GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG

ISSUE – NO. 673

15 March 2024

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EDITORIAL

  • ANTOINETTE LATTOUF’S ONGOING LEGAL ACTION AGAINST THE ABC DEMONSTRATES THE WEAKNESS IN ABC MANAGEMENT 

As The Australian reported on 15 March 2024, the “ABC’s Radio audience slipped in every category in the first two months of the year”. This despite the recent review and revamp of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s on-air talent. Among the disappointing results were such high-profile presenters as Richard Glover in Sydney and Raf Epstein in Melbourne.

The problem facing the ABC was evident late last week when the hearings resumed in Antoinette Lattouf’s legal action following what she claims was her dismissal by the ABC. As is widely known, the ABC discontinued Lattouf’s five-day stint on Sydney radio after three days. It was alleged by ABC management that Lattouf had breached ABC guidelines for posts on social media. 

The hearings on 8 March demonstrate the problem. Despite the controversial appointment, since Ms Lattouf’s views on the Israel-Hamas war were well known, ABC Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief David Anderson knew nothing about Lattouf’s part-time employment. Nor, apparently, did the ABC’s Chief Content Officer, Christopher Oliver-Taylor. It seems that the ABC’s Head of Audience was aware of Lattouf’s casual employment. 

If the evidence is correct, this demonstrates a failure at the ABC in that it is middle management and journalists who make the appointments. In a commercial operation, such matters will invariably be referred upwards to the managing director. However, since the ABC is effectively a staff collective, many crucial decisions are made by journalists and middle managers. 

The truth is that neither the ABC Chairman, nor the board, nor the Managing Director, who is also Editor-in-Chief, nor his senior advisers run the public broadcaster. This is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, it is decades old. But it does explain why ABC management never seems to be in charge of the operation and ends up having to answer for the public actions of its employees, of which it is sometimes unaware. 


  • MIKE SECCOMBE BORES AWAY IN THE [BORING] SATURDAY PAPER AND EXHIBITS A LACK OF HISTORICAL KNOWLEDGE IN THE PROCESS

Could it be that The [Boring] Saturday Paper, editor-in-chief Erik Jensen, is becoming even more boring? As Media Watch Dog readers know, The Saturday Paper goes to press on Thursdays and arrives in inner-city coffee shops around Hangover Time on Saturday mornings.  Ellie’s (male) co-owner reads it at Gin & Tonic Time on Mondays – what’s the hurry?

The only news in the edition of 9 March is this: “Stan Grant joins The Saturday Paper: It seems there is nowhere left to meet each other.”

It’s not long ago that your man Grant renounced the Australian media and headed off to lead the Constructive Institute Asia Pacific, which is run in Australia by Monash University.  The Institute is based in Aarhus, Denmark and that is where Grant travelled to prepare for the task.  Gerard Henderson wrote about Grant’s (short-lived as it turned out) metamorphosis in his Weekend Australian column on 26 August last year – see here.

 

Alas, it seems that the attempt to change the media world and bring about a kinder-gentler journalism while tackling misinformation and disinformation has failed.  For now – at least.  And so it has come to pass that the talented Mr Grant has found refuge in the Sandalista Set of The Saturday Paper based in Melbourne’s inner-city Collingwood. Once upon a time, this was where the working class lived.  Now the only workers among the Collingwood sandal-wearers can be found repairing coffee machines on Smith Street.

But MWD digresses.  To get an idea of how “newsy” The Saturday Paper is – check out the main story in its 9 March edition.  Written by the (ever boring) Mike Seccombe, it is headed “Can Peter Dutton actually win enough seats to form a government?” It commences as follows:

Following the Liberal Party’s loss in last weekend’s Dunkley byelection, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton announced that nuclear power would be the centrepiece of the Coalition’s energy and climate policy. His plan, says Tony Barry, is “the longest suicide note in Australia’s political history”. Barry is a former deputy state director and strategist for the Victorian Liberal Party.

Yes, we know. Your man Barry is often found trying out smart lines on the ABC. As MWD recalls, after the Aston by-election in April 2023, he declared that, for the Liberal Party, it “will get worse until it gets worse”.  Clever, eh?  Not really – since the Liberal Party result in the Dunkley by-election of recent memory was significantly better than it was in Aston.

As to your man Barry’s claim that Peter Dutton’s policy on nuclear energy “is the longest suicide note in Australian political history”.  Groan.  Wasn’t this cliché doing the rounds when Moses was in short pants?

