24 JUNE 2011

“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”

Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.

“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time.  Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep.

For example, peruse the correspondence he’s published in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask: “Hendo, are you OK?”

– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.

“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”

– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011

“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”

– ABC News Radio’s Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.

Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick” – Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.

“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work” – Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.

Stop Press: Laura Tingle’s Differing Standards; Melissa Clarke – History Lite; John Hewson Contradicts John Hewson

Five Paws Award: Lindsay Tanner On The Age As Greens’ Propaganda

New Fantasy Segment: Featuring Tony Jones (This week)

A Deborah Cameron Moment :  On Tony Abbott, Guy Fawkes etc

Can You Bear It?  Let’s Hear From Nick Dyrenfurth, Andrew Bolt, Jason Steger, John Pilger & Noam Chomsky

Maurice Newman Segment: 7.30 NSW’s One-Sided ASIO Story

● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week – Guest Comment:  Tigger on Go Back Where You Came From

History Corner: On Bert Evatt’s Sanity – With Help From Mark  Latham

● Correspondence: ABC’s Anne Maria Nicholson – Sourceless in Cate Blanchett Land


▪ Laura Tingle’s Last Stand

Terrific piece in today’s Australian Financial Review by its political editor Laura Tingle.  La Tingle banged on about standards in the House of Representatives as follows:

Go anywhere in the country more than one step away from Parliament House and be confronted by people asking: “How do you possibly stand it? It is just too awful.” Be assured it feels perhaps even more awful here.  By yesterday, federal politics was a perfect storm of much noise, much all-round unhappiness and nothing much seeming to happen.

So there you have it.  Standards among politicians in Parliament House are just awful – according to the AFR’s political editor.  And here’s an example of the higher standards in the Canberra Parliamentary Press Gallery – it appeared in the AFR on 3 December 2010:

The last time Australia had much of a political debate on labour-force participation, the Coalition was in one of its more cheerful phases of beating up on blacks and disability pensioners. That was back before it discovered the untapped political potential of boat people.

And who was the author of this mild-mannered and oh-so-balanced piece of analysis?  Step forward La Tingle.  As someone in the country – no more than one bound away from Parliament House –  told Nancy at the time: “How do you possibly stand monitoring Canberra journalism?  It’s just too awful.”

▪ Melissa  Clarke Remembers A Past Which Seldom Existed

Then there was sassy Melissa Clarke on ABC TV News Breakfast this morning – also carrying on about the level of political debate. Let’s go to the transcript where Ms Clarke agreed with Virginia Trioli:

Virginia Trioli: It’s really a difficulty for everyone who’s interested in representative democracy in this country. Because there’s really not a single person around I know who works in the Gallery and who views politics from outside who doesn’t look at the Parliament now with a real sense of despair at what they see going on.

Melissa Clarke: The level of debate, as we’ve talked about a number of times, is not high at the moment. There is a lot of political point scoring going on. And the consequence is that the policy debate that you would normally get that brings us to – to positions and to consensus isn’t happening. And I think we’re seeing that on a whole new level that we haven’t seen before. It’s being ramped up by the Coalition at this point…We today have Scott Morrison, the Opposition Immigration spokesman, heading to Malaysia to check out conditions for himself, as he says, about the Government’s Malaysia deal. And this is the second time he’s gone overseas on an act that will no doubt paint – where he will paint the government in a poor light. And that’s traditionally something that Oppositions haven’t done is take the domestic political fight into that foreign political or that international sphere. And it’s certainly sees a different framing of Parliament at the moment and certainly not a positive one of the state of public debate.

Hang on.  Has anyone at ABC TV heard of Gough Whitlam’s visit to China, as Opposition leader, in 1971?  At the time this seemed remarkably like Labor taking the domestic political fight into the foreign policy sphere.  Also, when was the last time an Opposition decided it was a you-beaut idea to be in consensus with the government on a whole range of issues?

Will The Real John Hewson Please Stand Up?

In today’s Australian Financial Review, the former Liberal Party leader writes that  Gillard Government ministers are “disturbingly  arrogant” and that “if they worked in the private sector they most probably wouldn’t have a job”.

John (“Call me Doctor”) Hewson claims that “Julia Gillard has gone off half-cocked with her responses on a carbon price” and complains that the legislation “will not be available until September”. He is also critical of the Prime Minister complicating her decision to put a price on carbon by virtue of the fact that it is “a direct breach of a pre-election promise”.

Then, in today’s Spectator Australia, the former Liberal leader is full of praise for Julia Gillard and her government’s stance on carbon tax.  John (“Call me Doctor”) Hewson declares that the Prime Minister is set to “produce the most important transformation of our society this century” and praises her “visionary plans to reduce our carbon footprint”.  The learned doctor rejoices that Julia Gillard has “shown genuine leadership when public opinion was blowing up in her face”.

