ISSUE – NO. 646

4 August 2023

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What an anti-Trump pile-on on the ABC over the last 24 hours or so.  Now, Media Watch Dog is not a Donald J. Trump-style conservative.  But Trump is a former United States president and could possibly return to the White House after the 2024 presidential election.  Consequently, the various legal charges laid against Trump deserve a serious and balanced analysis.

This is not what has occurred on the ABC:

  • Last night, Sarah Ferguson interviewed Leslie Caldwell, a former assistant attorney general in the US, on 7.30. Ms Caldwell is a Trump critic.
  • Then, this morning on Radio National Breakfast, Hamish Macdonald interviewed EJ Dionne – another Trump critic. Dionne stated that the US voters threw Trump out in 2020 “by seven million votes in the popular count and a 306-232 margin in the Electoral College”. Macdonald failed to point out that the first figure is meaningless since the popular vote does not determine who becomes US president. In 2016, Trump narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton and four years later Joe Biden narrowly defeated Trump. It is victories in States to secure Electoral College votes that determines US presidential elections.
  • Later this morning, Macdonald interviewed John Bolton who served briefly in the Trump White House but is now a Trump hater. Bolton declared that Trump is “not fit for office”.
  • On 2 August, The World Today interviewed the Sydney-based American Bruce Wolpe who is the author of the somewhat hyperbolic Trump’s Australia (Allen & Unwin, 2023). Wolpe bagged Trump as did the other interviewee, Frank Montoya Jr, who joined in the criticism.
  • On 3 August, Macdonald interviewed William Kristol, one of the original Republican supporters who formed the “Never Trump” movement some years ago. Needless to say, Kriston bagged Trump.

This kind of coverage is misleading.  It overlooks the fact that Trump has significant support in the US. The role of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster should be to give an objective analysis of the current political debate in the US.  This cannot be achieved by interviewing Trump critics and Trump haters to the exclusion of his supporters and neutral commentary.


Media Watch Dog goes out once a week and, unlike the taxpayer funded ABC Q+A, does not have a four week Well Earned Break (aka WEB) mid-year.  So, it needs all the copy that is possible – and relies on left-of-centre journalists to help out.  Hence MWD is mourning the current disappearance of two faves – namely Guy Rundle and Caro Meldrum-Hanna.

As avid readers know, Comrade Rundle is MWD’s fave Marxist comedian.  He was Crikey’s correspondent-at-large (or some such) until the leftist newsletter published a piece where Rundle took the wrong line on Brittany Higgins’ claim that she was raped in Parliament House by a fellow Liberal Party staffer in 2018.  As reported in MWD Issue 640, the Crikey editors did a big MEA CULPA for publishing the piece.  However, it appears that MWD’s fave Marxist comedian failed to do the appropriate grovel and has not been heard of since.

A pity really.  Like all of us, Comrade Rundle has been adversely affected by The Fall and – consequently – has his faults.  But in his Crikey articles he was invariably well-informed and, on occasions, clever.  Here’s hoping your man Rundle comes back from Crikey’s Disappeared Soviet apparently located somewhere in Melbourne.

And then there is the issue of the one-time ABC “star” Caro Meldrum-Hanna, she of what Paul Keating once called the Hyphenated-Name-Set.  The Australian Financial Review’s “Rear Window” column reported on 2 August that C M-H appears to have left the (ABC) building, as the saying goes.

As avid readers are aware, the ABC Communications Department – ABC Comms – specialises in not communicating.  According to “Rear Window”:  “Asked about whether Meldrum-Hanna has officially left the organisation, an Aunty spokesperson would not comment.”

MWD was among the first to criticise C M-H’s three-part investigation into the tragic 1979 fire at Sydney’s Luna Park in which six boys and one man died. The program ran the old leftist conspiracy that Neville Wran, the NSW Labor premier at the time, was somehow complicit in covering up what C M-H presented as the crime of murder-by-arson.  She had no credible evidence to support the claim.

As MWD has documented – see MWD Issue 557 –  the ABC has withdrawn the program from its iview videos-on-demand service.  And now the presenter of the ABC’s “Exposed: Ghost Train” documentary, which cost around $2 million to put together, has also disappeared.

What’s more, Crikey and the ABC – which are always banging on about full disclosure and all that – have thrown the switch to no comment about the disappearance of comrades Rundle and Meldrum-Hanna. Can You Bear It?