It would seem that Comrades Seccombe and Jensen have little sense of history. Prime Minister Albanese leads a first-term government. An opposition has not defeated a first-term government in Australia since December 1931 – almost a century ago.

Then, the United Australia Party headed by Joseph Lyons, attained one of the biggest victories in Australian political history in defeating Labor headed by Jim Scullin.  In December 1931, Australia was still afflicted by the Great Depression – and the Australian Labor Party had just split on two occasions.  In short, 1931 was a most unusual election.

The only other Opposition which got close to defeating a first-term government, in terms of seats gained in the House of Representatives, was the Liberal Party under Tony Abbott’s leadership in August 2010.

In short, it’s hardly “Hold the Front Page” news for Comrade Seccombe to state that Peter Dutton is unlikely to win the next election which will probably be held in the first half of 2025.  Is there no knowledge of Australian political history among the comrades at The Saturday Paper soviet?  Can You Bear It?

  • THE SMH’s MARGOT SAVILLE FORGETS ABOUT THE 1983 ELECTION

While on the topic of historical howlers, did anyone see the article by Margot Saville in the Sydney Morning Herald on 29 February headed “Why Allegra Spender will never join the Liberal Party?”. Certainly one avid MWD reader did – hence this critique.

Ms Saville, currently the SMH’s deputy letters editor, commenced her piece thus:

Eighteen months ago, the Coalition suffered its worst defeat in 70 years, losing an unprecedented 18 seats.

Everything is “true” about this assertion – except for, er, the facts.  The Coalition, under the leadership of Malcolm Fraser, lost 24 seats in 1983 and John Howard lost 22 seats in 2007.

In recent times, Comrade Saville has written a suck-up booklet on Maxine McKew and more recently something similar on the Teals. Political gush is one thing – political errors quite another.  The SMH deputy letters editor should be able to do better. Which poses the question: Can You Bear It?

  • PETER FITZSIMONS INTERVIEWS A NUCLEAR EXPERT WHO SAYS HE AIN’T SO

While on the issue of fact-checking, check out this Peter FitzSimons column in the Sun-Herald titled “Five Minutes with Fitz”.   The date was 10 March.

Now five minutes with the garrulous Fitz can be a very long time.  Sure, the bloke who now identifies as someone who inhabits the Hotel Fitz, no longer wears a red rag around his head – as he did for a decade when he ran The Hotel Red Bandannaed One.  Rather, he now presents as bald.

In any event, this is how Fitz commenced his column on 10 March titled “Low-wattage likelihood of Dutton’s nuclear power play”.

Dr Dylan McConnell is a very bright spark.  The University of NSW senior researcher is an expert in energy systems, including nuclear. Dr McConnell, welcome to the Hotel Fitz.  You’ve been pointed out to me as our most articulate academic expert in nuclear energy, but can you present your credentials?

Dr McConnell (for a doctor he is) then advised the proprietor of Hotel Fitz that he was an “electricity expert” rather than specifically a nuclear expert.

How about that?  Comrade FitzSimons introduced your man McConnell as “our most articulate academic expert in nuclear energy” – only to find out that he did not claim any specific expertise in nuclear energy.

What to do – with 4 minutes, 45 seconds to go?  Well, Fitz ploughed on talking nuclear energy with a University of New South Wales academic who does not claim to be a nuclear expert. Can You Bear It?

Fitz as Proprietor of The Red Rag Hotel

Fitz as Proprietor of The Fitz Hotel

 

  • DAN ZIFFER DOES NOT MISS THE MEDIA LEAD – HE KILLS IT

On 12 March, most Australian papers carried the news that Western Australia had done extremely well out of carve-up of the GST revenue – which is forwarded by the Commonwealth to the states and territories. This is how the issue was reported by Patrick Commins in The Australian that morning:

Taxpayers will pay $5.2bn in the next financial year to provide the nation’s richest state, Western Australia, with an extra $6.2bn in GST revenue under the sweetheart deal struck with the former Coalition government and which [Labor treasurer] Jim Chalmers has extended until the end of the decade.

It came as no surprise that The West Australian reported that WA had done well. On 12 March, it carried a photo of actor Michael Caton, who played the role of Darryl Kerrigan in The Castle, with a right thumb extended saying: “Suffer In Your Jocks” – along with this breakout:  “Western Australia’s blunt message to the Eastern States as our GST share now totals $7.25 billion.” In other words, it was a matter of WA telling the other states to, er, “Get lost”. According to reddit.com the term has a tone of taking joy in another’s misfortune.