Work this out if you can.  Are there two John Hewsons?  Or just one confused John Hewson?



Here’s a BIG STORY which was not reported in The Age in the month of June.

On Thursday 2 June – when talking to Jon Faine and Waleed Aly on 774’s “The Conversation Hour” – the former Labor minister declared that The Age has become the voice of the Greens.  This has been a constant theme of Nancy’s co-owner over recent years. So it’s good to see Lindsay Tanner on this particular cart – even if his wisdom was not covered in “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Lindsay Tanner: I think The Age is almost an advertising journal for the Greens….

Jon Faine: That’s interesting. Because they knocked you off in your – well they knocked off your seat; they didn’t knock you off but –

Lindsay Tanner: No no. I’ve been saying that for a number of years actually….

Waleed Aly: Because a lot of people would say it’s an advertising journal for Labor.

Lindsay Tanner: Well, those people would be wrong.

Quite right. The Age, like much of the ABC, attacks both the Coalition and Labor from the left. Page 151 of his book Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy, Lindsay Tanner had this to say about “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”:

In recent years, the Age has become slavishly pro-Green, sometimes running articles about the party that are almost advertisements for it.  The Age’s content is heavily oriented to the outlook of affluent, educated, and progressive people living in Melbourne’s inner and eastern suburbs.  Whether its advocacy for the Greens is a market-research-driven response to the preferences of its readers is difficult to say.

If sales of, and advertising in, The Age has a message – it is that The Age’s pro-Greens agenda has not made any market sense.  There is no future in a newspaper appealing to a small inner-city leftist readership – many of whom do not buy the paper but, rather, read it online – while dismissing the views of those who buy and advertise in The Age in the suburbs of Melbourne and in regional Victoria. Alas, this part of Lindsay Tanner’s Sideshow was not covered by “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”’s intrepid reporters.




Wasn’t it fun last Monday when Q&A presenter Tony Jones hosted a panel of 20 somethings – all “members of Generation Y”. [How do you join up? Ed].

It was not long before Tony Jones – whose age, like that of Kerry O’Brien, is something of a state secret (See MWD passim) – was declaring how life was more radical in his day. Yawn.  The Jones comment came after young businessman Ruslan Kogan declared that “setting up a Facebook or setting up a blog….is a lot more effective than 400 people running around in the street turning cars over”. Whereupon Tony Jones made this comment – which was taken as a comment:

Well, I’ve got to tell you that I was involved in a generation that went out in the streets, turned cars over during the Vietnam War. So maybe there were other generations that were involved heavily in politics and street demonstrations.

Go on. How many cars did Young Mr Jones and his mates turn over during the Vietnam War?  More to the point, how many cars were turned over in Australia during the time of Australia’s Vietnam commitment?

MWD has a relatively good memory but cannot recall any serious acts of civil insurrection during the Vietnam War.  Certainly there were some violent demonstrations – but not of the scale that led to cars being overturned and/or burnt on the streets.

And then there is the matter of age.  According to the Newington College Register of Past Students, Tony Jones attended this private school in Sydney between 1970 and 1974.  This suggests that he was born circa 1956.  All Australian combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam by the end of 1971 – around this time Master Jones was in Year 9.

It would be radical – and oh, so exciting – to envisage Master Jones (aged 15) dressed in his Newington College uniform busy over-turning other people’s cars in the streets of Stanmore – before going home for an afternoon of English tea and cucumber sandwiches.  However, there is no evidence that Tony Jones – or members of his generation – engaged in such activities. That is, of the car-turning-over variety. They certainly had lotsa cucumber sandwiches.

It seems that young Tony Jones’ essential radical activity during the 1970s involved him taking the train – along with a packed lunch – all the way to Wahroonga on Sydney’s North Shore.  There Young Tony Jones sat at the feet of the radical eccentric fantasist Francis James – the one-time editor of The  Anglican newspaper – and was mightily impressed.

Mr James was one of those people whose clearest recollections were of events which never happened.  For example, for years he claimed to have to had received a “leak” and broken the story in The Anglican of the Menzies Government’s decision to commit Australian combat forces to Vietnam in 1965.  Great story.  It’s just that it never happened (See Peter Edwards, “Time distorts memories”, The Bulletin, 6 July 1993).

Just like Tony Jones’ claim that his generation overturned cars during the Vietnam War never happened.  As Nancy says: “We’ll take that as a fantasy.”


