GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 653
22 September 2023
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Can You Bear It? – Hamish Macdonald respectfully tells Anna Bligh she’s talking rubbish; Insiders forgets Bridget Brennan’s belief that the Voice should be feared; Rachel Withers reckons a 17-year-old is too young to be talking about energy policy; John Hewson blames China-Australia tensions on Australia
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ABC FOCUSES ON MURDOCH CRITICS IN ITS COVERAGE OF RUPERT MURDOCH STEPPING DOWN AS THE LEADER OF NEWS CORP AND FOX CORPORATION
Without question, Rupert Murdoch has been one of Australia’s most successful business figures and a very important player in the international media. So it is understandable that his decision to step down from leading News Corp and Fox Corporation was a big story. He will transition to the role of chairman emeritus at Fox and News. Here’s how the ABC’s leading news and current affairs program handled this news when it broke on Friday 22 September.
First up, ABC Radio National Breakfast interviewed the American journalist David Folkenflik – NPR’s (National Public Radio’s) media correspondent. He is also the author of Murdoch’s World: The Last of the Old Media Empires. It’s not clear whether Folkenflik has ever met Murdoch.
NPR is a left-wing outlet. As Folkenflik acknowledged, NPR is an opponent of Fox News. In an interview that ran for some ten minutes, NPR’s media correspondent said nothing positive about Murdoch – describing his time as one of “tumult, scandal, crisis and shock”.
Folkenflik, like many Murdoch critics, overestimated his political influence and declared that he used his power and “political sway” to “skirt, avoid or ignore the law and regulations”.
Folkenflik also expressed annoyance that Murdoch had trained “folks to resent elites and to think that the media is trying to mislead or screw you because they’re in cahoots with elites”. That’s another way of saying that Murdoch’s success in the United States turned on his ability to appeal to around half the American population which was ignored by the mainstream media.
Next up, ABC TV News Breakfast covered what co-presenter Michael Rowland said was “the big news that broke overnight”. The Murdoch news was covered in the Newspapers segment. The commentator was Josh Taylor – a reporter for the left-wing Guardian Australia. It was another example of The Guardian/ABC Axis in operation. By the way, there is no evidence that Comrade Taylor has met Murdoch.
Needless to say, Josh Taylor had nothing positive to say about Murdoch. He commented that “Succession metaphors at this point are a bit tired and useless”. But he made them anyway – commenting that “a lot of people were thinking” that the Rupert Murdoch story was going to play out as it did in the US drama with Murdoch staying in situ until he passed this mortal coil. Or something like that. Groan.
Next up – back to Radio National, and Hamish Macdonald interviewed another Murdoch critic. Namely, Alan Rusbridger – the left-wing Guardian’s former editor-in-chief. It is not evident that he has ever met Murdoch. Comrade Rusbridger conceded that Rupert Murdoch did “some amazingly positive things for journalism”. But his assessment was essentially critical. So much so that the presenter had to water down some of his criticism.
By the way, Comrade Rusbridger also claimed that Murdoch set up a neo-monopoly in the Australian media. Nonsense. What about the ABC, Australia’s biggest media organisation? And Nine – which owns The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, and Network 9 plus 3AW, 2GB and 4BC? And what about Network 7? And then there is Network 10.
Alan Rusbridger then raised the Succession (false) comparison. He then alleged, without evidence, that “there are a number of prime ministers…who fell out with Murdoch who were no longer in office”. This is a myth. Kevin Rudd (Labor) and Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal) lost their positions because they lost the support of their colleagues in their respective party rooms. That’s all.
Later in the program, a former News Corp editor in Australia, Neil Breen, was interviewed on News Breakfast. Breen, who knows Murdoch well, pointed out that the former News Corp/Fox media mogul gave his employees considerable autonomy to write what they wanted to write about politics.
Towards the end of the interview, and evidently surprised, Hamish Macdonald asked this question.
Hamish Macdonald: So, are you saying that Rupert Murdoch personally and explicitly supported an editorial supporting Kevin Rudd to become prime minister?
