8 JULY 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“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”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 : Mike Scrafton’s Back – Pity About His Memory

●  David O’Neil’s Snip – As Told In The Sunday Age

● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week : Bob Ellis’ Feminist Conspiracy

● Can You Bear It?  : John Quiggin and Saul Eslake Step Up

● Maurice Newman Segment : ABC Group Think Clears ABC of Group Think

● A Deborah Cameron Moment : In Which Gina Rinehart (Allegedly) Sits On Peter Meakin’s Shoulders

● Correspondence : Marius Benson Nameless on Economists Who Supported IR Reform in the ’80s


Nancy’s co-owners have always been sympathetic to asylum seekers while doubtful at times about the look-at-me antics of quite a few refugee advocacy groups.

Last night, ABC1 screened the documentary Leaky Boat – which was written and directed by Victoria Midwinter Pitt. In an interview on ABC News Breakfast yesterday, Ms Pitt made it very clear that her documentary ran a line. In discussion after the interview, presenters Virginia Trioli and Paul Kennedy rationalised the lack of balance by pointing out that Leaky Boat criticises the response to the Tampa incident by both John Howard and Kim Beazley.  The problem is that criticising both the Coalition and Labor from the left is not balance but, rather, the absence of pluralism.  This was the point that Labor’s Bob Hawke made very strongly against the ABC when prime minister during the time of the First Gulf War.

In any event, Nancy enjoyed seeing Mike Scrafton interviewed on Leaky Boat.  Mr Scrafton once again declared that he told John Howard that asylum seekers on the SIEV 4 had not thrown their children overboard.  In 2001 Scrafton was the Defence Department liaison officer in Defence Minister Peter Reith’s office and he gave evidence against Howard before a Senate Committee in 2004.  MWD understands that even the Labor senator on the committee came to the view that Scrafton lacked credibility as a witness.

It’s interesting that Mike Scrafton is still taken seriously by some as a witness of credibility.  His evidence was completely discredited by Senator George Brandis in the Select Committee on the Scrafton Evidence which met on 1 September 2004.  On 4-5 September 2004, Scrafton wrote a letter to The Weekend Australian in which he conceded that he was “wrong about the number and duration of the calls” he made to Prime Minister Howard.

What Mr Scrafton has never clarified turns on his account of the dinner he was enjoying with a female companion when the phone conversations with John Howard took place.  Scrafton was asked by Labor’s Senator John Faulkner whether he had “checked privately and personally” with his dinner companion as to the number of calls which he had with John Howard. Let’s go to the Hansard transcript:

Mr Scrafton: No, I have not checked – for two reasons.  One is that the two very expensive bottles of wine we had were both drunk mostly by her, getting angry while I was away from the table talking to the Prime Minister.

Senator Faulkner:  This is a real-world note for our committee.

Mr Scrafton: She probably had less recollection than I do of what happened that night.

You can say that again.  Mike Scrafton’s evidence was that his calls with John Howard (he claimed originally that there were three but later conceded there two) occurred over a period of no more than 20 minutes.

There are 14 standard drinks in two bottles of wine – including “very expensive” brands.  Since, in Scrafton’s own words, his female companion consumed most of the wine – it is reasonable to assume that she downed no fewer than 10 glasses in a 20 minute period.  This is at the rate of a glass of wine every two minutes. [Where do you find a sheila like this? – Ed].

Yet – believe it or not – Victoria Midwinter Pitt thought that Mr Scrafton’s memory was so good that she gave him another crack at John Howard on the taxpayer funded Leaky Boat program last night. [I believe it – Ed].


Nancy’s co-owner was in his hometown of Melbourne at the weekend.  He rose early on Sunday and went to collect the morning newspapers – The Sunday Age (aka “The-Observer-on-the-Yarra”, sometimes known as the “Sunday-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”) and the Sunday Herald Sun.

There were big issues about last weekend.  In Australia, the Prime Minister had an announcement on fuel’s exemption from the carbon tax.  The Greens had just assumed a balance of power position in the Senate.  The Greek economy threatened the eurozone while in the United States the economy remained sluggish.  And so on.

