GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 637
2 June 2023
* * * *
* * * *
NINE’S COLUMNIST AARTI BETIGERI COMMENCES CAMPAIGN TO RENAME CANBERRA SUBURBS – INCLUDING ONE NAMED AFTER SIR [SIC] ARTHUR CALWELL
Has anyone read Aarti Betigeri’s article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age? More to the point, have the opinion page editors read it? In the SMH it was titled “Stale, male and beyond the pale: suburbs needing a new name.”
Ms Betigeri, who presents as a journalist, is not responsible for a sub-editor’s heading. But she used the stale-male-and-pale cliché in her piece – after referring to Canberra’s colourful leaves. Yawn.
Aarti Betigeri is on a campaign to rename the Canberra suburbs that bear the surname of such allegedly stale-male-and-pale one-time politicians as Sir John Downer, Sir Edmund Barton and – wait for it – Sir Arthur Calwell. Forgetting that they were always male and pale, but not necessarily stale.
Sir, what? Media Watch Dog is not a fan of Arthur Calwell (1896-1973) due to his failure to provide leadership to the anti-communists within the Labor Party in the 1940s and 1950s. But the one-time Labor leader, who regarded himself as an Irish Australian, was never knighted. Something which the powers-that-be at Nine newspapers should know. Labor politicians have rejected imperial honours for eons.
The Canberra-based Betigeri described Canberra as “a place of educated people”. In which case, you wonder why she has not educated herself about, yes, Mr Calwell.
She quotes Edmund Barton’s great-granddaughter as authority for the claim that Australia’s first prime minister was a racist. And she has this to say about the one-time Labor leader:
But the most tone-deaf is Calwell. Arthur Calwell, immigration minister under Labor immediately post-WWII, was a renowned racist, most (in)famous for his 1947 statement in the House of Representatives when, while defending his policy of deporting wartime Asian refugees, he said, “two Wongs do not make a white”. Forget dog-whistling, his comment was an egregious play to the racism at the heart of Australians at the time.
The fact is that Arthur Calwell reflected the standards of the time – in that he supported the White Australia Policy. But the reference to “two Wongs do not make a white” has been misunderstood. It was an insensitive attempt at humour.
Note Hansard recorded White with a capital letter – which Ms Betigeri seems to have dropped for effect. The House of Representatives Hansard records Calwell as saying this in Parliament on 2 December 1947 – about a certain Mr Wong concerning whom Calwell conceded that “an error may have been made in this case”.
The gentleman’s name is Wong. There are many Wongs in the Chinese community, but I have to say – and I am sure that the honorable member for Balaclava will not mind me doing so – that “two Wongs do not make a White”.
This was an attempt at humour – since the Liberal Party member for Balaclava was Thomas White. By the way, it was Sir Thomas. But never Sir Arthur.
NORMAN SWAN AT VIVID SYDNEY TO DISCUSS – WAIT FOR IT – WHETHER MONOGAMY IS THE NATURAL WAY TO LOVE
Lotsa thanks to the avid Media Watch Dog reader in Nowra who drew attention to what’s going on – after dark, of course – at Vivid Sydney which is currently underway. Vivid commenced as a kind of festival of lights in winter. But in recent years it has moved into areas of social and political policy.
Believe it or not [I’m certain to believe it. – MWD Editor], this year’s Vivid festival includes an event which is part of what is called Vivid Ideas Human Nature – whatever that might mean. This includes a session titled “Monogamy: The Natural Way to Love?” – which is illustrated on the Vivid website by six naked feet. Get it? These are the details of the event which will take place on Saturday 17 June:
Polyamory, open relationships and other forms of non-monogamy, ethical or otherwise, are enjoying their first real cultural moment in half a century. People who were once firmly committed to monogamy are for the first time contemplating an alternative. Join six of our sharpest and funniest minds, both monogamous and otherwise, in a comedy debate with substance, as they fight it out to settle the matter once and for all: is monogamy the natural way to love?