It so happened that on 12 March Daniel Ziffer, the ABC’s business reporter, had the “Newspapers” gig on the ABC TV News Breakfast program. Your man Ziffer was interviewed by Emma Rebellato and Michael Rowland. Let’s go to the transcript where The West Australian was discussed:

Daniel Ziffer: If we go to Western Australia, you’ll see that they are very unhappy …

Michael Rowland: If we bring up The West Australian’s front page, we can see just how disappointed, at least the editor of The West Australian is. There you go: “Suffer In Your Jocks.”

Dan Ziffer: The classic line from The Castle there. If anyone … it’s worth rewatching that film. They’re [Western Australia] unhappy, due to, obviously, they make a lot of money from mining those royalties. They’re not getting as much back.

Turn it up. The big local economic story of the day was that Western Australia had done very well indeed out of the GST distribution. But Messrs Ziffer and Rowland did not agree. This is the kind of howler which can occur when individuals comment on newspapers which, apparently, they have not read. Can You Bear It?

  • CRIKEY’S MICHAEL BRADLEY PRAISES A LONDON TAXI CHUNDER – BUT DOES NOT HAVE TO CLEAN IT UP

Media Watch Dog has not commented on the decision of Metropolitan Police in London to lay charges against Matildas star Sam Kerr for allegedly racially abusing a white British copper.  But Ellie’s (male) co-owner noticed this comment by Michael Bradley, Crikey’s legal correspondent, on 8 March:

Some are calling Kerr racist for her comments.  Me?  I say erect a statue of her chucking her guts up in an English cab.  If anyone was going to pull off the world’s first reverse milkshake duck and stick the landing, it’d be Sam Kerr…. Even if you didn’t know that she [Kerr] was literally reenacting “The Adventures of Barry McKenzie”, 52 years after the original, you’d be un-Australian not to instinctively just stand up and give her a round of applause.

Turn it up.  The Adventures of Barry McKenzie was a film starring Barry Humphries – something that the fictional Sir Les Patterson might have called a “fill-um”.  No one threw up in real London cab.

Moreover, it’s all very well for Crikey’s legal correspondent to rejoice that Ms Kerr is alleged to have done a “chunder Down Under” in the Northern Hemisphere.  The point is that your man Bradley did not have to clean up the mess – and, consequently, seems somewhat out of touch. Can You Bear It?

  • MICHAEL ROWLAND CANNOT BELIEVE THE LABOR GOVERNMENTS ARE CONSIDERING THE EXTENSION OF COAL-FIRED POWER STATIONS

It so happened that the morning after the Ziffer/Rowland howler, Michael Rowland interviewed Senator Jane Hume, the shadow minister for finance. Towards the end of the interview, discussion turned to nuclear energy. Let’s go to the transcript where Comrade Rowland is running the ABC line of opposition to nuclear energy – à la Sarah Ferguson who interviewed Ted O’Brien, the shadow minister for energy, the night before:

Michael Rowland: It’s incredibly expensive. That’s, that’s one thing you should know as the finance spokeswoman.

Jane Hume: Well, this will remain to be seen. Because there is also some expense, considerable expense, with maintaining coal-fired power stations –  and also with renewables that are very heavily subsidised by governments.

Michael Rowland: Do you agree with the Coalition’s energy spokesman Ted O’Brien that he doesn’t want to see coal-fired power stations closed prematurely, his words?

Jane Hume: Well, I think that his response was that, that the Labor government is already talking about extending the life of coal-fired power stations, largely because they have realised that –

Michael Rowland: [Interjecting] Which ones?

Jane Hume: – Well, that’s a very good question. Why don’t you ask the Labor governments?

Michael Rowland: No, no, you claim – which ones –

Jane Hume: Their renewable energy policy –

Michael Rowland: [interjecting] There are corporate decisions. AGL, Origin Energy have announced, or scheduled, the closure of these power plants. I can’t think of a government decision on power plants…

What a load of tosh. In fact, Senator Hume is correct. On 7 March 2024, Colin Packham reported in The Australian that the NSW Labor government is in discussions with Origin Energy with a view to keeping the Eraring plant, Australia’s largest coal-fired power station, in operation beyond 2025 when it is currently scheduled to shut down. It seems that Premier Chris Minns is worried about the possibility of blackouts hitting electricity consumers. Fair enough.

