GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG

ISSUE – NO. 686

21 June 2024

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  • ABC PK INTERVIEWS ABC CHAIR KIM WILLIAMS ABOUT THE ABC

As Media Watch Dog readers will soon discover, it was not Ellie’s (male) co-owner’s intention to deal at any length with the talk on Wednesday by ABC Chair Kim Williams. Namely, the 2024 Redmond Barry Lecture. See the (hugely popular) Can You Bear It? segment.

However, at around Hangover Time on Friday 21 June, your man Williams was interviewed by Patricia Karvelas on ABC Radio National Breakfast. And so it came to pass that MWD has broken a promise.

Who could avoid doing so? After all, Hendo just loves it when an ABC journalist interviews an ABC boss about the ABC. What could be more self-indulgent? Not surprisingly, it was one of those soft interviews which take place on such occasions. Here are some highlights.

Kim Williams declares that the ABC supports the pillars of democracy which involve respectful engagement and debate. He seems unaware of the lack of viewpoint diversity in the conservative free zone which he chairs. He reckons that “Australians love having debates” and refers to them as taking place in pubs across the nation.

Kim Williams claims that the ABC “does embrace the spirit of a campfire” but seems unaware that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster de-platforms political conservatives.

PK claims she often receives “pushback” when she acts in a resilient way with interviewees. To which the ABC Chair replied: “Well, there is a new-fashioned personality that you’re with me, or I’m against you”. And I think that’s to be regretted, because that is not the way in which a respectful public conversation is conducted.

That’s all very well. But what does it mean? Then this exchange took place:

Patricia Karvelas: You will see criticism – I think you already have – from some – particularly, I think, in the right-wing media, who are very competitive with the ABC, think we are overfunded. In fact, I think I saw Janet Albrechtsen suggest that, you know, this is a ridiculous call for more money, we have too much already. What’s your response to that?

Kim Williams: Well, the numbers don’t bear out as Albrechtsen’s arguments. I’m always somewhat bemused when she takes such a vigorous oppositional stance to the ABC given that she was an ABC director for many years. I stand back and think “Really? Really?”

This seems to be a, er, “you’re with me or I’m against you” thingo which Mr Williams rejects. As to Ms Albrechtsen – she was only ever a member of the ABC board (for five years). She never had a management or journalistic role at the ABC. Whereas Mr Williams was a senior executive for some years at News Corp.

So, it came as some surprise when Mr Williams went on to say this – as the transcript demonstrates:

Patricia Karvelas: But You were at News Corporation –

Kim Williams: Look, the – the – the –

Patricia Karvelas: – there is concern –

Kim Williams: – the view is prosecuted with –

Patricia Karvelas: – about us.

Kim Williams: – greater vigour and intensity by the News Corporation against the ABC is something that, at times, seems almost unhinged in its lack of fairness or perspective in actually standing back and looking at all that the ABC does. You can’t be Australian and not have a sense of the importance of the ABC. You can’t live in regional Australia and have a sense of connection with the world without the ABC. You can’t be a kid in Australia and have a sense of your own world without the ABC. You can’t be in a school in Australia without a really dynamic sense of the ABC.

How about that? Kim Williams believes it is unprofessional for some like Janet Albrechtsen who was an ABC board member between 2005 and 2010 to criticise the contemporary ABC. But it’s okay for Mr Williams, who exited News Corp in 2013, to describe his former employer as “almost unhinged” with respect to the ABC. Some confusion, surely.

Also, Mr Williams is of the view that “you can’t be Australian and not have a sense of importance about the ABC”. Really? And he believes that you can’t live in regional Australia and have a connection with the world without the ABC. In there no other media in such places as Ballarat, Forbes, Launceston and the like? Is there no internet. Which raises the question – is Mr Williams out of touch?

And this is how the exchange between boss and employee ended:

Patricia Karvelas: Just finally on that question though, do you think that, for instance, the issues you’ve raised with Radio National, that Radio National needs more support – more publicity, more actual tell Australians it exists [sic].

Kim Williams: I think it needs more of everything.

Patricia Karvelas: Ok, we’ll go with that. I’ve taken more time than I was meant to. I’m really sneaky.

Kim Williams: You have. I knew you would [laughing].

Patricia Karvelas: I have. I’m so sneaky.