So it was good to see that The Sunday Age nailed the BIG ISSUE OF THE DAY – on which everyone had an opinion.  You see, Melbourne comedian Dave O’Neil has just had a vasectomy (Go on. – Ed].  Mr O’Neil– father of three, age 46 – started off his column by declaring:

I never really wanted to talk about my vasectomy.

But he did. For another 700 words.  Readers learnt what the surgeon said to Dave, what Mrs Dave said to Dave, how Dave was present at the birth of his three children and stayed awake on two of those occasions and how Dave had his private parts shaven. [Don’t go on – Ed].

Earlier on, Dave gave a word of warning to 46 year old men, with three kids and a partner [Could this be his wife? – Ed] and a 700 words column to file. Here we go:

…a vasectomy is not entirely foolproof. It’s like a one-in-a-million chance that you can still get your partner pregnant.  Christ, what do you have to do to become sterile in this town?

MWD cannot offer any suggestion in the area of the body.  However, if you want to become intellectually sterile in Melbourne Town – try reading The Sunday Ages opinion page. [Didn’t a certain Lachlan Kent write about his vasectomy on The Age’s Opinion Page last September? See MWD Issue 72.


That was Sunday.  Then on Monday Bob Ellis – The (False) Prophet of Palm Beach – had his latest opinion piece published in the taxpayer funded site The Drum Opinion. Earlier this year (see MWD Issue 87), MWD raised with nice Mr Scott whether the ABC should be paying good money to publish Bob Ellis’ abuse-fuelled sexism.  Mark Scott, in his capacity as ABC managing director, responded that everything was fine – since Mr Ellis’ views were all part of “the conversation”.

On 4 July The Drum Opinion ran a piece by Bob Ellis titled “The Strauss-Kahn moment: has feminism gone too far?”  The (False) Prophet of Palm Beach’s essential gripe was that “sexual complaint” is “being used to bring down left-leaning and Liberal-reformists, artists and politicians”. Mr Ellis posed the question: “Is feminism killing the Left, and why does it seem so keen to do so?”

There followed a list of alleged victims of this feminist conspiracy.  It included Dominic Strauss Kahn (who got brought down by a “dodgy hooker”), Teddy Kennedy (who was “deprived of the presidency because a virgin drowned, unbeknownst to him, at the wheel of his car”) and Bill Clinton (who had sex with a “flashy teenager”). And more besides.  There was also a defence of Charles Chaplin and Roman Polanski and other leftists who have been caught with their pants down over the decades.

According to the (False) Prophet of Palm Beach, things were better in the past.  He said that Charles Dickens (“a pederast”), Will Shakespeare (“a probable pederast”) and Socrates (“a pederast”) were untouched by the law and allowed to do their creative work.  But, alas, not any more.  Bob Ellis then asked the big question:

Are men too harshly treated for what men have always done, trying it on, attempting foreplay, rolling bedroom eyes and murmuring lewdly – like Charlie Sheen in Two And A Half Men? Should they be ruined for this? Should Assange, of all people, a hero of our century, the auteur of the Arab Spring, go to jail for five years, and Guantanamo for 20, because he attempted sex with a drowsy woman he was in bed with, and had had consensual sex with eight hours before?

In MWD’s view, it is unlikely that Julian Assange will end up in Guantanamo Bay.  But if he does, it will have nothing to do with sexual crime. [Doesn’t The Drum Online employ a fact-checker?]

Bob Ellis concluded his piece as follows:

I do not mean in this piece to defend pederasts. What they do can damage a child or youth as much as, or even more than, school bullying, experts now assess. They should probably go to jail for it. But I do worry who gets away with it, and who does not.

So there you have it.  According to Bob Ellis, pederasty is a bit like schoolboy bullying in the playground.  The question is:  Will nice Mr Scott defend this latest Ellis rave as part of “the conversation” and will the ABC continue to fork out taxpayers’ money to Bob Ellis for his rants?  Stay tuned.