Hosted by journalist and comedian Ange Lavoipierre, in partnership with the ABC’s pop culture podcast Schmeitgeist. Expect vibrant, hilarious debate from ABC journalist and podcaster Dr Norman Swan, writer-comedian James Colley, Wiradjuri poet and artist Jazz Money, TV presenter and comedian Alex Lee, Mamamia editor and author Elfy Scott and comedian Annaliese Constable.
Sounds like a hoot, don’t you think? Especially since the “comedy debate” will feature MWD fave Dr Norman (“Proudly Australia’s most trusted doctor”) Swan who has not practised medicine for some four decades – around the time he last cracked a joke.
In his various appearances on ABC platforms, your man Swan does not present as a laugh-a-minute kind of doctor with a bedside manner. But who knows? As documented in MWD (Issue 504, 10 July 2020) Doctor Swan discussed his sex life with Benjamin Law for his Dicey Topics segment in the Good Weekend magazine. Really. And that was somewhat funny when you think about it – or even if you don’t.
Dr Swan told Mr Law that throughout his life “probably the majority” of his “closest friends have been women”. But added that “a couple of times” he made the mistake of “broadening the relationship…into a sexual relationship” which turned out to be a “complete bloody disaster”. How frightfully interesting.
Then, in full too-much-information mode, Swan related “an erotic story” written by a female about a woman who gets, er, excited when hearing Swan’s voice on radio or television. Fancy that. [Not really. – MWD Editor.]
When reading this sludge in Good Weekend some three years ago, Hendo wondered if there is anything more tedious than a (then) 67-year old man talking about his sex life with ladies.
It would seem that the organisers of the taxpayer funded Vivid Sydney believe that there is an audience who want to hear the likes of Norman Swan discussing whether or not monogamy is “the natural way to love”.
Apparently, Australia’s self-proclaimed most trusted doctor has got nothing else to do on a Saturday night in June. Can You Bear It?
PANELLIST EMILIE DYE DOES A GREEN-LEFT STYLE RANT AGAINST NON-GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS ON SKY NEWS AFTER DARK
Jenna Clarke is the presenter of Sky News The Front Page which comes on at 10.30 pm – that is around Post-Dinner Drinks Time. Unlike some of her fellow Sky News presenters, Ms Clarke presents as someone who is interested in what her panellists have to say – in this case about the newspapers for the following morning.
The problem on 31 May was that the United States-born panellist Emilie Dye – she of GT Communications – was not having a good night. After declaring that the principle innocent until proven guilty “doesn’t necessarily apply to your job”, the GT Communications operative went on to do a rant about private, or non-government, schools.
The topic was introduced when Jenna Clarke referred to the next day’s story in the Herald-Sun (in Melbourne) about the decision of the Victorian Labor government – led by socialist left premier Daniel Andrews – to increase state government payroll tax on private schools. Clarke said that, according to the Herald-Sun, Catholic schools in Victoria have gone into battle with the Andrews government over its controversial payroll tax, warning that making middle income parents prop up the state budget was unfair and “would damage our relationship”.
Channelling the performances of quite a few panellists who appear on the “Newspapers segment” of the ABC TV News Breakfast program, Emilie Dye decided to do a “here I stand” performance rather than comment on tomorrow’s news. Let’s go to the transcript:
Emilie Dye: I’m not too sympathetic to private schools, to be honest. And I say this as someone who was private school educated. I think that, in general, the people that are sending their children to private schools are more affluent. And I think we really need to be cutting back our spending on private schools. I don’t see any reason why a private school should be getting a penny of government money.
That money should be going to the public system, and we should be ensuring that we have the best possible public system for those middle Australians instead of sending that money off to a Catholic institution that may or may not be up to the appropriate standards. I think we saw with the Opus Dei scandal, there was a lot that’s going on in these institutions that isn’t properly monitored by the government. So, I would like to see that money going to the public system where there is a little bit more oversight, and it is actually impacting the families in those middle groups – those middle-income groups, and those lower income groups. And not just the affluent or the middle upper class.
