ISSUE – NO. 648

18 August 2023

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The ABC TV 7.30 presents as the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s key current affairs program – airing, as it does, from Mondays to Thursdays.

In the lead-up to the ALP national conference in Brisbane, there have been two key foreign policy matters in the domestic political debate.  Namely, Australia’s decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines from the United States and the United Kingdom – AUKUS.  And the Albanese government’s decision to change Australia’s policy stance with respect to the state of Israel and the entity of Palestine.

According to Media Watch Dog’s analysis, Labor’s changed policy towards Israel (which was discussed by Gerard Henderson in his Weekend Australian column on 12 August) has not been covered by 7.30. This includes the interview by Laura Tingle (7.30’s political correspondent) with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on 7.30 last night. The Tingle/Albanese discussion focused on AUKUS.  But that was all when it came to foreign policy. This is a serious omission.



Since its establishment in 1989, The Sydney Institute’s Media Watch operation has maintained that ABC management and journalists are too sensitive to criticism and, consequently, too reluctant to acknowledge errors of commission or omission.  Also, despite being a member of the Right to Know Coalition, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is reluctant to provide information about itself.  The latter matter will be discussed in the next issue of MWD.

As avid readers know, MWD supported the recent creation of an Ombudsman position in the ABC which reports directly to the ABC managing director and editor-in-chief (David Anderson) and the ABC Board (Chair, Ita Buttrose).

Fiona Cameron, the ABC’s inaugural ombudsman, released the ABC Ombudsman: Six-month Report, January-June 2023 on 15 August.  It is available online.  Following the release of the report, Ms Cameron took part in a long and considered interview with Virginia Trioli on the ABC Radio Melbourne Mornings program.

The interview, which can be accessed online, is worth listening to.  First Cameron acknowledged that “it’s fair to say that the ABC has been a bit defensive” in responding to criticism. She added:  “I think…most journalists are a bit defensive and, dare I say controversially, a little thin-skinned.” Ms Cameron also stated: “We’ve got a Corrections and Clarifications page which we need to make better use of…be open to saying ‘we could do better to provide context’.”

It remains to be seen how the ABC Ombudsman’s initiative will go in the medium to long term. But, so far at least, the position is an improvement to what preceded it.


Lotsa apologies for the late mention of the Cathy Wilcox cartoon in the Sydney Morning Herald  on 9 August – titled “The Higgins and Lehrmann saga – A handy guide (so far)”. Media Watch Dog’s excuse for the delay is that it took Ellie’s (male) co-owner considerable time to work out what Comrade Wilcox was on about – or on – in this instance.

Look at it this way. The cartoon featured 13 entities.  Namely, the complainant Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann (whom she alleged had raped her in Parliament House in 2019).  Plus journalists/commentators Lisa Wilkinson, Janet Albrechtsen and Samantha Maiden plus politician Linda Reynolds (Coalition) and ACT chief minister Andrew Barr (Labor/Greens), plus lawyers – Shane Drumgold SC and Walter Sofronoff KC plus an unidentified policeman.  There were also references to the ABC, News Corp plus Lehrmann’s defence team. Those who have followed the case will be familiar with the above.

And then, on the bottom left-hand corner of the Wilcox cartoon, there is an image of an arm handing over a bag of cash marked “For Brittany $$$”. The citation of the arm’s owner was to “Scomo” –  i.e. former Australian prime minister Scott Morrison.

Comrade Wilcox seems blissfully unaware that the compensation awarded to Higgins occurred during the time of the Albanese Labor government. The payment had nothing to do with the previous Coalition government in general or Scott Morrison in particular.

It would seem that Cathy Wilcox is unaware that Opposition leader Peter Dutton has called for an inquiry into the payment made by the Albanese government.  She reckons that it was Scott Morrison who handed the money to Brittany Higgins. No one at the Sydney Morning Herald picked up Comrade Wilcox’s howler before it went to print. Can You Bear It?


