everyone likely to agree with essentially everyone else on essentially everything. Yawn. And then there is this.
Reckoning, Not Reconciliation
May 28, 2–3pm
With the campaign for a First Nations Voice to Parliament in full swing, leading First Nations thinkers Stan Grant and Teela Reid ask whether we are entering a new era for Australian democracy.
Once again, the problem here turns on the likely lack of debate when Stan talks to Teela and Teela talks to Stan. Certainly, there was no evident conflict when both appeared on Q+A on 6 March. It was the occasion when Ms Reid responded to a comment by British playwright David Hare by declaring: “I don’t usually agree with white men – but I agree [with David Hare]: Abolish prisons!” Which suggests that Comrade Reid wants white men who murder black women released from prison immediately.
It would seem that the 2023 SWF artistic director Ann Mossop is of the opinion that all Indigenous Australians agree with each other. Hence the absence of the likes of Anthony Dillon, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Warren Mundine – both of whom appear to have been cancelled by the taxpayer-funded literary festival movement.
Your Taxes At Work.
THE ABC’s “CREATIVE RISKS” for 2023 – MORE OF THE SAME
The ABC has recently promoted its upcoming television offerings for 2023, with ABC’s Acting Director, Entertainment and Specialist Jennifer Collins speaking to media websites TV Tonight and if.com.au. To see why the ABC is losing younger audiences, you only have to look at some of its upcoming television offerings in 2023.
One example is the ABC’s reboot of the sitcom Mother and Son, featuring comedians/ABC regulars Matt Okine and Denise Scott. Mother and Son was a 1984 sitcom about a man taking care of his ageing mother, broadcast on ABC TV.
Speaking to TV Tonight, Jennifer Collins referred to the decision to remake the show “taking creative risks.” Remaking a popular show hardly seems like a “creative risk”. Perhaps the risk is in that it sounds like a terrible idea.
The ABC continues to recycle its regulars, perhaps inspired by its program War on Waste which will return for a third season, continuing with former Chaser “boy” Craig Reucassel (age 46). War on Waste is Reucassel’s documentary about Australia’s waste disposal problems, where he is known to accost politicians with plastic bags or don a high-vis vest and play with garbage.
Another former Chaser “boy” Chas Licciardello (age 45) will host a show where a panel will answer audience-submitted questions. From Collins’ description – “they might be deeply serious questions, interrogated in an entertaining way” – this sounds like another one the ABC’s beloved newsy/comedy panel shows that fails to be either funny or interesting.
ABC regular Annabel Crabb is being wheeled out for another series of Kitchen Cabinet, the program where Crabb pops into a politician’s house with a dessert and chats with them while they cook a meal. Annabel Crabb is a political writer and commentator.
The dull interview program The ABC Of returns. The ABC Of is described as “a six-part interview series, revisiting the pasts of prominent Australians through moments drawn from the vast ABC archives.” Of the six episodes in Season one, four featured interviewees associated with the ABC – current ABC chair Ita Buttrose, ABC host Wil Anderson, actor Garry McDonald (from the original Mother and Son) and ABC journalist Sarah Ferguson. Ferguson’s pretentious interview was covered in MWD Issue 599, 5 August 2022. The only interviewees not associated with the ABC were John Howard and tennis champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley. Yet another case of the ABC using a program to give airtime to others at the ABC.
And of course, the endless hours of Wil Anderson will continue on Gruen and Question Everything. Wil Anderson commenced on the ABC hosting The Glasshouse in 2001 and never left.
Unlike Anderson, Charlie Pickering did manage to temporarily leave the ABC. After starting life as a Triple J host, he made the leap to commercial TV, as one of the inaugural hosts of The Project. He returned to Aunty in 2015 to host The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, which bears a certain resemblance to the American show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The Weekly has become perhaps the ABC’s most successful apparent imitation of an American political comedy show, recently returning for a ninth season.
Alas, the show remains as tired and lazy as ever, with recent episodes featuring appearances by Pickering’s fellow Project alumni Peter Helliar and an increasingly predictable Roy & HG. Comedian Rhys Nicholson has been added to the cast, presumably to add some youth to the proceedings. However, Nicholson is still reliant on The Weekly’s writers – and so is stuck parodying the decades-old TV show This is Your Life and saying mean things about John Howard.
One can imagine a future where Gruen is still on in the year 2123, hosted by Wil Anderson’s frozen, preserved corpse. At this stage the ABC will have an extensive archive of Wil Anderson’s voice and will be able to replicate it perfectly with artificial intelligence. Afterwards, viewers can tune into The Weekly and see Charlie Pickering’s head in a jar, fused to a robot, still making bad jokes.
Speaking to if.com.au, Jennifer Collins claimed that the ABC is open to pitches: “we want surprising ideas, we want fresh ideas, original ideas”. None of that is evident in what actually goes to air. The ABC is offering nothing to bring in new viewers. Or even retain the old ones. Why would someone sit down and watch the same faces and formats, year after year, when they have endless (or any) other options available?
