ISSUE – NO. 441

1 March 2019

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The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Between November 1997 and October 2015 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In March 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.

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  • Stop Press: Kate Roffey finds courtesy; Paul Barry verbals Ita Buttrose; Ray Hadley receives unexpected respect for his criticisms of Tony Abbott & John Howard

  • Can You Bear It: Scott Burchill; Sam Hutchinson & Lisa Millar; The Mosman Daily’s principal [sic] opponent; Paul Murray & Dee Madigan

  • Five Paws Award: Hawker Britton’s Claire March acknowledges the ABC’s “ideological view”

  • New Feature: Hyperbole Corner: Starring ABC News’ “No one” declaration and the SMH’s whistle-blower warning

  • Jackie’s Media Gongs for 2018 continued: David Crowe’s howler re Liberal conservatives and the bully allegation

  • Documentation: Why complaining to the ABC’s complaints department is a waste of time: News Breakfast’s indefensible coverage of the Covington Catholic High School incident is defended by the ABC – Starring Michael Rowland & Lisa Millar & Sara James & Reena Rehan

  • Correspondence: Gerard Henderson and Richard Glover re the Melbourne Response; Hendo declines Q&A’s late invitation to join its leftist baying mob (the audience that is)

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It seems that the late Nancy’s continuing Courtesy Classes are having some effect. Remember when, in Issue 437, MWD commented that Kate Roffey had referred to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on two occasions as “ScoMo”.  This took place when Ms Roffey was doing the Newspapers gig on ABC TV’s News Breakfast program on 30 January 2019.

Kate Roffey appeared again this morning on News Breakfast. There was one reference to Scott Morrison.  Mr Morrison was referred to by Ms Roffey as “the prime minister”.  Well done, Kate Roffey. And well done (the late) Nancy.  Let Courtesy prevail!


MWD just loves it when ABC journalists talk to other ABC journalists about the ABC.

And so it came to pass on the ABC Radio Melbourne 774 Drive with Rafael Epstein program yesterday.  The ABC Drive presenter interviewed the ABC TV Media Watch presenter Paul Barry about the ABC. Quelle surprise!  The mutual self-serving discussion took place following the announcement that Ita Buttrose has been appointed as the new chair of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster by the Morrison government.

Let’s go to the transcript where your man Epstein praises the ABC – in much the same way that a Collingwood footballer would praise the Collingwood Football Club:

Rafael Epstein: Most of the texts upset with the minister [Mitch Fifield]. One or two calling me a leftie clown. I’ll just say what the new chair of the ABC said: “When you ask Australians in a poll if the ABC is biased, you get about 20 per cent saying yes and about 80 per cent saying no and that is consistent over the last 20 years or so.” That’s a poll. I’m happy with a poll.  Poll sounds like evidence.

Yesterday it was Ms Buttrose’s first day in the job.  In fact, the survey cited was commissioned by the ABC.  It has found that 80 per cent of Australians “trust” the ABC.   As Mr Epstein should know, the survey does not raise any issue of “bias”.

As former editor Chris Mitchell has previously commented, it seems that many of those polled seem to think that it is a right and proper thing to say they trust the public broadcaster.  If they really trusted the ABC in such numbers, then, ABC TV News would top the ratings each weekday.  In fact, ABC TV News always comes in behind Channel 7 and Channel 9 – and, at times, Channel 10.  It only consistently beats SBS.

The discussion continued:

Paul Barry: And she [Ms Buttrose] was saying if our future prime minister tries to bully me as chairman of the ABC I will stand up to him or her. I thought that was a pretty good way of kicking off.

Rafael Epstein: Yes. Saying she would fight for funding and saying that 80 per cent of Australians think the ABC is not biased, good sign

And so it went on. In fact, Ita Buttrose did not use the word “bully” with respect to the present or any future prime minister.  Paul Barry just made this up.

[Perhaps you should have put Mr Barry’s verballing of Ms Buttrose in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment.  Just a thought.  – MWD Editor.]


MWD  also just loves it when Nine (formerly Fairfax Media) and ABC journalists quote with respect the thoughts of such shock-jocks as 2GB’s Ray Hadley (whose program also runs on 4BC and elsewhere). Yesterday Nine’s Michael Koziol wrote a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald titled “Ray Hadley condemns John Howard and Tony Abbott for ‘gross errors’ of judgment on Pell”. On ABC News Breakfast this morning, Insiders presenter Barrie Cassidy also quoted with respect from Mr Hadley.

This is what Ray Hadley had to say concerning John Howard and Tony Abbott – as published by 2GB:

A jury has found the cardinal guilty of five offences against two young boys back in the 1990s. Pell is appealing the verdict, with some claiming it was a witchhunt based on hearsay. But Ray is reminding everyone that the jury, the judge and the lawyers are the only people who have heard the victim’s testimony. This led the judge, not the jury, to describe Pell’s offences as, “callous, brazen offending, blatant offending exploiting two vulnerable boys.”         Ray has taken aim at Mr Abbott and Mr Howard in particular.

On John Howard:

John Howard, despite my admiration for him over a long period of time, I think he went way over the top in providing a reference for George Pell.

There’s no mention of any victim’s [sic] in Mr Howard’s reference and I think that doesn’t bring any great credit to the former prime minister.

Mr Howard is someone I respect hugely but this gushing reference, in my opinion, was over the top. He obviously believes Mr Pell and thinks the victim to be a liar.

