Episode 272 – The Archibald and other criticisms

In this episode we discuss:

  • The merits of the 2021 Archibald Prize winner;
  • Restrictions on ABC bias;
  • How the right and left agree on China;
  • How McKinsey consultants recommend controlling Covid-19 as a first step to saving the economy;
  • An indigenous netballer left out in the cold; and
  • Amy Coney Barrett


The Archibald Prize

His portrait of former AFL footballer and Indigenous leader Adam Goodes, called Stand Strong for Who You Are, was named the winner by the 11 trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW, who awarded him $100,000.

“I’ve shown him to be a strong, proud Aboriginal man,” he said. “And my image (in the painting) also represents that I am a proud Indigenous artist.”

Goodes said in a statement: “I am thrilled that an Indigenous artist, Vincent Namatjira, has won the Archibald Prize and I am so pleased that it shines a light on all Indigenous art.”

Namatjira’s picture of Goodes is one of 10 portraits of Indigenous sitters among the 55 paintings selected for the Archibald Prize, more than in previous years.

Tony Albert, a gallery trustee and an Indigenous artist, said the trustees were aware of making a historic decision in awarding the prize to an Indigenous artist for the first time.

“As a trustee, you have to be mindful of all those things when you are making an informed decision ,” he said. The trustees had recognised a “brilliant artist, brilliant subject, a very rewarding winner” .

From Wikipedia

The characteristics of naïve art are an awkward relationship to the formal qualities of painting, especially not respecting the three rules of the perspective (such as defined by the Progressive Painters of the Renaissance):

  1. Decrease of the size of objects proportionally with distance,
  2. Muting of colors with distance,
  3. Decrease of the precision of details with distance,

The results are:

  1. Effects of perspective geometrically erroneous (awkward aspect of the works, children’s drawings look, or medieval painting look, but the comparison stops there)
  2. Strong use of pattern, unrefined color on all the plans of the composition, without enfeeblement in the background,
  3. An equal accuracy brought to details, including those of the background which should be shaded off.

Simplicity rather than subtlety are all supposed markers of naïve art. It has, however, become such a popular and recognizable style that many examples could be called pseudo-naïve.


Sky calls everyone a disgrace but ABC reporters get criticised for Fiasco

Fiasco’ a fact

When political correspondent Jane Norman said the Victorian government’s handling of hotel quarantine was a “fiasco” during a live chat on the ABC’s news channel, some people thought the term was loaded.

But the ABC’s independent editorial complaints investigation unit, Audience & Consumer Affairs, rejected the complaint and cleared Norman of breaching impartiality standards.

The ABC umpire said “we are satisfied that this description is grounded in demonstrable evidence and is duly impartial”.

“Experienced reporters such as Jane are expected to be able to form evidence-based conclusions about the consequences of events and decisions made by public officials,” an ABC spokeswoman for news said.

“The conclusion that hotel quarantine in Victoria was a failure is demonstrably true.

“Whether it is described as a ‘failure’ or a ‘fiasco’ is a matter of style, not substance.”

Also from the Australian Communications and Media Authority

1 May 2018

A statement contained in an ABC News report breached the impartiality provisions of the ABC Code of Practice (the code), the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found.

The ACMA investigated a complaint about an ABC News report, broadcast nationally on 10 October 2017, covering a climate change speech by former prime minister the Hon. Tony Abbott, MP to the Global Warming Policy Foundation think tank.

The investigation found the report generally demonstrated fair treatment and open-mindedness in the way it presented Mr Abbott’s views on climate change over time.

However, a statement made to camera by the ABC’s political editor that Mr Abbott was ‘the most destructive politician of his generation’ was declarative and not in keeping with the scope of the factual matters presented earlier in the report.

The ACMA considered the statement judgemental, not in language considered as analysis and one that the ordinary reasonable viewer would have understood as a pejorative descriptor. As a result, the ACMA found a breach of Standard 4.1 of the code, in that the report was not presented with due impartiality.

‘The impartiality provisions in the ABC’s own code require it to demonstrate balance and fair treatment when presenting news, and avoid conveying a prejudgement’ said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.

‘This is only the second breach by the ABC of its impartiality rules since 2011. While this demonstrates strong compliance with these important provisions of the code, the ABC did not get it right on this occasion,’ Ms O’Loughlin said.

The ABC has advised the ACMA that ABC News will incorporate the ACMA finding into its editorial compliance training programs. The ACMA accepts this as an appropriate action by the ABC in the circumstances.

From Jonathon Holmes

If you work for the ABC, you don’t have a choice: you must follow the recognised standards of objective journalism and sublimate your own opinion, at least do your best to do so.

