GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 631
21 April 2023
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AFFLUENT MELBOURNE ABC RN LISTENERS DENOUNCE THEIR FORTHCOMING TAX CUTS – OR DO THEY?
There was some excitement on ABC Radio National Breakfast this morning when presenter Patricia Karvelas advised listeners (if listeners there were) that Teal Independent Zoe Daniel has done “a big survey in her community”. The discussion took place in the politics segment involving the ABC’s David Speers and news.com.au’s Samantha Maiden. As far as MWD can work out, the survey was done some time ago. But let’s go to the transcript:
Patricia Karvelas: Zoe Daniel has done a big survey in her community… which shows that a lot of the constituents think they [the proposed Stage 3 tax cuts] should be revisited. I mean, that’s quite an affluent community. She’s just a Teal MP sure, she’s not in the government. But. [The reference was to the seat of Goldstein in south east Melbourne.]
Samantha Maiden: Affluent people always say they want their tax cuts taken away from them. And then if they actually do take their tax cuts away, I’ve got to tell you –
Patricia Karvelas: What do they do?
Samantha Maiden: It’s like, it’s like one of those surveys where they say to people, “are you a good person?” And these people go, “Yes, I’m a good person. I want to give up my tax cuts right now”. And then if you actually did it, they’d lose their minds.
Patricia Karvelas: Quite funny…
Samantha (“Please don’t call me zany”) Maiden was funny – to be sure. But RN listeners were not impressed. Many contacted PK to say that they were affluent types who did not want tax cuts. It should be remembered, however, that if RN listeners had their way, Greens leader Adam Bandt would be prime minister.
COMRADE KARVELAS CHALLENGES SPEERSY’S POSITION AS ABC INTERRUPTER-IN-CHIEF WITH STUNNING PERFORMANCE IN BARNABY JOYCE INTERVIEW
Could it be that ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Patricia (“Please call me Professor PK”) Karvelas is attempting to take over from ABC TV Insiders host David (“Oh yes, I’m the great interrupter”) Speers as the ABC’s interrupter-in-chief?
This may well be the case. After all, when interviewing the Coalition’s Jacinta Nampijinpa Price on 16 April, Speersy only interrupted the Coalition senator on 15 occasions in a 17-minute and 30-second interview – even if he asked the same “gotcha” question on six occasions over six minutes. This is well below Speersy’s record when interviewing – or, rather, interrupting – Coalition politicians.
Be that as it may, the point here is that Comrade Karvelas put up her hand for the role as ABC interrupter-in-chief when she interrupted Nationals’ MP Barnaby Joyce on 13 occasions in a nine-a-half-minute interview on 18 April.
Media Watch Dog was particularly impressed by the way PK argued with Joyce – so much so that she gave the impression that she should give up journalism and enter Federal politics as, say, a Greens member or senator.
Not content with interjecting, the learned professor felt the need to tell Barnaby Joyce that he was wrong. Plain wrong. In fact, PK responded to Joyce’s comments with a loud “No” on 15 occasions. Really. Here’s Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s fave takes from the PK/Joyce (verbal) punch-up. Let’s go to the transcript where Barnaby Joyce argues that putting an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the Constitution would lead to discrimination between races:
Barnaby Joyce: …A racial discrimination act talks about discrimination between races. Now, this is most definitely discrimination between races.
Patricia Karvelas: Well, it’s not most definitely – it’s, it’s contested by many.
Barnaby Joyce: Well – Patricia, just on that –
Patricia Karvelas: [interjecting] Let me go something really specific because I find this really interesting. No no no no no, I’ve got a question…
And there was this exchange – when Joyce claimed that an Indigenous Voice in the Constitution would delay decision-making:
Patricia Karvelas: But they [The Voice] can’t veto something like Anzac Day?
Barnaby Joyce: No, but they can’t –
Patricia Karvelas: [interjecting] Just answer the question.
Barnaby Joyce: They can’t veto, but they can certainly question the process of consultation. And they can –
Patricia Karvelas: [interjecting] [scoffs] Anyone can question anything, doesn’t mean you have any veto or influence.
Barnaby Joyce: Patricia, when you’re talking to people from the No case, you’ve got to let them finish their answers, Patricia. You can’t just, you know —
Patricia Karvelas: [interjecting] Well, it’s you Barnaby Joyce, you’re always — no, no, no, you’re not just No case, you’re Barnaby Joyce –
Barnaby Joyce: You’ve got to be fair.
