ABC backs Swan's integrity in response to COVID19 related article in The Australian | radioinfo

ABC backs Swan's integrity in response to COVID19 related article in The Australian

Sunday 19 April, 2020

The Australian newspaper has accused Norman Swan of being “after money to turn spin doctor.”

The accusation appeared in an exclusive article (subscription required) by Brad Norrington splashed across the front page of the weekend’s paper.

The article outlines Norman Swan’s directorship of a company called Tonic Health Media, which promotes health information and tenders for government health advertising campaigns. The article says the company was unsuccessful in a bid for the government's latest COVID19 campaign.

We contacted Doctor Swan for a comment, but he did not want to be drawn into discussion about the article, telling radioinfo he had already given his response to the reporter and didn't want to give The AustralIan's story any oxygen.

The ABC has confirmed its confidence in Swan, acknowledging his independence and integrity. An ABC spokesperson has told radioinfo:

“Dr Norman Swan's involvement with Tonic Health Media is governed by the terms of his contract with the ABC and our editorial policies. Norman is a highly-experienced ABC journalist and health professional who offers informed insights and analysis as part of the ABC’s coverage of COVID-19, and is highly regarded and respected for his commitment to independence and integrity.”

The article says the company that Swan founded “unsuccessfully pitched last month for work funded by the federal government to produce educational videos about coronavirus for GPs.”

A paragraph towards the bottom of the article reports that Swan now only holds a 5% share in the company, and quotes Swan explaining that a sales manager tendered for the campaign and that he had no involvement in procuring the work.

The article says Swan was “highly critical of the Morrison government for not treating the crisis seriously enough.” It says his comments “have irritated senior government ministers.”

Swan told Norrington the ABC is aware of his interest in the company and that he been transparent with the national broadcaster and has promised there will be no conflict with his on-air work. He says Tonic Health Media has “a long history of… dealing with the commonwealth on education campaigns.”

Brad Norrington does not disclose the source of his information about the media campaign. Unsuccessful tenderers for government work are not normally made public. It is unknown whether information used in the article was a leak from government, the health department, the advertising agency, or some other source.



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Anthony The Koala
20 April 2020 - 9:37am
I did not like the attacks on Dr Norman Swan in "The Australian". Nor do I like most of the comments associated with the article which are typically anti-ABC.

Dr Norman Swan is an AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency)-registered medical practitioner with the following qualifications:

* Membership of the Royal College of Physicians of London, Royal College of Physicians of London, United Kingdom, 1980
* Diploma in Child Health, Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons of London, United Kingdom, 1978
* Bachelor of Medicine / Bachelor of Surgery, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom, 1976


All practising medical practitioners are required to undergo continuing education programs in order that their skills are up-to-date and to maintain their registration status.

Dr Swan is one of the best science and medical communicators in the media and is called on by the ABC as its medical expert on various ABC programs such as "ABC News", "7:30" and "The Drum". Apart from the "Health Report" on RN, his knowledge is called upon on other RN,ABC702 (2BL) and ABCNewsRadio. In addition there is a comprehensive podcast "Coronacast".

All tertiary-educated graduates are required to develop critical analytical skills and is not mindless parroting and that includes doctors.

Dr Swan speaks from a medical standpoint that is evidence-based. Like other presenters he has the right to comment on government policies which lack the urgency of implementing social distancing and other policies not to congregate in crowds such as sporting matches, restaurants, theatres, houses of worship and beaches to name a few.

There may well be other countries whose social distancing policies have been implemented too late, or situations where a number of a nation's top medical advisers have been reduced.

Then there are situations where the policy is to let the virus "rip" and people will develop a herd immunity.

But there is no coronavirus vaccine and there is no herd immunity.To get a herd immunity from the current pandemic implementing the "let it rip" policy requires greater numbers of people to die. Such a policy has no due regard to the history of the original meaning of "flattening the curve" where in 1919 in the US, one state implemented a "let it rip" policy and thousands died and another state implemented shutdowns and "social distancing" measures and fewer people died.

The "let it rip" mentality results in hospitals being overwhelmed with patients not being able to be properly treated and other patients being prioritised based on the utilitarian ethic of some people being worth more than others. That is quite dodgy and evil.

Shock jock, conspiracy theorist and non-evidenced based potion salesperson Alex Jones was leading a group of citizens who want an end to lockdowns calling the coronavirus a hoax, .

The problem with media commentators particularly in newspapers and commercial radio want to get people quickly to return to work. One economics commentator at "The Australian" seems to treat the elderly as expendible in order to keep the economy going, (subscription may be needed).

You wouldn't want one of your loved ones to die on the altar of the economic cause. "The Australian"'s article is not unique. No tombstone will say, "In loving memory of the deceased who died to keep the economy running".

Not all economists take this morally repungant view. 32 of the US's leading economists from the Democrats and Republican parties have argued that the current lockdown and social-distancing measures are good for the economy,

Even our economists don't want our Prime Minister to relax the lockdown and social distancing measures.

These economists "...believe a callous indifference to life is morally objectionable, and that it would be a mistake to expect a premature loosening of restrictions to be beneficial to the economy and jobs, given the rapid rate of contagion.

It is wishful thinking to believe we face a choice between a buoyant economy without social distancing and a deep recession with social distancing...."

As I said elsewhere on this site, the economy is the people and the people are the economy.

Like the car accident analogy that you can replace the car anytime but not a human. Similarly, you can replace an economy but not a human life. Taking the extreme "let it rip" OR re-opening the economy before the virus is rendered quashed will cause another wave of infections and hospitals overwhelmed and the economic cost is greater.