You can certainly provide analysis, based on demonstrable evidence, using unemotional language. But you cannot be an advocate. And I would argue (though no doubt the ABC’s critics would disagree) that in its news bulletins, and to a great extent in its current affairs programs, on television, radio and online text, the ABC manages that pretty well.

Trust in the Media

From The Australia Institute

The Australia Institute surveyed 1,557 Australians about trust in sources of news. Respondents were asked to rank their trust in different sources of news, from 5 for “do trust” to 1 for “do not trust”. Figure 1 shows averages and Figure 2 shows full results.


From Paul Kelly in The Australian

the domestic debate on China is being driven in only one direction because, unusually, the right and left agree. The right sees Beijing as an existential danger. The left can’t excuse China’s human rights abuses and its evolving surveillance state.

A split emerges in the right

From The John Menadue Blog

While the ideologues at The Australian are pretty clear about the party line – attack renewables, Dan Andrews, the ABC, industry super etc – there is a clear contradiction emerging on China.

On one hand, there are reporters in Canberra who would have us believe everything is Beijing’s fault, and out security agencies are doing a splendid job. Take foreign affairs and defence reporter Ben Packham, who told us on September 11 that ASIO had concluded from its raids on four journalists here for Chinese state media that they were “part of a Communist Party propaganda operation in Australia.” If so, ASIO chief Mike Burgess is definitely onto something there.

They are joined by Melbourne-based foreign editor Greg Sheridan, who concluded on September 12 that Xi Jinping was out to overturn the American order, and this was a worry and troubling days were ahead. But he reassured us: “There is no need to panic. The Morrison government has done well in handling each trade issue on its merits while defending core national interests.”

Thankfully there is emerging some push-back from veteran cadres at the Oz. Glenda Korporaal has explored the deep anxiety of a business community that the Morrison is virtually daring the Chinese to buy their iron ore elsewhere. John Lord, who chaired Huawei Australia for nine years until recently, told her on September 19 they were building infrastructure to do exactly that.

“The Chinese government always thinks long-term,” said Lord, a former RAN rear-admiral. “We are all working on the assumption that iron ore will be untouchable and that they will have to buy our iron ore forever. But that may not be the case.” Other sectors such as service and medical industries that “had been primed to go into China” were vulnerable to Beijing directing its business elsewhere. “We need our trade to be solid for the foreseeable future.” Lord said he believed that some elements in Australia were being “wound up” by US interests to maintain strong criticism of China. He said Australia needed to learn to make some of its critical points with China in more diplomatic ways.

The biggest addition to this school has been the grandest poobah of all in The Australian’s pantheon: Paul Kelly.

“There is a dangerous mood afoot in parts of the Canberra bur­eaucratic and political systems,” he wrote on September 16. “Beyond that, these dangers now extend into our opinion-making elites. What is the goal of our China policy? If we operate on the assumption that China is the enemy then, as history foretells, China will become the enemy. Nothing is more certain. Our assumptions will be realised and the worse things get, the more the China hawks will boast how right they were.”

Kelly attacked three myths that were “clouding our minds.” Crunched down, Kelly’s argument is:

The first is that we can do nothing to improve relations because that would only compromise who we are. Such thinking is monumental folly. The China debate cannot end with Australia luxuriating in its resolution when what is needed is judgment…This country has much to lose if today’s downward spiral continues for another three or four years. Yet the domestic debate on China is being driven in only one direction because, unusually, the right and left agree. The right sees Beijing as an existential danger. The left can’t excuse China’s human rights abuses and its evolving surveillance state. It would be a mistake to “fix” relations by selling out to Beijing; but it is an equal mistake to offer nothing and make no effort to “fix” relations for fear of looking as if we have sold out.

The second myth is that our massive resources trade is safe from Beijing’s retaliation. We assume Beijing won’t act against our coal, liquefied natural gas or iron ore because that would hurt China. This answer is too short-term when China thinks long term. Does anybody doubt China wants to reduce its dependence on Australian imports? Yet the people who keep pointing out that China is an authoritarian, ideologically bound, one-party state are often the same people saying when it comes to the resources trade China will act as an economically rational liberal state, thinking only of price competitiveness. Have no doubt, if the downward spiral continues, Australia has stacks of treasure yet to lose. China has thrown out the rule book this year; it has engaged in retaliations once merely the subject of university seminars — witness barley, beef, wine and media among others. And Australia doesn’t know what’s coming next. Imagine the feeling in WA about Federation then.