On Tony Abbott

“I’m trying to understand the call by Mr Abbott but I really am struggling to get a grip on it. His electorate would be looking at all this at the moment and scratching their heads. Both Mr Howard and Mr Abbott, in my opinion, have shown a complete lack of understanding of victims of paedophiles… [and] have made gross errors of judgement.”

Ray Hadley concedes both men could be proven to be correct but has urged them to stop publicly supporting a convicted paedophile.

“They may be vindicated in an appeal but in offering their opinions at the moment, particularly Mr Howard… I think it would have been more prudent for justice to take its course before a public exhibition of their support for a now convicted paedophile.”

Ray Hadley’s comment contains errors.

▪ The judge who made the comment concerning George Pell did so on account of the fact that the jury reached a verdict of guilty.  That’s all.  If George Pell wins on appeal, the same judge would not make this statement.  To suggest otherwise is misleading and indicates a misunderstanding of criminal law.

▪ The reason there is a court of appeal in criminal cases turns on the fact that juries sometimes make mistakes.  For example, in 1921 a jury in Victoria found Colin Campbell Ross guilty of rape and murder of a twelve year old girl. Ross was hanged at Melbourne Gaol soon after. He always maintained his innocence.  The late Mr Ross received a posthumous pardon 87 years later.

▪ It is incorrect for Ray Hadley to say that there are living “victims” of George Pell.  There is only one such “victim”.  The other person died before Pell was charged – having told a family member that he had never been sexually assaulted by anyone. To refer to living victims is to imply falsely that George Pell is somehow responsible for the crimes of others.

▪ It is ridiculous to suggest that because someone does not believe a complainant or victim that this means he or she is a “liar”.  Sure, some complainants lie – as was demonstrated in the ACT Supreme Court recently.  Moreover others have memories of events which never happened.  Then there are fantasists – as was demonstrated in Britain when the claims of “Nic”, who claimed to have been sexually assaulted as a child by high profile individuals, fell apart.  And then there are many truthful complainants and victims.

Memory is complicated.  Take the view of two Australian sisters – Melbourne based Doris Brett and New York based Lily Brett. In 1997, Lily Brett wrote an autobiography titled In Full View. It covered her time growing up in Melbourne. In 2001, Doris Brett published her own memoirs titled Eating the Underworld. It discredits Lily Brett’s depiction of their mother as a depressive who sometimes screamed all night and was cruel.

One mother. Two daughters.  Two different memories.  There is no evidence that either daughter is lying.  But one, almost certainly, has a memory of events that never happened.

▪ As Waleed Aly, a Pell antagonist, acknowledges in his column in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

…I read how John Howard gave George Pell a character reference and how Tony Abbott called him as a friend once news broke of his conviction.  To be clear, I don’t begrudge these things. Character references are a normal part of the legal process after conviction and I certainly don’t believe in castigating those who provide them….

In making his comments on Messers Howard and Abbott, Ray Hadley was out of his depth. MWD says this – with respect, of course,

Can You Bear It


Gerard Henderson finds it the perfect start to a weekday when he returns from walking his canine Jackie (Dip Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute) and turns on ABC TVs News Breakfast – only to find that Scott Burchill is doing the “Newspapers” segment at around 6.45 am. Like on Monday.

Usually Dr Burchill (for a doctor he is) drops into the ABC’s Southbank studio on his way to and from the tip – and dresses accordingly.  But occasionally he is in different gear.  Like last time when the learned doctor rocked up in a suit and tie suggesting – Deakin University beware or rejoice as the case may be – that he might have been on his way to a job interview. [I’m not so sure. Perhaps, at long last, the learned doctor is about to be promoted from a senior lecturer to an associate professor and dressed up according to his new status.  Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]

On Monday, however, Scott Burchill appeared on the News Breakfast set dressed in black tee-shirt and black trousers – suggesting that he might have taken the role as coach of a local Burwood basketball team.  In any event, he quickly switched to the the role of leading the Burwood Senior Lecturers against News Corp and The Australian – as the transcript indicates:

Lisa Millar: We’re joined by Dr Scott Burchill, senior lecturer in international relations, Deakin University. Thank you very much.

Scott Burchill: Good morning

Paul Kennedy: Morning.

Scott Burchill: We’re gonna start with The Australian this morning, they’re sort of in campaign mode against Mr Shorten and the Labor Party. And another headline this morning about a $640 million hit on the banks. I’m not sure whether the public would be all that upset about a levy added onto the banks after what the royal commission revealed. But there’s also-

Paul Kennedy:  Interesting. If you read the copy though in that story there’s really no criticism about the policy. I guess we’ll have to wait to find out what half –

Lisa Millar: It’s the –

Paul Kennedy: – the money’s been spent on.

Lisa Millar: Yeah. it’s the language. The language of that headline is-

Scott Burchill: Yes, it is. It’s to give the impression that Mr Shorten – well if you look at the headlines of The Australian over the last two or three weeks, they’ve been consistently pro-conservative and anti-Labor and that will I guess remain the case for up until May….

So, what was The Australian’s headline which so enraged your man Burchill? Well, it was this: “Shorten’s $640m hit on banks”.  Scott Burchill presented this as The Australian waging war on Bill Shorten and the Labor Party.  But, how did Nine newspapers interpret the policy?  Well, the Australian Financial Review covered the story under the heading “Labor plans to slug banks $640m to pay for fairness fine”. And this was the Sydney Morning Herald’s heading “Labor to slug banks with a $640m levy for ‘fairness fund’.”