Also, The Australian reported recently that the Victorian Labor government is in secret discussions with energy companies with a view to keeping coal-fired power stations in operation beyond their planned closures. As The Australian pointed out on 23 August 2023, the Victorian government has already entered an agreement with AGL Energy to keep the Loy Yang A power station available to operate until mid-2035.

Could it be that Michael Rowland fails to read up about energy before he interviews the likes of Jane Hume? Which raises another question. Can You Bear It?


MWD EXCLUSIVE

  • AN EXCLUSIVE FOLLOW-UP TO A PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE

Last week’s MWD included a brief mention of a recent appearance by ex-ABC presenter Josh Szeps on the American podcast The Fifth Column. The podcast has a libertarian bent and is hosted by Michael Moynihan, Matt Welch and Kmele Foster and is crowdfunded on the Substack platform. Szeps has been a semi-regular guest for a number of years.

On 6 October 2023 MWD broke the news of Josh Szeps’ last appearance on The Fifth Column, during which he discussed his self-censorship of an episode of his own podcast, Uncomfortable Conversations, after a complaint by a fellow ABC employee. On 15 November Szeps announced that he would not be returning to his job as ABC Radio Sydney Afternoons presenter in 2024, implying that he felt constrained in what he could discuss while working at the ABC. On 14 December he made an appearance on Sky News’ Sharri program to discuss the Israel-Hamas war. This appearance seemingly brought forward his exit from the ABC and he did not return to his ABC Radio gig.

On his latest appearance on The Fifth Column on 8 March 2024, the subject quickly turned to Szeps’ exit from the ABC and what impact his previous appearance made on what Szeps called “the eventual collapse of my relationship with my employer”. Let’s go to the transcript:

Josh Szeps: So, God bless you Gerard [Henderson] if you’re listening. So, he, so we did this whole thing and then I flew off and we had a vacation in Europe after we last chatted. And I’m in Lisbon, I’m with a buddy of mine. Everything is great. I wake up in the morning and a Google Alert pops up and I’m like oh what’s this? The headline.

Michael Moynihan: Let’s read the headline.

Josh Szeps: The headline of the Media Watch Dog column is: “ABC Presenter Josh Szeps Expresses Concern About A Pervading Cancel Culture At The ABC.”

Matt Welch: Oh, that’s not what you said.

Josh Szeps: That’s not what I said at all.

Michael Moynihan: It’s absolutely what you meant. But you didn’t actually say it.

Josh Szeps: In fact, I’m pretty sure I was clear that this was a storm in a teacup and that the ABC was bigger than this.

Matt Welch: And that someone there [Managing Director David Anderson] had your back.

Josh Szeps: Yeah, that’s right.

Matt Welch: Which turned out not to be true.

Apparently ex-comrade Szeps is not entirely happy with his previous coverage in MWD. But, during his October appearance on The Fifth Column, Szeps did use the term cancel culture in reference to the ABC and his fears of facing professional repercussions for having controversial discussions.

Whether or not this is the “pervading” culture at the ABC is a matter of opinion, but Szeps’ exit from the ABC would seem to point in that direction. Szeps did not mention that MWD’s coverage of his appearance consisted in large part of long quotes from the transcript, readers were certainly not misled as to his comments.

Your Man Josh appears to have not yet broken free of his ABC programming. Twice during his latest appearance on The Fifth Column he refers to the ABC as a “treasure”, a common (and self-aggrandising) cliché among ABC staff. He also offered up a confusing argument that because of concerns about cancel culture on the right, organisations like the ABC are “forced to be a little more cancel-ly”. Apparently if conservatives just stopped noticing that the ABC is a conservative-free-zone, the ABC would hire some conservatives. Or something like that.

However, Szeps’ comments were not entirely critical of MWD and Hendo:

Josh Szeps: But I don’t even. Just to clarify. I don’t think Gerard Henderson, who’s this columnist, is a right-wing nutjob. You don’t need to have gone Bret Weinstein.

Michael Moynihan: You are afraid of him, aren’t you?

Josh Szeps: No, no, no. Honestly, these are people who have their beat.

Bret Weinstein is American biologist who has become a well-known critic of cancel culture. During the COVID pandemic he also devoted a lot of time to downplaying the effectiveness of COVID vaccines and promoting the use of the drug Ivermectin. Hendo is pleased to learn that Josh Szeps has not joined Mike (“I used to pour the gin”) Carlton in labelling him a Weinstein-style right-wing nutjob. Nor is Hendo apparently someone to be feared, even at Hangover Time.