There is enormous interest among Media Watch Dog readers – especially those residents in the State of Victoria under the socialist left leadership of Daniel Andrews – about Crikey founder Stephen Mayne – aka the Sage of Templestowe.  Your man Mayne took umbrage [Where did he get it from? – MWD Editor.] at Gerard Henderson’s claim that the State Bank of Victoria collapsed in 1991 during the time of premier Joan Kirner, who had to mop up Victoria following the leadership of Labor premier John Cain.  See MWD, 28 July.

Thanks to the avid Queensland reader who drew attention to this tweet (or is it Xeet?) which was put out on Sunday 30 July at around Gin & Tonic time:

Talk about pedantry.  The criticism by the author of The Mayne Report is that it was wrong for Gerard Henderson to write in his Weekend Australian column on 19 July that the State Bank of Victoria had “collapsed”.  However, by 30 July the Sage of Templestowe himself was claiming that, while the SBV “collapsed”, it was not the kind of collapse that involved a “loss making business which has been sold”.

Turn it up.  As an avid (financial type) reader emailed MWD : “Mayne has no idea of what he is talking about”. He pointed out that SBV reported non-performing assets of 27 per cent of total loans. The reader added that the failure of the state banking sector in Australia in the early 1990s – i.e. the State Bank of Victoria and State Bank of South Australia – destroyed more bank capital as a proportion of Australian GDP than the Savings & Loans crisis did in the United States as a percentage of US GDP at around the same time.

Stephen Mayne is in denial.  He seems unaware that the only reason why the SBV was able to be sold to the Commonwealth Bank turned on the fact that it had been temporarily bailed out by taxpayers’ money.  Apparently, your man Mayne is of the view that taxpayers’ money is free money. Can You Bear It?


Media Watch Dog has just had another look at the ABC TV documentary The Dark Emu Story – starring Bruce Pascoe who identifies as a “Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man”, despite being not able to cite the name of one Indigenous grandparent.

MWD readers know a lot about your man Bruce Pascoe (born 1947). But not, perhaps, about the Good Weekend columnist Benjamin Law (born 1982). So it’s worth reporting your man Law’s brief cameo appearance in The Dark Emu Story film where he had this to say:

Benjamin Law:  I remember running into Bruce Pascoe at an airport – and this was shortly after I’d read Dark Emu.  We’d both been coming back from the same writers’ festival and I raced up to him because it felt like a rock star moment.

So there you have it.  Comrade Law was so impressed with the book Dark Emu written by Comrade Pascoe that he regarded him as a rock star – despite the fact that Benjamin Law was no teenager. Can You Bear It?


The Melbourne-based Saturday Paper – publisher Morry Schwartz, editor-in-chief Erik Jensen – goes to press on Thursdays at around Gin & Tonic time and arrives in inner-city coffee shops much to the delight of sandal-wearing leftist luvvies at around Hangover Time on Saturday mornings.

The Saturday Paper identifies as a newspaper. However, due to the time between printing and publication, it contains no news.  In view of this, Gerard Henderson reads it on Mondays.  After all, what’s the hurry?  Needless to say, The Saturday Paper is published in Collingwood – close to Melbourne’s Sandalista Central in nearby Fitzroy North.


Lotsa thanks to the avid (inner-city) Media Watch Dog reader who drew attention to the boring editorial in The [Boring] Saturday Paper on 22 July. It appears to have been written by Eric Jensen, who commenced his 607-word rant as follows:

Julia Gillard (Unley High School) was at The Sydney Institute when she said the words that would help destroy the Australian education system: “no school will lose a dollar of funding”. The institute is a confection of Gerard Henderson’s (Xavier College), a shrine to hectoring and pedantry, where the world is held in harping stasis by a series of filing cabinets. Gillard spoke before David Gonski (Sydney Grammar) had conducted his review of school funding. Her words ensured his scheme to address inequality in education could never be properly realised.

It’s a pity that The [Boring] Saturday Paper does not employ one or more pedants.  After all, the second sentence in Comrade Jensen’s editorial is ungrammatical. Since it’s unclear whether anyone reads the pretend newspaper’s editorial – the word usage probably does not matter much.

