Diary

Gadfly
Sky sees limits

It’s remarkably hard to get banned from YouTube. The platform hosts more than 500 hours of fresh videos a minute. That’s more content than even the most dedicated teenager in Sydney fighting lockdown boredom can watch in a lifetime.

Almost all of that video – 720,000 hours’ worth a day – is of children unboxing toys or biting each other. The remainder is video of Alan Jones being sceptical about vaccines on Sky News.

This week, the video-hosting platform cracked down on Sky News Australia, deleting at least six videos from Jones and the Outsiders program in which hydroxychloroquine is discussed as a viable alternative to vaccines and an apparent conspiracy to prevent access to the drug is decried.

YouTube is worried that people who take their medical advice from Jones and Rowan Dean may contribute to the continued spread of Covid-19, although the other major concern is those same people may also contribute to the spread of rank stupidity.

If your opinion on vaccines is formed by Jones talking to Craig Kelly, then it’s too late to save you by banning this content. Especially since every time anyone goes on YouTube, it pushes Sky News Australia content on you as aggressively as Alan Jones pushing a new race riot in Cronulla.

YouTube’s process for deciding which videos to remove, when to suspend a channel, or even just why similar videos remain online is all opaque, but at least it has taken a stand. Meanwhile, the closest Australia has to a media regulatory authority is the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which issued this statement: “The complainants were referred to Sky in the first instance and the Acma will consider the matter and take the broadcaster’s actions to correct and remove the segment into account if any of the complainants refer their complaint back to the Acma.”

ACMA’s process for holding Sky News to account is apparently telling people who are offended by the content to contact Sky News directly, then if they aren’t satisfied by the response, to come back to ACMA, which will then employ the harsh measure of shrugging, looking up at the sky and wondering why it exists.

Sky News presenters have responded with the kind of calm, measured appreciation of the importance of public health safety that they’re known for.

Chris Kenny has bemoaned it as “cancel culture writ large”, but to be fair he thinks everything is “cancel culture writ large”. Except that time he cancelled The Chaser for suggesting he’d had sex with a dog.

Craig Kelly, meanwhile, has maintained his output of conspiracy theories, taking to Twitter to announce Scott Morrison is violating constitutional freedoms by demanding everyone be vaccinated.

He hasn’t specified how this is a violation of constitutional freedoms, which portion of the constitution he’s referring to in particular, or whether he would also be against the immunisation register that has been a part of Australian school admissions since 1996.

Sky News is expected to return to YouTube once the ban lifts. Meanwhile, the country has to consider what it means when YouTube is more ethical in its content curation than the Australian media.

It all comes out in the Josh

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has come out in favour of snap lockdowns, saying the high cost of lockdowns is only made worse if lockdowns are delayed.

This is in contrast with when, in 2020, he demanded Daniel Andrews lift the lockdown early to “give people back their freedom” because “enough is enough”. This was on the same day the state had recorded
15 new cases and the death toll stood at 810.

On Thursday, Andrews announced yet another snap lockdown for Melbourne and Victoria from 8pm that night, taking the tally to six.

The change in appreciation for the value of a snap lockdown shows that Frydenberg is capable of learning from his mistakes and changing his perspective.

That personal growth may be the only chance we have of finding out why $25 billion of the $90 billion JobKeeper program was allowed to go to companies that did not record their forecasted revenue falls.

The treasurer has failed to act on advice from the Treasury to set up an independent review of the program, but that may have been before he discovered within himself the capacity for personal growth.

He may even finally take responsibility for that time he miscalculated how much JobKeeper would cost by $60 billion.

Labor has offered Frydenberg just the right opportunity to show off his new skills at combining mea culpas with mathematics, as Anthony Albanese has pushed the Commonwealth to consider a $300 cash bonus to everyone who is fully vaccinated.

It’s a bold idea by Labor, which might prove a timely distraction from their continued support of the government’s tax cuts for billionaires.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham rejected the idea, saying it was “insulting” to Australians already getting vaccinated, proving he’s never met another Australian, nor been insulted properly.

The prime minister strongly rejected the plan as well, pretty much guaranteeing he’ll eventually implement it just as soon as we all forget it was a Labor idea in the first place.

It’s the kind of reversal that we’ve seen him commit time and again, most recently putting aside his own ego, accepting he was wrong and not commenting on the $1 million payout by Australia Post to Christine Holgate, after he threw a temper tantrum that forced her out of her job as chief executive for spending $20,000 on watches for her executives.

Porter house stakes

Australians are in the unenviable position of wishing they had Peter Dutton as leader of the house of representatives, after the Defence minister was forced to isolate for two weeks due to his sons being caught in the Queensland schools outbreak.

His absence has meant the house leader role is now being filled by Christian Porter.

With all the energy of that moment in every horror movie when you think the monster has been defeated, so the protagonist turns their back towards it, only for the monster to rear up again, Porter will lead the government’s agenda for the house for a fortnight.

Porter, who is yet to be subjected to an independent inquiry over his fitness to hold ministerial office after an accusation of rape that he vehemently denies, was house leader for almost two years until a cabinet reshuffle.

In a statement in March that admitted there was work to be done to ensure women’s safety, the prime minister said, “We must get this house in order.” It turns out, the order the house needed to get in was putting Christian Porter back in charge of it. 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 7, 2021 as "Gadfly: Sky sees limits".

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Sami Shah is a multi-award-winning comedian, writer and journalist.