GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 663
1 December 2023
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Can You Bear It? – Nine’s Calum Jaspan neglects to tell readers the names of the prominent Nine journalists who signed an anti-Israel statement; Bridget Brennan sticks up for the right of actors to let everyone know their political views; Bonge glides over the Albanese government’s struggles and goes in for another anti-Dutton rant
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PATRICIA KARVELAS FAILS TO QUESTION CLAIM THAT PETER DUTTON IS RESPONSIBLE FOR EXTREMISM ON AUSTRALIAN STREETS
There are times when ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Patricia Karvelas seems to be competing for Media Watch Dog’s “Interrupter of the Week” award. This usually occurs when a Coalition politician is being interviewed. And other times when she throws soft questions at fave guests and let him or her go with the flow.
On Friday 1 December, PK (as she likes to be called) interviewed Julian Hill, Labor MP for Bruce, who chaired an inquiry into unemployment services. At the end of this discussion the presenter changed the topic with a soft question:
Patricia Karvelas: Just on another issue, in a social media post, I think it was Instagram last week, you affirmed your support for Palestinians and called for the killing to stop and humanitarian aid to Gaza. Do you want a full ceasefire?
Julian Hill: Every civilian life matters and I’ve made that point in the parliament and in my community. And of course, I think any decent human would welcome the pause that we’re seeing now. I’ve been a long-standing advocate for a just and enduring peace. And we need to acknowledge the history and the complexity. This didn’t just start on October the 7th as my community, many people in my community know, viscerally. This is a 75-year-old conflict. I think it’s a deeply human response, to want to see a ceasefire. And I’ve addressed this in the parliament. A ceasefire, of course requires all parties to agree. All parties. But I welcome to cessation in hostilities. And I just hope that as everyone knows, ultimately, there is only a political solution to this conflict. And I don’t want to see these ancient hatreds, or this 75-year-old conflict….
No, it’s not. The current war started when Hamas invaded part of Israel which is recognised by the United Nations as Israeli territory.
In response to a question the Labor MP criticised the demonstrations in Melbourne by pro-Palestinian activists targeting Israelis whose family members were kidnapped by Hamas. But, without Karvelas’ objection, Julian Hill turned fire on Opposition leader Peter Dutton:
Julian Hill: ….that action [in Melbourne] was not appropriate. This is Australia, this is not who we are. We need to dial back, lower the temperature, dial back the rhetoric and the language that politicians that community leaders use actually matters. I’ve said in the parliament, I’ve got contempt for people and political parties who are out there trying to harvest votes or taking extreme positions. I’ve spoken privately to a couple of Liberal MPs who are sensible, saying just restrain your leader. Like call Dutton to dial it down.
Patricia Karvelas did not challenge this statement – rather she invited the Labor MP to say more.
It’s understandable why politicians want to make political points. But it is unprofessional for a journalist not to at least query an assertion that Peter Dutton is somehow responsible for anti-Israeli demonstrations or the serious rise in anti-Semitism on Australian streets.
RN Breakfast should be able to do better.
NINE’S CALUM JASPAN – SOMEWHAT SHY IN REPORTING THE NAME OF HIS PROMINENT NINE COMRADES WHO SIGNED THE MEDIA UNION’S STATEMENT ON GAZA
On Saturday 25 November, newspapers covered the statement released the previous day titled “Letter from journalists to Australian media outlets”. It was a call from some left-wing journalists – which was endorsed by their union, the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) – to junk (alleged) “both-sidesism” in reporting the Israel/Gaza War because it (allegedly) “acts as a constraint to truth by shrouding the enormous scale of the human suffering currently being perpetrated by Israeli forces”. There was no reference to the human suffering perpetrated by Hamas forces or to the fact that Hamas holds kidnapped civilians.
In other words, the MEAA stance appears to endorse the view that Australian journalists should report the war – which Hamas commenced when it broke a ceasefire – from a Hamas perspective. Moreover, the signatories stated that journalists should portray a similar “professional scepticism” to Israeli sources as to Hamas sources. This despite the fact that Israel is a democracy with a free press and Gaza is a dictatorship run by a terrorist organisation where the media is muzzled.
The statement was signed by, among others, journalists employed by Nine Entertainment, The Guardian Australia, ABC and Schwartz Media.
Shortly after the release of the MEAA-endorsed statement, Tory Maguire – the executive editor for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – put out a statement to the effect that any staff who signed the MEAA statement would not be able to take part in any reporting relating to the war.