Kim Williams: [laughing]

Patricia Karvelas: The ABC’s new Chair, Kim Williams.

Kim Williams: You’re not sorry.

Patricia Karvelas: No, I’m not really sorry, but I’m pretending to be. Thank you for coming in.

Kim Williams: Thank you.

Patricia Karvelas: ABC Chair, Kim Williams, there.

So, there you have it. On a busy news day. PK interviews her boss on a Friday morning about a lecture he had delivered on the previous Wednesday for some 13 minutes.

  • ABC PRESENTER MICHAEL ROWLAND INTERVIEWS HIS EXECUTIVE PRODUCER LUCY CARTER ABOUT, INTER ALIA, THE ABC

Shortly before the ABC’s PK interviewed the ABC’s Kim Williams on ABC Radio National Breakfast, a similar self-indulgent event took place on ABC TV Breakfast. The presenter Michael Rowland interviewed his executive producer Lucy Carter during the Newspapers segment.

Media Watch Dog noted that, when Comrade Carter was discussing travel, she declared: “Every single person I know appears to be jetting off to summer somewhere”. How out of touch can an ABC executive get at a time of cost of living crisis?

Let’s go to the transcript to see how the interview ended:

Michael Rowland: And Lucy, before you go, on behalf of all of us, it’s a sad day for all of us losing you. You, my friend, possess one of the sharpest editorial minds I know. You are a source of great ideas every single morning for us on News Breakfast, and you’re an incredible mentor to the younger members of our team. You are heading to ABC Verify. You’ll play a very important role for the ABC in sorting through what’s real and what’s not in this age of disinformation. But you’ve been an incredible part of the News Breakfast team for the last couple of years. Thank you, my friend, and go well.

Lucy Carter: That means the world. Thank you so much. It is an extraordinary team here at News Brekky, yourself included.

How about that? The ABC is about to set up ABC Verify. This is good news for Media Watch Dog indeed. We’ll keep you posted.


  • NINE’s DAVID CROWE HAS PETER DUTTON FALLING, THEN SOARING, THEN TRYING TO PRESENT JATZ CRACKERS AS A THREE-COURSE MEAL

Due to popular demand by avid Media Watch Dog readers, it’s time to catch up with David Crowe – the chief political correspondent for Nine’s The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. What’s he on about? – a reader wants to know.

First, some background. Your man Crowe forecast a Labor Party victory in the 2019 election. From which he emerged as a false prophet.  Then he said that Peter Dutton’s decision to get the Coalition to campaign for the “No” vote in the 2023 constitutional referendum on The Voice was the equivalent to pointing his aircraft “to the ground and hitting the accelerator” and killing all on board. Wrong again.

In most recent times, Comrade Crowe has had Peter Dutton losing his footing while climbing a mountain, this on Thursday 13 June. And then Nine Newspapers’ chief political correspondent had this to say on Tuesday 18 June:

Peter Dutton hammers his complaint about soaring energy bills and rising supermarket prices.  He dominates the political debate with his warning about the cost of living and taps into the anger of the electorate without proposing the alternate plan to bring prices down.

The result is another big gain for the opposition leader and the Coalition when voters are asked who they think would do the best job running the country. Dutton leads Albanese on managing the economy, the budget deficit, migration and keeping costs down.

From all this David Crowe drew this conclusion: “Dutton appears to be soaring; but he needs more than this to win power.”

So, on 13 June, the Opposition was falling off a mountain.  And on 18 June he was “soaring”. But on 20 June your man Crowe led his Nine column with this comment:

Peter Dutton is asking Australians to trust him on nuclear energy in the brazen hope they will mistake a Jatz cracker for a three-course meal.

Witness the latest developments in The Thought of David Crowe. On Tuesday Peter Dutton appeared “to be soaring”.  But by the following Thursday it was a case of the Opposition leader trying to convince Australians that a Jatz cracker was a three-course meal.

Which raises the question. According to David Crowe, is the Liberal Party leader (i) a suicide/homicide pilot, (ii) a climber who is falling (iii) a climber who is soaring or (iv) a con man with a bag full of Jatz crackers? Who knows? Which raises the question: Can You Bear It?