▪ John Quiggin’s Rant

Professor John Quiggin is an Australian Research Council Fellow in economics and political science at the University of Queensland.  This means that he gets lotsa taxpayer’s money to fund The Thought of John Quiggin.  Professor Quiggin’s thought can be studied in his Australian Financial Review column.

John Quiggin’s column in yesterday’s AFR gives an insight of what passes for thought in the University of Queensland.  In his rant-to-paper, Professor Quiggin:

▪ declared that “even the Chinese Communist Party is ahead of him [Tony Abbott] now” on carbon abatement.  The evidence?  Well, the learned professor believes that the CCP’s 12th Five Year Plan (2011 to 2015) will be implemented in full. Really.

▪ referred to qualified scientists who are climate change sceptics as suffering from the “emeritus disease”. You see they are “mostly older and male”. John Quiggin is a 55 year old male.

▪ asserted that The Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan listens to Sydney radio personality Alan Jones on global warming.  The AFR ran a letter by Mr Sheridan today saying that he lives in Melbourne and does not listen to Alan Jones and has not ever written about climate change and so on.

▪ concluded his piece by accusing Tony Abbott of having a “disregard for the truth” and warning that if the electorate does not come to understand this – then “Australia will surely pay a price for electing a government based on lies”.

The taxpayer funds Professor Quiggin and the AFR actually pays him for this sludge.

Can you bear it?

The Pope Upsets Saul Eslake (Economist)

Last Wednesday, Saul Eslake wrote an article in The Age which commenced:

I attended a conference of economists from around the world in Amsterdam last month where, during one of many discussions about the handling of the Greek sovereign debt crisis, a European economist observed that the world had become a funny place when the head of the Catholic Church was a German and the head of the European Central Bank was an Italian.

Mr Eslake is a program director at the taxpayer funded Grattan Institute which, presumably, has the money to fly him to conferences of economists where lightweight comments are praised.  The previous Pope was Polish – why should the current Pope not be German?  And why should Italians be barred from heading the European Central Bank?

Mr Eslake then proceeded to bag and insult Opposition leader Tony Abbott, before concluding:

I’m not going to insult Mr Abbott by saying that that [his attitude to reform] makes him wrong, or intellectually inferior in some way. But it does help explain why he probably won’t attract a great deal of support from the overwhelming majority of Australian economists.

Can you bear it?

Correction: Saul Eslake has advised MWD that he, not the Grattan Institute, funded his attendance at the Amsterdam conference.



This (popular) segment is devoted to ABC Chairman Maurice Newman’s suggestion that a certain “group think” might be prevalent at the ABC – and to ABC 1 Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes’ certainty that no such phenomenon is extant within the public broadcaster. See MWD passim.

On the  ABC Radio 702 Journos’ Forum last night, stand-in presenter Robbie Buck raised Judith Sloan’s comment, reported in The Australian, that there is an institutional group-think within the public broadcaster.

There were three members on the panel – all of whom agreed that there was no group-think at the public broadcaster.  The Australian’s Helen Trinca said that in her personal view “the ABC doesn’t actually suffer from group think”.  Then ABC journalist Peter Lloyd declared: “I’ve never seen group think here and I don’t know what she’s talking about.”  The reference was to Judith Sloan.

Then it was over to Sydney Morning Herald journalist Andrew West who was allowed an almighty swing at Dr Sloan. It went like this:

Andrew West: I actually want to talk about Judith Sloan. For Judith Sloan, who represents the top end of town, take a look at her resume. She’s on the board of Westfield, she’s been on the board of a whole range of major corporations. That’s where real group think exists, at the top end of town. I really don’t think that Judith Sloan, who quite frankly is a known hostile when it comes to the ABC – she made her views about the ABC  very clear, that she wants it to pull back from many of its responsibilities.

Judith Sloan is an ideologue. That’s fine but let her be honest about it. She’s an ideologue pushing an ideological agenda against public broadcasting. I don’t take her complaint seriously. And as I say she’s always been a known hostile when it comes to the ABC. So when you talk about group think, how much variety of thought, how much diversity of ideology is there in the boardroom of Westfield Holdings? I really don’t take her criticisms with any credibility.

Robbie Buck:  Alright. Thank you Andrew. Moving on.