Writing in Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald on 14 August, under the topic “The big question is: What next for Q+A, if not the end?”, Calum Jaspan commented on the decline of ratings of the program – which has been accentuated since Q+A moved from Thursdays at 8.30 pm to Mondays at 9.30 pm.  He had this to say:

Sadly for Q+A, it hasn’t worked, and its audience continues to hit new lows in 2023. Last week, its metro audience was a jaw-dropping 84,000. That episode ran at the same time as a game featuring the Matildas’ bulldozing World Cup run, but Q+A’s comparative decline on its broadcast two weeks prior was twice what its Monday night stablemates in Four Corners and Media Watch experienced.

That was the episode of Q+A filed at the Garma Festival which was discussed in the last issue of Media Watch Dog.  It was one of those oh-so-familiar ABC panels where everyone essentially agreed with everyone else on essentially everything in a “progressive” kind of way.  The only disagreements were on the left. Worthy – but dull television.  To throw the switch to hyperbole for a moment – there were almost as many journalists/production crew at Garma as there were viewers/listeners following the program the ABC put to air.

According to MWD’s count, the following ABC journalists paid lotsa taxpayer money to travel to and stay at the Garma Festival – Tony Armstrong, Dan Bourchier, Samuel Clark, Suzanne Dredge, Jack Evans, Meredith Griffiths, Patricia Karvelas, Dana Morse and David Speers. This list does not include most production staff who made it to Garma.

Your man Jaspan interviewed Malcolm Turnbull about Q+A’s declining audience. The former prime minister gave the impression that all the program needed was panellists like him – commenting:

It [getting the panel right] looks easy. But getting the right mix is the difference between having an interesting and boring dinner party. People need to spark off each other.

What Comrade Jaspan declined to discuss was the fact that Q+A reflects the ABC in that it is essentially a conservative free zone. Q+A panels of five sometimes contain no conservatives and, at best, usually one – who has to take on four others plus invariably, the presenter.  In short, Q+A is boring – essentially because it lacks political diversity and, consequently, considered argument. The problem is not that of a Sydney eastern suburbs dinner party that lacks spark – but of a political discussion where there is no disagreement.

How did this come about?  – MWD hears readers cry. Well, quite a few conservatives have been “cancelled” by the ABC in general and Q+A in particular. Meanwhile, other conservatives decline to come on the program since they have better ways to spend a Monday evening than rocking up to Q+A to take on five others – i.e. four panellists plus the presenter – along with a baying leftist audience mob.

What both Calum Jaspan and the ABC fail to accept is that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has lost much of its conservative audience – who have headed off to Sky News and other sources of news and debate. It’s called denial. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Q+A, did anyone see the program on 31 July which was titled “Robodebt, Rate Hikes and a Fair Go”?  Patricia Karvelas was in the presenter’s chair and the panel comprised writer/comedian Luke McGregor, Minister for Finance Katy Gallagher, Liberal Party Senator Dean Smith, Greens Senator Barbara Pocock and CEO of the Graduation School of Entrepreneurship Jahin Tanvir.

It was a program that contained little or no disagreement.  Which perhaps explains why the ABC did not do its usual Q+A transcript. However, there is no way to stop Media Watch Dog from reporting what is said on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – since MWD can do its own transcripts. So there.

The program frequently invites someone who – in the late Barry Humphries’ term – identifies as a comedian.  In this case, Luke McGregor.  It seems that your man McGregor has an economics degree from somewhere or other – according to his agent Creative Representation.  Well done. As MWD recalls, this was mentioned on the night.

[Hold on a minute. Don’t be too impressed by the BEc. Remember, Hendo’s dog Ellie is a junk professor and has a Bachelor of Catastrophe Studies from the Canberra (Bubble) Institute. – MWD Editor.]

In any event, Comrade McGregor did not do any stand up or, indeed, sit down – comedy on the night.  Rather, he gave Q+A viewers – if viewers there were – an insight into, you’ve guessed it, economics.