As to the rest – well, it’s somewhat hyperbolic, don’t you think?  After all, your man Jensen is saying that Julia Gillard played a part in destroying the Australian education system.  Turn it up.  The education system is primarily the responsibility of the States and Territories and cannot be destroyed by the Commonwealth government even if a prime minister wanted to do so.

As to the Jensenism that The Sydney Institute is a place “where the world is held in harping stasis by a series of filing cabinets” – well, what does this mean? [Could it be that Comrade Jensen was hoping to get a run in your hugely popular Flann O’Brien Gong for Literary or Verbal Sludge? – MWD Editor.]

Comrade Jensen’s editorial, headed “Class warfare”, is but a rant held together by nothing much.  In Jensen’s Marxist analysis, Australia “has one of the most segregated education systems in the developed world” which “serves the interests of a small group of people in whose hands the majority of wealth lies”.  Really.

However, The Saturday Paper, in which the above-cited editorial appeared, contained articles by former Independent MP Julia Banks and regular columnist Paul Bongiorno – both of whom also attended non-government schools.  As did Anthony Albanese, Kevin Rudd and also Bill Shorten (Xavier College, in fact).  Both John Howard and Scott Morrison, on the other hand, attended government schools – as did Julia Gillard. What’s segregated about this? Moreover, David Gonski – as Comrade Jensen acknowledges – has been a supporter of increased funding for government schools, despite the fact that he attended Sydney Grammar.

According to The Thought of Erik, Australia’s education system “creates lifelong disadvantage [and] divides the country in two”.  What a load of absolute tosh. It would seem that Comrade Jensen, in his inner-city Collingwood abode not far from the Melbourne CBD, seems unaware that many Australians, high-income and modest earners alike, want to send their children to fee-paying non-government schools – and don’t give a toss about The [Boring] Saturday Paper’s teachings on this matter. Meanwhile, some rich Australians in affluent areas of Australia’s cities and towns send their children to government schools funded by taxpayers.

[Interesting.  I note that Comrade Jensen can be somewhat, say, loquacious in a written kind of way.  I remember his 2019 Quarterly Essay  (also published by Black Inc) titled The Prosperity Gospel: How Scott Morrison Won and Bill Shorten Lost – about the May 2019 election. Re Bill Shorten – Jensen declared that “he has the large, pleading eyes of a child left alone in his cot” and “at times he speaks as if he’s giving participation prizes at a dance eisteddfod”. Jensen also informed readers (if readers there were) that “Morrison smiles and his teeth look surprised”.

Pleading eyes/surprised teeth – what literary sludge. Held together, no doubt, in “harping stasis” – whatever that might mean. How boring can an editorial writer get? – MWD Editor.]


Lotsa thanks to the Melbourne reader who drew Media Watch Dog’s attention to Virginia Trioli’s interview with lawyer Georgia Sneddon on the ABC Radio Melbourne 702 Mornings program. The date was 2 August.

The interview followed the Herald Sun’s  heading of that morning which screamed:  “Children We Failed. Exclusive: Hundreds of former students from 180 Victorian schools pursuing historical child sexual abuse claims and multi-million dollar payouts.”  Ms Sneddon is an associate at Arnold Thomas & Becker lawyers.  The article revealed that some 70 claims have been made with respect to schools run by the Education Department of Victoria.

In his Weekend Australian column on 28 July, Gerard Henderson criticised the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – which ran between 2013 and 2018 and was headed by Peter McClellan KC – for all but ignoring government schools.  See here.  Instead, the Royal Commission focused on Christian – primarily Catholic and Anglican – schools.  Henderson pointed out that, in recent years, commissions of inquiry have been set up in Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria – to look into the area that Mr McClellan ignored.  Apparently, the presenter of ABC Melbourne Mornings was blissfully unaware of this.

The Herald Sun story was a follow-up of the Victorian inquiry which focuses narrowly on Beaumaris Primary School and five teachers who taught there half a century ago.

ABC reports on the Royal Commission focused on Catholic institutions in general and Cardinal George Pell in particular.  So, it came as no surprise to learn that Virginia Trioli expressed surprise that some 70 government schools in Victoria are being sued for alleged historical child sexual assault.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Virginia Trioli: And are we talking here about only state schools, or is it some independent schools as well?

Georgia Sneddon: Yeah, certainly some independent schools as well and religious as well. But yeah, it’s just shocking how much, how prolific this is, and widespread these numbers are [in government schools].