Fair enough. However, MWD is interested in how the matter was covered in Nine Entertainment’s newspapers on 25 November. This is how Calum Jaspan commenced his report in The Age and SMH :
Journalists, editors and senior media figures from the newsrooms of the ABC, Guardian Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Schwartz Media and others have put their names to an open letter calling for greater scrutiny in the reporting of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Prominent journalists Tony Armstrong, Benjamin Law and Jan Fran were among media figures who signed the letter, which was also signed by the union house committees of the ABC and Guardian, as well as the national media section committee from media union MEAA
Of the names cited by Calum Jaspan, Tony Armstrong, is an ABC journalist and Jan Fran is best known for her appearances on ABC TV. So is Benjamin Law – although he does an interview piece for Nine’s Good Weekend magazine. No other signatories were named.
Comrade Jaspan did not let the readers of Nine Entertainment’s newspapers know that the statement was also signed by such high-profile Nine journalists/cartoonists as David Rowe, Noel Towell and Cathy Wilcox. Somewhat of an omission, don’t you think? More importantly, Can You Bear It?
THE ABC’s BRIDGET BRENNAN WANTS TO LISTEN TO THE POLITICAL VIEWS OF ACTORS – BUT NOT, IT SEEMS, STAGEHANDS OR MAKE-UP ARTISTS
While on the topic of media coverage of the Israel/Gaza war, it was interesting to see a disagreement between a Nine and an ABC journalist on ABC TV’s News Breakfast. The date was 30 November 2023 and Age journalist Stephen Brook was doing the “Newspapers” segment commentary – much beloved by Media Watch Dog since it frequently provides great copy.
Your man Brook commented on a report in The Australian that very morning about the decision of the Sydney Theatre Company to cancel a performance of The Seagull. This followed the production on the previous Saturday when three members of the cast chose to wear the Palestinian keffiyeh scarf in curtain call – as a statement on the Israel/Gaza war. Some audience members and STC supporters objected to the politicisation of the event and, in time, the company expressed its deep sorrow for the demonstration and acknowledged that audiences pay to see plays – not political gestures. Or words to that effect.
In reporting the story Stephen Brook commented:
…the tension here is that artists want to make their voices heard. But in this case, they’re using their workplace to do so – which I think is wrong – so they got up on stage. And the Sydney Theatre Company now has come out and said – we realise that patrons who come to our productions are there to see the play, and only the play, and that if actors want to have a voice, then they have, which is true, a whole bunch of their own social media platforms for which they can use.
A reasonable point, to be sure. However, ABC TV News Breakfast’s co-presenter Bridget Brennan did not concur and felt compelled to state her view rather than listen to what her guest had to say. Let’s go to the transcript:
Bridget Brennan: Sure, but the arts obviously has had a long history in socially conscious protest and getting involved in politics. So how should – and I believe there were some audience members who applauded, and some who were deeply offended. So it’s, it’s difficult to manage for organisations – isn’t it?
Stephen Brook: Very difficult, but they didn’t warn their fellow cast members or indeed anyone else involved in production, as I understand….
Comrade Brennan seems to believe that her besties in “The Arts” have some special insight into international and national politics. But do they really? Is an actor quoting the lines of, say, Chekhov in The Seagull any more informed about the situation in the Middle East than, say, a stagehand or a make-up artist? Not in MWD’s view. Indeed, the STC actors did not even state their case about how Israel should respond to Hamas’ barbaric attack of 7 October.
It’s not clear that Ms Brennan believes that all artists/artistes should follow political issues. Would she approve of a conservative actor like the late John Wayne or the very contemporary Joan Collins lecturing their captive audiences at the end of a performance? Not on your nelly.
It would seem that Bridget Brennan supports the right of actors to take political stances when she agrees with the cause they espouse but not otherwise. An unpleasant double standard. Which raises the question: Can You Bear It?
[Sometimes you wonder about Bridget Brennan’s judgment. As I recall, appearing on Insiders on 31 July 2022, she said this when advocating support for an Indigenous Voice being placed in the Constitution: “I think it [the Voice] does need to have teeth, it does need to be feared and revered”. Apparently, Ms Brennan believed that Australians were more likely to vote “Yes” in the referendum if they believed they would come to fear the Voice. How about that? – MWD Editor.]
THE SATURDAY PAPER’S PAUL BONGIORNO ALL BUT IGNORES LABOR’S POLITICAL DISCONTENTS AND DOES AN ANTI-PETER DUTTON RANT
As avid Media Watch Dog readers well know, Ellie’s (male) co-owner reads The Saturday Paper on Monday afternoons – re which see this issue’s hugely popular “Media Fool of the Week” segment.