What a load of absolute tosh. Sure, some non-government schools in Australia are affluent. But most are not. Ms Dye seems unaware of the many medium to low fee private schools that exist beyond the Catholic education system. There are other Christian and other faith schools throughout Australia.
Emilie Dye also seems unaware that, unlike the United States, non-government schools have had a significant presence in Australia for more than a century and currently educate around 35 per cent of Australian children – the Catholic component is about 20 per cent of all Australian school children. If non-government schools received not a penny of what Dye calls “government money” – it is, in fact, taxpayers’ money – some of these schools would be forced to close. Then their students would flood into the government schools – some of which are already overcrowded – at additional cost to taxpayers.
Currently, parents who send their children to non-government schools – whether of the high, medium or low fee kind – pay for a significant part of their education, which has the effect of decreasing demand for government expenditure overall.
By the way, in her ignorance, Ms Dye believes that there are Opus Dei schools in Australia. Not so. There are a mere four schools in Sydney which are run by supporters of the conservative Catholic movement – not by the religious order itself. Moreover, there is no “Opus Dei scandal” – this was (yet another) ABC TV Four Corners beat-up of recent memory. If Emilie Dye believes that such a scandal currently exists, she should provide evidence to support her assertion.
What’s more, there is no evidence that government schools perform better or provide more oversight than non-government schools. It would seem that Ms Dye just made this up.
After listening to the Dye rant on The Front Page, the (male) co-owner of the recently departed Jackie poured another Gin & Tonic and asked himself this question: Can You Bear It?
Media Watch Dog’s Five Paws Award was inaugurated in Issue Number 26 (4 September 2009) during the time of Nancy (2004-2017). The first winner was then ABC TV presenter Emma Alberici. Ms Alberici scored for remembering the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 whereby Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union. And for stating that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had effectively started the Second World War, since it was immediately followed by Germany’s invasion of western Poland (at a time when the Soviet Union had become an ally of Germany). Soon after, the USSR invaded eastern Poland in accordance with the protocols of the Nazi-Soviet Pact.
Over the years, the late Nancy’s Five Paws Award has become one of the world’s most prestigious gongs – rating just below the Nobel Prize and Academy Awards.
STEP FORWARD TOM SWITZER & HELENE CHUNG FOR THEIR CRITIQUE OF THE CONTEMPORARY ABC
As avid Media Watch Dog readers are aware, the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone. No surprise, then, that the ABC responds to criticism of its lack of political diversity with denial. And that there are few ABC presenters, producers, editors or reporters who have the intellectual courage to speak up about the lack of political diversity among their colleagues.
In recent times, however, one current and one former ABC presenter have spoken about their experiences within the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. Step forward Tom Switzer (the executive director of the Centre for Independent Studies who presents Between the Lines program on ABC Radio National) and Helene Chung (an Australian of Chinese background who worked at the ABC from 1968 to 1997 –including a stint on This Day Tonight (the predecessor of 7.30).
On 24 May 2023, The Australian published an article by Janet Albrechtsen and Tom Switzer titled “We stand with Stan? Give us a break. Stand for quality journalism”. In their article, the authors had this to say:
The problem [at the ABC] lies in understanding that the line between news and opinion has been increasingly hard to discern at the ABC. At the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster – unlike commercial media outlets – full-time staff ABC journalists have a duty under the ABC charter to be fair-minded and balanced journalists who strive for impartiality….
Not so long ago, it was mandatory for senior ABC journalists to keep their opinions to themselves. Andrew Olle, Mark Colvin, Maxine McKew, Tony Jones, even Kerry O’Brien – none would undermine their journalistic authority by campaigning for political causes. These ABC doyens may have had left-of-centre views but at least they tried to be objective when they presented leading ABC programs. …
Upper echelons at the ABC have given up entirely on reining in opinionated presenters. If you want to work at the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster, the rule should be so simple: you’re a presenter/reporter or commentator; you can’t be both.
