Home COVID-19 Playing chicken: Chris Kenny and South Australia’s chief health officer see who blinks in Covid clash | Tory Shepherd

Playing chicken: Chris Kenny and South Australia’s chief health officer see who blinks in Covid clash | Tory Shepherd


South Australia’s normally unflappable chief health officer, Nicola Spurrier, almost flapped when Sky News host Chris Kenny flew into an SA press conference this week.

Faced with a barrage of questions about the state’s pandemic strategy, she blinked slowly, often, and with great forbearance.

Kenny started with a “three-pronged question” but she cut him off after the first.

“I just want to ask a three-pronged question … why aren’t you more upfront [about running an elimination strategy]?” he started.

Spurrier wasn’t having all those prongs.

“I think I’ll answer the questions as they come because I’ve had very little sleep and I want to answer them correctly,” she said.

That was followed by the press conference version of playing chicken, when two people keep speaking over each other in the hope one of them blinks. Which Spurrier did, again, particularly when Kenny described Covid-19 as a “very mild health threat” to anyone outside vulnerable groups.

“I find it quite surprising to be at a press conference and have someone suggest that there are very minor consequences to Covid-19,” she said.

“Excuse me. I am here to provide information to the South Australian public, not to have an argument with you. Over a minor point. Thank you.”

Sky News later referred to it as a “fiery clash”, and a confrontation with the “nutty” professor. The premier, Steven Marshall called that “disrespectful”. “Personal abuse is never a good argument,” he told radio station FIVEAA.

Kenny, a native Adelaidean who has been broadcasting from SA for a fortnight, also butted heads with Marshall during and after the press conference.

“I went to shake his hand and he said ‘I’m not shaking hands with you. We’re in a global pandemic’,” Kenny said. It was, surely, nothing to do with his bombastic performance.

Warwick capper

The papers formerly known as Fairfax gleefully reported on the man formerly known as the Fairfax boss. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age tell the tale of how Warwick Fairfax now sees his catastrophic failure as an actual KPI. Instead of saving the 150-year-old family media company he “undermined it” (reportedly his own words).

“I lost $2.25 billion in a failed takeover of my family’s 150-year-old media business,” he said.

“What could have broken me started me down the path of a life of significance.”

Now he’s making a living as a consultancy guru, and can apparently help you discover if you are a “world changer”, a “star performer”, or an “imagineer”. Imagineer that.

Picture this

Daily Telegraph columnist Vikki Campion – the partner of Australia’s comeback champion, Barnaby Joyce – has welcomed an investigation into her allegation that someone took pictures of their kids at Parliament House’s childcare centre.

She wrote last week that the centre’s staff had to form a “personal protection unit” when a mystery cameraperson started filming, and that “many kids were forced inside and denied their ability to run around in fresh air to protect them all from the privacy intrusion”.

“Filming kids at a daycare centre is creepy,” she wrote. “Doing it from the breezeways above the centre where there is no CCTV is especially so.”

The Department of Parliamentary Services, which brooks no breach of its filming and photography rules, investigated.

“The parent of a child at the centre was filming on their phone near the facility,” it found. “The individual is a DPS employee and had been filming their own child.”

David Crowe, the Age and the SMH’s chief political correspondent, let his gallery colleagues know the outcome.

Campion was “understandably worried,” he said. “And she appreciates that we take this sort of thing seriously.”

Turning another corner

Michael “Brisso” Brissenden has filed his last Four Corners. After 35 years winning Walkleys and traipsing the globe wearing various ABC hats, he’s hanging them all up (the ABC ones, anyway – he’s also a novelist).

“Local, national and international politics, conflict, powerful moments in history, heartbreaking human stories and the opportunity to examine some of the most pressing issues of our time – I feel like I have ridden the great wave of journalism,” Brisso said in farewell.

Cameraman Louie Eroglu put paid to any staid image that might have created.

“One of our best was literally 10 miles from our Washington DC bureau where we spent two weeks on the other side of the Capitol. A story on the hip-hop subculture of ‘Go Go’. Late nights, clubs, amazing people, the good, the bad. I’ll never forget how much I love having you by my side. When we would return to the bureau after filming each day, the bureau chief Craig McMurtrie would say ‘you guys are having too much fun’. ‘Hell yeah,’ we said.”

Sesame treat

Feathers were ruffled earlier this year when a Big Bird costume was stolen from the Sesame Street Circus in Adelaide. Suspicions that Aloysius Snuffleupagus was involved were quickly allayed when the bird was returned with a note from the “Big Bird bandits”.

The stolen Big Bird suit after its return.
The stolen Big Bird suit after its return. Photograph: South Australian police

“Sorry to be such a big birden!” they chirped.

This week, two men appeared in court (dressed somewhat like muppets) and were papped by the local press on the way out.

“Can you talk us through what you were thinking?” one reporter asked.

As the men made their way from the courthouse to the sunny day, Nine News reporter Georgia Westgarth found sweet air for the killer question:

“Can you tell me how to get … how to get to Sesame Street?”

The grouches declined to respond.

Practical wisdom

“Older experienced minds have been replaced with younger and cheaper folks,” a retired journalist has told a survey of people formerly known as journalists. “No criticism of them.”

The authors of Upheaval: Disrupted Lives in Journalism, Matthew Ricketson and Andrew Dodd, wrote in the Conversation that amid redundancies and outsourcing, the loss of informal mentoring by senior journalists was a less visible blow to the industry.

On a brighter note, they say that wisdom is still out there, and former journalists are still willing to share it.

“Collectively they are a repository of what Aristotle called practical wisdom,” they wrote.

A phrase which is a doleful reminder of the time an Australian prime minister referred to “the suppository of all wisdom”.

It pours

Those tuning into ABC Adelaide to work out when to hang out the washing this week were left none the wiser.

“There’s a shite chance of rain,” a Bureau of Meteorology spokeswoman intoned.

Amanda Meade is on leave

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