So, it was helpful that the powers-that-be at Schwartz Media put out this post on the morning of Monday 27 November:
The performance of the first-term Albanese government has been marked by an unusual stability and maturity, writes @PaulBongiorno.
The government has shown a level of competence — in sharp contrast to its predecessor. https://t.co/a4hzVon63L
— The Saturday Paper (@SatPaper) November 26, 2023
Now, MWD is reluctant to make political predictions – especially about the future. However, MWD is of the view that the Labor government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese struggled somewhat during October and November. Consequently, MWD was surprised to learn of Bonge’s attempt to “boost” the Albanese government’s performance in The Saturday Paper
After all, several considered commentators on Australia’s national politics wrote pieces or made comments around the time of Bonge’s column documenting that the Albanese government is struggling politically – for the moment at least. The list includes Laura Tingle (ABC TV, Australian Financial Review), Joe Hildebrand (Daily Telegraph), Nick Dyrenfurth (John Curtin Research Centre), Jennifer Hewett (AFR), David Crowe (Nine), Shaun Carney (Nine) and more besides.
When Hendo read the Bongiorno column in The [Boring] Saturday Paper on Monday evening, he noticed that in the fourth sentence, Bonge had commented that, “in the past few months” the “sure-footedness” of the Albanese government “seems to have been lost”. Which suggests that the publicists at The Saturday Paper do not read Paul Bongiorno’s (boring) column beyond the first three sentences. This is understandable when you think about it – or even if you don’t. After all, the Bonge column is somewhat on the zzzzzz spectrum.
But Media Watch Dog is trained to wade through written sludge and hyperbole. It turned out that the column was not primarily about the Albanese government. It was yet another Bonge rant about Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton and the Coalition in opposition. There were the predictable comparisons between Peter Dutton and Donald J. Trump. And there were references to the Dutton-led opposition being ruthless, cartoonish, prejudiced, hyperbolic and so on. In The Saturday Paper such abuse passes for political analysis. Can You Bear It?
[Er, no – now that you ask. But, surely, this is just Bonge being Bonge. I recall that in her book So Greek: Confessions of a Conservative Leftie (Scribe, 2010), Niki Savva wrote that “Paul Bongiorno was one of the senior people in the [Canberra Press] Gallery who made clear his distaste for the [Howard] government, and who couldn’t wait to see it booted out.” At the time, the Howard-hating Bonge worked for Network 10. It would seem that your man Bongiorno hasn’t changed his politics over the years – except that the Dutton-hating Bonge now scribbles for The Saturday Paper. – MWD Editor.]
THE SATURDAY PAPER’S MIKE SECCOMBE’S NON-GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS HOWLER
As avid Media Watch Dog readers are only too well aware, The Saturday Paper (proprietor Morry Schwartz, editor-in-chief Erik Jensen) is the only Australian newspaper to contain no news. Look at it this way, The [Boring] Saturday Paper goes to print in Melbourne on Thursday evening and finds its way to sandal-wearing leftist luvvies in inner-city coffee shops on Saturday morning. By then, any news it claims to present is already two days old. So, Ellie’s (male) co-owner reads it at Gin & Tonic Time on Mondays. After all, what’s the hurry?
On Monday evening 27 November, Gin & Tonic in hand, Hendo looked at TSP. Lo and behold, Page One contained an “exclusive”. To wit: “Exclusive: Less than half of Albanese’s cabinet went to state schools”. The accompanying (turgid) piece was written by Mike Seccombe – who took up a third of Page One and all of Pages 11 and 12 banging on about how only one-third of Federal parliamentarians graduated from state schools and pitching for more taxpayer funds to go to government schools.
Comrade Seccombe, who presents as The Saturday Paper’s national correspondent, only named one school – Scots College in Sydney (which was founded in 1893 and is an Independent Presbyterian school). It was a soft target since the school recently demolished a library to replace it with a student centre modelled on a Scottish castle. Really. In short, Scots College has virtually nothing in common with the overwhelming majority of non-government schools in Australia.
Your man Seccombe only named one politician who attended a non-government school. The Liberal Party’s Andrew Hastie, who he wrote “was a [Scots College] student and his father served on the school council”. The implication is that Mr Hastie is a rich guy from a wealthy family – since he went to “the nation’s fourth most expensive school”. MWD understands, however, that Andrew Hastie’s father was a Presbyterian minister who was connected to Scots College due to his role as a low-paid clergyman. But there you go.