  • ABC CHAIR KIM WILLIAMS CALLS FOR MORE “INVESTMENT” IN THE TAXPAYER-FUNDED PUBLIC BROADCASTER

Ellie’s (male) co-owner Gerard Henderson AC (Always Courteous) was well brought up – albeit quite some time ago.  Along the way, he learnt that it was proper to give people moving into new positions a chance to settle down before criticising or praising their performance.

Media Watch Dog applies this practice to, among others, new appointments at the ABC. That’s why MWD has said little about the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster’s new chair – Kim Williams AM.  The only comment MWD made about your man Williams is that, in his first interview with the ABC, he sounded like he had just swallowed a copy of Roget’s International Thesaurus.

Indeed, the new ABC chair won Media Watch Dog’s highly prestigious “Flann O’Brien Gong”  on 2 February 2024 for bad writing or incomprehensible prose or incoherent oral expression or the use of pretentious words – or a combination of all of the above.

This was to recognise Mr Willliams’ interview with Patricia Karvelas on Radio National Breakfast on 24 January 2024 where he spoke about technologies “which inherently appeal to acronyms, and very, very compacted aphorisms”. MWD judges acronyms and aphorisms as pretentious words in the context of a media interview. He added that this acronym/aphorism duo is often “emotionally charged”. You don’t say.

In the early chapters of his memoir Rules of Engagement (MUP, 2014), your man Williams uses such words as “decoupage”, “oeuvre”, “iteration”, “shibboleths”, “eponymous”, “peripatetic”, “ineffable” and zzzzzzz.  It’s the kind of book best read with a Gin & Tonic in one hand and the Macquarie Dictionary in the other.

Kim Williams delivered the Redmond Barry Lecture in Melbourne on the evening of Wednesday 19 June.  MWD will return to this in the next issue.  In the meantime, it is to be noted that the ABC chair used the word “putschists” in his speech. At this time, Ellie’s (male) co-owner headed off for his Macquarie Dictionary and a large Gin & Tonic.

On return, Hendo glanced at the final pages of the talk. Here, he noticed that Kim Williams called for more money for the public broadcaster, which already receives over $1 billion of taxpayers’ funds annually. Except that he did not use the terms “money” or “funds/funding”. Preferring to disguise these words by using the term “investment” – presumably from the government.   Can You Bear It?

[Unlike you, I have read the entire speech. I note that on Page 8 of Kim Williams’ speech he calls on all of us to help the ABC “create this new National Campfire”.  As you know, he was talking during the Melbourne Winter.  Pray tell me, how many of the good people of Melbourne would rock up to Kim’s “National Campfire” in the middle of a Melbourne Summer? – MWD Editor.]

  • THE ABC/AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE ENTENTE – ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THE ABC’S LACK OF VIEWPOINT DIVERSITY

While on the topic of Kim Williams, the ABC national campfires and so on – wasn’t it great to see the Australia Institute/ABC Entente back in action on Thursday 20 June?

As avid Media Watch Dog readers know, the Australia Institute is an avowedly left-wing organisation which gets considerable coverage on the ABC in general and ABC TV’s News Breakfast program in particular.

Indeed, Ebony Bennett, the Australia Institute’s deputy director, has a regular slot on the program’s “Newspapers” segment – as does the avowedly left-wing Guardian Australia.  But no such politically conservative think-tanks as the Centre for Independent Studies, the Menzies Research Centre or the Institute of Public Affairs.

In his Redmond Barry Lecture, Mr Williams condemned the “never-ending assault on difference which too often permeates society today”. All this in the fourth sentence of his speech. The problem is that there is no viewpoint diversity – including political difference on the ABC.

But MWD digresses. Comrade Bennett appeared on News Breakfast on the morning after Peter Dutton released the Coalition policy on the location of the proposed nuclear reactors.

Needless to say, Ms Bennett comprehensively bagged the Coalition’s policy. Indeed, the Australia Institute comrade did it so strongly that she might have been a spokesperson for the Labor Party or The Greens.

Comrade Bennett agreed with Treasurer Jim Chalmers that this was the “dumbest policy”. She then claimed that “renewables are cheap” and are “putting downward pressure on electricity prices” – which would surprise any MWD reader who examines power bills.  Then she declared that Peter Dutton’s policy had “failed at the first hurdle”. [Groan. Another cliché. – MWD Editor.] And added that the Coalition in the past had trouble in “building car parks”.  And so it went on.  And on.

There would have been no problem if Comrade Bennett’s views had been contested by someone who supported nuclear energy. But that’s not how the Australia Institute/ABC Entente works.