Mr Green’s answer was: “He did.” Apparently, Hamish Macdonald is ignorant of the fact that Rupert Murdoch supported several Labor leaders in Australia to become prime minister. MWD will cover this in the next issue. Stay tuned.
IN WHICH THE RESPECTFUL MR MACDONALD TELLS ANNA BLIGH THAT SHE’S TALKING RUBBISH
Wasn’t it great to hear the (usually) mild-mannered Hamish Macdonald presenting the ABC Radio National Breakfast program this week? Your man Macdonald is invariably a balanced interviewer. However, he is superficial to the extent that he overuses the term “with respect” when he disagrees with an interviewee. Ellie’s (male) co-owner believes, however, when an interviewer says “with respect” it usually means they have scant respect for a view with which they disagree. But there you go.
Long-time avid MWD readers are aware that Comrade Macdonald declared on 20 June 2018 that “at the ABC, we’re not allowed to express opinions as hosts of programs [or] as journalists”. Moreover, he constantly calls for what he terms “respectful” conversations.
On 21 September, your man Macdonald interviewed Anna Bligh, the CEO of the Australian Banking Association, about the closing of bank branches in regional Australia. Her essential point was that the banking habits of customers have changed since the 1990s – rapidly since the advent of COVID-19 – and many consumers no longer wish to do their banking on the main street, so to speak. Let’s go to the transcript:
Hamish Macdonald: Anna Bligh, are you seriously saying we’re doing this – are you saying that we customers are driving this? You make us anytime we need to operate near or interact with the bank – you’re the ones that drive us online or tell us to talk to a chatbot first or do it over the phone. I mean, it’s not consumers choosing this.
Anna Bligh: Hamish, did someone force you to get a banking app? Really? You don’t find it more convenient? You can do your banking any time of the day now.
Hamish Macdonald: In so many –
Anna Bligh: Did [someone] really force you to, Hamish – really?
Hamish Macdonald: This is not about me. I’m just making the point that there are people for whom they would much prefer to go and talk to an actual person, have a conversation, to resolve an issue rather than talk to a chatbot. I mean, to say this is all because it’s what we want as consumers – that’s rubbish.
How about that? Hamish Macdonald not only maintains that ABC presenters are not allowed to express their personal views on air, but he is always banging on about the need for respectful conversation and all that. And yet, Mr Macdonald told a senior female chief executive on air that she was talking rubbish. How impartial and respectful is that? More importantly – Can You Bear It?
THE CANBERRA INSIDERS PROGRAM DOES NOT ASK BRIDGET BRENNAN WHETHER SHE STILL BELIEVES THAT THE VOICE SHOULD BE FEARED
While on the topic of ABC presenters/journalists, did anyone see ABC TV’s Canberra Insiders program on 17 September? The Canberra-based David (“Please call me Speersy”) Speers was in the presenter’s chair and the panel comprised Canberra-based Clare Armstrong (Daily Telegraph) and James Massola (The Age and Sydney Morning Herald) along with Bridget Brennan (ABC).
It was a somewhat bland affair – as is the wont of Canberra Insiders these days. Speersy and his panel essentially agreed with each other on essentially everything in a Canberra Bubble kind of way. Worthy, to be sure – but as dull as dishwater.
Indeed, the most interesting moment during the panel discussion turned on what was not said. Let’s go to the transcript when discussion turned to The Voice:
David Speers: And there’s the big question of whether the message is clear enough. Um, this has been one of the problems, Bridget.
Bridget Brennan: Absolutely. Someone I spoke to in the Yes camp said that about a quarter of the people they’re speaking to a) don’t know there’s a referendum happening – which is huge – or b) just don’t know what it’s about, have no idea, are very confused by the process. So, that’s a large section of the community they’ve got to get out to….
Neither Speersy nor the other panellists raised the point as to whether Ms Brennan might be part of the problem here – not part of the solution. After all, in the wake of the 2022 Garma Festival, she appeared on Insiders. The date was 31 July 2022. In response to a question from your man Speers, the ABC’s Indigenous Affairs Editor said that the Indigenous Voice to Parliament and the executive needed to be “revered” and “feared”.