The third myth: the rupture in relations is not primarily Australia’s fault but stems from China’s own actions that we have little or no discretionary capacity in this situation. This is a mindset problem. China needs to be handled as patiently as Trump. Areas of conflict have expanded and areas for co-operation contracted. But they have not disappeared. In this new normal Australian policy needs to rebalance, and give greater priority to where Canberra and Beijing can work together, starting with renewal of economic, trade and tourism ties post-COVID-19 world.

Kelly concluded: Canberra needs to ensure that the intelligence and security agencies do not dominate bilateral relations. Signs are that Chinese action against the two Australian journalists was driven at least partly by ASIO probes against Chinese journalists in Australia. So, how successful was this transaction? Our foreign interference laws can set up a cycle of action and reaction. The obvious answer is to say: Beijing should stop its interference. The harder, realistic response is to say that Australia must be careful how it operates in that grey area between interference and influence.



Who are they?

Absolute top tier consulting group.

Re Covid and economic recovery.

On March 23, 2020, McKinsey introduced the twin imperatives of safeguarding our lives and our livelihoods and a nine-scenario framework to describe potential economic and COVID-19 outcomes (Exhibit 1). At the time, we wrote that the best combined outcomes depended on a rapid and effective public-health response that controlled the spread of the novel coronavirus within two to three months. Similarly, in May, we wrote that crushing uncertainty by reducing the virus spread to near zero was likely the big “unlock” for most economies.


Our new research looking for visible indicators of economic activity that would suggest such a rebound in growth finds them only in the countries that have successfully placed the virus under control. The evidence heavily suggests that a multifaceted public-health response that goes well beyond a simple transient lockdown is a necessary first step to restore confidence and create the conditions for growth.

It won’t be cheap: the cost of getting the virus under control is likely measured in the billions, or perhaps hundreds of billions, of dollars. But it is also clear that the opportunity cost of waiting is almost surely measured in unknown thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. The impact of delay is not linear. For every three months we delay in getting the virus under control, we push back the return of GDP to precrisis levels by about six months. Time is the enemy of both lives and livelihoods.

… detailed academic research using high-frequency data found no significant difference in employment and consumer spending between the US states that maintained longer lockdowns versus those that relaxed orders early (Exhibit 3).2 And an analysis of foot traffic at about 2.25 million businesses across the United States found that after controlling for local mortality rates, the differences in local lockdown restrictions accounted for only seven percentage points of the average 60 percent drop in local consumer foot traffic…

… It appears that more is going on than national or regional differences in industrial structure and government policy responses. Other factors are at work. As Germany’s central bank observed in June, “The behavior of consumers—and enterprises—became increasingly cautious. Rising uncertainty, including with regard to income prospects, subdued the propensity to spend, even on many goods that were not subject to lockdown.”4 That was anticipated by academic research, which estimated that the “uncertainty shock” generated by the COVID-19 pandemic would likely account for around half of the fall in US GDP in 2020.5

McKinsey’s new consumer research found that more than half of consumers say they are “cautious” or “uncomfortable” about reengaging in their daily routines.6 The research also pinpointed the factors that would make that group feel comfortable about reengaging. Around three-quarters of respondents are looking for structural solutions, such as COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Only around 30 percent say they feel safer when government restrictions are lifted. Three other indicators would help, they say: seeing people wearing masks (75 percent), knowledge that the number of new cases is going down in their area (65 percent), and a determination from national public-health leaders that it is safe to reengage (56 percent).

The inescapable conclusion is that the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its associated health risks has caused many individuals, households, and businesses to opt out of normal activity—even if no formal restrictions are in place. Eliminating that uncertainty is essential to restart growth.

This week in Identity Politics

­The Dangers of an Indigenous Round

From the ABC

Indigenous Round

Looking to pay tribute to First Nations people, the athletes wore intricate and colourful dresses with Indigenous art, took part in cultural ceremonies and aimed to give recognition to players like Ella-Duncan and Finnan-White.

Yet in 2020, it appeared those efforts may have just been paying lip service.

Last week, Netball Australia’s CEO Marne Fechner acknowledged that more needed to be done by the governing body in its pathway systems, given four per cent of Australian participants identify as Indigenous people at the grassroots level and there is only one Indigenous player in Super Netball.

Queensland Firebirds midcourter Jemma Mi Mi is a proud Wakka Wakka woman and had been the player doing most of the heavy lifting when it came to promoting the upcoming round.

Come gameday, however, the Firebirds left Mi Mi on the bench.

As someone that has been a sole figure at the top level before, Marcia Ella-Duncan told the ABC she felt absolutely shattered watching the game, but not surprised.