Patricia Karvelas: [interjecting] You’re a special case because you’re always talking over me, we’ve done this for years. You’re a special case….
So there you have it. PK told Barnaby Joyce to “just answer the question” when he had already answered her query in the negative. Perhaps next time Barnaby Joyce could interview Patricia Karvelas on RN Breakfast. In the meantime, the question remains – Can You Bear It?
VAN BADHAM IN CAPITALIST BOOK-FLOGGER MODE ON THE DRUM
Did anyone catch MWD fave Van Badham on the Wednesday 19 April edition of ABC TV’s The (kinder, gentler, duller) Drum? She is a columnist for The Guardian Australia and part of the Guardian/ABC Axis.
Early on the discussion turned to the recent findings by the Victorian Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC). The commission’s report was critical of the Daniel Andrews-led Labor government. Predictably, Ms Badham went into “Dan’s our Man” excuse mode, arguing that “all governments make mistakes”.
When the topic turned to Federal Labor’s reluctance to raise Centrelink payments, Comrade Badham offered up a bizarre rationalisation about raising welfare payments being a “neo-liberal belief” because it involves giving people money which they then spend in a free market.
It was vintage Van, painting herself and the Labor Party as paragons of left-wing righteousness and all others (including those to her left) as corrupt, conservative capitalists.
Despite her disdain for neo-liberalism and capitalist markets, Comrade Badham is never likely to pass up an opportunity to flog a few books. During this appearance on the allegedly-ad-free ABC she made sure to position her latest book within sight of the camera. Anything to avoid having to queue up at Centrelink with the other neo-liberals.
PHILLIP ADAMS + GREG JENNETT DEMONSTRATE THE ABC’S DRIVE TO IMPARTIALITY
At last, good news. It seems that at least some staff at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster appear to have taken note of the impartiality training recently provided by ABC management. Avid readers may wonder why the ABC (established 1932) needs to train its staff to be impartial – but only if they have forgotten that the organisation is a conservative free zone.
What’s the evidence for the claim that the ABC’s impartiality training is working? – MWD hears readers cry. Well here it is.
Case Study 1
Phillip Adams, the ABC’s Man-in-Black, had this to say on ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live on 17 April. He was talking to The Guardian Australia’s political reporter Amy Remeikis in yet another manifestation of The Guardian/ABC Axis.
Phillip Adams: I wouldn’t dream of expressing a preference for the Yes or No side [re the proposed Indigenous Voice in the Constitution]. But I, I have a sort of feeling that every time [Opposition Leader] Peter Dutton says something, the Yes vote goes up.
How impartial can an ABC presenter get?
Case Study 2
On ABC TV’s Afternoon Briefing on 19 April, Greg Jennett presided over a discussion on welfare payments, the report of the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee, the proposed Stage 3 tax cuts and electric vehicles.
Throwing the switch to impartiality, Comrade Jennett’s guests were Ben Oquist (a former adviser to The Greens) and Ryan Liddle (a former Labor Party adviser). It would seem that Afternoon Briefing is impartial with respect to Labor and The Greens. No former Liberal Party or Nationals adviser got to express a view. Once again, how impartial can an ABC presenter get?
PART 1 OF NINE’S SPECIAL INVESTIGATION INTO CONMAN KRIS RIDGWAY CONCLUDES WITH THE CONMAN PRESENTING HIMSELF AS HIS OWN “VICTIM”
Hangover Time on Monday 17 April provided a special challenge for readers of Nine newspapers. The front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age was dominated by the “special investigation” by journalists Adele Ferguson and Naomi Shivaraman. It was headed “Confessions of a Conman” – and told the (initial) story of a certain conman who – you’ve guessed it – led a double life and conned his family, his friends and, needless to say, his clients.
The person in question is Kristofer [Kris] Ridgway who forged signatures, lied effortlessly, cheated and conned. When Ridgway’s double life was revealed he was sacked from a prestigious Sydney law firm and pissed off in his black Porsche – leaving his family penniless. Oh, the motor car had a “Ridgy” number plate. Impressed?