Virginia Trioli: We all remember very well, from the Royal Commission when it came to religious institutions – and Catholic schools in particular, knowing about priests being moved around from one school to another…. Have you been able to establish that teachers [in government schools] were moved around in a similar way?

Georgia Sneddon: Look, our investigations have found very similar, you know, situations occurring [in government schools] where….

Virginia Trioli: And this has happened in the state system?

Georgia Sneddon: This has been in the state system, yes.

Virginia Trioli: Right. So now we’ve got a situation, Georgia Sneddon, where not only has that been the the MO [modus operandi] in religious institutions and Catholic ones in particular, but it’s also gone on in the state system.

Georgia Sneddon: Yeah, well, that’s what our investigation seems to indicate….

Virginia Trioli: It’s incredibly disheartening, isn’t it?

Yes. But, surely, no more disheartening than similar alleged crimes in Catholic or Anglican schools.

After the interview, Trioli took a call from Maria in North Balwyn who said that the Royal Commission never explained why it failed to focus on all child sexual abuse – including government schools – and concluded: “This sort of behaviour, you know, was never just confined to priests and brothers”.  Whereupon Ms Trioli threw the switch to fudge:

Virginia Trioli: I think the Royal Commission did actually look at all Institutional Responses. So it wasn’t, it wasn’t just religious. But you’re quite right to point out that that’s where, that’s where the focus was. Maria, thank you for calling in.

Ms Trioli’s comment is just false.  The Royal Commission undertook 57 Case Studies costing the taxpayer $350 million – not one of which involved an operating government school.  ABC presenters should know this.  There is no excuse for Virginia Trioli’s ignorance in this matter.



On Tuesday 1 August, Bruce Shapiro made one of his regular appearances on Phillip Adams’ “little wireless program” Late Night Live. Shapiro, who writes for the American left-wing magazine The Nation and works at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, was brought on to discuss the latest developments in US politics.

After a discussion of former President Trump’s current legal troubles, the topic turned to Hunter Biden, the son of current President Joe Biden. The younger Biden is facing criminal charges relating to his failure to pay tax in 2017 and 2018, as well as allegedly lying on a form while purchasing a gun (Hunter claimed on the form he was not using illicit drugs when there are numerous leaked videos which contradict that claim). On Wednesday 26 July, a plea bargain Hunter’s lawyers had negotiated with prosecutors fell apart after the judge asked for clarity on which potential future charges Hunter would have immunity from under the deal.

Hunter Biden is best known for his involvement in several questionable business arrangements with foreign companies which various journalists, commentators and Republicans have alleged were corrupt attempts to profit from his father’s influence. Republicans in Congress are currently holding hearings to investigate these claims. Here is what Bruce Shapiro told the ABC’s man in black about these allegations:

Bruce Shapiro: It should be said that in all of this, there is still not one shred of evidence, not one scintilla suggesting that President Biden himself had anything to do with his son’s business, with his son’s efforts to trade on his father’s good name, et cetera. It’s still a tragic and sad family story. There is no evidence of presidential involvement.

This closely matches the line currently being advanced by Democrats and sympathetic journalists to defend President Biden. Essentially, that Hunter Biden was merely selling the “Illusion of access”, without the knowledge of his father and without the ability to influence his father. Evidently Bruce Shapiro accepts this line completely, assuring ABC Radio National listeners that this is merely a family tragedy and not a presidential corruption issue.

On Monday 31 July, Devon Archer testified before the House of Representatives Oversight and Accountability Committee. Mr Archer and Hunter Biden joined the board of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma in 2014, while Joe Biden was vice president.

In his testimony Mr Archer claimed that Hunter Biden was selling “the brand”, by which he meant the Biden family name, and in particular a perceived association with Joe Biden. He also said he believed Burisma would have gone out of business without “the brand” because it meant that “people would be intimidated to mess with them”.

He also testified that Joe Biden, while serving as vice president, attended two dinners with Hunter Biden’s foreign business associates including an executive from Burisma, in 2014 and 2015. Contrary to claims made by the president’s defenders he said that these interactions between Joe Biden and Hunter Biden’s associates were not brief.

Archer also said that on “maybe 20” occasions he saw Hunter Biden call his father in the presence of business associates, in order to prove his access to then vice president. However, the calls were apparently casual and Hunter Biden’s business arrangements were not discussed.