Now let’s get back to your man Williams by going to the transcript:

Michael Rowland: Let’s finish with The Guardian, it has full coverage of a key speech given last night by the ABC’s chair Kim Williams in Melbourne.

Ebony Bennett: Yeah, the new chair Kim Williams, in his first major speech since becoming chair, really talking about how the ABC – he recognises that it has a lot of room for improvement. But also plays a huge role as the most trusted news source in Australia and a key public broadcaster. And that it can play a role as a cultural force, bringing people together….

Comrade Rowland did not challenge the claim that the ABC is Australia’s most trusted news source – even though the major ABC TV News bulletin comes in behind that of Channel 7 and Channel 9. Which suggests that Australians are so stupid that they watch the news bulletins they trust less – rather than the one they trust the most.

In any event, it was great to know that the Australia Institute will be there around the National Campfire.  This was also welcomed by the presenter Bridget Brennan – with this wind-up:

Bridget Brennan: Well said Ebony. We love being your campfire in the morning. No fire. Maybe we’ll get a fake one. Great to have you on the show. We’ll catch up soon. Thanks Ebony.

Ebony Bennett: Thank you.

So, forget about fake news.  The ABC TV News Breakfast team has embraced the concept of fake campfires.  Can You Bear It?

  • ABC TV’s NEWS BREAKFAST PRESENTER DECLARES: “I’M A BELIEVER” WITH RESPECT TO AMERICAN PSYCHIC MEDIUM JOHN EDWARD

As avid Media Watch Dog readers are only too well aware, the ABC is a conservative free zone which is devoid of viewpoint diversity.  For example, some 40 ABC journalists were involved in the media pile-on against Cardinal George Pell. But the ABC did not do even one interview with Frank Brennan SJ with respect to his book Observations on the Pell Proceedings (Connor Court), which is now in its second edition. This despite the fact that the ABC has been willing to talk to Fr Brennan on many other matters. It just would not hear Frank Brennan’s support of the unanimous judgment of the High Court in George Pell v The Queen. That’s censorship.

But wait. There has been some recent evidence of viewpoint diversity on ABC TV News Breakfast. On Friday 14 June, presenters James Glenday and Bridget Brennan interviewed American psychic medium John Edward in the ABC Melbourne studio in inner-city Southbank.  This was referred to briefly in the last issue.  And now MWD has a transcript.

MWD readers are very familiar with John Edward of Crossing Over fame. Ellie’s (male) co-owner has used the services of your man Edward to get in touch with canines Nancy (2004-2017) and Jackie (2016-2023) on the Other Side.  This has made it possible for MWD to continue to run Nancy’s Courtesy Classes – with Nancy’s advice about manners and all that, crossing from the Other Side with a little help from John Edward.

What kind of viewpoint diversity in this instance? –  MWD hears avid readers cry. Well, it’s this. Mr Glenday is sceptical about the Crossing Over star.  But Ms Brennan is a true believer.

Here’s how the interview with MWD’s fave psychic medium commenced:

Bridget Brennan: Welcome to Australia. I know you’ve been quite a bit.

John Edward: I have.

Bridget Brennan: You enjoy coming, don’t you?

John Edward: I do, this is like my soul home.

Bridget Brennan: Is it?

John Edward: Yeah.

Bridget Brennan: And you get good readings here?

John Edward: I do. I love the energy here.

Ms Brennan did not ask – and Mr Edward did not say – why the psychic medium had come to Melbourne town.  Could it be because he will be back in Australia between late October and early December with performances in all mainland capitals along with Townsville, the Gold Coast and Newcastle?  Or is it merely because he regards Australia as a “cool vibe” – which has lotsa “energy” from which he can obtain cool “readings” for his psychic medium thing? Being a cynic, MWD suspects the latter.

Comrade Glenday apologised to Edward for being somewhat sceptical.  But Comrade Brennan declared: “I am a believer and I’ve been a fan of yours for really a long time.” John Edward then told his ABC studio hosts that he was not “reading” them and had “powered down”. Meaning that he was not going to read the inner-most thoughts of the sceptical Glenday or the believer Brennan.  But he said this when asked about his “readings”.

James Glenday: Did you do one [reading] with, like, Donald Trump or any of the senior politicians?

