While most Australians have had enough of Covid-19 restrictions after more than two years, ABC presenters are still haranguing politicians on television and radio about bringing back mask mandates.
Such is the unity among journalists at the national broadcaster about forcing citizens to wear face coverings again it might appear to have almost become part of the ABC’s charter.
As the taxpayers who fund Aunty get on with their jobs and learn to live with the virus, observers claim ‘groupthink’ has set in at ABC studios.
From David Speers on Insiders to Michael Rowland on News Breakfast and Patricia Karvelas on Radio National, there is a relentless push to bring back mask mandates.
Leading the way, as he has from the beginning, is Dr Norman Swan, host of Radio National’s The Health Report and the Coronacast podcast.
While most Australians have had enough of Covid-19 restrictions after more than two years, ABC presenters are still haranguing politicians on television and radio about mask mandates
Sky News host Chris Kenny will present an hour-long examination of the 90-year-old institution on Tuesday night called Your ABC Exposed.
Kenny has long been a critic of the country’s biggest broadcaster and has noted its presenters’ fixation on wanting Covid restrictions to be imposed by government.
‘Right from the start of the pandemic the ABC has led the charge in fuelling hysteria and public paranoia while encouraging maximum government intervention,’ he said.
‘No matter how many times Norman Swan and others have been proven wrong, they have simply doubled down.
‘Yet, even now, with everyone who wants a vaccine jabbed up to four times, and all the evidence and lived experience showing most people have little to fear, ABC presenters keep up the fear-mongering and push for mandates and illiberal approaches.’
So far, governments have resisted the calls for mask mandates but federal Health Minister Mark Butler knows he will likely be grilled about the topic whenever he appears on an ABC program.
From David Speers on Insiders to Michael Rowland on News Breakfast and Patricia Karvelas (above) on Radio National, there is a relentless push to bring back mask mandates
On July 8, Rowland went as far as suggesting Butler and his political colleagues were ‘accepting’ deaths by not re-introducing compulsory face coverings.
[As of this week there had been fewer than 300 deaths of Australians aged under 50 to have contracted Covid, from a total of fatal cases under 11,000].
Butler said the advice from chief health officers was that the nation had ‘moved beyond the era of very broad mask mandates and lockdowns’, and that Australians could make their own choice about wearing a mask indoors.
Rowland refused to accept that position and kept pushing for mask mandates.
‘We do know there are studies reflecting this, that compulsory mask mandates have close to 100 per cent success rate,’ he said.
‘[That’s] as opposed to what you’re saying, just asking people to wear them. You’re not worried about people not making the right decision here?’
Butler hit back by saying Australians could ‘take control of their own circumstances’ in the pandemic’s third year as they got used to living with the virus.
On July 8, ABC News Breakfast Michael Rowland (above) suggested Health Minister Mark Butler and his political colleagues were ‘accepting’ deaths by not re-introducing compulsory face coverings
Rowland was still not satisfied and pointed to the more than 10,000 people who had died with Covid since the pandemic’s start.
‘By not taking steps to minimise transmissions… aren’t we, Mark Butler, as a society, implicitly accepting that death toll?’ he said. ‘And are you comfortable with that?’
By not taking steps to minimise transmissions… aren’t we, Mark Butler, as a society, implicitly accepting that death toll?
News Breakfast’s Michael Rowland
Butler noted the lives ‘tragically lost’ and tried to answer the question but was cut off by Rowland. ‘As a society, do we just sit back and accept that?’ the host said.
Butler: ‘No, we don’t sit back and accept it.’
Two days later over on Insiders it was Speers nudging Butler towards forcing Australians to wear masks over winter.
‘You say we’ve moved to a new phase of the pandemic but you just told us we’re in a new wave that’s very serious, you’re worried about this,’ Speers said.
‘Are we really in a new phase of the pandemic where we don’t need to consider some of these old measures, like mask mandates, in particular?
On July 10 Insiders host David Speers quizzed Health Minister Mark Butler about why mask mandates had not been reinstated. ‘Why don’t we look at that for the next six weeks?’ he asked
‘Why don’t we look at that for the next six weeks?’
Butler had received no advice to mandate mask-wearing and said face coverings were better in ‘targeted’ places such as hospitals and airports and to protect vulnerable residents in aged care facilities.
