Tim Blair


New Criterion



Friday, September 13, 2002
FORMER ABC JOURNALIST and presenter, Pru Goward, landed a job-for-the-girls from the Prime Minister’s own hands. She was to hunt down discrimination on the grounds of sex, to guide the Government’s sword and, with the mighty weight of public authority, crush the beast.

She was well-qualified. An on-air scourge of importunate leftism, when the importuning was commoner and the scourging rare. And, as if it mattered, married to a former flack for the conservatives.

The result? The worst example of middle-class welfare in twenty years; more paid maternity leave, no income test. Oh God. I thought the Hawke Labor Government had weaned us off this kind of political pap.

The Prime Minister makes sympathetic noises. The Finance Minister, Nick Minchin, tries to slap it down.

“The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Pru Goward, has rejected suggestions that a paid maternity leave scheme would be too expensive.

Finance Minister Nick Minchin thinks it will be hard to justify the additional taxpayer expense.

Senator Minchin says a paid maternity leave scheme in Australia would cost about half a billion dollars a year and it would do nothing to increase the fertility rate.

Senator Minchin denies there has been a groundswell of support for a taxpayer-funded paid maternity leave scheme.

"I have to say that I don't detect that support," Senator Minchin said.”

I hope he’s right.

Meanwhile, the monstrous abuses of women at home and in the streets scream out for more political attention. Vulgar women. Would never get a job at the ABC.

"what is middle-class welfare?" Ms Goward said.

You can take the girl out of the ABC, but you can’t...

INSCRUTABLE. According to ABC on-line news

"China has reversed its decision to block the popular Google search engine.

The ban was imposed ten days ago but no reason has been given for the decision.

Internet users trying to access Google were re-routed to less effective, more heavily censored Chinese-language search engines."

The Chinese Government's ban on ABC On-line remains in force it seems.

" A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry says not everyone should have access to what he calls harmful information on the Internet."

He's talking about one of Australia's most heavily-funded Websites that sucks dollars out of free-to-air public broadcasting.

PISSWEAK! What a sad, dismal, tortured, flaccid, inconsiderable shadow of a national broadcaster has ABC television become!

The main 7.00pm news bulletin, flagship of the ABC news empire, once the central point of the viewing night for every Australian, tonight could not find time for more than a cursory reference to President Bush's address to the UN, and its consequences.

However you revile him down in the backroom communes of the ABC, the man is in the process of making the world you and yours will be living in for the foreseeable future. And you put ahead of this small matter your weighty reports on the latest groin strains of our footballers and the birth of twin wombats? I couldn't believe it.

Not that you didn't have a good report to use. ABC journalist Tim Lester, a professional to his well-travelled boot-straps, did his usual journeyman job in New York. And what did you do with it Auntie. YOU STUFFED IT INTO THE PATHETIC SLOT FOR REGIONAL MAGAZINE ITEMS FOLLOWING THE REAL NEWS. A battleship among dinghies. A Bach concerto fronting a Philip Adams wank.

You gutless old whore!


I'm giving up whisky and going back to the claret.

But it's all true.

RITTER AGAIN, on this morning's AM (Radio National). What has Ritter got over the AM crew?

Surely there are others more credible on the play-list of "Bush is an opportunistic/gratuitous warmonger" songsters.

Does shaking hands with the Ghoul of Baghdad qualify you for the AM teledex? Gives him about the same public standing as being the last-one-out in Survivor.

Thursday, September 12, 2002
RITTER RIDDLE. Scott Ritter is a strange choice for guru on Iraq. What on earth is Auntie up to? Tim Blair has a go at an answer.

PLANET QUIGGIN. I like John Quiggin. He is good to travel with. Just make sure you get off before the terminus.

The occasion for this entry is John's latest piece on how to deal with international aggression.Thank God he's not our defence Minister.

If Auntie wishes to employ persons of leftish persuasion - and she should - she really should choose people with the integrity to argue their principles openly, like the good Professor Quiggin.

Instead we get snide manipulation, on which, no doubt, I'll be moved to say more later.

Not to mention balance.