John Edward: No, you could not pay me. I won’t even talk to him dead.

James Glenday: Okay, fair enough…

Quite a threat, don’t you think?  Your man Edward will not “crossover” to check how the Orange Man is doing on the Other Side. And Comrade Glenday is okay with this.

And there was the question about why Edward did not like “reading” celebrities.  Here’s the answer, about such an “experience”.

John Edward: So, for me, it lasts like, about five seconds. Like, like, if I have a regular person that comes in and they have that energy with me, like, that lasts about five seconds. Like, am – I’m not exactly a patient person. Like, if I’m going to do this, like, with you or for you, then, like, allow me to, you know, cook in the kitchen. Otherwise, get out of my kitchen. Like, that’s my feeling.

And here’s Ellie’s response.

Ellie:  Like, I’ve run out of energy. In, like, three seconds. Like, I’m not very, like, patient. I don’t like anyone in my kitchen, like. Like, except for my (female) co-owner who, like, feeds me there.  And I can add, like:  Can You Bear It?

[No, not now that you’ve raised the issue.  By the way, why is the taxpayer funded public broadcaster running such media sludge on its main TV morning news program? Unless Comrade Brennan is trying to get a reading from John Edward about the next day’s news so she can get a scoop and, perhaps, a Walkley. – MWD Editor.]

John Edward, James Glenday, Bridget Brennan (& maybe some spirits)


A MARK HUMPHRIES MOMENT

  • HUMPHRIES TAKES HIS FIRST STEPS OUT INTO THE BIG, SCARY, AD-FILLED OUTSIDE WORLD

The last time MWD checked in on former ABC TV 7.30 satirist Mark Humphries – who in the late Barry Humphries term identifies as a comedian – he was putting out the begging bowl, asking members of the public to help fund a comedic documentary about the plight of Australia’s renters. At the time he had only raised $1,010 despite asking for $100,000. Today the total given has risen to $2,250, but alas the total needed has apparently blown out even further to $180,000.

Fortunately, ex-ABC Comrade Humphries will not need to rely on his burgeoning documentary career alone to pay the rent. It was reported on Monday 17 June that he has secured a new regular gig, and avid readers will be shocked to learn it is not at the ABC, nor even at SBS. In an unforeseeable turn of events (even to visiting American psychic mediums) Humphries will be preparing weekly comedy segments to air during Seven News’ 6pm Sydney bulletin.

This is a most unusual move for an ABC leftie-in-good-standing. Generally, once someone has secured a regular gig at Aunty they spend the rest of their career bouncing around between various ABC roles. That is unless you make the mistake of touching on taboo subjects or appearing on Sky News like recent ABC exile Josh Szeps.

Humphries is an odd fit at Seven News. At 7.30 his sketches mostly took the form of smug attacks on the Coalition from the left, occasionally broken up by a smug attack on Labor from the left. It seems unlikely that Seven is interested in courting the kind of audience Humphries’ ABC output would appeal to, especially since they tend to be rusted-on ABC viewers. When announcing the job on Twitter (err, X) even Humphries seemed surprised:

He wasn’t the only one expressing scepticism; the reliably humourless Paul Bongiorno had this to say:

With the likes of Comrade Bonge lining up to disendorse him, perhaps Humphries has a chance outside the ABC after all.


  • PHILLIP ADAMS ON THE BRILLIANT DAVID MARR – MATCHED BY DAVID MARR ON THE BRILLIANT PHILLIP ADAMS

So, it’s farewell to Phillip Adams AO, AM, Hon DUniv (Griffith), Hon DLitt (ECU), Hon DUniv (SA), DLitt [sic] (Syd), Hon. DUniv (Macquarie), FRSA, Hon FAHA who is soon to depart as presenter of ABC Radio National Late Night Live program.

This is a matter of considerable disappointment for Ellie’s (male) co-owner. Gerard Henderson appeared on LNL in 1980 and then again in 2015. Hendo was looking forward to another interview with the ABC’s Man-in-Black after another quarter of a century.  In 2040, no less. But Phillip (“Have I told you more than one hundred times that I was a teenage communist but I can’t recall when I quit/was expelled by the Communist Party of Australia”) Adams has retired from his ABC gig.