No one on Canberra Insiders asked Bridget Brennan as to whether she still maintained that The Voice “does need to have teeth, it does need to be feared and revered” – or whether she has changed her mind. And whether she believed that Australians voting in the constitutional referendum on 14 October would be more likely to vote Yes for an institution that should be “revered” and “feared”.
It would have made for an interesting discussion. But the matter was passed without mention and Zzzzzzz followed. Can You Bear It?
THE MONTHLY’S RACHEL WITHERS RECKONS THAT 17-YEAR-OLD PRO-NUCLEAR STUDENT WILL SHACKEL IS TOO YOUNG TO BE TALKING ABOUT ENERGY POLICY – BUT NEVER OBJECTED WHEN 16-YEAR-OLD GRETA THUNBERG LECTURED THE WORLD ON CLIMATE CHANGE
While on the issue of ABC panels, the ABC Q+A panel on 18 September consisted of minister Chris Bowen, his shadow Ted O’Brien, Teal Independent Allegra Spender (who won the seat of Wentworth from the Liberal Party at the May 2022 election), left-of-centre economist Niki Hutley (who happened to emote about the forthcoming End of the World due to climate change – this had something to do with her infant granddaughter) and 17-year old Year 11 student Will Shackel (an avid fan of nuclear energy).
It was the usual 3 left-of-centre/2 right-of-centre stack. [Hang on a minute. Doesn’t Q+A usually run a 4 left-of-centre to 1 right-of-centre stack? – MWD Editor.] Sure, Will Shackel supports the Coalition on nuclear energy, but not much is known about his political views. It may be that the Q+A executive producer thought Master Shackel would perform poorly on the night and that this would appeal to viewers (if viewers there were). But he did okay.
In any event, Rachel Withers put out this post on X (formerly Twitter) at 10 pm while Q+A was still in action:
— Rachel Withers (@rachelrwithers) September 18, 2023
As avid MWD readers will recall, Rachel Withers has made a previous MWD appearance. She is one of the Sandalistas who hang around Morry Schwartz’s Black Inc headquarters in Melbourne’s inner-city Collingwood. Your man Schwartz is the publisher of Black Inc which is responsible for The [Boring] Saturday Paper along with The Monthly and more besides.
It so happens that the Melbourne-based Comrade Withers is a contributing editor to The Politics. It used to be called The Monthly Today – a somewhat confusing title when you think about it, or even if you don’t. But now it’s The Politics and it’s in the Black Inc literary stable.
In any event, how ageist can a Melbourne Sandalista get? And how one-eyed? After all, Greta Thunberg – who, apparently, learned about the issue of climate change from age 7 or 8 years – was named “Time’s Person of the Year” in December 2019 – at age 16. This gong was welcomed at the time by, among others, Hillary Clinton who declared: “I am grateful to Greta for all she’s done to raise awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis and for her willingness to tell hard, moving truths.”
MWD is not aware that anyone writing for The Saturday Paper or The Monthly has ever dismissed Ms Thunberg’s views on account of the fact that she was young and still of school age when she signed up to the latest manifestation of the End-of-the-World-is-Nighism. MWD put this question to Ellie (Bachelor of Catastrophe Studies at the Canberra Bubble Institute who has the additional status of a junk professor). She replied by courtesy of Mr Musk’s X:
TENSION IN THE AUSTRALIA-CHINA RELATIONSHIP – JOHN HEWSON APPEARS TO BELIEVE IT IS ALL AUSTRALIA’S FAULT
Whilst on the topic of Black Inc publications, did anyone read John Hewson’s boring column in The [Boring] Saturday Paper on 16 September? The only positive thing that can be said about the “comment” column by Dr Hewson (for a doctor he is) is that it’s not as dull as the Paul Bongiorno “comment” column which precedes it.
Working through the Hewson sludge, it is evident that the disaffected former Liberal leader – who lost the very winnable election to the incumbent Labor prime minister Paul Keating on 13 March 1993 when, believe it or not, interest rates were at around 10 per cent – is blaming the Coalition for the state of Australia’s relations with China.