Devon Archer is not the first former business associate of Hunter Biden to speak publicly about Hunter’s business with foreign companies. A man named Anthony Bobulinski claims he worked with Hunter and his Uncle James “Jimmy” Biden on a proposed venture with Chinese energy company CEFC China Energy Co in 2017 (Joe Biden’s second term as vice president ended at the beginning of that year).

In 2020, in the midst of the presidential campaign between then President Trump and Joe Biden, Mr Bobulinski spoke at a press conference organised by the Trump campaign. He alleged that he had attended a meeting in 2017 at which Hunter, Joe and James “Jimmy” Biden had discussed Biden family business in China in detail.

Mr Bobulinski also provided an email sent by another man involved in the deal named James Gilliar. The email references “10 held by H for The Big Guy?”. Mr Bubulinski says this is a reference to 10 per cent equity stake in the proposed company being held by Hunter for Joe Biden. The New York Post’s Miranda Devine has subsequently reported on later emails by James Gilliar in which he appears to refer to Joe Biden as “the big guy”.

These are not the first accusations of corruption made against members of Joe Biden’s family. In 2019 the US news site Politico published a long article retracing some of the scandals the Bidens have been involved in.

The earliest dates back to 1973, the year Joe Biden was first sworn in as a Senator, when his brother Jimmy managed to secure bank loans to set up a nightclub. Contemporary press accounts reported that former staff at the bank alleged that the loans were given because of the Biden name. These loans were later scrutinised by the Department of Justice’s US Attorney Alan Hoffman who found that there was nothing improper about the loans – Hoffman would, many years later, go on to serve as Senator Joe Biden’s chief of staff.

Jimmy Biden and his partners, who now included the Biden’s brother-in-law John T. Owen, later secured an even larger loan from another bank to prop up the failing business. This loan was apparently secured thanks to a recommendation from the office of the Governor of Pennsylvania. John T. Owen had previously worked as an aide to the Governor. Jimmy Biden sold the business in 1977, shortly before it folded, and was subsequently involved in various legal matters relating to the repayment of the loans.

Jimmy Biden went on to be involved in other scandal-plagued business arrangements. In more recent years they often also involved his nephew, Hunter.

Recently another brother of President Biden, Francis “Frank” Biden became embroiled in his own corruption scandal. In 2021 and 2022 Frank Biden gave two speeches at events organised by the health technology company BioSig. At the first event, a dinner in Boston, Frank Biden boasted about the “the bully pulpit that I have as a result of the privilege of being associated with my brother Joey” and said he would “do everything in my power to support you to get the job done, to get federal dollars to your research”.

In the second speech, delivered to a medical conference in Venice, Frank Biden talked about his brother’s cancer initiative. An attendee at the event, who works for a medical trade group, posted a video online afterwards in which he claimed that he’d spoken to Frank Biden about the group’s efforts to lobby the federal government concerning changes to Medicare reimbursement rules and that Frank Biden had agreed to help and “ensure that our message is heard by the right people”.

Frank Biden, who is not a registered federal lobbyist, has since denied that he agreed to contact anyone from the government on behalf of the group. The president’s brother and BioSig have given contradictory and shifting accounts about their business relationship and who paid for Biden to attend the events.

This is nowhere near a full accounting of the corruption allegations surrounding various members of the Biden family. And yet despite the statements given by Hunter Biden’s former business associates, and despite the decades of scandals that have surrounded Biden family business arrangements, Bruce Shapiro told Radio National listeners that there is “not one shred of evidence” President Biden had anything to do with Hunter Biden’s shady business deals.



As Media Watch Dog readers are well aware, the (male) co-owner of the late Jackie (Dip Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute) is a dedicated follower of literary festival fashions.  These are occasions where a group of leftists get hold of lotsa taxpayer’s money.  Thereupon they invite their leftist ideological comrades to gather together where invariably almost everyone agrees with almost everyone else about almost everything in a leftist kind of way.