Tuesday.  It’s a busy day on Metropolitan Radio 702’s Green-Left-Daily program. So presenter Deborah Cameron may find it difficult to mount her regular sneer at Opposition leader Tony Abbott.  No, wait. The program is running a story on how Hollywood stunt men and women want recognition in the Academy Awards.  So why not try this introduction:

Deborah Cameron : We’ll talk about stunts. Some people say that Mr. Abbott might win an Oscar for some of his. Trouble is he can’t even put his nomination forward because the Academy of Film Arts and Sciences says that they don’t want to give an award to any stuntmen. So we’ll talk this morning to a true stuntman and ask him about the work he does and whether or not he thinks it really is worth an academy award. All of that and much more…

So, there you have it.  Tony Abbott has nothing to do with the Academy Awards – but what does that matter?  Believe it or not, Ms Cameron still complains from time to time that the Opposition leader will not come on her program.  Who knows, perhaps he listens to it.

Thursday.  Alison Carabine, the very able Radio National Breakfast political reporter, rarely gets a gig on Radio National Breakfast.  So she ends up most mornings talking to Deborah Cameron on 774. It must be an onerous job correcting Ms Cameron’s bon mots – which are invariably followed by (Cameron) laughter.  Today Ms Cameron refers to Tony Abbott’s “blowing up Parliament” – and is corrected by gentle Ms Carabine. [Might our Deb have confused Mr Abbott with Mr Fawkes? – Ed].

Friday.  Deborah Cameron repeats her mantra that at the 2010 election Australian voters were “completely torn between two unpalatable options”. This is a Greens interpretation of the 2010 result.  In fact, some 81 per cent of  Australian voters expressed a preference for either Labor or the Coalition – and the remaining 19 per cent voted for the Greens, Independents and the like. Clearly 81 per cent of Australian voters did not believe that both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott were “unpalatable” in August 2010. Quite the contrary.

Verily, many A Deborah Cameron Moment this week.


▪ Nick Dyrenfurth’s Double Standard

It is no news to MWD that the Crikey newsletter (publisher Eric Beecher) lacks a fact-checker.  So Crikey provided an easy target for academic Nick Dyrenfurth in The Australian yesterday. Dyrenfurth had this to say about a Guy Rundle piece on the Labor Party which was published in Crikey on 10 June 2011.

Writing in the Crikey, Guy Rundle delivered a eulogy of sorts, explaining how Labor’s troubles echoed older analyses, namely “Gordon Childe’s [sic] How Labor [sic] Governs of 1912 [sic] his excoriating attack on Queensland’s  professional machine Theodore [sic] government.

Reading such pretension made Nancy feel a little [sic].  What Guy Rundle should have written was “Vere Gordon Childe’s How Labour Governs of 1923, his excoriating attack on the New South Wales’ professional machine Storey government”.  [Does anyone care? – Ed].

The point is this.  Should Dr Dyrenfurth (for a doctor he is) be lecturing Guy Rundle about errors? This is the very same Nick Dyrenfurth who co-editored a book All That’s Left which contains neither footnotes, nor endnotes, nor bibliography – and who refuses to answer correspondence requesting that he provide documentary evidence for his assertions.  See MWD Issue 96.

So the very same Nick Dyrenfurth who mocks, Guy Rundle’s “reign of error” in Crikey wants to take the 5th Amendment (so to speak) rather than tell Gerard Henderson what are the sources for the references to him in All That’s Left. Can you bear it?

A Bolt For The Blue

In the Herald-Sun­ last Saturday, Andrew Bolt wrote that when the perennial hand-holder Christine Nixon was Victorian Police Commissioner – “the force was subjected to an almost Maoist program of re-education”.  Not really.  Comrade Nixon was into hand-holding, process, management-speak, media spin and office babble of the “I feel your pain” variety.  Comrade Mao was into mass murder, labour camps and forced starvation.  There is a difference.

Under Commissioner Nixon, the Victorian Police were more like Me’ow than Mao.  Can you bear it?

Jason Steger Sugar-Coats Che And Fidel

Meanwhile Jason Steger, “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”’s literary editor, wrote glowingly in The Age last Monday about Melbourne leftist David Deutschmann. You see, the Melbourne leftie – who runs Ocean Press – has made a mint publishing the work of the late Che Guevara and plans to publish Fidel Castro’s memoirs.

According to Mr Steger, Che Guevara was an “iconic revolutionary of the 1960s”. No mention of the fact that he was also into murder.  Here is how Jason Steger’s story – complete with a colour photo of Comrade Deutschmann exhibiting a black and white photo of Comrade Che – ended:

He’s still a friend of Che’s widow. ”I have had a close working relationship with Aleida but also a close personal relationship, I think. I have been with her when she’s talked about Che, cried about him and we have hugged together.” He has persuaded her to write a book, to be called ”Remembering Che: My Life with Che Guevara”. Che’s old comrade, Fidel Castro, is using his downtime to write his memoirs. Ocean Press hopes to publish them next year.

Fancy that.  And does Mr Deutschmann plan to hug Fidel Castro any time soon?  What was missing from Jason Steger’s report was any recognition of the fact that Castro’s Cuba remains an economically incompetent communist dictatorship which persecutes intellectuals and homosexuals – among others. Can you bear it?