MALCOLM TURNBULL & SHARAN BURROW EXAGGERATE NEWS CORP’S MEDIA PRESENCE IN AUSTRALIA
How fitting that former Liberal Party prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and former ACTU president Sharan Burrow have stepped up to take over from former Labor Party prime minister Kevin Rudd as co-chairs of Australians for a Murdoch Royal Commission.
In an article in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald on 21 March, the Turnbull/Burrow duo wrote that “in Australia… News Corp accounts for more than half the media industry”. Sure, News Corp publishes a national daily (The Australian) along with the best-selling newspapers in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart plus regional newspapers. It also controls Pay TV’s Sky News – which Turnbull/Burrow claim is “booming”.
However, unlike Nine, News Corp does not run any free-to-air TV stations or any radio stations. There is Sky News Regional which airs on certain commercial secondary channels in large parts of Australia. Nine Entertainment, on the other hand, runs Network Nine, along with such leading radio stations as 2GB (Sydney), 3AW (Melbourne), 4BC (Brisbane) and 6PR (Perth). Nine also publishes the influential Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Australian Financial Review. Then there is the ABC which has two major free-to-air TV channels plus around 60 radio stations throughout Australia plus its ABC News website.
In view of this, it is mere fake news to assert that News Corp accounts for more than half the media industry in Australia.
JUDGED BY JACKIE (Dip Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute)
Due to popular demand, “Media Fool of the Week” returns this week. In view of the massive support for this segment, it has been decided to appoint a judge to determine winners from time to time. Step forward Jackie – who has an acute canine sense of sniffing out a particularly foolish comment and/or performance from among the mass of media contenders. And, this week’s winner is Geoffrey Robertson AO KC. Now read on.
IN WHICH GEOFFREY ROBERTSON TELLS Q+A THAT HIS OLD MAN WAS A FIGHTER PILOT AND HIS GRANDDAD WAS SECRETARY OF THE DAPTO DOGS
What a stunning performance by Geoffrey Robertson on ABC TV’s Q+A program on 20 March. He was introduced by presenter Stan Grant as a “human rights lawyer, academic, author and broadcaster”. However, your man Robertson is best known to MWD readers as an Australian based in London who has an Epping accent.
What’s an Epping accent? Jackie’s (male) co-owner hears new readers cry. Well, it’s the kind of posh accent a pompous type who grew up in the Sydney suburb of Epping acquires after moving to London and mixing with Lords and Ladies who are possessed of an upper-class real-thing posh English accent. That’s what.
But MWD digresses. Q+A on 20 March was a somewhat dull affair. The American physicist Brian Green had some interesting things to say. Not so much the human rights lawyer Kirsten Banks who identifies as Indigenous. Labor’s Minister for Defence Personnel, Matt Keogh, was criticised from the left on a number of issues but held his own and Independent MP Dai Le (who won a seat from Labor at the 2022 election) stated the case of her constituents. There were no Liberals or Nationals on the panel. And then there was the barrister with the Epping accent.
Early on, discussion turned on the events of the previous weekend in Melbourne when a protest meeting by a women’s rights rally was disrupted by a group of trans activists who, in turn, were disrupted by around a score of young men dressed in black and giving the Nazi salute. Victoria Police did nothing to stop the group claiming to be Nazis – apparently due to a weakness in the Andrews Labor government’s legislation. Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is from Labor’s socialist left faction.
Throwing the switch to attempted humour, GR AO KC had this to say:
Geoffrey Robertson: There were 30 young men in black, total black, in front of the Victorian Parliament. Be nice to know where they came from. Are they the St Kilda Young Liberals imitating Mr Perrottet when he was 20? We don’t – so, be careful what you wish for in this. We need to tackle the causes that are producing – and from under a rock – these people. And interestingly enough, it was in support of someone who was ratcheting up hatred against trans people. And I think that’s the key – if you need Nazis to support your cause, it’s a rotten cause.
There is no evidence that the protestors who claimed to be Nazis came from the St Kilda Young Liberals. And it’s bollocks to say that a cause is “rotten” because its protest is crashed by a group of self-declared Nazis. Moreover, the women’s rally did not “need” nazis.
When discussion turned on Australia’s decision to purchase submarines under the AUKUS agreement, Geoffrey Robertson threw the switch to mockery and abuse. He referred to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as “Albo” and attacked former Coalition prime minister Scott Morrison. Let’s go to the transcript:
Geoffrey Robertson: … it was a proud moment with Albo standing there with Britain and America, taking this symbolic action against authoritarianism. But then you read it was the brainchild of Scott Morrison. And given what we know about Scott Morrison’s brain, we should actually look at it more closely.
How funny is that? Your man Robertson went on to say: “Look, my father was a fighter pilot in the Second World War in the Pacific.” How frightfully interesting.
Shortly after, Kirsten Banks condemned “old white males” – apparently not including Geoffrey Robertson, who was born in 1946. GR AO KC then decided to mock former Coalition prime minister John Howard. He described Mr Howard as “a little fellow – not very well known called John Howard”. In fact, he isn’t called John Howard – he is John Howard.
When discussion turned to gambling and all that, the man with the Epping accent told viewers – if viewers there were – that his grandfather “was the secretary of the Dapto Dogs which was a mark of great distinction in the Wollongong area” at the time. Go on! Alas, he did.