But the double standards are striking. One of us (Switzer) is not even a high-profile (ABC staff) presenter of a prime-time program. But if his Radio National program or the ABC website, for instance, were used to prosecute the No side in the voice debate, RN management would (rightly) subject him to intense scrutiny. Yet more high-profile presenters get away with being both presenters and activists because their views accord with the in-house ABC groupthink on everything from net-zero emissions to a constitutionally entrenched Indigenous voice.
Tom Switzer acknowledged that Between the Lines is not a “prominent” ABC program and pointed to the left-of-centre ABC groupthink.
* * * * *
On 25 May, cadet reporter Tricia Rivera interviewed Helene Chung in The Australian. The former ABC journalist had this to say about the contemporary ABC:
One thing that has happened to the ABC that I do not like, and I am still completely, constantly amazed by, is the fact that reporters now give their own opinions. And nowadays, you know exactly where everyone stands at the ABC, and that should not be.
And I think that is partly the change in the ABC’s policy, from impartiality to partiality, or allowing reporters to show their partiality is part of the problem.
And that has led to a public backlash, and mind you, the public backlash of this sort of scale was not possible before (when) we did not have social media.
Helene Chung told Tricia Rivera about the rules she had to follow when an ABC journalist:
The first rule was “do not make yourself the story”, (then) never use the word “I”. I know if you apply that to journalists on the ABC today, no one would be working at the ABC.
* * * *
Tom Switzer & Helene Chung – Five Paws Each.
FROM AN AVID FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND READER CONCERNING SARAH FERGUSON’S 7.30 INTERVIEWS WITH WARREN MUNDINE AND MARCIA LANGTON
As a bloke who’s currently bedridden after getting mauled by a cassowary, I’ve had a lot of time to watch the telly so have been following the ABC’s Voice coverage. (Lost my remote so I’m stuck with the ABC unfortunately.)
I remember back in April – Friday the 14th to be exact, I have the memory of a croc stalking a fisherman – Sarah Ferguson interviewed Marcia Langton on 7.30. It was a pretty soft interview, no interruptions and she [Langton] was given all the time in the world to bash Opposition leader and fellow Queenslander Peter Dutton. In fact, pretty much every question was an invitation to bash Dutton, except for one about why Ken Wyatt resigned from the Liberal Party.
Now this week, still can’t find the remote, so I see Ferguson’s interview with Warren Mundine on Monday’s 7.30 [29 May]. Unlike the Marcia Langton interview, Mundine was asked some tough questions and interrupted by Ferguson a few times. That’s all good, but why doesn’t everyone get the same treatment? In the last question, Ferguson interrupts Mundine talking about Indigenous businesses to bring up the positive polling for the Voice and she even says to Mundine (an Indigenous bloke of all people) – “I just wonder, are you missing something about the importance of this proposal?”. Pretty bloody condescending I’d say. To be fair to Ferguson though, it’s hard to tell when she’s being condescending because that is just her voice a lot of the time.
As usual, the tough questions are saved for the Voice opponents while the Yes side gets a free ride. If only I could switch to Sky News Regional where they give a fair go to Yes and No supporters. The ABC reckons none of its presenters support the Voice? C’mon. ABC presenters are about as neutral on the Voice as a croc is about unsuspecting prey on a riverbank.
ACADEMICS MILES PATTENDEN & MICHAEL D. BARBEZAT DESCRIBE A DECEASED MAN WHO MOCKED CATHOLICS AS A RELIGIOUS LEADER LIKE DESMOND TUTU OR QUEEN ELIZABETH
On 22 May 2023 ABC News online carried an article about the recently deceased gay rights activist Fabian LoSchiavo, who died on 12 May. The opinion piece was written by Australian Catholic University academics Miles Pattenden and Michael D. Barbezat.