John Pilger & Noam Chomsky: A Rationalisation Update

One of Nancy’s London-based mates has drawn attention to an article in The Guardian by George Monbiot (13 June 2011). Monbiot comments on the publication of a book by Edward Herman titled The Srebrenica Massacre which claims that the 8000 deaths at Srebrenica are “an unsupportable exaggeration; the true figure may be closer to 800”. This follows the publication of The Politics of Genocide by Edward Herman and David Petersen last year – in which the authors claimed that Serb forces “incontestably had not killed any but Bosnian Muslim men of military age”.  The book also contains a revisionist account of the Rwandan genocide.

The left-of-centre George Monbiot makes the point that leftists John Pilger and Noam Chomsky both endorsed the Herman/Petersen book.  John Pilger is a former winner of the Sydney Peace Prize and Noam Chomsky will receive this year’s gong.  Can you bear it?


This increasingly popular segment is devoted to analysing ABC chairman Maurice Newman’s suggestion that there is a “group-think” ethos extant in the public broadcaster – and the ABC Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes’ refutation of any such claim.  See MWD passim.

Last Friday, 7.30 NSW previewed the Persons of Interest: the ASIO files exhibition currently showing at the Justice & Police Museum in Sydney.

Quentin Dempster was the presenter and Greg Miskelly was the journalist.  Here’s  who Mr Miskelly interviewed, in order of appearance.

▪ Heydn Keenan – curator of the exhibition.  He bagged ASIO.  In particular, Keenan criticised ASIO’s surveillance of author Frank Hardy.  But the program did not mention that Hardy was a long-time member of the Communist Party of Australia which was linked to, and partly funded by, the Soviet Union in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

▪ David McKnight – 7.30 NSW’s historian for the occasion.  He also was critical of ASIO, for the most part at least.  The program did not mention that, as a young man, McKnight was a Communist Party member and that he is a leftist academic of long-standing.

▪ Roger Milliss – 7.30 NSW did mention that his father, also named Roger Milliss, was a one-time Communist Party member.  The program covered his criticisms of the Petrov Commission on Espionage but did not mention that some Australians spied for the Soviet Union in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

▪ Fr David Smith.  The Anglican priest was interviewed in the segment covering contemporary Islamist terrorism.  He defended a Sheikh Mansour Leghaei, a non-citizen, who was deported to  Iran for security reasons unrelated to terrorism.  The program did not mention that there have been a number of convictions in Australian courts for terrorism related activities.

It was one of those ABC occasions where Quentin Dempster essentially agreed with Greg Miskelly who essentially agreed with Heydn Keenan who essentially agreed with David McKnight who essentially agreed with David Smith who essentially agreed with Quentin Dempster.

7.30 NSW could not find one commentator in all of Australia who would defend ASIO’s operations during the Cold War or in the current war on terror.  Not one.

Maurice Newman: 3

Jonathan Holmes: Zip




Go Back To Where You Came From – the title of the SBS documentary says it all. Who precisely does this alleged opinion represent? Not the government nor the opposition, who, apart from a difference on temporary protection visas, accept that most refugees will ultimately be settled here. Not those who write letters-to-the-editor in the papers. The title shows that the producers of the program stereotype ordinary Australians as red-necked racist bogans. It’s a straw man they can keep knocking down over a three part series.

Go Back To Where You Came From is a classic case of “push polling”, where you pretend to sample public opinion but in fact  pressurise participants so that by the end they will (surprise, surprise!) be converted to progressive views, acceptable in this instance to SBS types. The desired aim is to get them to support the decision of refugees to become boat people.

But to suddenly dump unprepared people into extreme situations does not lead to true understanding. It leads to guilt, which is not an emotion conducive to enlightenment. It’s called the eye-witness fallacy, the weakness of seeing only one aspect of a multi-faceted phenomenon.  The participants have little choice but to move in the direction of the program’s producers.  An overview of all the interlocked problems is needed, which the program did not provide.

Some years ago an American outfit held a day of indicative polling at Old Parliament House where they noted people’s opinions at the start, and then found by the end (surprise, surprise!) the participants had come out, after a day of propaganda purporting to be discussion, with their views moving sharply to the left, which one suspects was the preconceived aim.

The plight of refugees, both in camps and as boat people, is a genuine tragedy which deserves better consideration than for widespread suffering to be used for low grade entertainment and opinion forming propaganda along the lines of Master Chef and Survivor.   It’s the unreality of so-called “reality TV” which is the problem.



Writing in Crikey on 15 June 2011, former Labor leader Mark Latham defended his predecessor Bert Evatt (who led Labor from June 1951 until February 1960). Mr Latham described Dr Evatt as a “great Labor leader” and concluded:

While not without flaws, Evatt remains the most brilliant jurist and foreign minister Australia has of our few statesmen to have had a lasting impact on international affairs, through his work in establishing the United Nations. Gerard Henderson’s campaign questioning his sanity is shameful. Certainly Gough Whitlam, who worked closely with Evatt in the Labor Caucus in the 1950s, believes the Labor leader was sharp of mind and intellect. Whitlam never saw any sign of deterioration.