So why is it that The Australian’s reference to Labor’s “hit” on banks has a different connotation to the AFR’s and the SMH’s reference to Labor’s “slug” on banks? Scott Burchill did not say.  Perhaps he got up late and did not have time to read Nine’s newspapers before railing at The Australian. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of News Breakfast, this is what Sam Hutchinson (the co-author of the business gossip CBD column in The Age and the SMH) had to say about the Independent Zali Steggall’s campaign against the Liberal Party’s Tony Abbott in Warringah. Ms Hutchinson was commenting on The Australian’s story yesterday that Ms Steggall’s campaign is being run by a certain Anthony Reed – who was described by The Australian’s  associate editor Brad Norington as a “veteran Labor Party operative and the business partner of another Labor strategist [Darrin Barnett] who is now Dr [Kerryn] Phelps’ principal adviser”.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Sam Hutchinson: I really enjoyed this story, actually. So, Anthony Reed was a campaign manager to Kerryn Phelps during the Wentworth by-election and now he has cropped up on Zali Steggall’s campaign for Warringah. His Labor links are very well documented. He is the brother to the Federal Labor minister Sharon Bird, he was also the business partner of Darrin Barnett who works in Kerryn Phelps’ office at the moment. The Australian has drawn the links – the deep Labor links – within the Stegall and the Phelps campaign.

Lisa Millar: Which is the opposite of what has been the comments made about the Steggall campaign, that she’s a Liberal stooge.

Sam Hutchinson: A Liberal stooge and – but I mean what Zali is saying herself is that she’s a bona fide Independent. But the thing which I really enjoyed, at that bottom of this article there are some comments from Kaila Murnain, Labor’s NSW secretary, who said that both Darrin Barnett’s membership was – of the Labor Party – was cancelled when he took the job with Phelps and Anthony Reed is no longer a member of the NSW Labor Party as well. So, go figure.

Paul Kennedy: So, the use of the word “operative” is loose?

Sam Hutchinson: Yeah, I – possibly. I think it’s good that we know what their Labor links were. Are they in the past or are they present? Let’s see how the campaign rolls.

Lisa Millar: There’s going to be so much focus on that seat…

You bet. According to Lisa Millar, Zali Steggall has been described as a Liberal Party “stooge”. She did not say by whom.  It’s hard to see how the high-profile Independent candidate for Warringah could be “a Liberal stooge” when she is on record as saying that she has never voted for the Liberal Party in a Federal election. Not in 1993 (when John Hewson was leader), 1996, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013 and even 2016 (when Malcolm Turnbull was leader).  An unusual Liberal Party “stooge”, don’t you think? Needless to say, neither Ms Hutchinson nor the News Breakfast presenters saw fit to remind viewers that Ms Steggall has never voted Liberal in a Federal election. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of self-declared Independent Zali Steggall – who is getting lotsa help from one-time Labor Party operatives and who has never voted Liberal at a Federal election – it’s interesting that she is getting such favourable coverage in the Mosman Daily. For example, on 14 February 2019 the local rag ran a puff piece on Ms Steggall titled “Olympic champ races for Warringah:  Zali Steggall campaigning on climate change”.

The Mosman Daily’s intrepid reporter Andrea McCullagh had this to say about the Independent candidate’s attitude to Tony Abbott’s proposal that a tunnel should be constructed to relieve traffic congestion between areas in his electorate and the Sydney CBD.  It seems that Ms Steggall has yet to make up her mind on this proposal – as Ms McCullagh reported:

“I am in principal [sic] in favour of a tunnel but I need to understand what’s the cost, how long will it take and what has been done in terms of investigating all solutions,” she said.

The Mosman Daily (which comes out weekly) was so pleased with this quote that they ran it in the break-out on the story – see below. For its part MWD suggests that the Mosman Daily should give its principal priority to acquiring a fact-checking facility or even an old-fashioned dictionary.  Can You Bear It?


What a difference a week makes.  Let’s flash back to 17 February when Sky News’ Paul Murray Live led with the presenter declaring:

Paul Murray:  I’ve long said that no one cares about political books.  Yeah, sure, we might care about the ones about the former prime minister or serious people.  But as Melbourne University Press is changing its way, some details have come out about just how few books have actually been sold to normal people by the Twitterati – by the people who have very big Twitter followings, endless appearances over there on Channel 2 [ABC TV] and plenty of cuddles from the left.

Later on in the program, Paul Murray opined:

…As I showed you earlier in the show, Melbourne University Press have sort of made an art form out of getting – sort of political somebodies, media nobodies – to write a lot of books that get a lot of publicity. They write sort of extracts of them – they appear on television shows, all the rest of it. But no one actually buys the books. Now, with the exception of Michelle Payne….

As avid readers will be aware, your man Murray levelled his criticisms at Melbourne University Publishing authors whom he does not like.  For example, Gillian Triggs, Tony Windsor, Bill Shorten, Sarah Hanson-Young and Jane Caro.  However, PM did not mention MUP authors who are his friends and associates – including David Speers, Mark Latham and Derryn Hinch.

Now since Paul Murray seems unaware that there are such entities as bulk sales and E-books – he focused exclusively on bookshop sales.  In the process, PM bagged Bill Shorten’s For the Common Good (MUP, 2016) for having achieved 883 bookshop sales.  But PM failed to mention that his bestie Derryn Hinch’s Hinch vs Canberra had 806 bookshop sales – nearly a hundred fewer than Mr Shorten.  Some intellectual dishonesty, don’t you think?