Highlights of The Thought of McGregor, as told to Q+A, include the following:

  • “It’s useful to think of corporations like robots – like robots, corporations have a goal and that’s to make money.” Fancy that. Robots have goals. And corporations, run by humans, want to make – rather than lose – money. Who would have thought this?
  • “Our housing system is rubbish – like it’s awful”. Comrade McGregor’s solution? Try this.  The government should “just buy a bunch of houses that are for sale right now and then they sell them back – and they are only allowed to be bought by people who are going to live in them”.  An obvious immediate solution to Australia’s housing crisis – don’t you think?  MWD wonders why no one appears to have thought of this before.  Could it be that the comedian’s (quite funny) proposal would not lead to any net increase in housing stock?
  • “Like, Australia has a certain amount of landmass. So, if you have enough people standing shoulder to shoulder in Australia, people start falling into the ocean. We’re nowhere near that.” Que? As Manuel was wont to say in Fawlty Towers, what could this possibly mean? Especially since Comrade McGregor supports immigration.
  • “The reason the businesses want to bring more labour [to Australia] is because they, they want to be able to leverage on them…so they can underpay them.” It’s as simple as this, apparently. Business wants imported labour so it can break the law by underpaying migrants. Turn it up.
  • “There’s a million things you can do to help solve the housing crisis. Anything that increases supply – anything that makes it harder for people to buy houses to just rent them out is good.” So, there you have it. Comrade McGregor reckons that housing supply can be increased by making it harder for individuals to buy houses with the intention of renting them out. Really.

There was more, much more, of this McGregorism. Which raises the question: Can You Bear It?


Did anyone watch the final clip on Insiders 13 August? Here it is.

David Speers: Finally on his return to Parliament House, Kevin Rudd [on the occasion of the release of his official portrait] joked about the fact that he wasn’t always the easiest to work with as prime minister. Funny because it was true according to one former cabinet colleague I was watching along with. We’ll leave you with that. Thanks for watching.

Kevin Rudd: To members of my staff, past and present, all 4602 of them. You can tell them because they’re the ones who are exhibiting PTSD today. Some of them still carrying wounds. Lovely to see you all and – and there is a therapy tent for you over there for later on.

Look at it this way.  Insiders saw fit to join in the chorus of laughter at Kevin Rudd’s statement that, when prime minister, he drove some of his staff to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder condition – to such an extent that they still require therapy.  A confession that David Speers accepted as true.

Which raises the question.  Would Insiders have been so jolly about such therapy-inducing behaviour if the prime minister in question had been the Coalition’s John Howard, Tony Abbott or Scott Morrison?  Not on your nelly.  Such an admission of bad behaviour would surely have been condemned by the Insiders’ team.  A double standard to be sure. 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.


Lotsa thanks to the avid Media Watch Dog reader who drew attention to the comment that academic/broadcaster/TV presenter Waleed Aly made on Network 10’s The Project on 8 August.  He was referring to the tendency of media colleagues to believe what they want to believe – in this instance allegations of sexual assault before they are tested in court by the legal system – and then engage in a media pile-on.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Waleed Aly: You got to be careful now, because we’ve seen, this is, this is the lesson we refuse to learn. Like there’s allegations made and we jump in and we start doing commentary. And then later a court reaches a decision and we go: “Oh, oh, what do we do now?”. Like maybe we’d be better off if we didn’t end up making that mistake…. Increasingly, I think what’s happening is [that] whether they [journalists/commentators] default to the accusers or not depends on their pre-existing politics…. Do they fit in the boxes that I want to defend, or not? And then we jump in. And that’s just backwards. That’s just the wrong way to approach these things.

Quite so. It is appropriate for journalists to investigate alleged crimes.  But it is unwise for commentators to embrace a cause in the criminal jurisdiction and engage in a pile-on based on their political beliefs before the matter is resolved by the legal system.

Dr Waleed Aly (for a doctor he is) – Five Paws.


Just when it seemed that ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Patricia (“Please call me PK”) Karvelas may have replaced TV Insiders presenter David (“Please call me Speersy”) Speers as Australia’s top media interrupter, Speersy made a comeback on Sunday 13 August.