Dr Pattenden (for a doctor he is) will be well-known to avid readers of MWD. On 12 January 2023, following the death of Cardinal George Pell, Dr Pattenden wrote a piece for the Nine Newspapers in which he incorrectly claimed the late Cardinal was a heavyweight boxing champion (that was his father, George Pell Senior) and that Pell supported the monarchy (unsurprisingly for a part-Irish Catholic, he was a republican). Despite MWD helpfully pointing out the errors, the article remains uncorrected on both The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald websites.
Here is how your man Pattenden’s latest effort, with help from his ACU colleague, begins:
What makes a religious leader? On this site, in recent months, we have farewelled a series of moral and spiritual giants from within the Christian tradition: Desmond Tutu, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal George Pell. We also rightly and regularly honour departed indigenous Australian elders: for their stewardship of culture, memory, community, and spirituality — and for their important role in fighting for social justice.
Today, our attention needs to be drawn instead to the sad and untimely passing of another Australian religious leader whose contribution to his community was similarly profound. Indeed, his role in making Australia’s gay Christians visible, and in carving out spaces for them within our nation’s rich and variegated spiritual landscape, marks him out as one of the most influential of the 78ers — the LGBTQ+ Australians of our parent’s generation.
The article goes on to explain that Fabian LoSchiavo was a founding member of the Australian chapter of the group known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a protest group made up of gay men who dress up in drag as Catholic nuns. They have recently been in the news after being invited, then disinvited, then reinvited to a baseball game hosted by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
While dressed up as a nun, LoSchiavo generally went by the name “Mother Inferior”, though at other times he apparently preferred “Mother Abyss”, “Sister Volupta” or “Monsignor Porcamadonna”. It seems obvious that the intent of these performances was to ridicule the Catholic Church, and Catholic nuns in particular.
And yet according to two learned academics writing for the ABC, this makes LoSchiavo a religious leader whose contributions rival those of Desmond Tutu or Benedict XVI. Would a man who spent decades ridiculing the members of a non-Catholic faith be treated as a serious religious figure?
By the way, The ABC headed the obituary “Remembering Fabian LoSchiavo: Australian nun, social activist, religious leader”. He was never a nun.
“You Must Remember This” is based on the chorus line in the song As Time Goes By which was popularised by the film Casablanca. It is devoted to reminding the usual suspects of what they and/or those they supported once wrote or said or did.
STUART LITTLEMORE KC FORGETS HIS DAYS AS A LESS THAN IMPARTIAL ABC JOURNO CAMPAIGNING AGAINST CONSERVATIVE VALUES
Today’s (hugely popular) “Correspondence” section returns with an email exchange between David Salter (the founding executive producer of ABC TV Media Watch program) and Gerard Henderson. The topic turned on Gerard Henderson’s column in The Weekend Australian on 27-28 May in which he referred to an article in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald by Stuart Littlemore (the inaugural presenter of ABC TV Media Watch) and David Salter.
But MWD digresses, sort of. In their piece in the Nine newspapers, Comrades Littlemore and Salter criticised contemporary ABC management for abandoning “a long-standing policy that ensured impartiality”. It was a hard-hitting but considered critique of the ABC. However, the Littlemore/Salter duo also criticised those who maintain that the ABC is a conservative free zone by claiming that “the personal politics of a presenter are irrelevant and should never be evident”.
In other words, the comrades looked back on a time at the ABC when they were ABC journalists where all staff practised impartiality when on the job. But is this the case? You be the judge.
Stuart Littlemore was employed by the taxpayer funded ABC in the 1970s. After leaving the ABC, he became a successful barrister – and returned to the ABC part-time in 1989 to present Media Watch, which he did between 1989 and 1997.