However, wait – there is more. According to Seccombe, the “class privilege” which he alleges favours non-government schools over government schools commenced circa 1963. Here’s how – according to The Thought of Seccombe:
The story of how Australia got to this point began with religious sectarianism about 60 years ago. The Catholics wanted their own schools, but state governments, which were responsible for all education funding, were reluctant to fund them. The Commonwealth eventually stepped in, first with some one-off grants and then with recurrent funding. This grew into an odd system whereby the states mostly fund public schools and the federal government mostly funds private schools.
What a load of absolute tosh. Comrade Seccombe seems to be totally unaware that the Catholic Church in Australia established its own education system in the late 19th Century – which received no government funding. Hence the campaign for state aid for non-government schools which ran for almost eight decades. It is documented, among other places, in Michael Hogan’s The Catholic Campaign for State Aid (1978) and the Commonwealth Education Department’s publication titled A History of State Aid (2006).
In 1963, the Menzies Coalition government made a commitment to help fund science blocks with respect to all schools – government and non-government alike. Not long after, the Victorian Liberal Party government provided funding to non-government schools according to the number of their students (i.e. on a per capita basis). Soon after, other states joined in.
This commenced the growth in low to moderate fee-paying non-government schools. There are very few non-government schools like Scots College in Australia. Moreover, recent decades have seen an increase in Christian (including Catholic), Muslim and other religious-affiliated schools. Indeed, over the last five years – in percentage terms – the number of students in Catholic diocesan (i.e. low to medium fees) and independent (non-Catholic) schools has increased significantly. This has been accompanied by a drop in students at government (or state) schools.
Mike Seccombe seems to believe that non-government schools are overwhelmingly Catholic, that they have only been around since circa 1963 and that they were born on account of religious sectarianism. Not so.
There are many non-government schools which are not Catholic. Moreover, Catholic schools have been around in Australia for close to 150 years. And Government assistance to non-Government schools in the 1960s witnessed the decline in religious sectarianism in Australia.
How ignorant can a Saturday Paper national correspondent get?
Mike Seccombe: Media Fool of the Week.
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[There is a brief description of the inaugural decisions of the Federal and State governments to support state aid for non-government schools at Pages 303-304 of Gerard Henderson’s Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man (MUP, 2015). – MWD Editor.]
IN WHICH Q+A’s SUMMER BREAK EXTENDS FOR ALMOST THE ENTIRE SUMMER
As Media Watch Dog readers know only too well – mere mortals take holidays. Whereas self-important media types have well-earned breaks.
Just when a MWD reader thought that the ABC Q+A program might be sent out to pasture – so to speak – the news is that it will go ahead once again in 2024. This was announced by (current) presenter Patricia (“Please call me PK”) Karvelas at the end of the program on Monday 27 November:
This is our final Q+A for the year, in what has been a momentous time for Australia, and also around the world. We’ll be back from 2024 on Monday, February 19 at 9:35pm. Put it in your phones now. Put it in your diary… Have a fantastic night, and break.
So Q+A is on a break. But is it well earned? Put it this way. There are wars in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, China is causing disruption in the Asia Pacific and elsewhere and many Australians are experiencing substantial cost of living problems.
So what does Q+A do? It heads off for a well-earned break covering virtually all of summer – from the end of November 2023 until 19 February 2024. That is, around 11 weeks.
So how did Q+A’s last program for 2023 go? Well, Charlotte Mortlock performed well with a considered focus on the Liberal Party. And Cheng Lai had some interesting reflections about her unjust imprisonment in China. But, for the rest, it was the typical Q+A leftist stack – with the talk dominated by the three blokes – outgoing Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQA+ communities Todd Fernando, Australian Idol and The Bachelor Australian media personality Osher Günsberg and singer songwriter Anthony Callea.
The theme for Q+A’s 2023 finale was “Coming together”. Here’s how that works. Rather than bringing about a you-beaut “Coming Together” of all Australians as Q+A heads into an almost three month Well Earned Break, two of the Q+A panel essentially told some 61 per cent of Australians that they are all ill-informed idiots.
Here is Osher Günsberg in full inarticulate mode. Believe it or not, this verbal sludge is taken from the official Q+A transcript:
Osher Günsberg: And if they haven’t seen another person feel that way, and you emote it very well. And, look, it doesn’t matter what I voted, it doesn’t matter how any of it, like – When I saw that we’d gone from mostly wanting to do it, to, “Oh, my God, the UN’s coming to take my backyard” – I don’t care how you voted, I have no quarrel with you, but if you’re not terrified of how quickly we were manipulated as a country, if you didn’t – if you don’t want to start asking questions about who flooded the zone, we need – Like, we’re really lucky. We’re really lucky that it wasn’t during a khaki election. You know what I mean? We’re really, really, really lucky. But to move forward, coming here tonight, I was like, “Who do I call?” I called…if I can drop a name, called Professor Megan Davis like, “What…what are you doing?” And she says, she goes, she says, “I have hope.”