Hewson’s column was full of praise for former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam’s decision to establish the Australia-China relationship 50 years ago. And he is supportive of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s proposed visit to China later this year.
For its part, MWD hopes that Albanese’s trip goes well. But here’s Hewson’s main point:
It should be seen as a national disgrace that relations between our two countries have been allowed to deteriorate so much. The Chinese have expressed concern that both “words and deeds” have contributed to the breakdown. The low point was surely the erosion of our standing whereby ministers under the Morrison government simply couldn’t pick up the phone to speak with their Chinese counterparts as trading relations and various cultural links disintegrated.
What a load of absolute tosh. Sure, under the leadership of President Xi, China’s relationship with Australia deteriorated. But this is also true of China’s relationships with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, the United States and more besides. Yet your man Hewson reckons that it is all Australia’s fault due to this nation’s words and deeds.
The Australia-China relationship began to deteriorate during the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull, not that of Scott Morrison. In his Saturday Paper column, Hewson also blames Opposition leader Peter Dutton for the state of the relationship between the two nations.
The column concluded with the learned doctor’s thought for the (Saturday) day:
Albanese has a very real opportunity with the coming trip to China to not only properly commemorate a half-century since Whitlam’s historic visit, but also to build on that prime minister’s legacy with equal passion and vigour. Albanese has an opportunity to forge a renewed, visionary partnership between our two nations that will be to considerable mutual, regional and global benefit for decades to come. Close cooperation and association between our two peoples is both natural and beneficial.
Get the point? According to the learned John (“Sure, I’m a doctor but don’t call me if you have an accident”) Hewson, it’s up to Australia to make up to China without China having to reciprocate. Can You Bear It?
THE SMH’s JORDAN BAKER CRITICISES THE NSW EDUCATION DEPARTMENT’S HANDLING OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE BY TEACHERS IN GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS BUT OVERLOOKS THE ROYAL COMMISSION’S FAILURE IN THIS AREA
On Saturday 16 September the Sydney Morning Herald ran a report by chief reporter Jordan Baker titled “Students still being abused, and secrecy rules”. The reference was to the convicted murderer Chris Dawson who was subsequently also convicted of carnal knowledge with a student at Cromer High in the 1970s. The report commenced as follows:
A modern observer could be forgiven for thinking Chris Dawson’s brazen and unhindered pursuit of his student when he was a PE teacher on the northern beaches almost 50 years ago was behaviour that has been consigned to the past. Dawson actively groomed the 16-year-old girl, whom he later married, by singling her out, telling her she was beautiful, sitting her on his lap and on his desk at school, and giving her a card that described her as “the most beautiful girl in the world”.
The community better understands the harm of such abuse now, and the signs. Rules around teacher behaviour are far stricter, and carefully enforced…. But that hasn’t stopped Dawson-style abuse from happening. In 2021, 14 teachers (out of tens of thousands) were sacked by the NSW Department of Education for sex-related breaches of the code of conduct, ranging from inappropriate touching to sexual misconduct.
In her report, Ms Jordan was critical of the way the NSW Education Department handles allegations of sexual misconduct by teachers with respect to students in government schools. For the most part, complaints are settled with non-disclosure agreements following internal departmental investigations. On occasions, matters are referred to NSW Police.
What was missing from Jordan Baker’s report was any reference to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – headed by Peter McClellan KC – which ran between 2013 and 2017. How was it that Mr McClellan and his fellow commissioners were apparently unaware of the activities of Chris Dawson at Cromer High School? After all, allegations that Dawson murdered his wife in order to shack up with a Cromer High student were widely known in Sydney where Peter McClellan resides. What’s more, Cromer High School was the focus of Hedley Thomas’ Teacher’s Pet podcast which was widely covered in The Australian. Thomas first reported on the Dawson case as long ago as 2001.