Go on. The SMH and Age sure did. The story spilled to Pages 4, 5, 6 and 7 with more to come in the next couple of days. It would seem that Conman Ridgway posed for a front page pic by Louise Kennerley followed by another one inside. There was also a photo of his wedding. All this was part of a Network Nine newspapers investigation.
Media Watch Dog feels sorry for the financial and personal victims of Ridgway – and also for readers in Sydney and Melbourne who had to wake up to read about Ridgway’s self-pity when he spoke to the SMH and The Age. On Page One, Ridgway was reported as having told Nine: “I have no self-respect or self-worth. I struggle to look at myself in the mirror.”
Fancy that. This would suggest that Ridgway must have surely struggled to look at Nine newspapers on 17 April, since his up-market mug-shot was all over the front page of The Age and SMH. This is how Nine’s special investigation concluded on Monday 17 April:
“Everybody’s pointing the finger at me,” he says. “But I want everyone to know that I’ve been gypped as much as anybody else. I’m the biggest victim here because I’ve lost absolutely everything … I’ve got to start from scratch at 53 again in a new industry with no family, no friends, no support, no ability to go back to what I’ve done for the last 25 years, so I’ve lost a lot.”
Unlike his 90 or so clients, who were told by Shaw and Partners in March they will receive a share of an estimated $10 million in remediation, Ridgway wants it known he isn’t eligible. Most of all, he’s worried about the consequences of his action. “I may end up being charged with fraud and I may end up going to jail over this,” he says.
How about that? Conman Ridgway seems to lack all self-awareness. He reckons that he’s the principal victim of his own deceptions. So, there you have it. Nearly five pages of black ink and Ms Ferguson and Ms Shivaraman ended the first bit of the three-part special investigation with Ridgway saying that he is the real victim of his own misdeeds. Turn it up. Moreover, Can You Bear It?
THE MONTHLY’S RACHEL WITHERS GOES IN SEARCH OF AWFUL THINGS SENATOR PRICE HAS SAID – TO NO AVAIL
Could Rachel Withers – who presents as a contributing editor to The Monthly – be Australia’s laziest journalist? You be the judge.
As avid Media Watch readers know, it was not so long ago – 2 February, in fact – that Comrade Withers did a Twitter shout-out. She wanted to know whether or not Opposition leader Peter Dutton was a Catholic. It’s not clear why Rachel Withers thought that the Liberal Party leader’s religious belief – if he has one – is important. In any event, anyone who knows anything about Peter Dutton – who has been in politics for over two decades – knows that he is not a Catholic. This would suggest that The Monthly’s contributing editor is in ignorance-is-bliss mode.
Then on 18 April, there was this shout-out about Coalition Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price:
Looking for links of Jacinta Price saying awful things for today's column (hoping to include as many as possible). Drop 'em below!
— Rachel Withers (@rachelrwithers) April 18, 2023
It would seem that Comrade Withers wanted to launch an attack on Senator Price – but lacked sufficient, if any, ammunition. She assumed that the Coalition’s spokesperson for Indigenous Affairs had said “awful things” about a person or persons unknown. But she possessed no evidence to support her theory. Hence the shout-out.
Talk about an own goal. The leftist Josh Butler reported that Senator Price had criticised the leaders of the campaign to put a Voice for Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. Quelle Surprise! – since the Northern Territory senator is a leader of the “No” case. And someone called “Daisy” reported that Jacinta Price had once given a speech where she praised Lachlan Murdoch and the Murdoch family for their contribution to the media. A hanging offence, surely. Hang on a minute. Yes, “Lynie” revealed the news that Jacinta Price in 2016 criticised former Labor Senator Nova Peris. Er, that’s all folks.
So, there you have it. Comrade Withers went in search of lotsa “awful things” that Jacinta Price had said. But did not receive any. And she is a contributing editor to The Monthly – proprietor Morry Schwartz, editor-in-chief Erik Jensen and editor Michael Williams. Here’s hoping that the members of this trio are proud that their star journalist has won this award.
Rachel Withers – Media Fool of the Week.
[I note that, later, on 18 April, Comrade Withers wrote an article in The Monthly’s online publication titled “The Politics”. It was a hit job on Senator Price which carried no news or fresh analysis. Moreover, there were no “awful things” attributed to her target. Can’t The Monthly do better than this? – MWD Editor.]