But what a lovely (incestuous) LNL time it was on Monday 17 June.  PA led off with his usual Monday evening “Mingle with Tingle”. That is the weekly chat between the ABC’s Phillip Adams and the ABC’s Laura Tingle about Australian national politics.

At the end of the (final) mingle, PA AO etc interviewed his successor – MWD fave David Marr.  Your man Marr is very much part of the ABC Family – he will fit in easily into the taxpayer funded public broadcaster which is a conservative free zone.

Hendo just loved it when Phillip told David just how brilliant he is. And when David told Phillip just how brilliant he is.  How very ABC.

  • RICHARD GLOVER & MIKE BOWERS ON NUCLEAR REACTORS IN BACKYARDS OR FOOTBALL FIELDS

As avid readers know, the ABC is very much an inner-city outfit obsessed with inner-city issues. One of which is the belief that Australia can move to complete dependence on renewables – wind, solar, hydro – plus some batteries.  As to emission-free nuclear energy – well, most of the Teal/Greens types are completely opposed. This leads to the familiar mantra that nuclear energy would invariably lead to a nuclear reactor in every backyard.  Here are a few examples:

  • On ABC Radio Sydney on Drive on 13 June 2024, presenter Richard Glover had this to say:

Richard Glover: What about the reactors though? Cause I can understand that there are people in the Hunter Valley who want to protect their economy, they want to protect local shopkeepers, they want jobs and money to be in the area. But really do the majority of voters really want a nuclear reactor in their backyard?

  • And this is the exchange that took place on ABC TV Insiders program on Sunday 16 May.  The presenter was The Guardian Australia’s Michael Bowers (he  has a weekly slot on Insiders) and cartoonist Kudelka (of The [Boring] Saturday Paper).

Mike Bowers: Do you reckon a nuclear reactor would go down well here in Tasmania, Jon?

Jon Kudelka: Maybe in the centre square of new AFL stadium.

The fact is that a nuclear reactor cannot fit into a suburban backyard or inside an AFL oval.  Nor would a wind turbine.  But the likes of Comrade Glover and Comrade Bowers never raise this point.

  • NINE’s ANDREW JASPAN ON PAUL BARRY’s POSSIBLE SUCCESSORS

There was enormous interest in the last issue of Media Watch Dog. In particular, its coverage of who might replace Paul Barry as the presenter of ABC’s Media Watch in 2025.  MWD made the point that, since its creation in 1989, Media Watch  has only had left-of-centre (“please call me progressive”) presenters. Namely Stuart Littlemore (1989-97), Richard Ackland (1998-99), Paul Barry (2000), David Marr (2002-04), the late Liz Jackson (2005-06), Monica Attard (2006-07), Jonathan Holmes (2008-13) and Paul Barry (2013-2024).

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald and Age, media writer Andrew Jaspan has a piece titled “Does the ABC need to shake-up the Media Watch hot-seat?”.  As would be expected from a Nine media writer, Comrade Jaspan does not envisage a shake-up as requiring some form of political diversity.  Such as, for example, giving a political conservative a go.

Jaspan interviewed some former presenters, along with Paul Barry. Stuart Littlemore maintains that the position should not be held by someone who is a journalist or who wants to continue as a journalist after their stint is over.  This suggests that your man Littlemore does not believe that any of his successors were suitable for this gig. Quelle Surprise!

Paul Barry disagreed – using the cliché that any presenter of Media Watch should be a journalist in order to “know how the sausage is made”. Groan.  Richard Ackland said the program should take on more substantial targets than “tabloid news and morning television”. Moreover, Attard said that the role should go to an experienced journalist. She nominated Janine Perrett who did a good job when filling in for Barry in 2022.

According to Nine Newspapers’ media writer “industry figures” suggested ABC “stars” Annabel Crabb, Leigh Sales and Stan Grant.

Richard Ackland nominated the somewhat loquacious Geoffrey Watson – whom he described as a “celebrity lawyer”. Really. Meanwhile Littlemore and Ackland believe that the job should not go to an ABC journalist.

Ellie’s (male) co-owner is not a betting man. But Hendo expects that the ABC will remain a Conservative Free Zone when Comrade Barry’s replacement takes over the Media Watch pulpit – and will continue to sermonise at large, sure in the knowledge that nobody has an on-air right of reply.

  • ANNABEL CRABB & LEIGH SALES DEFEND JUSTIN STEVENS AGAINST HIS ABC CRITICS

While on the topic of Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales, it is noteworthy that they are big supporters of Justin Stevens – the ABC’s Director News.