And guess who – just a week later – bobbed up as a guest on Paul Murray Live last Sunday?  Why, no other than PML fave Dee Madigan.  So, did Mr Murray advise his viewers that Ms Madigan’s tome The Hard Sell (MUP, 2014) had 794 bookshop sales?  Not on your nelly. Can You Bear It?


Media Watch Dog’s Five Paws Award was inaugurated in Issue Number 26 (4 September 2009) during the time of Nancy (2004-2017). The first winner was ABC TV presenter Emma Alberici.  Ms Alberici scored for remembering the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 whereby Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union.  And for stating that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had effectively started the Second World War, since it was immediately followed by Germany’s invasion of Poland (at a time when the Soviet Union had become an ally of Germany).

Over the years, the late Nancy’s Five Paws Award has become one of the world’s most prestigious gongs – rating just below the Nobel Prize and the Academy Awards.  Joe Aston, of the Australian Financial Review’s “Rear Window” column, has declared that he would much prefer to win a Five Paws Award than a Walkley.  Mr Aston is a past Five Paws Award recipient. He is joined today by Claire March.

Claire March, the Melbourne-based head of lobbyist Hawker Britton’s Victorian office and Labor Party operative, appears regularly on Sky News.  On Tuesday, Ms March was on The Bolt Report when presenter Andrew Bolt asked for a  final comment following a brief discussion on the leak that Ita Buttrose was about to be appointed to the position as chair of the ABC.  Claire March supported the appointment and proferred the following comment:

Claire March: It would be great to see the ABC be a little more self-aware. I think that’s where they get a little bit sloppy. They seem to at times, you know, create new – renew the criticisms towards them by lack of self-awareness. So, I think as well as Ita at the leadership group – whether it’s confirmed or not – just some more people that have a different ideological view for them on their panels.

How about that?  Claire March is a bit of a leftist luvvie with familiar positions on all the various fashionable left of centre causes.  But she is smart enough to understand that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone – and that is reflected in how panels on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster are chosen.

You know, the various panels on ABC TV’s The Drum or on ABC Radio National Breakfast where everyone agrees with everyone else in a left-of-centre ideological way. This makes good copy for MWD’s occasional Maurice Newman Segment.  But it does not do the ABC much good – as Claire March understands.

Moreover, the Labor Party operative understands that the assertion by prominent ABC presenters like Leigh Sales and Julia Baird that the ABC is not a Conservative Free Zone is just a form of denial.  Or a lack of self-awareness, as Ms March puts it.

Claire March – Five Paws.


As avid readers are aware, MWD is the enemy of hyperbole and false prophecy (which, really, is all prophecy). So, it has decided to single out exaggerations and false predictions on a regular basis.  Here’s a couple to start with:


This is how ABC News headed a story by Michael Atkin and Andrew Dickson last Friday:

There are more properties on the market now than at any time since 2012 – and no one’s buying.

“No one” buying property? What a load of absolute tosh.  In fact on the Saturday morning after the ABC News Friday night before – around 60 per cent of properties on the market sold at auction.


And here’s how yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald commenced a story by its economics reporter Eryk Bagshaw under the heading: “ATO whistleblower unprotected, facing six life sentences.”

An Australian Tax Office whistleblower facing 161 years in prison for exposing misconduct by the ATO will not be protected by new laws passed by Parliament designed to shield those who lift the lid on abuses by Australia’s most powerful bodies. The new whistleblower protections only apply to corporations, not government employees, leaving whistleblowers exposed. Former ATO official Richard Boyle has been charged with 66 offences.

An online report in the SMH even compared Mr Boyle’s possible fate with that of serial murderer Ivan Milat who has a whole-of-life sentence and will never be released from prison in NSW. Does anyone seriously believe that, if found guilty of the charges against him, Mr Boyle will be sentenced to 161 years in the slammer – still less that he would live to serve such a term?  Turn it up.


Journalists invariably present themselves as a cynical/sceptical lot. Except when it comes to their own profession. Which explains why every couple of months or so the leading media types in the land like to get dressed up in their finest and present each other with awards. You know, the Quill awards and the Walkleys and the Australian Media Hall of Fame and so on. Why, in 2016, even hard-nosed Laurie Oakes rocked up in his finest to receive his gong at the Media Hall of Fame. Inspired by this momentum, Jackie (Dip. Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute), decided to initiate her very own awards last year – they continue this year. Join with MWD as we Look Back in Amusement at the Media Stars of 2018 over the next three months or so. One by one.

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In spite of MWD’s “Occupy Ultimo! Bring Back Bonge” campaign, Paul Bongiorno has not been restored to his paid commentary role in ABC Radio National Breakfast on Tuesdays.  Alas, since your man Bongiorno provided so many leftist rants which found their way into MWD.

In 2019, Bonge has been replaced by Nine Newspapers’ David Crowe, one of the Sydney Morning Herald/Age journalists who believed that Malcolm Turnbull should not have been replaced as Liberal leader and prime minister. On Wednesday 29 August 2018, he was a guest on ABC Radio Sydney 702’s Drive with Richard Glover program – and had this to say about the (alleged) bullying of women in the Federal Liberal Party by conservatives.