AN ADELAIDE WRITERS’ WEEK/ABC UNITY TICKET ON “DO WE NEED BIG GOVERNMENT?” – SPOILER ALERT “YES WE DO”
As Media Watch Dog readers know only too well – literary festivals are occasions when a soviet of members of the Sandalista Class get hold of a bucket load of taxpayers’ money. They then invite their leftist ideological mates to a taxpayer funded literary festival where almost everyone agrees with almost everyone else on almost everything – in a leftist kind of way. Recent examples include the Adelaide Writers’ Week (AWW) and the Sydney Writers’ Festival – with the Melbourne Writers Festival to follow. See recent issues of MWD.
Lotsa thanks to the avid reader who drew the attention of Jackie’s (male) co-owner to the AWW session titled “Do we need big government?” on 6 March 2023. It was chaired by the ABC’s very own Paul Barclay and presented by Comrade Barclay on the ABC Radio National Big Ideas program on 22 March. Thus demonstrating the closeness between the taxpayer funded conservative free zone that is the ABC and taxpayer funded literary festivals.
The panel comprised Alan Kohler (ABC News), Wayne Swan (the national president of the ALP and former Labor government treasurer) and Richard Denniss (executive director of the avowedly leftist The Australia Institute). Dr Denniss (for a doctor he is) has recently written Big: The Role of the State in the Modern Economy (Monash University Publishing, 2022). It would seem that the AWW segment was all about The Thought of Richard Denniss – since he dominated the discussion in his familiar (verbose) manner.
So, there you have it. A full hour on the taxpayer funded ABC Radio National from the taxpayer funded Adelaide Writers’ Week – with everyone essentially agreeing with essentially everyone else on essentially everything. Yawn.
The session started off with Comrade Denniss stating that the Coalition’s opposition to deficits is a lie. He asserted that Liberal Party and Nationals have no issues spending money on fossil fuel subsidies but claimed they pretend to be worried about deficits when anyone opposes spending money on anyone but their rich mates. In fact, the fuel tax credit is not a subsidy and applies to other primary industries. And the record shows that the recent Coalition government readily went into deficit to fund such programs as JobKeeper during the pandemic of recent memory. The prime beneficiaries of JobKeeper were wage earners and small businesses.
Alan Kohler said that what he termed neo-liberalism did not shrink the size of government. He did not identify any Australian government that has been “neo-liberal” in Australia in recent memory. A common definition of neo-liberal is a policy that favours free-market capitalism, widescale deregulation and substantial reductions in government spending.
Then Wayne Swan stated that trickle-down economics didn’t work – but did not name one Australian government – Labor or Coalition – which ever practised trickle-down economics.
Comrade Denniss then declared that Australia does not have big government by international standards. Comrade Kohler then banged on – arguing that Labor needs to be more focused on what they want to spend money on, not how to pay for it. The two comrades maintained that Australia is a low-taxing country. At this stage Jackie’s (male) co-owner briefly fell asleep – so monotonous was the occasion. He woke to hear Comrade Swan call on the teeming masses gathered together in Adelaide to “Stand Up and Fight!” – for something or other. Most remained seated – on chairs with their sandal-wearing feet unmoved and comfortable on the ground.
Whereupon, Denniss whined on about media ownership and Australian democracy – with lame jokes and applause lines. Kohler quoted the French leftist/economist guru Thomas Piketty – running a “tax-the-rich” line. How predictable. Whereupon Swan gave vent to the cliché “pay tax/buy civilisation” and bagged the Howard/Costello government – another Quelle Surprise! moment. Denniss bored on by declaring that only in Australia does anyone care about budget surpluses – and had another whinge at conservatives. Comrade Richard (“Give Marxism a chance”) Denniss seemed quite unaware of the economic debate underway to the north, south, east and west of what used to be described as the “city of churches” – where lotsa governments are concerned about budgets and the borrowing that invariably funds budget deficits.
Then Kohler entered the (boring) discussion and bagged neo-liberalism and Friedrich Hayek. In fact, the Austrian-born economist Hayek has had scant influence on any Australian government. Re-enter Swan who bagged neo-liberalism and – yes – Rupert Murdoch. Denniss whinged about governments spending money on things he didn’t like. He made a “joke” – and then chastised the audience for laughing because it was a serious topic. Really.