As Media Watch Dog pointed out in the previous issue, in The [Boring] Saturday Paper on 8 June freelance journalist Gabriella Coslovich did a bit of a hatchet job on your man Stevens.  Ellie’s (male) co-owner made this point:

What’s remarkable about The Saturday Paper interview is that nobody at the ABC seems to have been willing to talk on the record about your man Stevens. Here’s a list of Coslovich’s sources (i) a long standing ABC journalist, (ii) a former ABC presenter, (iii) another ABC insider, (iv) an ABC insider, (v) a former ABC reporter, and (vi) a current ABC journalist. The only present or former ABC journalist to talk about Stevens’ time at the ABC was Quentin Dempster. It’s impossible to access the veracity or judgment of anonymous sources.

The point here being that Comrade Dempster is a critic of Mr Stevens since he believes that he is not aggressive enough in defending the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

But MWD digresses.  On Saturday 15 June, the Letters Page of The Saturday Paper led with correspondence from Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb – two ABC “stars” – defending Stevens. Ms Sales wrote that Dempster’s claim that the ABC Director News should harden up “would be laughable were it not offensive”.  And Ms Crabb wrote that “there are many ABC News employees who would disagree with the assessment advanced by a series of unnamed (with the exception of Dempster) ABC staffers in Gabriella Coslovich’s article”.

Since Comrade Coslovich was critical of Stevens’ counselling of Laura Tingle – re which see the previous MWD – it can only be assumed that Sales and Crabb sided with Stevens on this issue.  So did Media Watch Dog.

Ellie’s (male) co-owner thought that readers would like to know this – assuming that they did not read – or fell asleep while reading – The [Boring] Saturday Paper.


DOCUMENTATION

  • IN THE AGE & SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, BARNEY ZWARTZ OVERLOOKS THE ROYAL COMMISSION’S FAILURE TO EXAMINE HISTORICAL PEDOPHILIA IN GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS

Barney Zwartz was religion editor of The Age between 2002 to 2013.  During this time – and later – he was an active member of the media pile-on against Cardinal George Pell.

On 24 April, Zwartz reviewed Anne Manne’s Crimes of the Cross: The Anglican Pedophile Network of Newcastle, Its Protectors and the Man Who Fought for Justice (Black Inc, 2024) in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.  This is an important book – which is discussed below.

But first, it’s interesting to note that Barney Zwartz is in denial about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – which ran from late 2012 to late 2017 – and was headed by Peter McClellan KC.  Towards the end of his review of Crimes of the Cross, Zwartz writes:

Manne relies heavily on the Royal Commission, surely one of the most important and effective investigations in Australian history, and its case study 42 on the Newcastle Anglicans, itself 400 pages long. But she has immersed herself in the diocese and in the victims’ stories. Her narrative is all the more powerful for being mostly matter of fact and unemotional.

It is true that the Royal Commission did an important case study into the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle. Its Case Study 42 was one of some 57 case studies which it undertook.  Moreover, the Royal Commission did much good work with respect to the institutions which it examined.

However, by April 2024 the likes of Barney Zwartz should be aware that the Royal Commission was a partial failure.  Overwhelmingly, Peter McClellan and his fellow commissioners focused on the Catholic Church and, to a lesser extent, the Anglican Church.  Yet, in spite of wide terms of reference, a budget of up to $370 million and a staff of over 300 at any one time – along with a two-year time extension – the Royal Commission did not do a case study into pedophilia in government schools in the whole of Australia.  Not one.  This was a serious failure – and a significant waste of taxpayers’ money due to misplaced emphasis.

Mr McClellan has defended the Royal Commission by stating, inter alia, that it investigated three government schools in NSW. However, this took up a mere three pages in a 200-page report.  Moreover, the Royal Commission only looked at sexual abuse by students of other students in these three schools. It did not examine abuse of children by adults.