Mark Latham, one of the most inconsistent thinkers in contemporary Australian politics, has a short memory – as The Latham Diaries (MUP 2005) attest.

▪ In his entry for Tuesday 19 March 1996, Mark Latham declared: “Evatt and Calwell were three-times losers.  Bert Evatt led the ALP to defeat in 1954, 1955 and 1958.  Arthur Calwell did likewise in 1961, 1963 and 1966.

▪ In his entry for Thursday 30 August 2001, Mark Latham wrote about (then) Labor leader Kim Beazley, whom he despised:

A special meeting of Caucus first thing today to confirm Beazley’s decision to vote against the Border Protection Bill.  He could have been Evatt talking the day after [Vladimir] Petrov, as he told us: “We may have the public against us, but we will win the next election on this once we get our message out”.  Overnight he has become a big, big target. I have always thought the historical parallel was between Beazley and Calwell, but I was wrong. It is between Beazley and Evatt.

So there you have it.  According to Mark Latham, Bert Evatt is (i) a three times loser who was as bad as Kim Beazley and (ii) a great Labor leader.  Take your pick.

Mark Latham also declared that Bert Evatt was quite sane – based on an unsourced claim from Gough Whitlam.  This is not a view shared by many who knew or studied Evatt – as the following examples demonstrate.  Here we go.

▪ John Douglas Pringle, who had a lengthy meeting with Dr Evatt shortly after the ALP defeat in the May 1954 Federal election, wrote in his book Have Pen Will Travel that Evatt “seemed temporarily unhinged”. According to Pringle, the Labor leader spoke of conspiracies but “it was impossible to tell from his ravings just what he meant”.

▪ Robert Murray in The Split referred to the decline in Dr Evatt’s “mental stability” which took place around the mid 1950s.

▪ Sir Paul Hasluck in Diplomatic Witness commented on Bert Evatt’s genuine deep affection for little children but pointed out that once “anyone passed the age of four he became suspicious of them…”.

▪ Professor McMahon Ball wrote that even during the immediate post-war period “the mental illness which brought the great pity and sadness of his [Evatt’s] last years was already incipient and active” (The Age, 26 June 1980).

▪  In her study Australia and the Indonesian Revolution, Dr Margaret George referred to Evatt’s “schizophrenic volte-faces” as a diplomat.

▪  Dr Nugget Coombs has written in Trial Balance of Dr Evatt’s “…tendency to suspect people around him of disloyalty…on the most trifling of evidence.”

▪  In Evatt: A Life, Peter Crocker assessed Dr Evatt with reference to material he unearthed in Commonwealth government archives and through interviews with politicians and public servants who knew the former ALP leader well.  He presented a portrait of a man who “lined his chest with newspapers to shield against the cold” and “once carried fishing lines should his aircraft come down in the sea and food be needed before rescuers arrived”. (See MWD Issue 98).

▪  In their sympathetic assessment Doc Evatt: Patriot, Internationalist, Fighter and Scholar, co-authors Ken Buckley, Barbara Dale and Wayne Reynolds suggested that their subject may have exhibited “manifestations of deep seated malady: epilepsy”. They also quoted Hartley Grattan to the effect that “Evatt was probably neurotic most or even all of his life”.

▪  In the television documentary Doc: A Portrait of Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt, Pat Fiske and David McKnight maintained that Evatt suffered from a serious medical condition in the latter years of his life which they identified as arteriosclerosis.  Fiske and McKnight commented that Dr Evatt’s “health was declining” and that his “mental functioning had been deteriorating probably for some time”.  They were referring to Bert Evatt’s behaviour in the second half of the 1950s – i.e. just few years after the Labor Split of 1954-55.

▪ Sam Atyeo, Bert Evatt’s confidant, once said that Evatt could “for the most trivial things, be thrust into the blackest moods with constant aggressive manner” (Quoted in Peter Crockett Evatt: A Life).

▪ Alan Dalziel referred to Dr Evatt’s habit of covering himself in a rug when he was “deeply irate”. (Quoted in Peter Crockett Evatt: A Life).