In 1996, Littlemore published his first book – titled The Media and Me. In Chapter Ten, he reflected on his years as a reporter on the ABC TV program This Day Tonight – the precursor to 7.30.
In this Apologia Pro Vita (media) Sua [Don’t be so pretentious – MWD Editor], your man Littlemore made no pretence of being into impartiality when on TDT (as it was then called) which ran from 1967 to 1978.
On the contrary, Littlemore boasted of how he and his fellow 7.30 comrades campaigned against various Liberal Party governments. Here’s what Littlemore had to say about TDT in his day:
The problem was that the TDT had built its success on assaulting the conservative values of postwar Australia, values that rationalised White Australia, or lickspittle subservience to America in Vietnam, and our cultural prejudices, and permitted ordinary, decent Australians to tolerate discrimination against Aboriginal people and migrants. We had done it any way we could devise – aggressive interviewing of complacent politicians, tendentious filmmaking in documentary form, satire – and fortunately, the TDT members had, or developed, considerable skill in all those areas… calculated to change Australia’s attitudes.
Without enemies, TDT was lost. The election of a reformist Labor government robbed the program of Canberra as its main antagonist…The program’s federal focus softened. Happily, we still had an easy target in the New South Wales State [Coalition] government.
In The Media and Me, Littlemore also looked back in kindness on TDT’s presenter Bill Peach. It so happens that, like Comrade Littlemore, Comrade Peach took the truth syrup after he left the ABC. In his book This day tonight: how Australian current affairs TV came of age (ABC Books 1992), Peach acknowledged that TDT’s “selection of subjects revealed that we were less than…utterly objective” and he made it clear that TDT campaigned against the incumbent Coalition governments at the time.
So, there you have it. Stuart Littlemore reckons that, once upon a time, the ABC was into impartiality. But in his ABC “tell all” in 1996, Littlemore boasted that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, in his time, campaigned against the values of conservative Australia. How impartial is that?
You Must Remember This.
IN WHICH INSIDERS ON SUNDAY BROKE ONLY ONE BIG STORY – AS THE ABC’s DAN BOURCHIER CRITICISED HIS (ANONYMOUS) ABC CRITICS ON THE ABC
To Media Watch Dog, ABC TV’s Insiders program on 28 May was once again “worthy” – as they say in the trade. David Speers was in the presenter’s chair and the couch trio consisted of Dan Bourchier (ABC), Karen Middleton (The Saturday Paper) and Cameron Stewart (The Australian). All made useful contributions to the discussion – but all were essentially in agreement with each other.
ABC panels are chosen by the executive producer who also determines the subjects to be discussed. In the case of Insiders, panellists are told in advance about the topics and provided with a run-sheet before the event. Samuel Clark is Insiders’ executive producer.
There was a lot of national and international news available for discussion on 28 May. However, Insiders focused overwhelmingly on Indigenous issues.
Some 27 per cent of the program centred on the Indigenous voice to parliament and 12 per cent on the controversy surrounding Indigenous journalist Stan Grant and his comments on the ABC at the beginning of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s coverage of the King’s coronation. This was followed by David Speers’ interview with Indigenous Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe which occupied 31 per cent of the program. Following which the panel took up 6 per cent of the program discussing what Senator Thorpe had to say.
That is a whopping 76 per cent of Insiders last Sunday that focused on Indigenous issues. Despite the fact that the referendum on the voice is at least four months away.
After the Speers/Thorpe interview, Speers spent 16 per cent of the program on economic issues and 18 per cent on two matters not related to the economy.
With respect to the economy, the focus was on the cost of living and the PRRT (the petroleum resource rent tax). There was no discussion whatsoever on the surplus/deficit – which is of relevance to inflation now and into the future. This despite the fact that in Senate Estimates on Thursday 25 May, Finance Minister Senator Katy Gallagher said that the Albanese government did not possess “all the answers” as to how to manage the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to grow by no more than 8 per cent per year. The Finance Minister added: “We’ve got work underway”. That was all.