And so it went on and on. For the record, MWD’s answer to Comrade Günsberg “You know what I mean” question. Is “No – MWD has not got a clue”. It’s not clear how we can all come together if no one knows what Günsberg is on about.
And then there was Todd Fernando – who had this to say about Australian voters:
Todd Fernando: Yep, that’s four out of – Four out of ten people are educated on this issue. That’s how I see it. So if 60 per cent voted “No”, we got four out of ten who are – who were there. Fact-check it if you want.
Patricia Karvelas: Valid.
According to Comrade Fernando, some 60 per cent of Australians are not educated and Comrade Günsberg reckons that some 60 per cent of Australians can be manipulated. How’s that for coming together?
Media Watch Dog can barely wait until Q+A commences in 2024 after its well-earned break. Meanwhile, Ellie’s male co-owner has sent Osher Günsberg’s comments on Q+A off for translation.
JOHN HOWARD’S “WE WILL DECIDE WHO COMES TO THIS COUNTRY” MANTRA CHANNELLED BY THE EU PRESIDENT – BUT, WAS IT FORESHADOWED BY THE LATE BOB HAWKE?
There was enormous interest in Media Watch Dog’s previous “History Corner” segment which documented that one-time Liberal Party minister – and now a Teal barracker – Ian Macphee had bagged former Liberal Party prime minister John Howard. In an article in the leftist Guardian Australia – editor Lenore Taylor – on 20 November 2023, Macphee accused Howard, when prime minister, of stoking hysteria against asylum seekers and robbing them of their humanity.
Your man Macphee was of the view that Vietnamese refugees were welcomed in Australia as heroes during the time of the Malcolm Fraser Coalition government in the second half of the 1970s and early 1980s. It’s true that the Fraser government was welcoming to Vietnamese asylum seekers. But, the overwhelming majority of refugees did not come to Australia as unauthorised boat arrivals during the time of the Fraser government. Rather, they were selected from UNHRC camps by officials of the Australian Immigration Department and entered Australia on Qantas planes with valid visas.
In other words, the Fraser government did not have to deal with the problem of unidentified, unauthorised boat people which confronted the governments headed by John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. As a former immigration minister, Ian Macphee should have been aware of this. Moreover, Comrade Taylor should have a fact-checker within The Guardian Australia soviet to check the contributions from individuals with a political point to score.
But MWD digresses. An avid reader has asked whether John Howard invented this saying with respect to immigrants, including asylum seekers: “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” The statement was made when Australia’s 25th prime minister was launching the Liberal Party’s campaign for the 2001 election. The date was 28 October 2001.
No doubt the avid reader’s interest was raised by the recent comments of Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Union Commission, in Italy – following a visit to the small Italian island of Lampedusa, close to the Tunisian border. In recent times Lampedusa has experienced a large number of, what Europeans call, migrants coming ashore claiming refugee status.
Addressing a media conference on Sunday 17 September (Italian time), President von der Leyen said in English:
We will decide who comes to the European Union, and under what circumstances. Not the smugglers.
Sounds very Howardite (circa 2001) don’t you think? Well, yes. But was John Howard the first Australian to say something like this? Not really.
MWD readers are invited to cast their minds back to November 1977 on the eve of the December 1977 election – if such is possible. It is the time when a small number of Vietnamese boat people had made their way to Northern Australia. Now read on:
In November 1977, just before the Federal election of that year, the HMAS Ardent intercepted a boat containing some 180 Vietnamese refugees, heading for Darwin. Bob Hawke was ALP Federal president and ACTU president at the time. Bob Hawke told a media conference in Hobart on 28 November 1977:
Obviously there are people all around the world who have a strong case for entry into this country and successive governments have said we have an obligation, but we also have an obligation to people who are already here…Of course we should have compassion, but people who are coming in this way are not the only people in the world who have rights to our compassion. Any sovereign country has the right to determine how it will exercise its compassion and how it will increase its population.
Bob Hawke was reported as calling on the Coalition government to make it clear that the asylum seekers had no right to land in Australia. Fortunately, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser rejected his advice. He said that Australia needed to make sure that the Vietnamese boat people were refugees – but felt that the situation was under control. (See the broadsheet press of 29 November 1977 and after).
In short, the words expressed by President von der Leyen in 2023 are similar to those of John Howard in 2001 and not that dissimilar to those of the late Bob Hawke in 1977. You read it first in MWD’s hugely popular “History Corner”.
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Until next time.
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