David Crowe: …But Julia Banks is the first in a sense who has gone public with this claim about just how bad the power brokers have been, how much intimidation has been going on and for her it’s just too much and she’s going to step down, well she’s going to leave parliament at the next election. Now, the saving grace here for the government is that she’s not going to go early so they’re not going to lose that seat before the election. Big question mark about what happens at the election. But she’ll do the right thing by the [Liberal] Party through to, through to the election. There was a lot of phone conversations yesterday to urge her to not go but they couldn’t change her mind about leaving at the election.

Richard Glover:  Now when you talk about intimidation David, give us a sense of what they would be saying. Would they be saying, you know, “Julia, if you don’t vote for Peter Dutton, we’re gonna work on your preselection, you’re gonna, you know” is it that sort of thing?

David Crowe: It is that sort of thing with some of the MPs who were caught up in last week’s developments because there were people who wanted to vote for Malcolm Turnbull, and they got a lot of pressure to change their vote to Peter Dutton. There are big question marks over who did what, you know, there’s always debate about those because people keep their votes secret. In Julia Banks’ case, she came into Parliament with a very good business career. She won that seat from Labor. She was the only Liberal candidate at the last election who won a seat from Labor. The seat of Chisholm, suburban Melbourne. There wasn’t a preselection threat against Julia because nobody in their right mind would say to Julia, “Sorry but we don’t want you we’re going to get somebody else”. That seat’s hard enough to hold as it is. So, in her case I don’t believe there was a preselection threat. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t –

Richard Glover:  Mmm.

David Crowe: And the way one Liberal put it out, put it to me was “there was some blokes walking around with their elbows stuck out”. You know, they were really, they were throwing their weight around and there was some heavying going on. What’s happening now is that there’s a lot of denial from those involved in the Dutton push. There’s a lot of denial about whether they were bullying. 

Richard Glover: Mmm. Is the suggestion that it was both sides or that it was all on Peter Dutton’s side?

David Crowe: The suggestion is that it’s all on Peter Dutton’s side. Because we saw what happened last week as Malcolm Turnbull called on the spill on the Tuesday [21 August 2018]. He won it by 38-45. From that point on the onus was on the Dutton camp to prove that they had a majority to get the numbers. And there was an air of desperation that crept into that campaign as the week went on because, you’ll recall, Malcolm Turnbull came out and said, “If you want another meeting, we’ve just had this vote on Tuesday, I won the vote, if you want another meeting get me a majority of MPs to sign a petition telling me they want another meeting”. And it took days for the Dutton camp to get those names on that petition. And that was a real giveaway that they didn’t have the majority they claimed.

Richard Glover:  Mmmmmmm. And I guess that-

David Crowe: And they got desperate. They started throwing their weight around.

Richard Glover:  And I guess that’s the other interesting question. And probably this is unanswerable unless you were actually in the room, but to what extent was it the leaders of this push, Dutton, Abbott, in the later days of the push, Mathias Cormann, who were elbowing people around or to what extent was it junior members of it, I won’t name them, but less significant backbenchers who took it upon themselves, maybe without the permission of those leaders, to start heavying people. 

David Crowe: I guess um, most of the stories that I’ve been hearing have been about the junior members. The backbenchers or the junior ministers who were lieutenants in a sense for Peter Dutton….

Richard Glover:  Mmm. It was female Liberal Party MPs, several of them, who complained about the bullying rather than men. Does that mean that the bullying was targeting women in particular? Or was it just that the women found it more offensive?

David Crowe: It’s hard to say. Some women have told me that they weren’t bullied….

Richard Glover:  Mmm. Yeah. I just wondered if they were, you know, because it was the women who came out, whether they were targeting the women thinking, as some men might, “oh I’ll get my way with her”.

David Crowe: I think it’s very interesting that Scott Morrison is talking about wanting to change the culture….

Richard Glover:  And you know, we’ll hear from the Prime Minister in a second but the other thing we know and it’s important to remember is the carrot and stick approach that some women were both threatened with all sorts of terrible things if they didn’t come along to the Dutton party but they were also, and we have it on authority, one of the women has gone public on this hasn’t she, that she was actually offered a ministry or some sort of promotion if she, you know, did the right thing…. There’s a coup – and I won’t particularly mention them because I don’t have enough, you know, journalistic, you know, firepower to do so, but there’s a couple of backbenchers’ names which keep on coming up as the bullies in this, will they ever get their comeuppance? Are they embarrassed about what happened? Are they sitting in their offices cockily thinking “Oh well, that’s just politics”?

David Crowe: I think that they are going to get a comeuppance. I do think that the, what happened last week was incredibly traumatic for a lot of people within the Liberal Party. And a lot of people within the federal ranks in Parliament. And that trauma won’t go away, and people will remember. That’s why the bad blood will last and it will be a problem. You mentioned, should we name any of these MPs? Well we know that some of the people doing the numbers for Peter Dutton were Michael Sukkar from Victoria, Zed Seselja from the ACT, Andrew Hastie from Western Australia, Tony Pasin from South Australia. Now, we all know that they were doing the numbers. There are questions about their behaviour. Now I’m not making accusations of bullying against any of those people because that’s contested. But there’s no doubt that they were doing the numbers for Peter Dutton, and there’s also no doubt that they didn’t do it very successfully in the end.