There followed a Q&A period in which Denniss dominated – with rants about Australia being bad and neo-liberalism plus government funding for private schools. Whereupon your man Swan urged all Australians to fight – and convince their friends and relatives to do likewise.
All up it was a tedious hour of (Radio National) radio. It was another performance of the Richard Denniss Show – replete with verbal sludge and attacks on those who disagree with him – who were not present to defend themselves.
Yet the Adelaide Writers’ Week – director Louise Adler – saw fit to give a platform to the Denniss/Kohler/Swan trio in which no one essentially disagreed with anyone else. And the ABC saw fit to run the boring session on its invariably tedious “Big Ideas” platform. In fact no new idea – big or small – was ventured on the somewhat misnamed “Big Ideas”.
Your Taxes at Work.
THE ABC’s ETHNIC DIVERSITY – IT WOULD BE ALL-WHITE AS A SIGHT SCREEN IN A RED BALL TEST CRICKET MATCH
Lotsa thanks to the avid reader who drew Media Watch Dog’s attention to when the team at the ABC TV News Breakfast program praised the taxpayer funded public broadcaster for its diversity. The date was as recent as Friday 14 April.
The discussion commenced with sports reporter Tony Armstrong – an Indigenous man – declaring “I think we [the ABC] do a great job [on diversity]”. Whereupon Michael Rowland declared: “We cop slings and arrows, as any media organisation does these days. But we are actually walking the walk and not just talking the talk.”
Set out below is a pictorial study of the ABC “walking the walk” when it comes to ethnic diversity among its leading news and current affairs presenters on television and radio. As avid readers will note, Indigenous presenter Stan Grant is the only person of colour among the comrades. As MWD has commented previously, the ABC line-up of presenters is so white that they could fulfil the role of a white sight-board behind the arm of a bowler in a red-ball Test cricket match.
(Left to Right)
Top Row: Sabra Lane (AM), Virginia Trioli (Melbourne Mornings), Raf Epstein (Melbourne Drive), Richard Glover (Sydney Drive), Charlie Pickering (Melbourne Friday Breakfast, The Weekly), Phillip Adams (Late Night Live)
Second Row: Lisa Millar (News Breakfast), Michael Rowland (News Breakfast), Sarah Ferguson (7.30), David Speers (Insiders), Sammy J (Melbourne Breakfast), Norman Swan (The Health Report, Coronacast)
Third Row: Sarah Macdonald (Sydney Mornings), Julian Morrow (Sunday Extra), Andy Park (RN Drive), James Valentine (Sydney Breakfast), David Lipson (PM)
Bottom Row: Laura Tingle (7.30), Patricia Karvelas (RN Breakfast), Stan Grant (Q+A), Sally Sara (The World Today), Josh Szeps (Sydney Afternoons)
CONTENDER FOR LEAST FUNNY MAN IN AUSTRALIA INTERVIEWS COMEDIAN
ABC’s The Weekly hosted by Charlie Pickering is currently the main vehicle for the ABC’s preferred comedy style – playing clips from the news and making little comments on them. The best thing you can say about The Weekly is that at least it’s only half an hour.
Now that a Labor government is in office, The Weekly no longer does much political comedy. Aside from a segment making jokes about politicians’ outfits.
For example, topics covered by The Weekly this week include Cyclone Ilsa – the main joke here is that some people ignored the warnings and went to the beach, and that Cyclone Ilsa is different from Elsa – a character from Home and Away.
The Weekly then featured clips from a National Rifle Association forum in the United States – low-hanging fruit to be sure.
As usual, the highlights are when Pickering is not featured, such as a segment featuring film reviewer Margaret Pomeranz.
The program devoted a lot of time on President Joe Biden taking a long time when signing the guest book when meeting with Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins. Pickering’s joke is that Joe Biden was actually writing a shopping list. See below.
Shockingly, towards the end of the program, something briefly funny happens when Irish comedian Dylan Moran is interviewed. The Weekly viewers must have been deeply confused by this, as Moran made several jokes and amusing comments – something rarely seen on The Weekly or any ABC comedy program these days.
Unfortunately, the interview went for about as long as the “Australian Bureau of Cancellations” segment. This is where Pickering puts on some kind of exaggerated voice and “cancels” Arnold Schwarzenegger, vaping and Jeff Kennett for not wanting a state funeral – visually represented by a large stamp.