All up, the Royal Commission did some 57 case studies – not one of which focused on a government school. This despite the fact that the Royal Commission’s terms of reference were wide. Writing in The Weekend Australian on 9 September, Mr McClellan claimed that the Royal Commission “did examine three NSW public [i.e. government] schools in a case study”. As Gerard Henderson pointed out to the former royal commissioner in a letter dated 13 September 2023, the case study in question – Case Study 45 – devoted a mere 6 pages, out of 120 pages, to three government schools. Moreover, in this instance, the Royal Commission only looked at the sexual abuse by students of other students. It did not examine teachers in government schools in any State or Territory. It is now accepted that there were many instances of child sexual abuse by teachers in government schools in at least Victoria, Tasmania and NSW.
In recent times, NSW Police has set up Strike Force Southwood to examine sexual offences against school children in three government high schools in NSW – Cromer High, Forest High and Beacon Hill High.
It is reasonable to assume that, if the Royal Commission had done its job properly and made it clear that it was not just focused on sexual abuse in religious institutions with a focus on Catholic and Anglican schools – but government institutions as well – then the NSW Police would not have had to set up its current strike force. What’s more, it seems most unlikely that pedophile teachers would have operated in only three schools in the whole of the state. As in Victoria, it is likely that evidence of historical child sexual abuse in government education institutions will increase – five years after the Royal Commission wound up.
MWD will continue to pursue this issue – and expects to document that, contrary to Peter McClellan’s claim, the Royal Commission was provided with evidence of child sexual abuse in at least several government schools. The Letters Patent authorised the Royal Commission “to inquire into institutional responses and incidents of child sexual abuse and related matters” – without any stated restrictions. The evidence suggests that the Royal Commission did not use its full powers of enquiry with respect to government schools.
This is an area that Jordan Baker and the Sydney Morning Herald should be able to follow up. After all, the SMH and The Age in Melbourne have devoted considerable resources in recent decades investigating historical child sexual abuse in religious institutions.
[I note that Candace Sutton reported on the activities of Strike Force Southwood in the Daily Mail on 23 July 2022. MWD Editor.]
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A NOTE RE THE 1976 DISAPPEARANCE OF EIGHT-YEAR-OLD ELOISE WORLEDGE IN THE MELBOURNE SUBURB OF BEAUMARIS
The Australian of 18 September contains an exclusive by John Ferguson titled “Child sex ring adds to abduct mystery”. It has been established that there was a ring of pedophile teachers at Beaumaris High School – run by the Victorian government’s Department of Education – in the 1960s and 1970s.
MWD understands that Eloise Worledge – whom Victoria Police believed walked out of the front door of her home late at night on 12 January 1976 – was a student at Beaumaris Primary School when she disappeared. The Australian reported that a family friend has expressed concerns that the abductor or abductors may have been connected to Beaumaris Primary School.
As MWD has reported, the current inquiry into historical child sexual abuse at Beaumaris Primary has now been extended to 18 other government schools where the nest of Beaumaris Primary School pedophiles also taught.
The Royal Commission did not do a case study into the education department in any state or territory into how child sexual abuse was handled. MWD understands that the Victorian Department of Education has never set up its own inquiry into the handling of child sexual abuse in Victorian government schools.
SEAN KELLY ON WHY THE YES CASE FOR THE VOICE WILL/WILL NOT COUNT FOR MUCH
Sean Kelly, who writes a weekly column for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald , is a Media Watch Dog fave. For starters, Ellie’s (male) co-owner knew Comrade Kelly’s late paternal grandfather. And Hendo admires anyone who could work for Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd followed by Labor prime minister Julia Gillard. Or is it the other way around? In view of the hostility when Comrade Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as prime minister and when Comrade Rudd replaced Julia Gillard as prime minister – this is some achievement. It would be a bit like a staffer transferring from Tony Abbott’s office to Malcolm Turnbull’s office in September 2015.