The program was, as usual, worthy but somewhat dull with scant disagreement between the panellists Annabel Crabb (ABC), David Crowe (Nine) and Sarah Ison (News Corp). The only breaking news occurred at the “Final Observations” segment when Annabel Crabb previewed the new series of her Kitchen Cabinet program.

This involves Ms Crabb inviting herself (plus camera crew) to lunch or dinner at the home of a politician who either cooks or pretends to cook the main meal – while she brings the dessert. Much of the discussion does not take place in a kitchen and few of the interviewed guests are members of the cabinet.  But it’s the kind of twee event which appeals to the ABC’s somewhat twee audience.

But Media Watch Dog digresses.  The interview guest on Insiders was Nationals leader David Littleproud. When discussion got around to the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament and the executive, the following exchange took place – as Speersy chose to argue with Mr Littleproud about the details of the proposed change to the Australian Constitution.  Let’s go to the transcript:

David Speers: But isn’t that what’s being talked about here, listening to those local voices through a national Voice?

David Littleproud: No. But sadly, David, what we’ve got is, you’re going to have 24 representatives, two from each state. And then you’ll have regional representatives that’ll be covering hundreds of thousands of square kilometres, with hundreds of different diverse communities. And this is the mistake we made last time with a representative body [ATSIC – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission]. This is about making sure that we do things differently, not repeat the mistakes –

David Speers: [interjecting] What –

David Littleproud: – of the past. Despite what –

David Speers: [interjecting] I want to avoid any –

David Littleproud: – the Prime Minister’s saying –

David Speers: [interjecting] –  misinformation here.

David Littleproud:  –  [inaudible]

David Speers: [interjecting] It’s different to ATSIC.

David Littleproud: – rural and regional Australia.

David Speers: This is an advisory body, not like ATSIC. Just, finally, will the Nationals –

David Littleproud: [interjecting] But it doesn’t –

David Speers: – support the –

David Littleproud: – [inaudible] where the money’s getting spent.

David Speers: Would the Nationals support legislating a Voice?

Note that your man Speers presented himself as the enemy of Misinformation – of others.  He then closed this part of the interview and raised a new issue before the Nationals leader was able to defend his case – whatever it was. Well done, Speersy. A fine and much-awaited return to form, indeed.



As Media Watch Dog readers are well aware, the 2023 Canberra Writers Festival is yet another taxpayer funded literary festival leftist stack. As far as MWD can work it out, there’s not one political conservative scheduled to speak on a non-fiction topic. On the other hand, there is a full soviet of leftists and left-of-centre types.

Lotsa thanks to the avid reader who drew attention to the Canberra Times on 5 August which featured this interview with a certain Beejay Silcox. It commenced as follows:

CT: What is the book that changed your life?

Beejay Silcox: Draw Your Weapons by Sarah Sentilles. I went into that book so certain of myself, and left it with those certainties thoroughly shaken. I am a different reader and writer because of those pages.

CT: What’s a book you feel like you should have read but haven’t?

Beejay Silcox: Middlemarch, by George Eliot. Many, many people – smart, thoughtful people – have implored me to read this novel. But there are just so many f—king vicars!

How about that?  Comrade Silcox is prepared to criticise George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Despite the fact that she has not read it.  Moreover, Ms Silcox reckons that Middlemarch contains “so many “f—king vicars!”  But would she condemn, say, a Muslim writer’s book which contained “so many imams” or a Hindu writer’s book which contained “so many pandits”?  The answer is surely in the negative.

By the way, Beejay Silcox is the 2023 CWF’s creative director. Enough said.



On 10 August, 2023, the ABC ran a story on the AM Radio program and Foreign Correspondent. The reports by the ABC’s South Asia Correspondent Avani Dias, titled Bollywood: The politics behind the scenes, covered India’s Bollywood and the current controversy around the film Adipurush – which has been criticised for, among other things, its inadequate portrayal of Hindu religious figures.