Yes. Thank you, Andrew.  That certainly sorted out Judith Sloan – especially since she had no one to defend her and no right of reply.  Mr West does not appear to understand that Westfield runs shopping malls.  It is a not a taxpayer funded public broadcaster which is supposed to be pluralistic.

Maurice Newman: 3

Jonathan Holmes: 0


While on the topic of 702, what a week there was.  First up, Adam Spencer threw the switch to unprofessional and abruptly terminated an interview with Christopher Monckton. Then there was so many A Deborah Cameron Moment that they cannot be covered until next week. [I can’t wait – Ed].

Both Nancy and her co-owner just loved this exchange between the “Green-Left-Daily” presenter and Channel 7 News director Peter Meakin.  Ms Cameron was upset that at the time it seemed that Channel 7 would not run Julia Gillard’s address to the nation on Sunday.  Let’s go to the transcript when Ms Cameron is talking to Mr Meakin.

Deborah Cameron : Now looking at the share register of Channel 7 you’ll see there your owner include Kerry Stokes who has massive investments in companies that are very tangled up in the mining industry, including the Caterpillar company. Gina Rinehart is on your register as well. She last week sponsored the trip to Australia of a climate sceptic, Christopher Monckton. Did they have any influence on your decision not to give air-time to the Prime Minister?

Peter Meakin : No. I haven’t even spoken to either of them. I thought Gina Rinehart was involved with Channel 10. As for Mr Stokes, I haven’t heard from him. I may get a call from him disapproving of my decision but the CEO David Leckie knows what we’re doing and fully supports it.

Deborah Cameron :  You’re right about Channel 10. I do apologise for that. But just to carry on – I’m interested in whether or not you need to talk to them, Mr Meakin? Do you need to talk to them? You know what they think. You know what their interests are.

Peter Meakin: Who are we talking about?

Deborah Cameron : When your owners are sitting on your shoulder. You don’t need to talk to them.

Peter Meakin : I don’t know. I don’t know what Mr Stokes is feeling on this might be. He might feel that we should carry the Prime Minister live on Sunday night. I didn’t consult him about it.

Deborah Cameron: Alright. Thank you very much for your time this morning.

As it turned out, Channel 7 management did overrule Peter Meakin’s decision – totally discrediting Deborah Cameron’s conspiracy theory.

As for Gina Rinehart. Forget for a minute that, on two occasions last Wednesday, the “Green-Left-Daily” presenter said that Gina had shares in Channel 7.   In fact, her media shares are in Channel 10 and Fairfax Media.  And Fairfax Media is where Ms Cameron’s husband works.  Does she really believe that Fairfax Media shareholders (including Ms Rinehart) sit-on-his-shoulder and tell him what to do?

Verily, A Deborah Cameron Moment.


MWD has been entranced by the argument between Michael Kroger (one-time Liberal Party powerbroker) and Anne Henderson (full-time co-owner of Nancy) in The Australian’s Letters Page about 1931 Federal election and all that.

The dust-up started when Mr Kroger declared in The Australian on 21 June 2011 that “Malcolm Fraser’s 1975 victory resulted in the biggest majority in the House of Representatives, in that case 55 seats”.  He added that “Fraser also holds the record for the second biggest majority which was one of 48 seats following the 1977 election”.

Anne Henderson responded that, when assessing electoral success, it made more sense to count the percentage of seats held in the House of Representatives rather than absolute majority of seats won – since the number of MPs has increased over the years.  On this calculation, she argued that Joe Lyons’ “coalition of non-Labor parties known as the United Australia Party, the Country Party and the South Australian Emergency Committee” won 74.6 per cent of the House of Representative seats at the 1931 election. Whereas Malcolm Fraser won 71.6 per cent of House seats at the 1975 election.

Anne Henderson’s motives in this seems pretty clear – to Nancy’s (other co-owner), at least.  She has a biography of Joe Lyons coming out in October and is looking for some pre-publication publicity.  Book buyers tend to read The Australian. Michael Kroger, on the other hand, is determined to hold his ground. As for The Australian – well, it has a sense of the importance of history.