Richard Glover:  And those are the four that are being mentioned, but maybe one of them did it and the others didn’t. Maybe all four of them did it, you know, that’s the thing that’s difficult…

Yeah, I just wish, you know I could get those four you mentioned and get them into an ordinary workplace and tell them the rules of the sort of workplace that the 25 million other Australians work under and how unacceptable all that stuff is. And maybe, maybe it was commonplace a hundred years ago. It’s not now though. You can’t treat people like that. You can’t threaten people and bribe them and all that sort of stuff that’s said to have gone on. …

Yeah. It’s so fascinating and as you say, fascinating to think what will happen next and hard to believe that it’s all over and calm on the Western Front. Hey yeah David – thank you so much.

What a Glover/Crowe tag-team pile-on against Peter Dutton and some of his parliamentary supporters. Virtually everything was true about the discussion – except the facts.  Here’s why:

▪ No one – including Julia Banks, the Member for Chisholm – has named any person as engaging in bullying. Neither Michael Sukkar, nor Zed Seselja, nor Andrew Hastie, nor Tony Pasin have been named by Julia Banks and her supporters as bullies. None.

▪ No one has alleged that any bullying that occurred with respect to Julia Banks was done on behalf of Peter Dutton who supported the leadership spill and subsequently (unsuccessfully) contested the leadership against Scott Morrison. Why would they?

Ms Banks, a Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop supporter, was never going to support Peter Dutton in any spill or leadership ballot.  There is no evidence that the likes of Messrs Sukkar, Seselja, Hastie and Pasin even spoke to Julia Banks about the spill/leadership ballots.  It would have been a waste of time – experienced journalists like David Crowe and Richard Glover should know this.

In all leadership ballots, pressure is put on parliamentarians to a greater or lesser extent.  This is rarely called bullying.  In any event, Julia Banks told the Women’s Weekly in January 2019 that it was Scott Morrison’s supporters who put pressure on her to vote for Mr Morrison rather than Julie Bishop in the first leadership ballot after the spill.

In other words, the exchange between David Crowe and Richard Glover in the wake of the Liberal Party leadership change in August 2018 was just Fake News, to borrow a phrase.



As the “MWD Exclusive” reported on 1 February 2019 (Issue 437), on Monday 21 January 2019 the ABC TV’s News Breakfast elected to discuss the story about a group of students from the Covington Catholic High School (CCHS) in Kentucky who had (allegedly) mocked a Native American elder during a protest march in Washington DC. Some of the young students were wearing MAGA (Make America Great Again) caps. They had taken part in a Right to Life March.

Presenters Michael Rowland and Lisa Millar interviewed the Australian-based American-born Sara James in its “American in Oz” segment.  The transcript of that part of the segment involving Covington Catholic High School can be found in issue 437.  When the interview was underway, the News Breakfast producer inserted a strap at the bottom of the screen which read “Kentucky students mocked a Native American veteran”. No doubt there – see the photo here.

As it turned out, virtually everything about Sara James’ story was false.

▪ Sara James said that Nathan Phillips, an Omaha elder, was confronted by a group of CCHS students.  Wrong – as it turned out.  Rather Mr Phillips (who was taking part in an Indigenous Peoples March) confronted the students (who were taking part in the Right to Life March).

▪ Sara James said that Nathan Phillips was “a veteran of the Vietnam War”. Wrong – as it turned out. Mr Phillips did not serve in the Vietnam War.

▪ Lisa Millar said that the CCHS student Nick Sandmann was “staring at his [Phillips’] face…trying to intimidate”.  Wrong – as it turned out. Mr Sandmann merely held his ground when Nathan Phillips confronted him by banging a drum near his face.

▪ Michael Rowland declared that the 16-year-old CCHS student was exhibiting “pure hate” and added that “there are no other ways around it”.  Wrong – as it turned out.  Rather Nick Sandmann’s expression exhibited nervousness – which was not unexpected in view of the situation. How would Mr Rowland react if someone banged a drum in his face when he was minding his own business?

▪ Sara James declared “we cannot afford this kind of stuff”. Wrong – as it turned out.  The CCHS students said and did nothing to cause offence. There was no such “kind of stuff”.

▪ Lisa Millar went on to blame “the backdrop of two years since President Trump was inaugurated”.  Wrong – as it turned out. All that happened involving Donald J. Trump was that some CCHS students were wearing the cap promoted by the democratically elected president of the United States. What’s wrong with that

▪ Michael Rowland then declared that he would build a wall “right around that college…to stop those kids getting out into the public”. Wrong as it turned out. The CCHS students caused no offence and are of no danger whatsoever to the American public.

▪ Sara James concluded that the CCHS students were an example of the “toxic situation in the United States right now”.  Wrong – as it turned out. And so on.

On 29 January 2019, Gerard Henderson wrote to Michael Rowland drawing attention to the fact that News Breakfast’s initial reportage of the incident had been “completely discredited with reference to the footage taken of the event”.

Mr Rowland flicked the matter to his executive producer Emily Butselaar who replied to Gerard Henderson. Believe it or not, Ms Butselaar threw the switch to fudge and said that “the discussion fell far short of a factual statement – it was clearly an interpretation of an ambiguous statement”.

What a load of absolute tosh.  In the entire discussion on ABC TV News Breakfast, neither Sara James nor Lisa Millar nor Michael Rowland expressed any ambiguity about what had taken place.  None at all.  Moreover, Emily Butselaar did not provide any evidence to support her assertion that the discussion on the incident was ambiguous.