Are we really in a new phase of the pandemic where we don’t need to consider some of these old measures, like mask mandates, in particular?
Insiders host David Speers
‘And if you’re in a crowding indoor space with no ability to socially distance you should give strong consideration to wearing a mask,’ he said.
Speers then said recommending people wear masks was ‘ineffectual’ and the proof could be seen in shopping centres and sporting stadiums where few were worn.
‘Wasn’t one of the lessons of this pandemic, mask mandates for a fixed period, work?’ he asked.
Butler: ‘But we’re deep into the third year. They did work very well for the first couple of years.’
Speers: ‘We’re in a third wave’.
Swan said on July 18 the country could be ‘stuffed’ unless mask mandates were brought back before the next Covid variant arrived on our shores.
‘We probably do need to mandate masks and N95s in high risk environments,’ he told Karvelas.
VITAL COVID FACTS
Just 293 people under 50 had died of Covid as of July 18
If you’re under 50 and catch Covid, you have a 1 in 10,000 chance of dying
Most people who die are men over 70 or women over 80
The median age to die from Covid is 83
The average life expectancy in Australia is 82.9
Even frail elderly residents in aged care homes have a 95 per cent chance of surviving infection
More than 60,770 aged care residents out of the 63,875 infected have recovered from Covid
Just one in 20 in aged care homes have died after they caught the virus
‘Otherwise when the next variant comes along and it’s more virulent than this one – in other words more likely to kill you or make you seriously ill – we’ll be stuffed.’
Swan said governments had a responsibility reinstate mask rules, and insisted vaccines alone weren’t enough to protect the population.
‘The government has loaded the dice on the vaccines and the vaccines are not enough,’ he said.
Karvelas continued with the theme on July 20 when she interviewed Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s chief medical officer.
‘Okay, let me ask then, have you recommended mask mandates?’ she asked.
‘I have recommended that we need to increase mask use,’ Kelly replied. ‘We do of course have mandates that are existing.’
Kelly said he had recommended increasing mask use throughout the community, ‘and we have left it there for others to consider the pros and cons of how to do that – that’s really a matter for others.’
Karvelas: ‘Why haven’t you made that recommendation stronger?’
Kelly: ‘It’s a pretty strong recommendation.’
But Karvelas was not letting Kelly off the hook. ‘Well you’re saying it’s up to them,’ she said.
‘You’re not saying it should be mandated. It’s different language in the past, I’m not trying to be, I just want to understand why your recommendation hasn’t been given.
‘We’re seeing this wave and you’re saying it’s going to peak in hospitals higher than ever in our country in the past, why there hasn’t been a firm recommendation?’
Radio National’s The Health Report host Norman Swan said on July 18 the country could be ‘stuffed’ unless mask mandates were brought back before the next Covid variant arrived on our shores
On Monday, parents in Victoria were advised by the heads of all school systems that children over the age of eight should cover their faces in class but the state government insisted that was not a mask mandate.
Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper reported the new advice under the front page headline ‘Mask Madness’, which set off the city’s ABC Radio drive host Raf Epstein.
‘Helpful aren’t they?’ Epstein wrote on Twitter. ‘Simple science @advice saying masks are a good idea at school is weaponised as “madness”.’
Sky News host Chris Kenny has accused ABC presenters and producers of ‘groupthink’ in their attitude to Covid mask mandates
Kenny described ABC presenters’ Covid views as groupthink and suggested they did not represent the majority of Australians.
‘For more than two years many people have faced real job insecurity, small businesses have shut, kids have missed school and people have been separated from loved ones,’ he said.
‘But ABC presenters and other government employees have had job security and been able to work from home, yet they are still encouraging over-the-top authoritarian responses that, in the real world, can dramatically affect people’s quality of life and even undermine their livelihoods.
‘The groupthink at the ABC is extraordinary, with all presenters and producers seeming to share the same view, instinctively favouring government intervention and compulsion.
‘They need to mix with mainstream Australians who have a different perspective, valuing freedom of choice, resilience and individual responsibility.’
The ABC was contacted for comment. Your ABC Exposed premieres on Sky News on Tuesday, July 26 at 8pm AEST.
Commuters are pictured at Sydney’s Wynyard train station on June 30 getting on with their lives
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