Insiders completely ignored the discussion between Senator Gallagher and Shadow Finance minister Senator Jane Hume about how Labor can achieve its promised savings over the next decade. Yet this was one of the big late-breaking political stories of the week.
The only news story from Insiders on Sunday turned on the comments of Dan Bourchier who identifies as Indigenous and is the ABC’s correspondent on the Voice referendum.
In an exchange with Speers, Bourchier said that he and Stan Grant had been subjected to racial attacks – focusing on anonymous Twitter comments. Bourchier seems unaware that many media commentators receive abuse and threats – whether they are Indigenous or not. However, he was specific about the ABC.
Let’s go to the transcript:
Dan Bourchier: Well, Stan’s [Grant] been a mentor and friend of mine. So, I’ve taken – it’s been quite personal. It felt really personal. And it’s reminded me of things that I’d thought that I’d dealt with about the abuse, the death threats, the constant belittling or degrading of what your perspective is that happens from some in the community. It’s also raised lots of issues about what happens within the ABC. And there’s been a lot of reporting about that. And I have to say that not much of that has surprised me, because it’s what I hear, and some of it is what I’ve experienced myself. And so, I think –
David Speers: [interjecting] You’re talking about racism?
Dan Bourchier: Yeah, yeah.
David Speers: In the organisation?
Dan Bourchier: Well, yeah. When I come on this program and am dismissed as your “diversity pick” or your “box ticker”. You know, that comes from within our organisation, and then that sends a message that that type of language is normal. And it’s not. It’s unacceptable.
David Speers: It is unacceptable. And it’s not why you’re here [laughing] for the record. We love your [inaudible].
The ABC’s Voice referendum correspondent provided no evidence whatsoever for this serious allegation about his own ABC colleagues. Moreover, David Speers did not ask for any evidence about this (alleged) “racism”.
Yet this was the only story to emerge from Sunday’s Insiders on 28 May — the ABC talking about the ABC on the ABC is invariably “news”.
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 (the late) 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.
DAVID SALTER AND GERARD HENDERSON RE THE ABC’S DAVID SALTER, STUART LITTLEMORE AND MORE BESIDES
The previous issue of Media Watch Dog contained a critique of the lack of political diversity within the ABC – the taxpayer funded public broadcaster which is a Conservative Free Zone, as MWD has pointed out passim ad nauseam. Gerard Henderson wrote about the current controversy concerning the ABC’s lack of impartiality in his column in The Weekend Australian on 27-28 May 2023. This led to correspondence from David Salter – a former executive producer of the ABC TV Media Watch program. In response, Hendo referred to Mr Salter himself and Stuart Littlemore KC (the inaugural presenter of ABC TV’s Media Watch) who recently co-wrote an article with Salter on the ABC for Nine’s The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. Now read on:
David Salter to Gerard Henderson – 27 May 2023
Re: Your column in the Weekend Australian 27-28.5.23
Twice you quote a line from the piece Littlemore and I wrote for the SMH as “…the Stan Grant saga”.
That’s how it ran in the newspaper. But in the full and original text, which they published online, we wrote “…the Stan Grant debacle”. The SMH made that change from “debacle” to “saga” for their printed version.
Elsewhere in the same edition of today’s Weekend Australian the Media Editor, James Madden, also quotes us. He used the full version as his source and quoted the line correctly: “Thus we have the Stan Grant debacle.”
Gerard Henderson to David Salter – 1 June 2023
Good afternoon David
I refer to your email of 29 May concerning my column in The Weekend Australian on 27-28 May.
How wonderful to hear from you after all these years. And how great to know that you – and perhaps Stuart Littlemore KC – read my column, on occasion at least.
In response to your email, I make the following comments.