What of the future? Dr Norman Swan in the last half of Coronacast podcast says that travelling to and from overseas destinations is the last priority to engage with the rest of the world.

He suggests a gradual re-introduction of economic activity starting with schools and daycare centres practising social distance measuring. Social distancing measures should continue with restaurants until there are very few reported incidents of "one, two or three", or "zero". It may be some time before gatherings at sporting matches and the theatre resume.


In the end, Dr Swan sums it up by being critical of the very economists and businesses who are indifferent to the 1% who succumbed to the disease. Referring to the mortality rates in the US, "... Some people in business who want the restrictions lifted now say, oh well, if it's under 1%, this is not something to worry about, it's starting to look like seasonal flu. Well, try telling that to one of the 22,000 families who have lost somebody in the United States...."

Thank you,
Anthony of thinking and concerned Belfield
Anthony The Koala
1 May 2020 - 3:41pm
I have noticed that certain commentators on commercial radio place the number of infections and deaths of various diseases and car accidents in relation to the population in order to downplay the significance and incidence of the covid-19 virus compared to car crashes and other epidemics. No matter how mild, the severity of the covid-19 infection affects everyone.

Rather, my analysis is computing Australia's risk management policies applied to other countries and applying other country's policy to Australia.

I am doing this because I am continually indignant at some commentators on commercial radio AND in "The Australian" who pursue the economy ahead of peoples' lives and the policies led by US shock jocks and other leaders.

The data of select countries:
Country,pop, pop density, deaths
US 331002651, 36, 63861
Brazil 212559417, 25, 6006
United Kingdom 67886011, 281, 26771
South Korea 51269185, 527, 248
Australia 2549884, 3 , 93
Sweden 10099265, 25, 2586

Source data:

Remark: It assumes that all countries have notice of the start of the pandemic in 2019. This does not take into account (i) the testing regimes and policy of the particular country, (ii) the lockdown policies applied in each country, (iii) the various governments' reaction and implementation of testing and lockdown policies, and (iv) whether the particular country is on either the upside of the curve, the middle of the curve or the end of the curve.

Furthermore while some parts of Australia such as the ACT and NT are relatively covid-19 free, it does not mean that the rest of the Australia is covid-19 free and it does not mean that the rest of the world is covid-19 free.

Using the above data sources:
If Australia was a particular country. In other words, if a particular country adopted Australia's policy
Particular country (pop)/Australia (pop) * Aust(death)
US: 331002651/2549884 * 93 = 12072 << 63861
Brazil: 212559417/2549884*93 = 7753 > 6006
UK: 67886011/2549884*93 = 2475 << 26771
Sth Korea: 51269185/2549884*93 = 1870 >> 248
Sweden: 10099265/2549884*93 = 368 << 2586

If Australia adopted a particular country's policy, estimate of deaths in Australia.
Australia's pop/particular country's pop * Australian deaths
US: 2549884/331002651*63861 = 491 >> 93
Brazil: 2549884/212559417*6006 = 72 < 93
UK: 2549884/67886011*26771 = 1006 >> 93
Sth Korea: 2549884/51269185*248 = 12 << 93
Sweden: 2549884/10099265*2586 = 653 >> 93

'<' = less than,
'<<' = much less than
'>' = greater than
'>> = much greater than.

If Australia's lockdown and testing policies were applied to other countries, the number of deaths in the US, the UK and Sweden would benefit from Australia's policies and possibly South Korea.

With the exception of South Korea, Australia's death rate would be worse if we adopted the lockdown and testing policies of other countries such as the UK, Sweden and US. The US figure is complicated by the various states' testing and lockdown policies.

If Australia adopted South Korea's lockdown and testing policies, the total death rates would be much less. According to the table at the start of article, South Korea's population density is the highest of any country in the world. It appears that population density may have no part given that South Korea's population density is greater than the UK and US. On the other hand, for the US's NYC, the density is 10137 per km squared which is 19 times South Korea's population density. More studies are needed to ascertain whether testing and lockdown policies have a statistical significance on population densities

On the other hand, caution should sti for the US, NYC has a density of 10137 people per squared kilometre. Further studies on the effect of infection and population density

Area of NYC = 790km^2
Population of NYC = 8,008,278
Density = 8008278/790 = 10137per km squared.

However, the death rate in Australia could well be much lower if the death rates from the "Ruby Princess" passenger ship were negated. The death rates from the "Ruby Princess" is ongoing due to an outbreak in Tasmania,

As our Prime Minister said on 2GB, 1500, 01-05-2020 said "...we need to restart our economy as soon as it is safe to do so...". But lets hope that "....keeping Australia out of the douna...." is not early such as to cause another wave of covid-19 infections.

When the covid-19 epidemic is over, there will be a lot of studies done as to which country had the best policy in mitigating deaths. But it is not only deaths, but the possible physiological damage to organs due to the covid-19 epidemic.

Thank you,
Anthony of analytical Belfield
Anthony The Koala
2 May 2020 - 1:09pm
In my last comment, I made a typographical error in the formula.

Where I said:
"If Australia adopted a particular country's policy, estimate of deaths in Australia.
Australia's pop/particular country's pop * Australian deaths"

It should say:
"If Australia adopted a particular country's policy, estimate of deaths in Australia.
Australia's pop/particular country's pop * particular country's death rates"

The calculations represent the corrected formula.

Thank you,
Anthony of I am human and make mistakes Belfield

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