▪ In his book Barwick, David Marr referred to Bert Evatt’s appearance as counsel for the Commonwealth Government during the Bank Nationalisation Case, which was heard by the High Court of Australia.  Hearings commenced in Melbourne in February 1948 – in the midst of a sweltering Melbourne summer.  On the first day of hearings on 9 February 1948, the temperature was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Evatt opened for the Commonwealth on 26 February 1948.  David Marr takes up the story:

There was some curiosity to see how Evatt would handle himself in front of his old court. Interest had been heightened by his peculiar behaviour in the first weeks of the case.  He was displaying a morbid fear of catching cold and dying.  It was again sweltering.  Once day he looked up at the windows and called one of his clerks, “Shut the windows”. [Chief Justice John] Latham watched the clerk pulling at the strings that operated the windows high up on the side walls.  Once shut, Latham sent his tipstaff to open them again.  The opening and closing went on for a while until Evatt called his clerk and gave a fresh order:  “Get me a rug”.  The clerk returned a little later from Myers, a department store nearby, with a tartan rug wrapped in brown paper. Evatt undid the parcel on top of the Bar table, and after flapping the rug open, wrapped it round his legs and sat down.

To MWD – as to Dr Evatt’s contemporaries as well as to those who have studied him – this seems like behaviour which is something less than fully sane.  However, according to Mark Latham there was no sign of mental deterioration in the man they called “The Doc” during the 1950s.  Crikey.

MWD will return to the subject soon – assessing the view of Mark Latham (Superannuated, Camden) that Bert Evatt was not really responsible for the Labor Split of the 1950s.



Presenting the ABC TV’s Media Watch program on 6 June 2011, Jonathan Holmes issued – on behalf of the public broadcaster – an apology to former ABC TV Sydney newsreader Angela Pearman.

You see, when presenting Media Watch in 1991 Stuart Littlemore QC (for a QC he is) falsely claimed that Ms Pearman had faked an interview with John Lombard – then the ABC’s reporter in Moscow – and so deceived her audience.  The accusation was repeated in 2009 when Jonathan Holmes presented a self-serving special on occasion of Media Watch’s 20th anniversary.

It turned out that there was no fake interview in 1991 and Angela Pearman did not deceive anyone.  And it only took the ABC two decades to apologise.  That’s all. Just a mere 20 years – which is not too bad for the ABC when it comes to admitting errors.

As indicated in MWD Issue 98, Gerard Henderson wrote to Anne Maria Nicholson on 9 June 2011 seeking information about her sources in a news story on Cate Blanchett.  Ms Nicholson did not reply – but the matter was referred upwards to Donald Lange, Head of News Programming. Mr Lange wrote to Gerard Henderson on 14 June 2011.

The response took only two working days.  But Mr Lange attempted to argue – on behalf of the ABC – that white is, in fact, black. Gerard Henderson wrote to Mr Lange again on 15 June 2011 – but he did not reply.

Then, lo and behold, Heather Forbes – Manager, Audience Liaison ABC News – also got a guernsey in the (developing) saga.  She wrote to Gerard Henderson on 17 June 2011 – also arguing that white is black.  Gerard Henderson responded to Ms Forbes on 21 June 2011 – but she, too, did not reply.

Now, after over two weeks, the ABC still has not said what were the sources for Anne Maria Nicholson’s initial assertion. Ms Nicholson did not respond – and Mr Lange and Ms Forbes initially went into denial and then refused to enter into any further correspondence.

The correspondence is printed out below. You be the judge. However, MWD’s view is that all three ABC employees have declined to act in accordance with nice Mr Scott’s instructions of October 2010 (see MWD Issue 33) that ABC staff should develop thicker skins and admit and correct errors quickly when they occur.

In his letter to ABC staff on 2 October 2010 Mark Scott declared that: “We can all learn from mistakes.” To which Nancy replies: “Yes, but only if ABC staff admit to making mistakes.”

Next week MWD will publish some core studies about how real complaints are handled by the public broadcaster.

Gerard Henderson to Anne Maria Nicholson – 9 June 2011

Anne Maria

I watched with interest your interview with Cate Blanchett which aired on News Breakfast this morning.

I was particularly interested in the question which you directed at Ms Blanchett which went as follows:

Were you surprised that some politicians suggested that you spend most of your time in Hollywood and you really have no right to be, you know, talking about these Australian political issues?

I would be grateful if you could advise who you had in mind when asking this question.  In other words, who are the politicians who said that Cate Blanchett had “no right to be talking about” climate change?

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Donald Lange (Head of News Programming, ABC) to Gerard Henderson – 14 June 2011

Dear Mr Henderson,

Thank you for your inquiry to Anne Marie Nicholson about her interview last week with Cate Blanchett. Anne Maria did ask whether the actor was surprised that some politicians suggested she spent most of her time in Hollywood and had no right to be talking about these Australian political issues’?

The ABC believes this is a reasonable question based on the following statements made during the preceding week.

Tony Abbott Parliament 31/5  ‘I think it important that the actors and celebrities of this country should have their say….People who live in eco mansions have a right to be heard. They really do. People who are worth $53 million have a right to be heard, but their voice should not be heard ahead of their voice should not be heard ahead of the voice of the ordinary working people of this country…………You do not give special weight to celebrities you do not give special weight who live half the year in Hollywood where there is no carbon tax. [Note this poorly presented and poorly edited transcript is as it was forwarded by Mr Lange – Ed.].