"HELL BENT ON KILLING PEOPLE". It's not hard to see why the organisers of the Cannes film festival made special arrangements to get US anti-Yank Mike Moore on the stage with Roman Polanski and the other greats of the film industry. Mike has just made a real (i.e. really long) documentary called Bowling for Columbine about the Columbine High shootings.

Mike's view of the US is tailor-made for the European market. As someone said, "the US is Mars, Europe is Venus". He was an American; imagine how the European left prefers to put it. You can stop trying. Mike has done it for you:

“Historians will write about us in the same way we now read of the Greeks and the Romans - as warrior cultures hell bent on killing people. We think of ourselves as more civilised but trust me, in 500 years from now that’s how historians and anthropologists will describe us - as a very strange group.”

It wouldn't surprise me if Mike Moore has re-birthed the documentary film, because that's what Auntie thinks.

YOUNG TIM BLAIR may have the sharpest wit and foulest mouth in blogworld but he needs to go a few times round the goal posts with slugger Mundine before he is ready to grapple with Auntie. If The Age's callow treatment of the victims of September 11th was enough to outrage him, I am glad he wasn't listening to the ABC's Radio National yesterday morning. I hope his mother has confiscated his crystal set.

You wonder why Auntie torments me? Yesterday morning she is entertaining a bunch of anti-US grave-dancers in our living room. Yesterday evening there she is, on television, comporting herself like Her Majesty at a Royal funeral. I couldn't bear to watch. The sight of Auntie in a funny hat reminds me too painfully of the days when she looked delicious bare-headed.

If anyone else did sit the coverage out, you are welcome to share my time in Dr Blog's consulting room.

Before I extinguished the television and returned to the library I couldn't help noticing something on the ABC television news. The streets, workplaces, sports fields, schools and homes of Australia seemed to be full of people commemorating September 11th. And not one of them was celebrating. Auntie, Auntie, where do you find your Radio National chums?

Wednesday, September 11, 2002
REPEAT PROGRAM. A positive sign for the forthcoming US action on Iraq. The host of Auntie's listener sound-off program Australia Talks Back informed his audience that there was "little prospect of military success" for the US.

Though his neurons fall like dandruff, Uncle is just able to remember back to the run-up to the Gulf War, over ten years ago. The host of the same program then instructed his fans that the ferocious, war-hardened, leader-loving Iraqi army would tear the heart out of the bumbling Yanks. And, yes, I think it was the very same person. Until tonight my mind was full of doubt about this necessary action against the Iraqi dictator. I feel better now. Success is assured.

SHOCK! PRINT JOURNALIST LISTENS TO ABC. The Henny Penny Herald’s estimable Ross Gittins has been discommoded by the way Auntie’s news and current affairs persons reported the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development.

“The reporting was utterly unbalanced and highly misleading. It was little more than an extended propaganda opportunity for the Australian green groups. Where they weren't just handed the microphone, the reporters - some of them specialist environmental reporters - did their job for them.”

“The Government's obduracy was simply inexplicable; certainly, no attempt was made to explain the Government's position or allow it to explain itself. (And the ABC wonders why the Howard Government hates it.)

“But the real losers in all this, of course, were the listeners and viewers. The reporters saw their job as fighting the good fight for Environmental Right, not serving their audience. Their role was not to explain the pros and cons but to proselytise.”

“Kyoto is the treaty that everyone believes in but no-one knows anything about. That's because the eco-activists have no desire to sully its aura by breathing a word about its many dirty little secrets within the hearing of a journalist - and most journalists lose all powers of critical thought when it comes to the environment.

When you're reporting about greenhouse you're on a mission from God and the ordinary rules about balance and fairness don't apply. As for the activists, they're like 007 - their cause is so righteous that God has issued them with a licence to lie.”

I wonder if Ross Gittins has been consulting the mythical Bunyip?

I can’t criticise Gittins’s conclusions about Auntie’s reporting of the Summit. I only heard some of it, but it all fitted the formula.

Gittins may be over-estimating the role of malicious intent in this sad situation. If you have been selecting your sources of information strictly from among those who agree with your presumptions you end up losing the capacity to imagine other ways of seeing things.