But MWD digresses, not for the first time. On 18 September, your man Kelly’s column was titled “Voice debate hopelessly abstract”. In it he had this to say about two Indigenous leaders active in the debate over the constitutional referendum which will occur on 14 October. Namely, the Yes case’s Marcia Langton and the No case’s Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price:
Both Langton and Price said things that have been said by others many times before. The difference is that in Langton’s case, the instinct on both the right and much of the left was to shut her down. Such things were either untrue or could not be said. In Price’s case, there was an eager audience wanting to hear more even though they’d heard it all before. Which of course is why the Voice is so desperately needed: Indigenous people know all too well that the rest of us are willing to let Indigenous people speak some of the time. It is just that we demand the luxury of saying which people and when they should stop talking. Unsurprisingly, we are more receptive to those who tell us we do not have to worry about the past. [Emphasis added to words in online edition which were excluded from print edition – MWD Editor.]
So that’s pretty clear then. Sean Kelly supports the Yes case since he believes that “the Voice is so desperately needed”. But does Comrade Kelly really believe this? You be the judge. This is what Sean Kelly wrote in his Nine Newspapers column on 11 September when criticising the Albanese government’s handling of airlines, in particular the Australian carrier Qantas:
…A fair portion of the mess – the Qantas bit – was absolutely the government’s fault. All this added up to a sense of chaos. Impressions are not the same as reality and one week is just one week. But there are hints of danger here for the government, if it is prepared to notice them. Since the election, “good government” has been Anthony Albanese’s main calling card. If that vague impression is disturbed, what is left? Outside of the Indigenous Voice to parliament – which, if it is defeated, will not count for much – what signature policies have defined it in the public mind?
How about that? On 11 September Sean Kelly wrote that if the Yes case is defeated on 14 October this “will not count for much”. But a week later, on 18 September, the very same Comrade Kelly wrote that a victory for the Yes case in the referendum is “desperately needed”.
Verily, A Great Media U-Turn of Our Time.
AFR SYDNEY-CENTRIC EDITORS DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MELBOURNE AND ESSENDON GUERNSEYS
The North Sydney-based Australian Financial Review on 18 September reported the death of Australian Football League star Ron Barassi (1936-2023). Barassi played in six premierships with Melbourne and coached Carlton and North Melbourne to two premierships each in what was then called the Victorian Football League (VFL). He also coached Sydney following the establishment of the Australian Football League (AFL).
The story by Andrew Burke and Edmund Tadros was illustrated by an unsourced photo of Ron Barassi kicking an Australian Rules football at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) at an unknown date and time. See below. The caption read “Ron Barassi playing for Melbourne”.
Not so. Clearly this was a pic taken at training – since there were no rival players on the ground. When Barassi played for Melbourne, the respective teams wore either black or white shorts. In this picture, no one is wearing white shorts. Moreover, Barassi was photographed in what looked like a long-sleeved Essendon guernsey – of a red sash printed over a black guernsey. When playing for Melbourne, Barassi invariably wore a sleeveless jumper with a red trim at the top of a blue guernsey.
So, how to explain the pic? Ellie’s (male) co-owner is of the view that the photo was taken at training at the MCG in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Why then? – MWD hears avid readers cry.
Here’s why. Ron Barassi was best on ground in the 1959 Grand Final. A ruck-rover, his immediate opponent was Essendon’s ruck-rover Hugh Mitchell. In 1959 Mitchell always wore a long-sleeved guernsey on the field. Barassi and Mitchell were also the rival ruck-rovers in the 1957 grand final where Melbourne also defeated Essendon – when Mitchell also wore a long-sleeved guernsey.
At the time, it was customary for players to swap guernseys after a Grand Final. Barassi probably swapped with Mitchell in either or both 1959 and 1957. Hence the pic of Barassi wearing a long-sleeved Essendon jumper when training for Melbourne at the MCG. Sometime before he switched to Carlton in 1965. MWD thought that avid readers would like to know this – particularly those who, unlike the AFR’s Sydney-centric editors, followed the VFL in days of old.
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 AC (Always Courteous) 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 your man Henderson 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.
ON TASMANIAN WIND TURBINES AS BIRD-MURDERERS
In Media Watch Dog on 12 December 2022, MWD’s anonymous editor made an irreverent comment [Fancy that. – MWD Editor] in which wind turbines were described as bird murderers. Special references were made to such instances in North West Tasmania. This upset a (perhaps not so avid) reader. Here is the correspondence so far. Ellie’s (male) co-owner covers AB’s original correspondence in his letter.