Anyone wanting to see something funny would be advised to switch off the ABC and go and see Dylan Moran. He is currently on tour in Australia.
IN WHICH SMH COLUMNIST SHAUN CARNEY FORGETS IN APRIL 2023 WHAT HE WROTE ABOUT SCOTT MORRISON IN 2022
Here’s what Sydney Morning Herald’s regular columnist Shaun Carney had to say about Scott Morrison’s role as Liberal Party leader on 20 April 2023.
The Liberals’ chief weakness before last year’s election was that it overdosed on unity under Scott Morrison. No one was willing to sound the alarm, even though it was clear by the second half of 2021 that he was leading them over a cliff. The same thing is happening under [Peter] Dutton.
And here’s what Shaun Carney had to say about Scott Morrison in the SMH a year ago – on 14 April 2022 – at the commencement of the 2022 election campaign:
Clichés are to be avoided but they have their beginnings in truth. That Morrison is a good – perhaps even gifted – campaigner has been a comforting cliche for Liberals worried about his declining popularity poll ratings. It was true in 2019. Just a few days into the campaign, who would want to say it cannot be true again? He is brittle, quick to anger, and has no apparent policy purpose. He and his campaign unit are skilled at identifying and understanding the fears that lurk inside the minds of uncommitted, distracted, barely interested or suggestible voters, who are – like it or not – the ones who decide elections.
So there you have it. On 14 April 2022, Comrade Carney declared that Scott Morrison was in with a chance of leading the Liberals to victory at the May 2022 election. But on 20 April 2023 Comrade Carney wrote that by the second half of 2021 it was clear that Morrison was leading the Liberals “over a cliff”.
Verily, A Great Media U-Turn Of Our Time
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD RUNS (AS “NEWS”) HOARY OLD ANTI- CATHOLIC SECTARIAN MYTH ABOUT A “NUN ON THE RUN” AND INVENTS A BRAND NEW (BUT FALSE) CLAIM
Once upon a time, anti-Catholic sectarianism was rife in Australia. In Melbourne, it was driven by the Loyal Orange Lodge and some Protestant clergymen. Likewise in Sydney – except for the fact that the Sydney Morning Herald was in the front line in the (verbal) war against Catholics.
At the political level, during and immediately after the First World War, Prime Minister Billy Hughes threw the switch to sectarianism in the debate over conscription for overseas service. Hughes targeted Daniel Mannix, the Irish-born Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, who was an anti-conscriptionist. His government effectively – but unjustly – exiled the Catholic priest Charles Jerger from Australia not long after hostilities had ended. All this is covered by, among others, Michael Hogan in The Sectarian Strand: Religion in Australian History (Penguin, 1987) and Jeff Kildea in Tearing the Fabric: Sectarianism in Australia – 1910 to 1925 (Citadel Books, 2002). See also Gerard Henderson’s “The Deportation of Charles Jerger” in Labour History (No 31, November 1976). As the historian Paul Collins has pointed out, “anti-Catholicism has been the default position of Anglo-Australian culture since the 19th Century”.
But Media Watch Dog digresses. Believe it or not [I believe it – MWD Editor] anti-Catholic sectarianism made a comeback with an article – published in the SMH’s news (not opinion) pages on 3 April 2023. Written by journalist Tim Barlass in the print edition, it was titled “Pregnant to a priest, nun on run defied church over child”. This is how the article commenced:
Twenty-year-old Sister Liguori climbed out of the window of her Wagga Wagga convent one foggy winter night in 1920 wearing just her nightdress.
It seems every newspaper in Australia was fascinated with the story of Brigid (aka Bridget) Mary Partridge, originally from Ireland. But the motive for her disappearance as “the nun on the run” remained a mystery – until now.
Fuelling the flames of controversy was the fact that the Catholic Church wanted her back, and the Protestant church was providing refuge for the itinerant nun. The Catholic authorities went to all lengths to apprehend her. When they did catch up with her, they claimed she was insane, arguing she should be in an asylum.