It’s more of the same with this year’s Canberra Writers Festival – which will be held in the nation’s capital between 16 and 20 August. Here’s a list of the most prominent participants in the non-fiction area:

Gillian (Gill) Appleton, Allan Behm, Ebony Bennett, Frank Bongiorno, Dan Bourchier, Mike Bowers, Barrie Cassidy, Megan Davis, Jackie Dent, Clinton Fernandes, Alan Finkel, Dennis Glover, Stan Grant, Virginia Haussegger, Gabrielle Jackson, Fran Kelly, Thomas Keneally, Mark Kenny, Deidre Macken, William Maley, Samantha Maiden, Chris Masters, Karen Middleton, Louise Milligan, Elizabeth Reid, Amy Remeikis, Niki Savva, Emma Shortis, David Speers, Tracey Spicer, Laura Tingle, Chris Wallace, Clare Wright.

Some of this group are worth listening to.  However, there’s not one conservative that MWD can identify among this lot.  Not one.  Which suggests that CWF will be another somewhat boring talkfest – devoid of real debate.  A kind of five-day version of The Drum on ABC TV. Groan. By the way, the CWF’s theme for 2023 is “Power, Politics, Passion”.

As to highlights, here are some:

At 7.45 am on Thursday 17 August, there is a CWF Special Event titled “Whither the Liberal Party”. The participating chair is journalist Barrie Cassidy, a one-time press secretary to Labor prime minister Bob Hawke.  And the panel comprises The Guardian Australia’s Amy Remeikis plus occasional Sydney Morning Herald  and Age columnist Niki Savva plus former Liberal MP for Wentworth Dave Sharma.  MWD reckons that, of this quartet, only Sharma currently votes for the Liberal Party.

Comrade Remeikis works for the avowedly leftist Guardian Australia while Comrade Savva has been a vehement critic of the Liberal Party governments headed by Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison and is now a vehement critic of Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton.  Dave Sharma was a fine MP for Wentworth but he is from the self-identifying progressive or moderate left of the Liberals and would not claim to be a conservative.

In short, there is not one political conservative on this panel which is supposed to discuss the future of the Liberal Party.

Then there is the “Advance Australia Where?” event at 4.30 pm on 30 August starring Allan Behm, Clinton Fernandes and Emma Shortis.  This segment is presented in conjunction with the avowedly leftist Australia Institute.

In MWD’s view, all members of this trio are critical of Australian foreign policy of both Labor (under Prime Minister Anthony Albanese) and the Coalition (under former prime minister Scott Morrison) – from the left.  For example, would one of these comrades support the bipartisan policy of Labor and the Coalition that Australia should purchase nuclear-powered submarines from the United States or Britain? Not on your nelly.  After all, Allan Behm and Dr Emma Shortis (for a doctor she is) signed The Australia Institute’s advertisement calling for a Parliamentary Inquiry into the AUKUS Nuclear-Powered Submarine Deal – which was published in the Australian Financial Review on 18 May 2023.

The good news is that the taxpayer funded event will conclude with lotsa luvvies – including Thomas Keneally and Tracey Spicer – divulging their, wait for it, “personal epiphanies”.  It’s called a “Light Bulb Moment’.  Good night.

Your Taxes At Work – per courtesy of the ACT Labor/Greens government with a little help from ACT and Commonwealth taxpayers.



If anyone has visited the ABC’s Sydney headquarters in inner-city Ultimo or its Melbourne studio in inner-city Southbank – they would know that both buildings are replete with security.  Paid for by the taxpayer.

Yet the taxpayer funded public broadcaster seems indifferent to the security of a female chief executive living with her partner and daughter in suburban Australia.  How else to explain the presence of a Four Corners crew outside the Perth home of Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill at 6.45 am on Tuesday 1 August?  Four Corners was present to film a demonstration by the Disrupt Burrup Hub activist group which is opposed to Woodside’s mining operations.

As is its wont, the ABC has gone into denial followed by fudge concerning the apparent collusion between the demonstrators opposed to Woodside who wanted their protest to be filmed – and the Four Corners crew that apparently was happy to oblige.

There is another point. Imagine what the ABC would say if, per chance, Sky News just happened to be present – cameras rolling – when a group of extreme right-wing activists demonstrated outside the home of the ABC’s managing director David Anderson in suburban Sydney. Such an improper and potentially dangerous incident would be widely condemned by ABC management and staff – and rightly so.   For the record, Sky News has never undertaken such an activity.