The Kroger/Henderson debate provides an insight into the history of conservative thought in Australia. Michael Kroger is one of the best informed of all the Liberals active in contemporary politics.  The problem is that his knowledge of the Liberal Party does not extend much beyond the formation of the Liberal Party of Australia by Robert Menzies in late 1944.  Not many Liberals know much about the LPA’s pre-history, from Federation in 1901 until the Liberal Party’s formation just over four decades later. Anne Henderson, on the other hand, has become something of a factoid about Australian politics in the 1930s.

Michael Kroger’s claim that Malcolm Fraser won a bigger parliamentary margin than Joe Lyons turns on his analysis of what took place after the 1931 election. At the December 1931 election, Joe Lyons was the one and only Opposition leader and he led what were frequently described as the “non-Labor parties” in the campaign against Labor, led by prime minister James Scullin.  The main non-Labor Party was the Lyons led United Australia Party, which was formed in 1931. In South Australia, UAP supporters effectively contested the 1931 Federal election as Emergency Committee candidates.

It turned out that Lyons’ victory was so substantial that the UAP found that it could form a government without the Country Party’s support.  After the 1934 election, the Country Party re-joined the non-Labor coalition – which had been in place throughout most of the 1920s under the title of the Bruce-Page Government.

Joe Lyons’ position was not unique in 1931. Malcolm Fraser had the opportunity to lead a Liberal Party-only government after the 1974 and 1977 elections – as did John Howard after the 1996 election. However, they decided to continue a coalition with the National Party (nee Country Party). Lyons, on the other hand, could not agree on a coalition with the Country Party after the 1931 election – but did after the 1934 election.  After the 1931 election victory, Prime Minister did offer the Country Party a number of portfolios – however, the Country Party wanted the customs ministry which Lyons was not prepared to give.

Before the formation of the Liberal Party of Australia in 1944, the non-Labor parties were a diverse lot.  This remained the case in some States even after the Liberal Party was formed at the federal level. Robert Menzies made this clear in his 1967 book Afternoon Light: Some Memories of Men and Events, where he wrote:

The United Australia Party…had behind it (more or less) a whole series of unrelated organisations, without cohesion or common purpose.

The lack of cohesion is documented in Gerard Henderson’s Menzies’ Child: The Liberal Party of Australia where he wrote that, before 1944, the “non-Labor parties tended to divide on personalities and on the making and breaking of loyalties”. He added that their success “was not built on organisational depth”.

Yet the non-Labor parties invariably got their act together at election time.  This was the case in December 1931.  The fact is that Joe Lyons led a united Opposition to the election held on 19 December 1931.  Michael Kroger’s scaling back of Lyons’ success in 1931 is brought about by not counting the seats won by the Emergency Committee in South Australia and by the Country Party throughout Australia.

The Kroger thesis – that Joe Lyons led only the UAP and not a broad non-Labor coalition to the 1931 election – ignores two essential points.

First, if Joe Lyons was not leading a united Opposition in 1931, precisely what was he doing campaigning in South Australia during the 1931 campaign?  In South Australia in 1931, Emergency Committee candidates won a total of 58 per cent of the primary vote and six out of seven seats.  The other seat was won by Labor.  The UAP did not officially stand candidates. But the UAP leader, Mr Lyons, campaigned on behalf of all Emergency Committee candidates in South Australia.

Second, Charles Hawker – who stood as an Emergency Committee candidate in the South Australian seat of Wakefield in 1931 – became the seventh ranking minister in the Lyons UAP government which was formed on 6 January 1932 – behind Joe Lyons himself, John Latham, Senator George Pearce, James Fenton, Henry Gullett and Robert Parkhill.  Clearly in January 1932 Lyons regarded Hawker as part of the UAP team – just as Hawker regarded himself as part of the Lyons-led UAP government.

If Malcolm Fraser and John Howard had not been able to form coalitions after their election victories in 1975 and 1996 respectively, they still would have been regarded as winning huge margins at the poll – since they led a united Opposition that won office from Labor.