The above was delivered in a satirical tone.

On May 29, Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce also spoke on the matter on ABC Online video

“I’m so proud of her as an Aussie actor … but this is an area that’s got nothing to do with acting,” he told reporters. “It’s got a lot to do with whether people can afford the fundamentals of life.” “Cate we can’t support you on this one, this is wrong because you’re really going to hurt people Cate, you really are. “If you bring this in this is going to make people’s lives miserable. What we should be doing Cate is working out how we can make the price of power as it is far cheaper, not dearer.”

There were similar statements expressed by Mr Joyce in an interview on Lateline on June 6.

Cate Blanchett has denied Mr Abbott’s statement that she lives half the year in Hollywood.  She says she is a resident of Sydney and spends most of her time in Australia.

On that basis, the ABC believes Anne-Maria’s question was timely and appropriate.


Don Lange

Head of News Programming

Gerard Henderson to Donald Lange – 15 June 2011

Dear Mr Lange

Thanks for your note of 14 June 2011 in response to my email to Anne Maria Nicholson which was forwarded to her on 9 June 2011.

I thought that ABC managing director Mark Scott encourages ABC journalists to respond to queries from viewers/listeners in order to save time and reduce bureaucratic process at the public broadcaster.  Consequently, I am surprised that my straight forward query to Ms Nicholson was forwarded all the way to you in your capacity as Head of News Programming.

As you will recall, Anne Maria Nicholson made the following comment when interviewing Cate Blanchett on News Breakfast on Thursday 9 June:

Were you surprised that some politicians suggested that you spend most of your time in Hollywood and you really have no right to be, you know, talking about these Australian political issues?

Later that morning I asked Ms Nicholson the following question:

I would be grateful if you could advise who you had in mind when asking this question.  In other words, who are the politicians who said that Cate Blanchett had “no right to be talking about” climate change?

I note your advice that “the ABC believes that this is a reasonable question”. You base the ABC’s finding on just two statements, namely:

▪ Tony Abbott’s comment in the House of Representatives on 31 May 2011.  But, as you know, Mr Abbott actually said that people like Cate Blanchett have a right to be heard.  You conveniently reverse his meaning since his comment “was delivered in a satirical tone”.  Well he was satirical.  But the fact is that the Opposition leader never said that Ms Blanchett had “no right to be talking about” climate change.

▪ Barnaby Joyce – in his comment carried on the ABC Online video – never said that Ms Blanchett had “no right to be talking about” climate change.  He simply said that her position on carbon tax was wrong.

I note your final comment, viz:

Cate Blanchett has denied Mr Abbott’s statement that she lives half the year in Hollywood.  She says she is a resident of Sydney and spends most of her time in Australia.

I am untroubled that you choose to defend Ms Blanchett’s comments on residence against Mr Abbott’s criticism.  But this has nothing whatsoever to do with Anne Maria Nicholson’s so far undocumented assertion that some unnamed politicians specifically said that Cate Blanchett had “no right to be talking about” climate change.

It seems that, despite Mr Scott’s attempt to lessen the ABC’s sensitivity to criticism, the Head of News Programming sees fit to defend the indefensible in order to protect an ABC journalist.  You should be able to do better than this.

By the way, if you do find a politician – any politician – who actually said that Cate Blanchett had “no right to be talking about” climate change – feel free to drop me a line.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Mark Scott AO

Managing Director, ABC

Michael Millett

Director of Communications, ABC

Heather Forbes to Gerard Henderson – 17 June 2011

Dear Gerard Henderson,

Thank you for the enquiry. Anne Maria Nicholson did ask Cate Blanchett if she was surprised that some politicians ‘suggested’ she spends most of her time in Hollywood and has no right to be talking about these Australian political issues’?

These are some of the comments made about Cate Blanchett’s appearance in the Carbon Ad campaign.

Tony Abbott Parliament 31/5  ‘I think it important that the actors and celebrities of this country should have their say….

People who live in eco mansions have a right to be heard. They really do. People who are worth $53 million have a right to be heard, but their voice should not be heard ahead of their voice should not be heard ahead of the voice of the ordinary working people of this country…………

You do not give special weight to celebrities you do not give special weight who live half the year in Hollywood where there is no carbon tax. [Note. This poorly presented and poorly edited transcript is as it was forwarded by Ms Forbes – Ed].

The above was delivered in a satirical tone, backed up by Christopher Pyne laughing loudly in the background.

Cate Blanchett has denied Mr Abbott’s statement that she “lives half the year in Hollywood”.  She is a resident of Sydney and spends most of the time in Australia.

Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce also took the actor to task. 29 May ABC Online video

“I’m so proud of her as an Aussie actor … but this is an area that’s got nothing to do with acting,” he told reporters.