Subsequently, on 6 February, MWD’s avid reader Anthony Smith complained about News Breakfast’s coverage of the CCHS incident. Guess what?  He received from ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs’ operative Reena Rihan a response along the lines of what the program’s executive producer had told Gerard Henderson.  This is the thesis of Ms Rihan’s response – which was sent to Mr Smith on 18 February:

It was made clear in the discussion that the interpretation of the event was based only on the short clip, the terminology used during the segment indicated to the audience that the facts were not yet definitively established, and the first-hand account was appropriately credited as being that of Nathan Philips [sic]. ABC News viewers would readily understand that in developing stories details and interpretations are likely to change as new facts come to light.

As new information came to light about the incident, it was appropriately covered by ABC News including on ABC News Digital where the reports are still available:

Reena Rihan’s response – on behalf of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – was inadequate and inaccurate – a form of fudge-driven denial.  Here’s why:

▪ The report on News Breakfast did not indicate that “the facts were not yet definitely established”.  On the contrary, Sara James, Lisa Millar and Michael Rowland indicated that the facts as reported by them were definitely established.

▪ A news report on ABC News and ABC News Digital is not an adequate correction for a false report on a highly influential program like ABC TV News Breakfast.

▪ Also, in her response to Anthony Smith, Reena Rihan made the following comment:

On 21 January, ABC News Breakfast featured a discussion with Sara James as part of a regular segment “American in Oz” where some of the biggest stories in the United States are covered. The discussion included a number of ongoing events including the government shutdown and the footage being widely shared on social media about an incident at the Indigenous Peoples March/March for Life rally.

The statement is false.  There was no such entity as “the Indigenous Peoples March/March for Life rally” – rather there were two distinct rallies.  The ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs operative just made this up.  The fact is that Nick Sandmann was in the March for Life rally.  And Mr Phillips moved from his Indigenous Peoples March to confront the 16-year-old CCHS student.  Mark Sandmann did not confront the Omaha elder.

As MWD has argued consistently, it’s simply a waste of time taking complaints against ABC presenters to ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs. After all, ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs rejects over 95 per cent of complaints it decides to hear.  And, where necessary, it defends the indefensible to protect such high-profile ABC presenters and commentators as Lisa Millar, Michael Rowland and Sara James.

This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson about something or other. And Hendo, being a courteous and well-brought up kind of guy, replies. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its avid readers.

There are occasions, however, when Jackie’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order. Publication in MWD invariably follows. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply. Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record – and in the public interest, of course.

As MWD readers are aware, The Guardian Australia’s deputy editor Katharine Murphy put out the following tweet on 6 June 2014 at 4.33 pm – when that issue of MWD was “hot off the press”. Here is Ms Murphy’s tweet: “Without in any way wanting to breach anyone’s human rights or free speech – why do people write emails to Gerard Henderson?” It’s a very good question. Thankfully, not everyone follows Katharine Murphy’s wise counsel – not even Ms Murphy herself (See MWD Issue 297).


Many a journalist goes into denial when an error is made. That’s why media hypes are so reluctant to issue apologies or even make corrections.  This is particularly the case at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

On 27 February, Hendo pointed out to Richard Glover that he had made a mistake with respect to the Melbourne Response which was established by George Pell in 1996.  Your man Glover did not like to be corrected. Read on as Mr Glover advises that he has written an article in the Washington Post blog. Guess what? – it contained a reference to Cardinal Pell’s “dandruff”.

Gerard Henderson to Richard Glover – 27 February 2019


You made an inaccurate comment on your Drive program after 5 pm yesterday which, I believe, should be corrected. Here it is:

Richard Glover:  Okay but one of the things he [George Pell] really did have a lot of carriage of was over the so-called Melbourne Response. In other words, the Church’s response to child sexual abuse allegations. And they’ve, it’s always been controversial.  It’s always been said by bodies like the Victorian Police that they were worried about the way this operated, the way it might have shut down victims.

This assertion is wrong. George Pell, when Archbishop of Melbourne, set up the Melbourne Response in 1996 in co-operation with Victoria Police. Indeed, a joint media statement was released at the time.  It is not true that Victoria Police “always” opposed the Melbourne Response.

Archbishop Pell (as he then was) acted at the urgings of the (then) premier of Victoria Jeff Kennett and the (then) governor of Victoria Richard McGarvie. Victoria Police approved of George Pell’s initiative at the time and in the early years of the scheme’s operation.

Victoria Police changed its attitude to the Melbourne Response some years later.  This was accepted by the Victorian Parliamentary Committee on child sex abuse which recognised that Victoria Police had made inaccurate comments to its enquiry.

If you are going to make comments outside your area of competence you should engage a fact-checker.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

PS:  On 30 October 1996 Victoria Police issued a statement on the Melbourne Response titled “Police Support Catholic Church Initiatives to Combat Sexual Abuse”.


Richard Glover to Gerard Henderson – 27 February 2019

Hi Gerard, I took that from the Marr Quarterly Essay, page 3, where he directly quotes a statement from Victoria Police.


Gerard Henderson to Richard Glover – 27 February 2019


As you should be aware, David Marr is one of George Pell’s antagonists. You should not believe everything a journalist writes – or quotes.  As I indicated, Victoria Police changed its position on the Melbourne Response.  Also, the Victorian Parliamentary Committee on Child Abuse accepted that some of the evidence presented to it by Victoria Police re the Melbourne Response was inaccurate.

I will send you the joint media statement by the Archdiocese of Melbourne and Victoria Police announcing the establishment of the Melbourne Response if you wish.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


Richard Glover to Gerard Henderson – 27 February 2019


In case you’re interested I did a blog piece for the Washington Post, which I hope was balanced (among other things it linked to the Eureka Street piece.)