Gerard Henderson to AB – 21 September 2023
Good afternoon AB
You may recall that you emailed me on 24 June 2023 about a comment made in my Media Watch Dog blog on 16 December 2022. It was this – with reference to (the medical doctor) and former Greens leader Bob Brown’s appearance on the SBS documentary Franklin which aired on 17 December 2022:
According to Bob (“The doctor will see you now”) Brown, close to half a century ago more than half of his patients in the Tasmanian city of Launceston were suffering from stress – due, it would seem, to “the destructive impact of modern materialism”. Consequently, he saw no sense in Tasmania producing hydroelectricity via dams in order to fund “more tranquiliser factories” – when the best solution for good health of the good people of Launceston was a paddle down the Franklin River followed by a lie-down. Or something like that.
Comrade Brown was not asked in the Franklin documentary how his opposition to hydroelectricity in this instance was consistent with his commitment to replacing oil and gas as sources for energy with renewables, including hydro. Come to think of it, Bob Brown also opposes wind farms – in particular a proposed such installation on Robbins Island in north west Tasmania. He told ABC TV 7.30 program on 29 July 2019: “We have alternatives for renewable energy; we don’t have alternatives for extinct species of birds”. It would seem that Dr Brown regards wind turbines as bird-murderers. [He has a point here. – MWD Editor.]
As you will recall, you sent me this email on 24 June 2023 – which commenced with a quote from a Media Watch Dog issue of old, followed by a comment from you:
“Wind turbines as bird-murderers. [He has a point here. – MWD Editor.]” Oh yeah??? Take the trouble to look up the flight path of the yellow-bellied parrots on Google. You will find that they travel North strictly along the West Coast of Tasmania, thence strictly along the East Coast of King Island. One isolated YBP was spotted on Three Hummock, no doubt caught in the rain in a Westerly storm and couldn’t see where else to land.
I was oh-so-impressed to hear of the cleverness of your fly-in, fly-out yellow-bellied parrots. And to learn that they fly north on Tasmania’s West Coast and then veer left and travel on the east coast of King Island in Bass Strait. Thus avoiding the wind turbines on Robbins Island on Tasmania’s north-west tip.
How smart those death-defying yellow-bellied parrots must be. Except for the late and deeply lamented poor soul who got caught in a westerly storm and, unable to see where to land, put down its feet on a wind farm on Three Hummock Island just north of Robbins Island.
Just one, apparently. Really?
So, according to you, the YBPs fly in peace and, with one exception, are not put into rest-in-peace (RIP) mode by wind farms on Robbins Island and nearby places. But what about others of our winged friends?
Take eagles, for instance. According to Matthew Denholm’s report in The Australian on 18 September 2023, they are in big trouble. He wrote that “Tasmanian wind farms and transmission lines have killed or injured 321 threatened eagles in 12 years, but its real figure is likely to be higher”. The report continued:
It found that from 2010 to 2022, 268 eagles were recorded killed and 53 injured by wind and transmission energy infrastructure, with the state’s four wind farms reporting 38 deaths, TasNetworks 139 deaths and raptor rescuers 91 deaths. “The real number can only be higher, since surveying at wind farms is incomplete,” noted study author Gregory Pullen. “Specifically, it is only close to turbines, is periodic and does not involve all turbines or all habitat around each turbine, scrub often being excluded. “In addition, carcasses are found by TasNetworks crews by coincidence during maintenance – not planned searches.”
The peer reviewed study, published in Australian Field Ornithology, uses data from wind farms, TasNetworks and eagle rescuers to identify the death or injury of 272 endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles and 49 vulnerable, white-bellied sea eagles.
Alas. It would seem that the white-bellied sea eagles are not as clever as their distant cousins, the yellow-bellied parrots. And, consequently, have not learned to steer left as a wind farm approaches and get murdered by wind turbines.
I thought you would like to have my (somewhat belated) response to your email.
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Until next time.
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