The same is true of Joe Lyons in 1931.  His huge victory on 19 December 1931 cannot be diminished by the fact that his victory was so great that he did not need the support of the Country Party to form a government.  Earle Page led the Country Party at the 1931 election.  In his memoirs Truant Surgeon, Sir Earle wrote that the UAP and the Country Party took a joint policy to the 1931 election and said that “it was generally expected that the parties would follow the pattern established by [Stanley Melbourne] Bruce and myself [in 1923] and form a composite Government”.

In other words, according to Earle Page, the electorate believed that when voting for Lyons in 1931 they were supporting the election of a Lyons-Page UAP/Country Party coalition government.

Since the UAP and the Country Party presented a common front throughout Australia during the 1931 campaign – and since the Emergency Committee in South Australia was the UAP under another name – it is evident that Lyons’ performance in 1931 should be judged in accordance with the seats won by the Opposition.

Malcolm Fraser and John Howard achieved great victories in 1975 and 1996 respectively.  It’s just that – judged on percentage of the seats the Opposition took from Labor in 1931 – Joe Lyons’ victory in December 1931 was the greatest ever in Federal politics.  Lyons won another two elections before dying in office. Mr Fraser also won a second and third election while Mr Howard won four elections before his defeat by Kevin Rudd in 2007.

The greatest winning margins in Federal politics by the non-Labor side of Australian politics was gained by Joe Lyons, Malcolm Fraser and John Howard – in this order.  For Labor, the biggest winners – in terms of percentage of seats gained – were Kevin Rudd and Bob Hawke.



On Insiders last Sunday, Gerard Henderson made the point that there were virtually no economists who supported industrial relations reform – as in labour market deregulation – when the cause of this reform was first raised in the early 1980s.  Peter Reith, on The Drum on Tuesday, made a similar point.

In recent weeks journalists and economists have been saying that Tony Abbott has no support among economists for his approach to climate change.  The message seems to be that economists are always right – when they either say something together or remain silent together.  However, the fact is that if politicians had taken note of economists in the 1980s and early 1990s, there would have been no industrial relations reform.

On Tuesday, the former Coalition industrial relations minister Peter Reith faced the usual Drum panel – namely two left-of-centre types and one right-of-centre type.  Marius Benson and Peter Lewis were the lefties.  When Mr Reith said that Tony Abbott should not worry too much about the views of economists since economists did not support industrial relations 25 years ago, he was immediately contradicted by ABC News presenter Marius Benson and Essential Media’s Peter Lewis.

Gerard Henderson wrote to Marius Benson and Peter Lewis seeking the evidence for the claims which they had made on The Drum. Peter Lewis withdrew his assertion.  Marius Benson declined to provide evidence in support of his claim but decided to have a go at Nancy’s co-owner. Shucks.

Here is the correspondence:

Gerard Henderson to Marius Benson & Peter Lewis – 6 July 2011


I refer to Peter Reith’s comments on The Drum last night, viz:

Peter Reith : Can I take you back about 25 years ago when there was hardly an economist in Australia who would stand up and support the argument that we needed to change our industrial relations system to provide more flexibility and therefore higher productivity.

Peter Reith was talking about Australia in the mid-1980s. He argued that most economists supported the Industrial Relations Club at the time.

Marius Benson challenged Reith’s view – and asserted that there was a “strong economic view” in the mid-1990s in favour of de-regulating Australia’s (then) highly centralised industrial relations system.

Question to Marius Benson: Can you name, say, four economists, who supported industrial relations reform in 1986 – when Bob Hawke’s Labor government was in office and the Labor-ACTU Accord was in place?

Peter Lewis also challenged Reith’s view – and claimed that there was “anti-IR Club” in existence in the mid 1980s “which created some very well paid consultancies for various people over the year”.

Question for Peter Lewis:  Can you name, say, two consultancy firms which were paid to oppose the Industrial Relations Club in 1986?

As the author of the inaugural critique of the Industrial Relations Club – in an article which was published in September 1983 – I am not aware of any mainstream economist who supported industrial relations reform in the final years of the Fraser Government or during the entire period of the Hawke Government.  It is my clear recall that there was only a handful of commentators who supported a more flexible industrial relations system in the 1980s – virtually none of whom were mainstream economists.