The story ran the line that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are pressuring the Bollywood industry to make films that suit its political agenda. Dias spoke to Modi critic and cinema expert Ira Bhaskar. It was a soft interview.

Dias later talked to director Vivek Agnihotri – who directed the controversial Kashmir Files, which was criticised for propagating Islamophobia. Unlike the interview with Bhaskar and other Modi critics, the interview with Agnihotri took a hostile tone – which Agnihotri referred to before cutting the interview short.

What Avani Dias overlooks is that Bollywood is only a part of India’s thriving film industry – it includes the successful Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam film industries. The BJP is not forcing the Indian people in or out of cinemas, and Indian cinemagoers can decide what films they do or do not support.



Nine columnist Peter FitzSimons seems to be one of those, oh-so-many, journalists who believe what they want to believe. This was evident, most recently, in his “Five Minutes with Fitz” column in the Sun-Herald on 13 August.

Titled “This draft-dodging ‘coward’ collared a would-be killer”, Fitz interviewed Wayne Haylen KC (born 25 February 1945) who became a judge in the NSW jurisdiction.  In the interview, there were a number of references to Wayne Haylen’s “father”. But there was no mention in the print edition of the Sun-Herald of the fact that he was Les Haylen (1898-1977) – the Labor Party MP for Parkes in NSW from 1943 to 1963.  This is referred to in Peter Edwards’ official history of Australian politics and society during the Vietnam War (1955-1975 titled A Nation at War (Allen & Unwin, 1997).

Les Haylen, a committed socialist, was a member of the ALP left faction who was something of an admirer of China’s communist dictator Mao Zedong, as is evident in his sycophantic 1959 book Chinese Journey.  It was published at the beginning of Mao’s so-called Great Leap Forward in which some 40 million Chinese died in what was a forced famine.

Wayne Haylen told Fitz that Les Haylen had “served in the First World War, but came back absolutely against conscription”. When World War I ended in November 1918, Les Haylen would have been 20 years of age.  There was no conscription during World War I.  According to Les Haylen’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, he embarked for Europe in October 1918. But the troop ship was recalled and he was discharged in January 1919 without having experienced active service.

The “Five Minutes with Fitz” session focused on Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War – and on the fact that Wayne Haylen objected to being conscripted to fight in Vietnam. This was for two reasons. He was opposed to the Allied commitment in defence of South Vietnam against North Vietnam and he was opposed to conscription.

Fitz was of the view that Wayne H had burnt his “draft card” in February 1966 – not long after he had been “balloted in” for national service (aka conscription) during the first national service ballot – when the date 25 February 1945 was “balloted in”.   As Wayne Haylen pointed out – what he burnt at an anti-conscription demonstration in Sydney on 3 February 1966 was his national service registration papers.  Australia, unlike the United States, did not have a military draft – and, consequently, there was no draft card. This event was photographed and published by the Sydney Morning Herald at the time. A photo of Wayne Haylen in action on 3 February 1966 can be found at page 83 of A Nation at War.

Wayne Haylen said that his father (Les Haylen) was actively supportive of his son “being active in demonstrations”.  By the way, as WH told Fitz, “the burning of your draft card [national service papers] was no serious offence”.  What was an offence turned on refusing to comply with the national service obligations which included failing to attend a medical examination. The interview continued:

Fitz: How did you ultimately get out of it [national service]?

WH: The minister for the army called my godfather, leader of the opposition Arthur Calwell, and said, “Tell Wayne we don’t want him as he’ll be too disruptive. Tell him to turn up to the medical and we will fail him.” I didn’t want to do even that, but my parents convinced me that was the best way, and that’s the way it happened.

How about that? Wayne Haylen told Fitz that the Coalition Minister for the Army at the time – Jim Forbes up until 26 January 1966 or Malcolm Fraser after that – told the Labor leader Arthur Calwell to tell Wayne Haylen that there would be a fix. Namely, if Wayne turned up for his medical, he would be failed – irrespective of whether he was fit for service. Wayne H said that he was convinced by his parents – Les and Sylvia Haylen –  to attend what was to be a fake medical test.