“It’s got a lot to do with whether people can afford the fundamentals of life.”

“Cate we can’t support you on this one, this is wrong because you’re really going to hurt people Cate, you really are.

“If you bring this in this is going to make people’s lives miserable. What we should be doing Cate is working out how we can make the price of power as it is far cheaper, not dearer.”

LATELINE  1/6/11

TONY JONES: I think we’re going around in circles. When you attacked Cate Blanchett on Sunday for appearing in a pro-carbon tax ad, was it your point that highly-paid actors don’t understand the concerns of average citizens?

BARNABY JOYCE: My point was that Cate Blanchett is a marvellous actor and this is another form of acting. It is putting forward a message that the Labor Party wants. Using their words, “Just say yes”.

I mean, I’m glad they’re not talking about the death penalty. You know, “Just say yes, just say yes”. It’s what they’re always saying, it is part of the process supported by the ACTU, GetUp!, which is basically, as far as I’m …

TONY JONES: She is an actor, yes, …

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes, we agree on that.

TONY JONES: … but she appears to believe what she’s saying. Are you saying that she can’t make that point because she’s out of touch with average Australians?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m saying that the overwhelming feedback that I get is fervently against the carbon tax because it makes them poorer.

TONY JONES: But what was your point about Cate Blanchett being an actress?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, a lot of the times, and good luck to Cate, but a lot of the times she’s not actually going to be in a country where there is a carbon tax. You know, we – there is definitely a greater latitude to be able to deal with further cost, that’s what this will definitely bring about, because you have more money. That is self-evident. And it’s self-evident that Cate Blanchett and myself, and I would say you earn more than me, but that we have a greater capacity to deal with the greater costs than the people who have to pay it.

Yours sincerely,

Heather Forbes

Manager Audience Liaison

ABC News

Gerard Henderson to Heather Forbes – 21 June 2011

Dear Heather Forbes

I refer to your email dated 17 June 2011 – the subject header of which was “Gerard Henderson: Action required – Editorial Complaint”.

I am grateful for your note.  However, I should point out for the record that I have not made a complaint – of a formal or informal kind. So I do not know how I appear to have got tangled up in the ABC’s complaint procedures.

The bureaucracy at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster seldom fails to surprise.

On Friday 9 June 2011 I directed a simple question to Anne Maria Nicholson asking for evidence to support her claim on the ABC TV News Breakfast program that some (unnamed) politicians told Cate Blanchett that she had “no right to be talking about climate change”.  Here’s what followed:

▪ Anne Maria Nicholson did not reply.

▪ On Tuesday 14 June 2011, I received an email from Donald Lange, Head of News Programming. Mr Lang claimed that he was following up my enquiry to Ms Nicholson. However, he failed to provide evidence to support her original assertion that some politicians had told Cate Blanchett that she had “no right to be talking about climate change”.

▪ On Wednesday 15 June 2011, I wrote to Donald Lange pointing out that he had not provided any evidence to support Anne Maria Nicholson’s claim. I concluded my email as follows: “By the way, if you do find a politician – any politician – who actually said Cate Blanchett had ‘no right to be talking about climate change’ feel free to drop me a line.”  Mr Lange did not respond.

▪ Then, on Friday 17 June 2011, you wrote to me in your capacity as Manager Audience Liaison and said that you were following up my email to Anne Maria Nicholson. In your note you cited the two sources which had previously been mentioned by Donald Lange – i.e. Tony Abbott’s comments in the House of Representatives on 31 May 2011 and Barnaby Joyce’s comment on ABC Online on 29 May. The fact is that neither Mr Abbott nor Senator Joyce said that Cate Blanchett had “no right to be talking about climate change” and neither source supported Ms Nicholson’s original assertion.

In your email you added a third source – namely, Barnaby Joyce’s comments on Lateline on 1 June 2011.  But, in his Lateline interview, Senator Joyce did not say that Cate Blanchett had “no right to be talking about climate change”.

So I ask again – where is the evidence to support Anne Maria Nicholson’s comments on ABC TV News Breakfast on 9 April 2011? Just the facts will do.

Here’s a suggestion.  Why not allow Anne Maria Nicholson to answer her own correspondence?  This seems to be what Mark Scott had in mind when he wrote to ABC staff on 2 October 2009 calling on ABC journalists to “develop thicker skins” and to “admit and correct errors quickly when they occur”.

In any event, if you – or Donald Lange or Anne Maria Nicholson – ever discover one politician who specifically said that Cate Blanchett had “no right to be talking about climate change” – feel free to let me know.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Mark Scott, Managing Director, ABC

Michael Millett, Director of Communications, ABC

Donald Lange, Head of News Programming, ABC

Anne Maria Nicholson, Senior Journalist, ABC News and Current Affairs

* * * * *

Until next time.