“I’m disappointed for Jemma. I’m disappointed for the game. We missed an opportunity to take advantage of a platform and to really do something substantial,” she said.

“Such a small thing like giving Mi Mi some time on court, would have had a huge impact and that is systematic of the system. They didn’t need to do much to have a big impact.”

Another element to the story which fuelled further anger within the netball community was the Firebirds’ reluctance to address fans’ outrage.

The ABC reached out to the club for comment on Sunday night, but was told they had no intention to address the matter.

But after fan criticism kept rolling yesterday, the Firebirds eventually released a statement from coach Roselee Jencke, saying Mi Mi’s benching was due to a selection issue.

She said the decision had been made by her alongside the team’s leadership group.

“The decision not to put Jemma on the court was the right one from a game strategy perspective, however we misread community expectations and the significance of Jemma’s court time in the game in this round,” the statement read.

Ella-Duncan said this was nothing more than a deflection.

“We are wonderful at deflecting and dissembling, and ultimately failing to take responsibility,” Ella-Duncan said.

“The system itself does not accept responsibility. Nor does it accept that there are failures in the system for a particular race of people. That continuing failure to act can only be described as racism.”

The Diamond’s second Indigenous player — Sharon Finnan-White — was in Townsville to work on the free-to-air television broadcast.

She also shared her disappointment with the ABC over the Firebirds’ inability to see a bigger picture.

“There needed to be a bit more cultural sensitivity around the fact that Indigenous Round is really special for our people and Jemma should have been able to be a part of that win,” she said.

“With the rolling subs and the fact that the Firebirds were up by ten at the end of the match, she should have had a chance to hit the court. They can’t make finals, they weren’t even in contention.”

“What was supposed to be a wonderful celebration of our culture — her culture — and a chance for her to showcase her skill and be that only role model for young Indigenous girls to aspire to at this current point in time … turned into something completely sour. It really soured the Firebirds’ win.”

Karl is not wog enough

From The Courier Mail

Today host Karl Stefanovic has hit back at a new report that labels Nine the “worst offender” in portraying diversity on-screen.

In a tweet sent to news.com.au, Stefanovic said he was “proud” of his “diverse heritage” and said his employer had “always supported that.”

Stefanovic’s comments come in response to an article by news.com.au’s Wenlei Ma, detailing the findings of a new report by Media Diversity Australia “which reveals the embarrassing chasm between the multicultural make-up of Australians, and the on-air journalists, presenters and commentators featured in local news and current affairs programming.”

“Only 11.4 per cent of on-air talent in news and current affairs come from a non-Anglo-Celtic and non-European background despite those minority groups representing 24 per cent of the wider Australian population,” Ma writes. “Which means for every Waleed Aly, there are nine Karl Stefanovics.”

Nine is identified as the “worst offender” in the report, with only 3 per cent of its on-air talent coming from a culturally diverse background – but as the article was published this morning, Stefanovic responded.

“Im not sure how diverse you need to be to qualify for diverse but I’m of Yugoslav German and British heritage with a surname Stefanovic. I used to be called a wog at school. I’m proud of my heritage. Im pretty sure it’s diverse and nine have always supported that,” he wrote.

Stefanovic’s response was met with a mixed reaction online. “Maltese Serbian here. We’re pretty damn white in the scheme of things, Karl. This isn’t our fight mate,” wrote fellow journalist Mike Stevens.

Originally published as Karl hits back: ‘Proud of my heritage’

Our chances of receiving an academy award just plummeted

From ABC

To meet the on-screen representation standard, a film must either have at least one lead character or a significant supporting character from an under-represented racial or ethnic group, at least 30 per cent of secondary roles must be from two under-represented groups, or the main storyline, theme or narrative must be focused on an under-represented group.

… The academy’s more than 8,000 members vote to choose the Oscar winners.

Author Stephen King, who is a member of the Academy’s writer’s branch and is eligible to vote in the Best Picture and writing categories, earlier this year said he would “never consider diversity in matters of art”.

“I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality,” Mr King wrote on Twitter.

“It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”


Google Maps asked to stop users ‘walking’ on Uluru through street view function

From the ABC

Parks Australia has asked Google to remove images of the top of the sacred Indigenous site, Uluru, which allow users to walk on its summit.

Key points:

  • Google’s street view function allows visitors to go on virtual walking tours
  • Its 360-degree view allows users to effectively defy a ban on visiting the rock
  • Google Australia says it is working on having all the Uluru images removed

Traditional owners have banned visitors from the top of the rock, which has spiritual significance to Anangu, Uluru’s traditional owners.