PHILLIP ADAMS RE THE LATE COMMUNIST PARTY OF AUSTRALIA – THE MYSTERY CONTINUES

There has been enormous interest in the relationship between the much-gonged Phillip Adams AO etc. and the Communist Party of Australia in recent editions of Media Watch Dog.

The question is this. Did Phillip Adams quit the CPA circa 1956 when the Soviet Union crushed the Hungarian Uprising – as he once said? Comrade Adams would have been about 17 at the time.

Or did the ABC’s Man-In-Black quit the CPA soon after the Soviet Union crushed the Prague Spring in 1968? –  as he also has said.  He would have been about 30 at the time.

As readers know, MWD’s solution is for your man Adams to release his ASIO File – of which he has spoken frequently. But an avid reader – whose name MWD has withheld – raised a question about whether Henderson’s suggestion as to resolving the puzzles will work.  Here is the query:

Subject: Mr Henderson’s recent mention of Phillip Adams’ ASIO file.

Dear Mr Henderson,

You recently wrote an article saying that ‘Phillip Adams can resolve the issue by releasing his ASIO file of which he speaks frequently.’

I am not quite sure that it works that way.

I applied for a copy of my ASIO file about seven years ago (I was a teenage Marxist in the 1980s).  The process was that I was to make a request to the National Archives, which was then passed on to ASIO.  ASIO took about a year to redact my file and then send it to the Archives.  At this point, it is publicly accessible at the National Archives.  If one pays a fee, it can be digitised and made available on the net.

I have checked for Adams’ full name on the National Archive web page, and there are various entries for him, but none for an ASIO file.  I do not know of any provisions which allow for someone to get a “personal copy” of an ASIO file (unless it thereby goes public)….

Interesting, eh? According to MWD’s informant, the National Archives of Australia does not refer to a Phillip Adams ASIO file. Over to the ABC’s Man-In-Black.


  • AND THE WINNER IS SARAH FERGUSON 

Gerard Henderson has written about the controversial interview by ABC TV 7:30 presenter Sarah Ferguson and Coalition Shadow Minister Ted O’Brien (on Tuesday 12 March) in his Weekend Australian column.

On this occasion, Ms Ferguson interrupted Mr O’Brien on no fewer than 27 occasions – putting such previous winners of this award as David Speers and Patricia Karvelas to shame.

The ABC usually provides transcripts for important interviews. However, the Ferguson/O’Brien exchange has not been transcribed by the ABC. However, it has put out a transcript for the interview between Sarah Ferguson and Mary Beard on 14 March – where Professor Beard compared the celebrity gossip that affected the Roman Empire to that which prevails with respect to “Harry and Meghan” today. It was very much a “I love Nero” discussion.

However, in the public interest and for the historical record, MWD has done its own transcript of the 15-minute Ferguson/O’Brien interview. It is provided here. Enjoy (as the current cliche goes).


  • IN WHICH THE GUARDIAN’S AMY REMEIKIS TELLS RN LISTENERS THAT THE COALITION’S POLICY ON FUEL STANDARDS IS “JUST RIDICULOUS”

Thanks to the avid Media Watch Dog reader who tuned into ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live on Monday 11 March. The said reader was anticipating the usual “Mingle with Tingle” – in which Phillip Adams talks with the ABC’s Laura Tingle on what he terms his little wireless program on a Monday night. But it was not to be since it appears that La Tingle was on leave, maybe even what journalists like to call a WEB, aka a well-earned break.

It so happens that the left-of-centre Tingle was replaced by the leftist Amy Remeikis – the Guardian Australia’s political reporter. Comrade Remeikis is a MWD fave – and this blog has fought hard to get her a promotion or substantial salary increase. As readers will be aware, Comrade Remeikis is a Guardian wage slave who lacked the courage a couple of years ago to ask her boss for a 5 per cent salary increase. Re which see MWD passim ad nauseam.

But MWD digresses. The Guardian’s political reporter commenced the interview by bagging the Coalition’s policy on electric vehicles – i.e. EVs. Let’s go to the transcript:

Phillip Adams: … In another conversation I think you and I had before – it looks like “the battle of the ute” is back.

Amy Remeikis: The battle of the ute, the battle for the weekend, the battle for tradies’ hearts across the country. Again, this is another just ridiculous distraction that the Coalition has thrown up. And I can say that because I’m a Guardian reporter and people would expect that, but it is actually …

Just when Comrade Adams’ listeners may have thought that Laura Tingle – who is a Peter Dutton antagonist – might have been replaced by someone who is not a Peter Dutton antagonist, along comes Comrade Remeikis who describes the Coalition’s policy on fuel efficiency standards as “just ridiculous”. Comrade Adams did not demur.