As avid readers know only too well, Professor Mark Kenny is a Media Watch Dog fave.  After all, your man Kenny is a real achiever.  Look at it this way.  He departed the University of Adelaide after a year or so as a student and took a position as a socialist left Labor Party member of the South Australian House of Assembly.  Then it was a job at the ABC, then on to The Advertiser in Adelaide, then back to the ABC, then on to what was called Fairfax Media (now Nine newspapers) reporting for the left-of-centre Sydney Morning Herald  and The Age.  Then your man got a gig on the ABC TV Insiders panel. It’s the Socialist Left/Fairfax Media/ABC Trifecta ladder of success for left-of-centre comrades.

In 2018, Comrade Kenny was made a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra and became a full-time academic the following year with the title of “professor” at the ANU’s Australian Studies Centre.  All this without publishing much beyond journalistic pieces and the occasional tweet. Well done, Mark – a brilliant left-of-centre career during which, in the late Kitty Muggeridge’s words, he rose without trace.

But MWD digresses – not for the first time.  Thanks to the avid Parramatta reader who drew MWD’s attention to the comments by the ANU’s Adelaide-born and bred learned professor when talking to Richard Glover on ABC Radio Sydney’s Drive program on 11 July.  Professor Kenny made a comparison between the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine of recent memory – during which he acknowledged having read the article titled “History lesson” by Dennis Glover in the July 2023 issue of Australian Foreign Affairs – published by the left-wing Black Inc, editor-in-chief Erik Jensen. Let’s go to the transcript:

Mark Kenny: And of course, you know, that’s when we, you know, we’ve heard a lot of talk about, you know, the 1930s parallels with, with today. And one of those parallels is actually quite, quite close. And that is that the way that the democratic countries failed to act in the what was actually a civil war in Spain. But the, you know, the fascist Italy and Nazi Germany was supplying the Nationalists in the late ’30s, in 1938 in that war in Spain. And trying out all of their, their new equipment and their new their new, techniques for warfare. Which were, which were horrendous – and which we’re seeing played again in Ukraine. Which was, you know, terror bombing of, of cities.

Richard Glover: Guernica is the great, you know –

Mark Kenny: Guernica is the great example….

Yeah.  Not only do we know.  More importantly – we know, you know.

But there is a distinction here. The Spanish Civil War was a conflict between the Spanish Nationalists force led by General Francisco Franco and the Spanish Republican government.  The Nationalists received military support from Germany (then led by the Nazi Adolf Hitler) and Italy (then led by the fascist Benito Mussolini).  However, Professor Kenny did not mention that the Republican government received support from the Soviet Union (then led by the communist Josef Stalin).

A war between Spaniards in the 1930s cannot be realistically compared to an invasion of Ukraine by Russia in the 21st Century.

Kenny went on to state that, during the Spanish Civil War, the British and French declined to provide arms to the Republican government while the United States, during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was neutral.  He continued:

Mark Kenny: It is a good piece. And you know, he’s [Dennis Glover] sort of making the point that the strongmen then took lessons from the fact that there wasn’t this resolve in the democratic countries, particularly Britain, France, and the US, to do anything about it and was only a matter of months [sic] after Spain, you know, Spain gave over to Francoism, that you saw Hitler move on Czechoslovakia and other things tumbled after that. So yeah, we did, the democratic West did very little in 2014, when Putin took the Crimea and the Crimean Peninsula – and look where we are now.

Richard Glover: Look where we are now….

This account contains one serious error. General Franco came to power in Spain in April 1939.  Hitler acquired the Sudetenland part of Czechoslovakia in October 1938 as a consequence of the Munich Agreement.  In other words, Germany acquired Czechoslovakia while the Spanish Civil War was still underway.

In fact, Professor Kenny presented a remarkably simplistic analysis of the Spanish Civil War.  Here are some facts that students of the learned professor at the Australian National University are unlikely to hear.