Google Maps’ street view function allows people to move around environments as part of a virtual walking tour.

It contains 360-degree images of the summit of Uluru, allowing users to effectively defy the visitors’ ban.

A spokesperson for Parks Australia said it had, “alerted Google Australia to the user-generated images from the Uluru summit that have been posted on their mapping platform”.

Parks had “requested that the content be immediately removed in accordance with the wishes of Anangu, Uluru’s traditional owners, and the national park’s Film and Photography Guidelines”.

Google Australia told the ABC that it was working on having all the images removed, including the user-generated content that allowed the walk-through.

But it added that the changes may take up to 24 hours to come into effect.

“We understand Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is deeply sacred to the Anangu people,” a Google Australia spokesperson said.

“As soon as Parks Australia raised their concerns about this user contribution, we removed the imagery.”

Parks Australia stopped visitors climbing Uluru in October 2019.


Amy Coney Barrett

From the ABC

Barrett is 48, a devout Catholic and a professor at Notre Dame Law School in Indiana.

Conservatives on the court would then have a 6-3 majority, which would likely have sweeping implications for an array of issues, including the future of Roe v Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion.

Since the late 1970s, Republicans have made opposition to Roe v Wade a central element of their social, political and legal identity.

In the early 1990s, there were ostensibly seven conservative justices on the court, five of whom had been nominated by Republican presidents Reagan and George H W Bush.

Yet in the case Planned Parenthood v Casey (1992), a challenge over abortion laws in the state of Pennsylvania, a triumvirate of Reagan-Bush appointees sided with the two liberal justices, arguing “liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt” and the weight of precedent meant Roe v Wade must be upheld.

But the current crop of conservative justices share a more uniform judicial philosophy than the Reagan-Bush appointments.

Like Barrett and her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, they champion the legal theory of “originalism”, which views Roe v Wade and the broader right to privacy as a “fanciful reading” of the US Constitution.

Anti-abortion lawyers argue if the court finds the right to privacy does not exist, “the state would be free to regulate and prohibit abortion”.

When Kavanaugh was confirmed in 2018, conservatives had a 5-4 majority on the court. Court watchers predicted Chief Justice John Roberts would emerge as a swing vote on a range of issues.

Roberts had cast votes with the liberal justices, most significantly in upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare (otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act) in 2012. He also has a well-established interest in the reputation of the Supreme Court and the importance of precedent.

In his 15 years on the bench, Roberts has made it clear he does not support abortion rights, but he was expected to avoid an outright assault on Roe v Wade.

In June this year, Roberts sided with the liberal justices to rule a Louisiana anti-abortion law unconstitutional on the grounds precedent was established in a nearly identical case the court had struck down in 2016.

Yet in his separate concurrence, Roberts was clear he still agreed with his dissenting position in 2016.

If Barrett is confirmed, Roberts’ power as a swing voter will be dramatically diminished. This would affect the final judgements of the court, but just as significantly, it would shape what kind of cases the court hears.

Less dependent on Roberts, the conservative justices are likely to take up a broader range of controversial matters, confident they have a majority.


MP’s surprise resignation sets scene for Christian right v moderates

By Scott Emerson in Brisbane Times

Groom, based on Toowoomba, is the safest Liberal seat in the country, won last year by McVeigh with 70 per cent of the two-party vote.

Sitting MP John McVeigh shocked the party on Friday with his sudden resignation,

… Senator James McGrath, who has been a diligent advocate for regional Queensland despite his coastal base, is fighting an internecine battle for the Senate’s safe top spot with fellow LNP senator Amanda Stoker.

Both hard-working and effective media performers, McGrath is seen as aligned with the moderates while Stoker has become a favourite of the growing Christian right faction since replacing George Brandis at a casual vacancy in 2018.

Under LNP rules, the Liberals get the safe first spot on the ticket as well as the third spot, with the Nationals assigned the safe second spot.

While the Liberals did win the third spot at last year’s election, it’s a rarity and both McGrath and Stoker are desperate to secure the number one spot on the ticket and avoid that risky third place.

Their battle for the support of LNP delegates who decide the ticket has been fought on an almost nightly basis on Sky News. Stoker is a favourite of Alan Jones, while McGrath appears regularly on Paul Murray’s show.

The contest between McGrath and Stoker is seen as tight, with a vote of party delegates expected to be held at the state convention in June or July next year.

… So it leaves McGrath with a choice – stay in the Senate and try to defeat Stoker and the Christian right for the top spot on the LNP ticket or challenge the local field for preselection in Groom.


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