- I read the Stuart Littlemore/David Salter article in the Sydney Morning Herald on the morning of 23 May – and made the reference to which you refer in my Weekend Australian column on 27-28 May:
On Monday, Nine newspapers ran an opinion piece by Stuart Littlemore and David Salter (the one-time presenter and executive producer of the ABC TV Media Watch program respectively) titled “ABC’s self-inflicted woes not just a matter of opinion”.
The authors were critical of ABC management on a number of accounts – including the failure to insist that presenters not convey their “personal politics” on air and that they exhibit “impartiality” on all occasions. Hence what they termed “the Stan Grant saga”.
I note that the full report which the Herald published online referred to the Stan Grant “debacle” – not the Stan Grant “saga”. I did not become aware of the online version of your article until some time after reading the print version.
But really. I know that your man Littlemore is the epitome of a language pedant – along with many of his generation who were educated in New South Wales. Nevertheless, only a pedant on steroids would object to a Nine opinion page editor or sub-editor changing the word “debacle” to “saga”, especially in a column which was critical of the subject matter.
Come to think of it, you (along with me) are of a not dissimilar age to Comrade Littlemore. You would seem to embrace pedantry. As for myself – I was (well) brought up in Melbourne. Where, at the time, English expression classes were not into pedantism – at least not in my experience.
- Initially, I was not aware that the Littlemore/Salter piece in its full and original text, which appeared online, referred to me. This was drawn to my attention by an avid reader in Perth. As you may recall, this is what you and Comrade Littlemore had to say:
By failing to draw clear contractual guidelines for ABC staff, whether on-air or not, the corporation has abandoned a longstanding policy that ensured impartiality. The sour snipers such as Gerard Henderson, bleating that the ABC has no “conservative” presenters, miss the point entirely. The personal politics of a presenter are irrelevant, and should never be evident.
I would have thought that such proponents of literary formalism as yourself and Stuart could have thought up a better description of me than a reference to “sour snipers” who are into “bleating”– which seems a bit Year 12, don’t you think?
As you seem to be aware, my position is that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. This statement is true. Members of the ABC Fan Club claim that there are conservatives in charge of some of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s prominent programs. But no one has been able to name even one that fits the bill. Fancy that.
You and Stuart told readers of Nine newspapers that “the personal politics of a presenter are irrelevant and should never be evident”. But the fact is that they are evident, at times at least. Witness, for example, the public comments of such ABC “stars” as Michael Rowland, Louise Milligan, Laura Tingle, Sarah Ferguson and now Stan Grant – plus many, many more.
In any event, what about the existence of unconscious bias? – which is taken seriously in sections of society. It’s absolute tosh to state that the personal politics of presenters are irrelevant and that all ABC journalists leave their ideological views at the door when they enter the ABC studio in inner-city Ultimo in Sydney or inner-city Southbank in Melbourne.
Why, even Stuart Littlemore did not believe such nonsense himself when he wrote The Media and Me (ABC Books) in 1996. As I pointed out in my Weekend Australian column of 26-27 May:
According to Littlemore and Salter, the ABC’s lack of impartiality is a relatively recent phenomenon. Not so. Perhaps Littlemore has forgotten that, in his 1996 book The Media and Me (ABC Books), he boasted that when he worked on the ABC TV This Day Tonight program (the predecessor of 7.30) it was into “assaulting the conservative values of post-war Australia”. What’s more, Littlemore acknowledged that the ABC TV’s key current affairs program was “calculated to change Australian attitudes”. Not much impartiality there.
I will document more of the 1996 version of The Thought of Stuart Littlemore in the next edition of my Media Watch Dog blog. The fact is that when he was on This Day Tonight, Littlemore, according to Littlemore, conveniently chose to assault “the conservative values of post-war Australia”. And now Littlemore KC – with your support – reckons the political views of ABC presenters and reporters are of no relevance to what they put to air. And you both worry about the insignificant change of one word in the text of your article.
This does not pass the “Can You Bear It?” test.
Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous), CABC (aka “Cancelled” by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
* * * *
Until next time.
* * * * *