Since the Royal Commission wound up in 2017, the governments of Tasmania and Victoria have set up boards of inquiry into child sexual abuse in government schools – which revealed widescale offending by men against children and which the Royal Commission completely overlooked. What’s more, the state departments of education in Tasmania and Victoria moved offending teachers from school to school in a massive cover-up. There is also a police investigation underway in NSW with respect to government schools on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

As recently as 4 June 2024, Russell Jackson covered on ABC News the issue of child sexual abuse in government schools.  This is how his report commenced:

The Victorian Department of Education is facing several lawsuits from survivors who were sexually abused by a teacher the department knowingly moved to other schools after fielding complaints of abuse. The state school teacher, Arthur Henry Eaton, was convicted in 1996 of 25 counts of indecently assaulting nine boys, aged between 8 and 12 at the time of their abuse, at Warrnambool West Primary School and Derinya Primary School in Frankston South. The convictions related to the sexual abuse of eight boys from Derinya and one from Warrnambool West, the latter of whom had brought his abuse to the attention of the school’s leadership in May 1992.

The response of the department at the time was to move Eaton to two more schools in succession — Belvedere Park Primary School in Seaford, where Eaton taught for the second half of 1992, and Derinya Primary, where he taught from January 1993 until his arrest in March of 1996. At the time of Eaton’s arrest, and despite the existence of the abuse allegations, he was due to be honoured with the Victorian teacher of the year award.

In November 1996, Archbishop George Pell (as he then was) set up the Melbourne Response to deal with clerical pedophilia in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.  It took the Victorian government until June 2023 to set up a board of inquiry into pedophilia in one government school – Beaumaris Primary School in Melbourne – which was extended to cover 23 other government schools where the four pedophile Beaumaris Primary school teachers also taught. Since then, attention has focused on over 100 other schools.

On 4 February 2023, former Victorian Labor premier Daniel Andrews promised to formally apologise to the victims of pedophilia in Victorian government schools but retired before doing so. An apology is now not expected until 2026.

In the final chapter of the new updated edition of Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt, Gerard Henderson produced evidence that the Royal Commission was provided with information with instances of historical child sexual abuse in one government school by a former teacher. He gave evidence to a private hearing of the Royal Commission in Melbourne and was thanked in writing by Peter McClellan KC.  But nothing was done.

It can now be revealed that the case was that of Arthur Henry Eaton who was moved from school to school by the Victorian Department of Education. It seems that not only did the Royal Commission fail to request information from various state education departments about any instances of historical child sexual abuse – it did not even check out media reports of convictions of teachers in the criminal courts.  Eaton’s case was page one news in the Melbourne Herald Sun in 1997 – close to two decades before the Royal Commission came into existence.

By the time Zwartz wrote his review of Anne Manne’s book in Nine newspapers, the failure of the Royal Commission to cover pedophilia in government schools was a known fact. Yet Zwartz told readers of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald that Peter McClellan’s Royal Commission “was one of the most…effective investigations in Australian history”. In fact, the Royal Commission was a complete failure with respect to about 60 per cent of Australian schools – due to its inaction.

Anne Manne’s examination of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle is methodical. Of special interest to MWD readers is Chapter 20 titled “The Good Copper” – namely, Detective Jeff Little.  As readers will be aware, in MWD on 15 December 2023 a comparison was made between Jeff Little and Peter Fox in the NSW Police.

As documented in Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox appeared on two occasions on the ABC TV Lateline program in November 2012. At the time, he was on leave from NSW Police for medical reasons – he did not return.

In his first Lateline appearance on 8 November 2012, Fox accused NSW Police of covering up child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in the Hunter Valley. Then on 15 November 2012, Fox accused Cardinal Pell of the same offence – despite the fact that, as Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney, Pell was not responsible for the affairs of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

Following Fox’s claims, the NSW Coalition government set up a Special Commission of Inquiry into matters relating to the police investigation of certain child sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.  Commissioner Margaret Cunneen SC found that there was no evidence to support Fox’s claims with respect to NSW Police or Cardinal Pell.

Jeff Little is the “good copper” in Anne Manne’s Chapter 20 who acted professionally in bringing pedophiles to justice. The author demonstrates that Fox was an unreliable witness.  Fox’s book Walking Towards Thunder, published in 2019, was pulped soon after Jeff Little took action for defamation. It has not been republished in any form. ABC journalist Paul Kennedy endorsed Peter Fox’s book.

Anne Manne played a small role in the Pell pile-on. However, her Crimes of the Cross demonstrates the error of Lateline in this instance – believing what its presenters and producers wanted to believe about its “hero” Peter Fox and its “enemy” George Pell.

 

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Until Next Time.

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