Gerard Henderson to Richard Glover – 27 February 2019


I note that you have avoided discussing the error you made on ABC Radio yesterday re Cardinal George Pell and the Melbourne Response. Convenient, eh?  I guess you are continuing the ABC tradition of not correcting errors.

As to your blog piece in the Washington Post – do you really believe that it is balanced?  You even refer to GP’s dandruff.  I do not know why you bothered to invite him on your 702 program so often if he was “always cold and imperious” – it must have made for dull radio.

I note that the only person you quote re George Pell is another Pell antagonist (like David Marr).  Apparently, that’s “balance” to you.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


Gerard Henderson had not received an invitation to appear on Q&A for almost six years when – out of the blue in February 2017 – he was asked to help out by joining the panel to take on John Pilger.  Hendo was tempted – but did not see that he owed Q&A the favour of joining the panel at late notice.  In the event, your man Pilger appears to have had a better offer and Hendo found he had a conflicting commitment.  Another similar situation occurred in April 2018 – with the same result.

Next Monday’s Q&A panel was originally announced by Tony Jones last Monday as comprising Tony Burke (Labor), Jim Molan (Liberal) along with Shmuley Boteach, Teena McQueen and Ruby Hamad. Following the news that Cardinal George Pell had been convicted of child sexual assault in Victoria last December, Q&A decided to change the panel.  Mr Burke, Ms McQueen and Ms Hamad are “out”.  It was later announced that they were replaced by Kristina Keneally, Viv Waller and later still Francis Sullivan.

Again at late notice, Gerard Henderson was invited to appear on the panel –to take on Dr Waller since Q&A could not find anyone else.

For the third time in a row, Hendo declined to oblige – for the very same reasons as before.  He proposed someone associated with the Pell legal team and/or Age journalist John Silvester whose article titled “Convicted without fear or favour?” appeared in The Age yesterday. It was also published in Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald under the heading “Beyond reasonable doubt: Was Pell convicted without fear or favour?” – but not in Nine’s Canberra Times.

Needless to say, Q&A rejected Hendo’s advice and elected to have a panel which now contains three Pell antagonists, Viv Waller, Kristina Keneally and Francis Sullivan – along with Jim Moylan and Shmuley Boteach.  Here we go:

Lindsay Olney to Gerard Henderson – 27 February 2019

Hi Gerard

Lindsay Olney here, how are you?

We are making some changes to our Monday March 4 Q&A line up because of the Pell decision. We have Kristina K and Jim Molan on the panel and I’m hoping to find someone who can speak in defence of the cardinal and offer a counter view to the lawyer Viv Waller who is also on the panel. I’m not sure who’s on the insiders line up on Sunday, but if you are not would you be able to consider Monday night?

Kind regards



Gerard Henderson to Lindsay Olney – 28 February 2019


Your invitation by text late last night to appear on Q&A on Monday is appreciated.

Despite being very busy, I would have accepted it if I had a regular relationship with the program. But, as you know, this is not the case – despite what I understand had been your intention to use me more on Q&A. So, I decline.

As you are aware, I have appeared on Q&A twice since the program commenced in May 2008. On 7 February 2011 – after which I received considerable praise for my performance by Q&A staff.  And on 19 September 2011 – after which Tony Jones told me I was a “natural” for the program.  Then the invitations dried up.

After 2011, I was only invited twice on the program.  On both occasions at very late notice since Q&A could not find someone suitable to tackle difficult topics.  Like yesterday’s invitation.  In February 2017, when you told me that you needed someone capable of taking on John Pilger (he subsequently withdrew from the program). And again, in April 2018 when you phoned me to seek advice about who could tackle a difficult topic and then suggested that I should do the job. Both invitations arrived very late and I had existing commitments on both nights.

And now – again at late notice – you have invited me on Q&A because you need someone to take on Vivian Waller SC. I’m supposed to give up a night for no payment to help Q&A out.

As I advised you when we last spoke, I believe that the standard of Q&A has declined in recent years – along with its ratings.  At times (but not last Monday) the audience resembles a baying leftist mob – irrespective of how it is presented as being “balanced” at the commencement of the program.

Since Dr Waller is the legal advocate for the man who gave evidence against Cardinal Pell – it would seem to me that a proper balance would be to invite someone who has given legal advice to the Pell team.

Alternatively, since (as I understand it) Viv Waller is not a Catholic – it would seem to me that a proper balance would be to invite a non-Catholic who has expressed doubt about Pell’s conviction. Perhaps John Silvester who (as I understand it) is not a Catholic.  John Silvester had an important article in The Age and the SMH this morning.

Either suggestion – if accepted – would provide real “balance”.

In any event, I will watch next Monday’s Q&A. It frequently provides material for my Media Watch Dog blog.  I will probably write about the Pell case in my Weekend Australian column on Saturday.

Best wishes


PS:  You may tell your colleagues that I am willing to speak to any ABC program about the Pell case – including a discussion with Louise Milligan (whom, I expect would lack the courage to debate with me since she refuses to respond to any of my questions). So far, I have not been invited to discuss the Pell case on Four Corners, 7.30, News Breakfast, AM, The World Today, PM, RN Breakfast, Late Night Live, Breakfast with Jon Faine, Drive with Richard Glover etc. It seems that Pell antagonist David Marr is the “go-to” expert when the public broadcaster seeks a comment on Cardinal Pell.


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Until next time.


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