  • In 1934 there was a revolution led by socialists and communists against the Spanish government. It did not succeed. The left – the Popular Front – narrowly won the February 1936 election in defeating the Nationalists. The Republican government was influenced increasingly by the socialists and communists who were supported by some anarchists. The conservatives supported the Falange founded by Antonio Primo de Rivera – it enjoyed the support of sections of the military along with the Catholic Church in an essentially Catholic country.
  • On 18 July 1936, General Franco issued a manifesto saying that officers of the Spanish military were loyal to their country rather than to the Republican government in Madrid. The uprising began that day and ended with Franco’s victory on 1 April 1939.
  • The historian Paul Preston is a vehement critic of Franco. However, in his Concise History of the Spanish Civil War, Preston acknowledged that, in the early months of the Civil War, there was “widespread terrorism” in the Republican zone “mainly directed against the supporters of the right-wing parties and the [Catholic] clergy”.
  • In The Battle for Spain, the historian Antony Beevor (a non-Catholic) wrote that there is “one similarity” between the likely consequences of a victory by the Republican People’s Army in Spain in 1937–38 and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 – “namely, the communist determination to eliminate their left-wing allies once the war had been won against the right”. Beevor recounted how “the Comintern [i.e. Stalin’s] representatives in Spain were clearly seeking communist hegemony in Spain”. In other words, a victory for the Republic in the Civil War would almost certainly have led to the creation of a communist regime in Madrid controlled by Stalin’s communist totalitarian dictatorship in Moscow.
  • All up, probably around 500,000 Spaniards died in battle or close to the battle lines during the Civil War. It was an appalling conflict—as most civil wars are. There was considerable brutality on both sides—and there were fine Spaniards who died in defence of either the Republican or Nationalist causes.
  • In the April 2012 issue of Standpoint magazine, the veteran historian Hugh Thomas reviewed Professor Preston’s book The Spanish Holocaust. Thomas, who was not a Catholic, queried Preston’s continuing support for the Spanish Left of the 1930s and the Republican government.

Thomas wrote that he was “not sure that Professor Preston has quite entered into the minds of the Right in Spain … who from 1934 onwards felt threatened by a left-wing revolution on the Russian model”. Thomas argued that there was a danger of a Bolshevik-style revolution in Spain in the mid-1930s and that there “was a cult of violence in the Anarchist movement”. In view of this, it is scarcely surprising that anti-communists including the Catholic Church supported Franco’s forces – once the Civil War had begun.

  • In 2001, the collection Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War was published by Yale University Press. Edited by Ronald Radosh, Mary R. Habeck and Grigory Sevostianov, the book consists of documents released following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Reviewing Spain Betrayed in National Review, the author David Pryce-Jones (also not a Catholic) commented that “taken together, these documents show that Stalin aimed to transform Spain into a Soviet satellite”. He added that, had Stalin succeeded, “he would have extended the Communist reach, and encircled both Germany and France”. This would have been of special danger to Britain during the period of the Nazi–Soviet Pact between August 1939 and July 1941. Pryce-Jones also made the important point that Franco’s refusal to grant Hitler access to Spain in order to facilitate the seizure of Gibraltar and thereby interdict oil supplies from the Middle East “may have saved Britain in 1940”.

  • The Spanish Civil War was a conflict fought predominantly by the military and the Catholic right against the communists and the pro-communist left (whose cause was supported by anarchists until the communists turned on the anarchists).
  • Franco received military support from Nazi-Germany and fascist Italy – and the Republicans received military support from the communist Soviet Union. Franco’s support included Germany’s Condor Legion which bombed Guernica in April 1937. But there were atrocities on both sides of the Civil War – including the murder of Catholic nuns and the disinterment of their coffins.
  • As it turned out, when the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Stalin’s Soviet Union was an ally of Hitler’s Germany – as a consequence of the Nazi-Soviet pact of 23 August 1939 – until Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in July 1941. Franco kept Spain out of the Second World War and, unlike Benito Mussolini, did not become an ally of Hitler.
  • Professor Mark Kenny’s story of the Spanish Civil War – as told to Richard Glover – was replete with ignorance. The professor of Australian Studies should know more about the Spanish Civil War since many Australians fought in the conflict – primarily as part of the International Brigades supporting the Republican government, but a few fought for the Nationalists (re which see Judith Keene’s Fighting for Franco: International Volunteers in Nationalist Spain during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939).
  • Sure, Franco belonged to what Stanley G. Payne and Jesus Palacios have called “an age of European dictators” in their biography of the military dictator Franco. But the evidence suggests that there was no democratic alternative in Spain during the period between the mid-1930s and the mid-1940s.

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There is good reason for Western nations to support Ukraine following Russia’s recent invasion of that country.  But comparisons with the Spanish Civil War nearly a century ago are all but meaningless.



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Until Next Time

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