The story is a familiar one – which explains why it was sexed-up by Tim Barlass. It concerns an Irish-born nun Sister Mary Liguori (aka Bridget Partridge) who was demoted by her superiors in the Presentation Order and fled the convent where she was based in Wagga Wagga claiming that the mother superior was intent on murdering her. She went to a home owned by the Thompson family in the town and later to Adelong where she stayed briefly with Mr and Mrs Howell. Soon after, she moved to live with the Congregational minister Rev William Touchell and his wife in the Sydney area.
It seems that Liguori believed that she had been treated badly by her superiors – and there is some evidence to suggest this. Bridget Partridge died in Rydalmere Mental Hospital in 1966. By the way, contrary to Barlass’ claim, there was no one Protestant Church in Australia in the early 20th Century – there were a number, of which the Congregational Church was but one. The SMH’s intrepid reporter could not even get Bridget Partridge’s age correct – despite the fact that there is an entry about her in The Australian Dictionary of Biography. She was born in 1890, and was around 30 years of age in 1920 – and not, as Barlass claims, “a twenty year old”.
The Sr Liguori incident fed the anti-Catholic prejudice at the time and for some decades after. The truth was that Liguori was a troubled woman in a harsh environment. The Presentation Order wanted her to return to her family in Ireland – but she wished to stay in Australia. It is an unfortunate fact that she was caught up in the Protestant-Catholic divisions at the time – with the Loyal Orange Institution on one side and the Catholic Federation on the other.
The courts were involved in the Liguori case. At the request of the Catholic bishop of Wagga, Joseph Dwyer, she was arrested as a lunatic but was subsequently declared sane by the Lunacy Court. Liguori, now Bridget Partridge, sued Bishop Dwyer for false imprisonment – but a jury rejected her claim. And that’s about it – apart from the tension it involved – even within the Parliament of NSW. By the way, Barlass reported Partridge’s claim for £5000 for alleged wrongful arrest – but failed to mention that it did not succeed at law.
It would seem that Tim Barlass belongs to the school of journalism practised by such ABC identities as Louise Milligan and Sarah Ferguson. In that he believes what he wants to believe.
Barlass spoke to a certain Michelle Sanson who had heard a story from her late father Gordon Sanson (who died in December 2022). It went like this:
Sanson…explained to the Herald that the nun was made pregnant by a clergy member and the reason she fled was due to threats to her life after she refused to relinquish the child to the church for adoption.
What absolute tosh. There is no evidence whatsoever to support this story – even the most vocal anti-Catholics in the 1920s never made such a claim. It appears that even the SMH’s gullible reporter did not really believe this claim – despite the “Pregnant to a priest” headline – since Barlass wrote:
Ancestry.com family history expert Brad Argent said a search for any record of children born to Brigid Partridge had proved fruitless. “From what I was able to uncover, Brigid lived with William and Laura [Touchell] until they both died – William in 1954 and Laura in 1963. The Touchells had no children of their own and they were about 20 years older than Brigid – perhaps they saw her as their daughter.”
Perhaps so. What is clear is that an SMH sub-editor just made up the headline. And the SMH journalist uncritically reported Gordon Sanson’s story about the (allegedly) pregnant nun. It consisted of hearsay upon hearsay. For the record, Gordon Sanson was born in 1935 – some 15 years after Sr Ligouri went “on the run” in SMH terminology. Moreover, the late Mr Sanson allegedly told Barlass that Liguori initially found refuge in Adelong – it was, in fact, in Wagga. Sanson also claimed that Liguori stayed with his great grandfather Erwin Prouse’s family. Not so.
Jeff Kildea wrote to the SMH on Monday 3 April correcting Tim Barlass’s howlers. The letter was not published. Following a complaint to the editor, a letter by Dr Kildea was printed on Friday 7 April (the Good Friday holiday). However, Barlass’s error-ridden account remains unaltered on the Sydney Morning Herald Online and no reference is made there to Jeff Kildea’s letter correcting the error-fuelled article.
So, there you have it. A century after anti-Catholic sectarianism was rife in Sydney, the Sydney Morning Herald in 2023 published a story about Sister Liguori being “pregnant to a priest” – a claim which even the anti-Catholic sectarian SMH at the time did not claim in 1920.
The Sydney Morning Herald boasts that it is “Independent. Always.”. In this instance, it is independent of the truth – and unwilling to acknowledge properly Tim Barlass’ howlers.
Until next time.