MWD’s SNEERER OF THE WEEK

  • STEP FORWARD PETER HARTCHER

During a somewhat flat ABC TV Insiders program on Sunday 10 March, discussion turned to the Albanese government’s policy with respect to encouraging a take-up of electric vehicles – EVs – and the resultant increase in the cost of non-EVs.

Let’s go to the transcript as Nine Newspapers’ Peter Hartcher discusses the issue with presenter David Speers.

Peter Hartcher: So, what the Federal government is doing is trying to push – give the whole moment a little nudge along –

David Speers: Yeah.

Peter Hartcher: – make electric vehicles more attractive. And this is part of that – this is part of that push. But it – look, it really is – I mean, the Kiwis can do it, the rest of the whole world can do it, why can’t we? It’s a minor issue. But, you know, when you live for Fight Club – which the Opposition does –

David Speers: [laughing]

Peter Hartcher: – you’re always thinking about the next fight, and you’ve got to find a fight.

David Speers: Well, if this is –

Peter Hartcher: [interjecting] This is going to get them through for a few weeks.

David Speers: Sure.

It so happened that the Australian Financial Review’s Jennifer Hewett, who was a fellow panellist, did not agree. Having recently returned from a visit to Perth, she said it was understandable why many Australians were concerned about an increase in the cost of SUVs and the like under the government’s proposed changes. In any event, Peter Dutton and the opposition are doing more than engaging in “fight club” as exhibited in the 1999 film Fight Club. In other words, Mr Hartcher’s sneer, in response to which Mr Speers laughed, was just a pompous sneer.


YOUR TAXES AT WORK

  • THE SYDNEY WRITERS’ FESTIVAL – ANOTHER (TAXPAYER FUNDED) LEFTIST STACK

Media Watch Dog readers are well aware of the literary festival/writers’ week phenomenon.  They are occasions when a soviet of left-of-centre bureaucrats obtain a pile of taxpayers/ratepayers money. They then use it to invite left-of-centre and leftist writers (or aspiring writers) to get together at a gig where virtually everyone agrees with virtually everyone else in a left-of-centre/leftist kind of way.  In short, a left-wing ideological party prevails.

You’ve heard about the leftist stack that was the 2024 Adelaide Writers Week (2-7 March 2024) – with Louise Adler as director.  It was covered in MWD on 24 February and in Gerard Henderson’s Weekend Australian column on 2 March.

SWF’s Ann Mossop in Denial about Diversity

And now there’s the 2024 Sydney Writers’ Festival (SWF) which is – you’ve guessed it – another leftist stack. Except it appears that the SWF artistic director Ann Mossop – a mate of Comrade Adler – is in denial about this. In her “message” about SWF 2024, Comrade Mossop writes:

In 2024, the Festival brings together writers of the everyday and the fantastical, writers of dazzling fictions, magical words, captivating life stories and sweeping accounts of history and ideas. As ever, the Festival puts diverse views and voices on stage for audiences seeking different experiences.

What a load of absolute tosh.  So much so that perhaps someone should take the SWF to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with respect to possible false advertising.  MWD certainly does not favour such action – since the various literary festivals provide great copy for Ellie’s (male) co-owner on an annual basis.

Here’s a little list of Australian speakers at the 2024 SWF who will be discussing matters relating to international and national politics: Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Julia Baird, Larissa Behrendt, Tony Birch, Lech Blaine, Bridget Brennan, Bryan Brown, Nick Bryant, Robbie Buck, Barrie Cassidy, Anna Clark, Annabel Crabb, James Curran, Paul Daley, Rosalind Dixon, Jo Dyer, Clinton Fernandes, Verity Firth, Richard Flanagan, Clementine Ford, Anna Funder, Richard Glover, Clive Hamilton, Wendy Harmer, Narelda Jacobs, Erik Jensen, Alan Kohler, Benjamin Law, Antony Loewenstein, John Lyons, Jacqueline Maley, David Marr, Maeve Marsden, Phillipa McGuinness, Michael Williams, Louise Milligan,  Sam Neill, Kerry O’Brien, Bruce Pascoe, Amy Remeikis, Margot Saville, Niki Savva, Yumi Stynes, Laura Tingle, Christos Tsiolkas, Nadia Wheatley, Bruce Wolpe, Clare Wright.