Auntie’s reporting of Jo’burg may be just the inevitable outcome of many years of selective attention. The problem is increased by the creation of ghetto programs such as the Earthbeat, where normal standards of journalism do not apply.

In any case, no doubt the ABC is preparing a detailed report on how it handles environmental matters. Should be in the Herald any day now.

WHAT DRIVES YOU UNCLE? What brings you to the couch of Dr Blog? Assuming you asked, let me answer.

Firstly, the burden of years, many of them spent in the company of Auntie. The irritations of our life together continue to mount.

Why not join the queue at the divorce court? Fear of the unknown, and the lack of any other hearth at which to rest my greying head.

And, to be honest, not even in my fantasies do I expect to find a replacement for Auntie's better qualities. When she isn't driving me crazy she engages me like no other emanation of the ephemeral media of radio and (very occasionally) TV. Like this very moment, when Ramona Koval is talking to, and mostly listening to, Amos Oz, the Israeli writer. I doubt that Amos will ever come to chat around my beer fridge.

We can talk later of the many talents who make Auntie's company desirable. She has a large and complex intellect, but some parts of it have grown rancid with frustrated ideological ambitions. In her conversation she is sometimes the victim of the flashy mannerisms of the post-modernist gang. Her drinking companions include scoundrels far beneath her dignity. But, God help me, I still love her. I often throw the iron at her, but only aim at the softer parts.

Here is the heart of Uncle's appeal to Dr Blog. Save me from the unending repetitions of this aging marriage. Let me see her, and me, as you see us.

Mind you, I would like to hear what Auntie gets up to when she leaves home and stoops to strange company. It is an equality in ammunition that keeps a marriage going. Auntie's employees are especially welcome to write. You know the address.

ABC ENGLISH. The ABC has clearly sacked its language police. Or locked them in a back room with a clapped-out coffee machine. A good thing too.

But wait, what monsters of illiteracy stalk the streets of ABC-land? It's my language too. Can I have a say in what is happening to it? Is the literary warrant of our best writers, past and present, of no account, and the top of an illiterate broadcast "journalist's" head to be the fount of the language our children inherit? Probably. But Uncle will be keeping an eye on developments and raising the occasional whinge.

So can you. Let me know.

A disclaimer: I don't give a stuff about split infinitives, even in print.

"FINALLY SOMEONE HAS HIT BACK". SEPTEMBER 11, 2002. A good day to start. Geraldine has just drawn to our attention that "many" watchers of media reports of the attacks on New York and Washington have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and is interviewing the researcher who has documented this intriguing phenomenon. "Have we really changed as a society" wonders Geraldine (I paraphrase), so completing that mix of the touchy-feely and fringe scholarship that is so characteristic of this species of ABC radio program.

"Only 15%!" she responds to the researcher's evidence that this proportion of her sample have reported greater nervousness about muslims. (For the ABC communards it is a given of their doctrine that the 80% of the population that disagrees with them are mouth-foaming bigots.)

A Rastafarian listener (aren't we all?) reported exclaiming "This is very dimensional for me" as she watched the spectacular replays of 12 months ago.

If you want a distillation of the responding ABCers interpretation of September 11th it was, of course, that the attackers were the embodiment of your favourite US sins, materialism, megalomania, racism, whatever, come back home to deliver a stern justice. "Finally someone has hit back" said one of them to "Australia's greatest broadcaster".

Doesn't it worry the communards to find themselves reflected in this way in the views of those they draw to the telephone? Rhetorical question.

The earlier "AM" current affairs chat show had the same weird duality. An interview with the New York man who reported hysterically from the blasted zone on September 11th last year. His report this year was just as hysterical; ten minutes of wasted radio space. Some twist on the forest path of the ABC editorial mind led to that apostate to the true cause, Christopher Hitchens, for the only comment worth listening to in the past three hours. As the AM front-person, Vivien Schenker, exclaimed "Even Christopher Hitchens thinks..." when she found an opinion she shared.

Back to the real world.