Andrew Bolt has doubled down on his argument that Covid-19 restrictions should be lifted because they are destroying the economy “to save aged-care residents from dying a few months earlier”.
Writing in the Herald Sun this week, Bolt noted that most people dying of the virus were over 80.
“We don’t crash this economy just to stop the young getting a stuffy nose,” he said. “Note: 40 per cent of aged-care home residents die within nine months. The average stay is just under three years.
“So Victoria’s bans are doing huge damage to – essentially – save aged-care residents from dying a few months earlier.”
Attacked by ABC presenter Michael Rowland for his “disgraceful” suggestion, Bolt defended himself on his Sky program on Tuesday night, saying the breakfast host was indulging in “woolly thinking” and “fake sentimentality”. His critics were typically leftwing and did not have a good heart, Bolt said, but a “weak head”.
Those commentators who are saying that old people in Aged Care homes who get Coronavirus were going to die soon anyway should watch this.— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) August 3, 2020
Every life is valuable. Every family feels pain.
Sensitively handled by @LisaMillar.@BreakfastNews #COVID19Vic https://t.co/f06I0jeymD
The chief executive of the Council on the Ageing, Ian Yates, said Bolt’s argument was totally unacceptable.
“It’s an attitude that certain kinds of lives are disposable,” Yates told Weekly Beast. “Logically the next step would be to ask, ‘Why do we have nursing homes at all, why don’t we just bang them on the head?’”
As the pandemic has worsened, Bolt’s rhetoric has sometimes been overtaken.
“Not a single person under 40 has died,” he said on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced a man in his 30s had died.
The Herald Sun continues to publish straight reports of the disaster, including about Melbourne businessman Frank Micallef, who lost both his parents to Covid-19 within hours of each other.
“His beloved dad Charlie Micallef, 87, died last night in the Royal Melbourne Hospital, just 31 hours after his 92-year-old mum Carmen Micallef died at Werribee’s Glendale aged care facility,” the Herald Sun reported.
“A lot of people are very upset with me,” Bolt said in an editorial on Sky News. “What I wrote was confronting, some thought it was brutal, but it was also absolutely true.”
Bolt’s rhetoric is echoed by Sky News Australia’s Alan Jones and the Australian’s economics editor, Adam Creighton. They all rail against Victoria’s stay-at-home orders, and the premier, Daniel Andrews.
Bolt’s stablemate at the Herald Sun and Sky News, columnist Rita Panahi, has said the health measures are “draconian” and people who back Andrews are “in the thralls of Stockholm syndrome”.
Jones says mask-wearing is “alarmism” and “ineffectual” and Australia’s death rate does not warrant it. “Only a mad person would believe a lockdown will wipe out the virus,” he said when masks were made compulsory.
Now in his fifth week of broadcasting a new show on Sky News, Jones is averaging around 70,000 viewers each night, which for comparison is one-tenth of the audience for ABC News at 7pm. Nine and Seven news bulletins at 6pm sit above 1.1 million.
But his somewhat strident takes are getting a wider audience through follow-up news stories on news.com.au and posts on social media.
Alan Jones has launched into a fiery rant about Victoria’s new lockdown, saying it shows Australia is filled with “fear and alarmism”.https://t.co/kCZrLOM8bo— news.com.au (@newscomauHQ) August 4, 2020
The president of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia, Alex Wake, said Bolt and Jones were fuelling the “misinformation pandemic”.
“Quite apart from the fact that everyone in the community has parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and great-grandparents who have spent their lives contributing to the community and deserve dignity in their last years, Bolt’s comments are based on an erroneous assumption that Covid only affects the elderly,” Wake told Weekly Beast.
Creighton’s commentary in the Australian has been more measured than on Twitter, where he dramatically claimed Andrews had declared an “effective dictatorship”. “Respect for the individual clearly irrelevant,” he said. “What’s the point in being alive if you can’t live?”
Shameful what's occurring in Victoria.— Adam Creighton (@Adam_Creighton) August 2, 2020
Effective dictatorship declared.
Devastating, destructive power of the state on full display.
Respect for the individual clearly irrelevant.
What's the point in being alive if you can't live?
It looks like Australian audiences are getting not one but two major documentary series about Rupert Murdoch this year. We told you last week that BBC Two’s The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty was being offered to the free-to-air networks after Foxtel declined to screen it. Now we hear the ABC is close to signing on the dotted line for the three-part documentary.
But that means another highly anticipated documentary on Murdoch, a multi-part story for Four Corners, will be delayed so the two don’t run too close to each other. Reported by former Media Watch host and investigative journalist Jonathan Holmes, the program will concentrate on the Australian side of the Murdoch story with more about Lachlan, who is not well known in the UK, and less about phone-hacking. Four Corners will also be more up to date as it can include the bombshell development that James Murdoch has resigned from the News Corp board and explore what that might mean for the Australian outlets.
In episode one of the BBC doco, keep an eye out for the early footage of Rupert and family, which was filmed by the ABC for earlier Four Corners stories and for an ABC TV series in 2002 called Dynasties: The Murdoch Family. “In this intriguing and exclusive insight, key members of the Murdoch family talk candidly about what it means to be a part of the Australian media dynasty,” the 2002 series promised. We doubt they will be that open to talking a couple of decades on.
Diversity of thought
The ABC raised eyebrows this week when it announced mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest had been chosen by chair Ita Buttrose to give the Boyer Lectures, a four-hour platform given to prominent Australians to talk about the future of the nation. Forrest who is worth $8bn, will talk about “Rebooting Australia: How ethical entrepreneurs can help shape a better future” on Radio National from 28 November.
Beginning in 1959, the Boyers have been given by a very disparate group, from Rupert Murdoch in 2008 to journalist and author Geraldine Brooks in 2011 and filmmaker Rachel Perkins last year.
Fresh on the back of the Forrest announcement, an official ABC account tweeted an article by the Australian’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, a well-known ABC critic, attacking the Victorian premier headlined “Daniel Andrews’ leadership is superficial and a failure”.
“Victoria has become a dysfunctional one-party state with a mostly compliant local media,” Sheridan wrote. “Certainly the Andrews government and the ABC share a world view. In this context, democratic accountability and the contestability of all policy are critical ingredients to competent government.”
So why is Aunty tweeting paywalled articles from the Australian, which spends a lot of time attacking public broadcasting? Because it’s part of ABC Insiders’ brief to share articles written by guests of the program, a spokesman said.
A Senate committee has revealed another small piece of the puzzle which is the government’s baffling decision to give Foxtel another $10m for under-represented and women’s sport. Bureaucrats from the communications department told a Covid-19 committee on Thursday that the largesse for Fox Sports was “part of its Covid response package”.
The department confirmed no extra money had been given to the ABC or the SBS as a result of the pandemic, but Foxtel had been granted an extra $10m on top of the original $30m to help get women’s and niche sports broadcast “once they’re back up and running” after Covid.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young labelled it “corporate welfare”.
Complying with rules to isolate and quarantine has been a major problem in Victoria.— ABC Science (@ABCscience) August 5, 2020
So have we been too easy on rule breakers? Or is the punitive approach more harmful in the long term?@normanswan and @teegstar answer your questions in Coronacast.https://t.co/2HCMi0OuMR pic.twitter.com/tOLj4Gz2k5
“The public broadcasters should have been given this money so that taxpayers who can barely afford to eat and pay rent, let alone subscribe to Fox Sports, could watch women’s and niche sports for free,” Hanson-Young said.
The committee also heard Norman Swan’s Coronacast podcast has had almost 10 million downloads with no marketing budget while the Covidsafe app – which was extensively marketed – has had just 6 million.