Not a political conservative among this lot. It can only be assumed that SWF director Ann Mossop does not include politics when proclaiming how her festival promotes “diverse views”.  This is a bit like the ABC – which, by the way, is a SWF “major partner”.  In short, like the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, the 2024 Sydney Writers’ Festival is a conservative free zone.

Following the Taxpayers’ Money Trail

In 2024, the SWF has two government partners – i.e. taxpayer funded partners.  Namely, the NSW government and the City of Sydney.  Underneath this duo are listed two “principal partners”. Namely, the property services company ERA and the University of New South Wales (UNSW), which gets a majority of its funds from the government.

In Australia, the Greens received a bit over 10 per cent of the national vote.  Yet the SWF will appeal to the Green Left and Teal types from Byron Bay to Hobart Town and across to Cottesloe Beach. But not to the overwhelming majority of Australian taxpayers who fund events like the 2024 SWF.

The SWF’s “Diversity” re Australian Politics and History

For a glimpse of the 2024 SWF “diversity”- check out these:

  • DICEY TOPICS. Roll the die and dive deep into taboo topics. A Festival favourite returns with this live edition of Dicey Topics. Join David Marr and Benjamin Law as they discuss the taboo subjects we are told to keep private.

How about that?  Leftist David Marr will dive deep into taboo topics with leftist Benjamin Law. Moreover, this duo will “discuss taboo stories we are told to keep private”.  It is not clear who told us that certain (unnamed) topics are to be kept private.  Or how it has come to pass that taboo topics are being discussed at the taxpayer funded event. But there you go.

  • HOW TO REWRITE THE HISTORY BOOKS. Two acclaimed thinkers on digging up the past. Learn how archaeologist David Wengrow and Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe are reckoning with historical records and rewriting outworn stories. With host Anna Clark.

This is the “acclaimed thinker” Bruce Pascoe – of Dark Emu fame – who identifies as Indigenous but whose own historical records apparently are not sufficient enough for him to indicate who of his four grandparents is/are Indigenous. More research to be done here on the historical records, it seems.

  • BARRIE CASSIDY AND FRIENDS: STATE OF THE NATION. Review the year in AusPol at this Festival favourite. Relive all the thrills and spills of the year in Australian politics with veteran journo Barrie Cassidy and his hand-picked squad of the country’s sharpest pundits: Bridget Brennan, Amy Remeikis, Niki Savva and Laura Tingle.

Here’s the story.  The left-of-centre Barrie Cassidy has “hand-picked” the “country’s sharpest pundits”. Namely, Bridget Brennan (ABC), Amy Remeikis (The Guardian Australia), Niki Savva (Sydney Morning Herald and Age occasional columnist) and Laura Tingle (ABC, Australian Financial Review).

So, how politically sharp is this lot? – MWD hears avid readers cry.  Well, Comrade Brennan told Insiders  viewers from the Garma Festival in the Northern Territory on 31 July 2022 that they should “fear” The Voice.  In the event, some 40 per cent of Australians accepted her advice and voted to place something they should fear into the Constitution at the October 2023 referendum.  However, some 60 per cent of Australians rejected Comrade Brennan’s advice. Comrade Savva had to change the title of a planned book on the 2019 election since she had predicted a Liberal Party loss – re which see MWD passim ad nauseam. And La Tingle had to take down a late-night tweet in which she described the Morrison government as being into “ideological bastardry”.  This quartet is not all that politically wise when you think about it.

  • THE SECRET LIVES OF POLITICIANS. Lech Blaine, Niki Savva and Margot Saville talk AusPol’s key players.

Blaine is a Peter Dutton antagonist as are Savva and Saville. Yet the SWF reckons its program is about diversity. Enough said.

  • FRAGILE DEMOCRACY What are the clear and present dangers for democracies around the world? Donald Trump and his attacks on the US electoral system have raised red flags about the strength of American democracy. But in an age of disinformation and civic decline, signs of fragility are visible elsewhere and Australia is no exception. With Festival favourite Barrie Cassidy, foreign correspondent Nick Bryant, academic Rosalind Dixon and author of Trump’s Australia Bruce Wolpe.

Whether or not the powers-that-be at the 2024 SWF like Donald J. Trump – at the moment it seems that the former Republican president is in with a chance to attain a majority of votes in the Electoral College sometime after the 5 November 2024 US presidential election.