Really. So GR AO KC’s old man was a fighter pilot and his grandpop secretary of the Dapto Dogs. All this surely makes for what Q+A calls essential viewing.
Geoffrey Robertson: Media Fool of the Week.
MEDIA-SAVVY PROFESSORS APLENTY AS PROF MARK KENNY INTERVIEWS PROF HUGH WHITE
It was Hangover Time on Sunday 19 March and Jackie’s (male) co-owner was watching ABC TV’s Insiders program. It turned out to be an unusual episode in that not all the panellists (Peter Hartcher, Greg Sheridan and Laura Tingle) agreed with each other. Perhaps because only one – Laura Tingle – was from the Canberra Press Gallery bubble. And presenter David Speers was not talking as much as usual. And then it was the march of the professors.
Let’s go to the transcript:
David Speers: – To that [Australia-American] alliance and that strategic, uh, planning of the United States by enmeshing our submarine fleets. One of the critics of this, uh, deal is also the, um, uh, respected strategist, the emeritus professor, Hugh White. Uh, he spoke to Mark Kenny on his Democracy Sausage podcast and raised this issue that by doing this, uh, AUKUS deal, we’re effectively, uh, agreeing to get these Virginia subs – which is a big thing for the Americans to give us. We’re agreeing to join them in any conflict with China. Have a look.
Hugh White: The strategic context of this, um, is that by – what we’re going to pay for when we take delivery of an American Virginia class submarine, is we’re not going to just pay whatever the purchase price is. And the government won’t say what that is, by the way. But we’re certainly going to hold our – hand over some serious dollars. But we’re also going to pay with a promise to go to war against China.
David Speers: Greg, is that what we’re paying?
Greg Sheridan: No, that’s complete baloney…
Well said Mr Sheridan – Australia has not promised any nation that it would go to war with anyone. But at least the program was not as boring as usual. And Hendo was oh-so-impressed that Comrade Speers was drawing attention to not one but two (learned) professors and that their discussion had taken place within the groves of academe. To wit, the Australian National University in Canberra where Professor Mark Kenny – yes he’s a professor too – puts together his Democracy Sausage podcast.
As avid Media Watch Dog readers are aware, your man Kenny commenced his brilliant career as a left-wing student at the University of Adelaide. Apparently, he did not finish his degree and was employed by a socialist left Labor MP in the South Australian parliament. From there it was a leftist path to success – a job at the ABC, followed by employment at the left-wing Sydney Morning Herald and Age, followed by a slot on the ABC TV Insiders panel. And then, lo and behold, it was arise Professor Kenny – a professor at the ANU’s Australian Studies Institute, no less.
There was a time when a university professor would be expected to have produced a body of work – for example a thesis, perhaps some journal articles, maybe a book. But Comrade Kenny did it all with some articles in what were once called the Fairfax Limited newspapers and some Insiders gigs.
And then there was Emeritus Professor Hugh White who, as MWD readers are only too well aware, has been predicting a war between China and the United States since Moses was a boy. Fortunately, so far at least, Comrade White is a prophet of the false variety.
Sure, Comrade White has produced a book and many articles in addition to newspaper columns. But his background is in journalism (The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) and he was a Labor staffer for Kim Beazley before working in the Commonwealth Public Service and, only then, was there a professorship at the ANU – of the emeritus kind.
In any event, when Professor Kenny interviewed Emeritus Professor White at the ANU on the Democracy Sausage podcast, Mark agreed with Hugh – and Hugh agreed with Mark – that the AUKUS submarine deal between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States was a bad idea. Quelle surprise! But, obviously, the ANU’s talking heads impressed David Speers and Insiders executive producer Samuel Clark – who are used to discussions where everyone agrees with everyone else. And so a grab from Democracy Sausage got a run on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.
THE NEW YORK TIMES HEARS FROM PROF KENNY AND PROF JAMES CURRAN – BOTH OF WHOM BAG AUKUS
It would seem that being a professor works when it comes to media coverage. Lotsa thanks to the avid Melbourne reader who drew MWD’s attention to “The Australian Letter” in The New York Times on 17 March. It was written by Sydney-based reporter Yan Zhuang.
In her letter titled “Submarine Deal with U.S. and U.K. Sparks Debate in Australia”, Yan Zhuang elected to interview two learned professors. Namely the left-wing Professor James Curran (of the University of Sydney) and the left-wing Professor Mark Kenny. Both were critical of AUKUS. No other view was reported in the New York Times.
Yan Zhuang concluded her “Australian Letter” with a quote from the learned professor:
Mark Kenny: The China question needs to be thought through much more clearly, and I don’t see a lot of evidence of that in the way the debate is being mediated at the moment. … The trouble with that kind of dynamic in a debate is that it clouds the opportunity for proper strategic thinking and clear strategic imagining and scenarios.
How about that? Here was Comrade/Professor Kenny banging on in the New York Times about the need for debate. But there was no debate on the AUKUS/China issue in the NYT and none whatsoever in his Democracy Sausage podcast.
Until next time