Wayne Haylen provided no evidence to support his claim – which is damaging to the memory of Messrs Forbes or Fraser, Calwell and Haylen Snr alike.  But there you go.  The overwhelming majority of young Australian men who were called up for national service undertook a medical examination and were assessed according to their medical health at the time – whether or not their fathers were serving politicians.

Wayne Haylen had another story to tell your man FitzSimons:

Fitz: OK, so take me to the night of June 22, [sic] 1966. Leader of the opposition Arthur Calwell has just finished a passionate diatribe against the Vietnam War inside Mosman Town Hall.

WH: Yes, and I’m there, and I thought he was strong, but he had given a hint that he was thinking about a policy compromise that would support sending conscripts overseas. I was angry. So when he got in the car outside, I approached. Seeing me, he wound down the window, heard my angry words, and wound the window up again in my face. I turned away and right on that instant, from out of the shadows, a man brushed past me and fired his sawn-off gun, shattering the window.

Fitz: The call goes out: “He’s just assassinated Calwell!” You are the coward of the county, the draft dodger with enough white feathers over the past three months to fill a pillow. What do you do?

WH: I chased after him.

Fitz: You chased after a man, into the darkness; a man who has just shot someone. And the bloke still has a gun. Why did you chase such a dangerous man?

WH: That was something the police officer asked me. And the answer is: I was angry. I just thought, “This is appalling. You don’t do this. You don’t shoot politicians because of their bloody views. Not in this country. You argue with them, you don’t shoot them.” So I ran after him and finally grabbed him.

This statement, unchallenged by Fitz, contains an error of commission and one of omission.

  • There is no evidence that, at his Mosman Town Hall speech on 21 June 1966, Arthur Calwell indicated that he was thinking about a policy compromise that would support sending Australian conscripts overseas. Calwell was totally opposed to conscription for overseas service – even during the Pacific War. He never wavered in his opposition to conscription during the Vietnam War.  If Comrades FitzSimons and/or Haylen have any evidence to support this claim – MWD will publish it.
  • Wayne Haylen’s recollections of the shooting of Calwell by Peter Kocan differ significantly from the contemporary account. The contemporaneous report in the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 June 1966 reads as follows:

Senator D. [Douglas] McClelland [Labor NSW] walked with Mr Calwell from the hall shortly before the shooting. Just before he closed the car door, he waved goodbye. “I was about to turn when I saw this youth standing near the car door as if he was hiding something,” he said. “I then heard a bang as if a firecracker had been let off. I saw the glass had been shattered and Mr Calwell put his hands to his face.”

The Sydney Morning Herald  also reported that “two young men overpowered a youth after a hundred yard chase; he was held until police arrived at the scene”.  The SMH named Barry Robinson, who had taken part with Wayne Haylen at the March 1966 anti-conscription demonstration, as one of the two men.  The other was not named.

Wayne Haylen told FitzSimons that he ran after Kocan “and finally grabbed him”. He made no mention of Robinson’s role in the citizen’s arrest. The Getty Images website contains a photograph of NSW Commissioner of Police Norman Allan presenting Wayne Haylen and Barry Robinson with a Certificate of Appreciation plus a cheque in recognition of their actions following the shooting of Arthur Calwell. The date of the award was 6 November 1967.

In other words, in his brave citizen’s arrest following the Calwell shooting, Wayne Haylen was not alone – contrary to the impression given in the FitzSimons report. It would seem that, in this instance, Barry Robinson has been erased from history.

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For the record, in June 1966 Peter Kocan was a troubled 19-year-old young man with a mental illness who had left school at 14 years of age.  He was sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment and transferred to Morisset Mental Hospital from where he was released on parole in 1976.  Kocan went on to write an award-winning novel along with poetry.  He was not named in the Sun-Herald’s  “Five Minutes with Fitz”.


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Until next time

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