Barrie Cassidy (who got the 2016 US presidential election hopelessly wrong) is a Trump-antagonist.  So is former US Democratic staffer Bruce Wolpe and former BBC journalist Nick Bryant.  Moreover, it is likely that Ms Dixon does not belong to a local version of the MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement. Both Bryant and Wolpe have written in Nine newspapers about the danger to Australia of a Trump victory in November 2024.

Yet another event at SWF 2024 where virtually everyone will agree with virtually everyone else about virtually everything.

The SWF’s “Diversity” re International Affairs

Then there is the issue of foreign policy and related matters.  Here’s what’s on offer:

  • AUSTRALIA’S PLACE IN THE WORLD. Reimagining Australia’s international identity. Learn from international political analysts Clinton Fernandes and Sam Roggeveen whose work asks where Australia fits in the international arena. In conversation with Verity Firth.

Clinton Fernandes is a critic of the Australia-United States alliance from a left-of-centre position. Sam Roggeveen is critical of the Australia-United States alliance from a right-of-centre position. How’s that for diversity?

What About the Israel-Hamas War? – MWD hears readers cry.  This issue is approached via the media.  There are two segments:

  • THE WAR ON JOURNALISTS. News from the Frontlines. With conflict continuing in Ukraine, and the death toll of journalists in Gaza reaching alarming proportions, we look at the role of journalists in war. Featuring Julian Borger, John Lyons and Alisa Sopova.

John Lyons is a critic of contemporary Israel and Jewish Australians who support Israel.  This is evident from his books Balcony Over Jerusalem and Dateline Jerusalem. Then there is this:

  • DARK TECHNOLOGIES. Exposing the technology of modern warfare. Hear about the role of emerging technologies in conflict and occupation with Walkley Award–winning journalist Antony Loewenstein (The Palestine Laboratory), artificial intelligence expert Toby Walsh (Faking It) and host Michael Richardson.

The reference to “occupation” gives the game away. Antony Loewenstein, an anti-Zionist Australian Jew, is a bitter opponent of contemporary Israel.

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The SWF’s “Diversity” in its Choice of Sole Speakers

And then there are the individual lectures. Here’s a sample:

  • CLEMENTINE FORD: I DON’T. Untying the knot on matrimonial myths. Hear from bestselling feminist writer Clementine Ford as she lays out the case against marriage, exploring its fascinating origins rooted in patriarchy and overturning enduring beliefs.

No suggestion of diversity here as Comrade Ford bags marriage. This is the very same Clementine Ford who asked a fan in 2017: “Have you killed any men today?” and who tweeted on 20 May 2020:  “Honestly, the Corona virus isn’t killing men fast enough.”  She certainly is no fan of heterosexual marriage – and you don’t need a writers’ festival to tell you this.

  • CLIVE HAMILTON ON LIVING IN A HOTTER AUSTRALIA. How will Australia survive and thrive on a heating planet? Academic Clive Hamilton takes a hard look at the current climate predicament in this call to action for Australia’s future. Discover how we can best prepare for escalating pressures, and perhaps even flourish.

No diversity here either.  Just The Thought of Clive Hamilton – who has no expertise in science or engineering.

  • LECH BLAINE ON PETER DUTTON. An essential portrait of the Pied Piper of outer suburbia. Reflect on Peter Dutton’s political strategy with Lech Blaine, whose Quarterly Essay asks where Dutton will lead the Coalition and, if elected, the “forgotten people” – his campaign targets.

Here is a case where you can judge a talk by its subtitle.  Comrade Blaine mocks the Liberal Party leader by sneering at him as the Pied Piper of outer suburbia. Say no more – as the saying goes.

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MWD always likes to be helpful.  The best the Sydney Writers’ Festival can do to reduce Australia’s emissions is to go into Requiescat in Pace mode and close down.  This would eliminate its emissions from air, sea, rail and road travel plus accommodation, books and the like.  But not too soon.  MWD looks forward to SWF 2025 which is sure to be another leftist stack with plenty for Hendo to write home about.

[Well done, Hendo. But I note you missed the SWF habit of sucking-up to their besties. As in: Annabel Crabb – a  “beloved broadcaster”;  David Marr “ – “revered reporter” and “esteemed writer”; Richard Glover – “beloved broadcaster”; Bruce Pascoe “acclaimed thinker”; Leigh Sales and Lisa Millar – “ABC Legends” both. – MWD Editor (a beloved, revered, esteemed and acclaimed legend kind of guy). ♥ ♥]

 

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Until Next Time

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