So I am interested in who both Marius Benson and Peter Lewis had in mind when they challenged Peter Reith on The Drum last night.

Here’s hoping to learn of your evidence.

Gerard Henderson

cc:  Steve Cannane

Peter Lewis to Gerard Henderson – 6 July 2011

Gerard, great to know there was someone watching!

My point – and it was in the context of a discussion of Tony Abbott’s besmirching of economists on climate change – was that in response to Mr Reith’s accusation of the “IR club of economists”, I argued there also developed a “club’ of consultancies” that benefited from labour market deregulation; members of this club include a swathe of major law firms and successful businesses run by former union officials and employer reps … this club thrived through the 1990s using US style union-busting tactics. And of course their self-interest drove an industry in economic and IR theory that found a home in the HR Nicholls society, which is now run by Reith’s former chief Hanke. Wheels within wheels –


Peter Lewis


Essential Media Communications

Cc:     Marius Benson

Steve Cannane

Gerard Henderson to Peter Lewis – 6 July 2011


Whenever you are on The Drum or PM Agenda – I watch. Essential viewing.

Thanks for your prompt response (I have yet to hear from Marius Benson).

Peter Reith’s point was that few – if any – economists supported labour market deregulation 25 years ago – i.e. around the mid 1980s.

Your point relates to the 1990s – after the industrial relations reforms introduced by Paul Keating and extended by John Howard.  I accept that there were a number of economists et al who supported IR reform – after it was introduced.

The point remains, however, that the economics profession did not support industrial relations reform in the 1980s – before it was introduced.

So it is no surprise that Marius Benson has not been able to name names. But I still await his reply.

Best wishes


Gerard Henderson to Marius Benson – 7 July 2011


For someone who is in the business of asking others questions – you seem surprisingly reluctant to respond to the queries of others.

As you will recall, yesterday I asked you and Peter Lewis to stump up any evidence you might have to support the claim made on The Drum last Tuesday that economists did support industrial relations reform in the mid 1980s.

Peter replied – acknowledging that he was talking about economists who supported labour market deregulation in the 1990s – i.e. after the industrial relations reforms introduced by the Keating and Hawke governments in the early 1990s and mid-1990s respectively.

In other words, Peter Lewis now no longer claims that economists supported labour market deregulation in the mid 1980s.

So, what about you.  I am not asking you to spend a lot of time on this – a one line response should do.  All that is required is for you to give a couple of names of mainstream economists who supported industrial relations reform in 1986.

You were certain on The Drum that Peter Reith was wrong and you were correct. How about the names?

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Peter Lewis

Steve Cannane

Marius Benson to Gerard Henderson – 7 July 2011

Dear Gerard,

Thanks for your e-mails following my remarks on The Drum on Tuesday.

Can I make clear the following is private correspondence and not for publication and that I will be sending this e-mail on to nobody else.

I want the correspondence to remain private because the reason I do not want to engage in debate with you is quite simple, but it is not something I would write of you except to you alone.  That reason is that I believe that in public correspondence you are dishonest. And it is hard enough to have worthwhile exchanges when all involved are trying to genuinely understand and explain public life, without someone actively distorting the evidence and misrepresenting the views of others.

I imagine in your daily life you are a monument of virtue. I think we have only met once in person and I found you agreeable in a brief conversation in the ABC foyer. I also usually enjoy your columns and contributions to forums like Insiders. But in your public life you are an advocate for a point of view, a view that could be labelled Liberal Party (conservative wing). That’s fine but it means that truth comes at a discount, yours is the truth of the advocate. You seize on things that support your case, ignore those that don’t and generally harness everything to your cause. Despite that limitation you often marshall a case worth hearing. It is a second rate level of analysis, although a familiar one in the political process.

But sometimes you stray too far from the path of selecting your facts to prop up your case and resort to misrepresentation and worse to make your argument.

That was my experience with you in relation to our recent correspondence over the David Williamson play. Your claims against me depended on deliberate misreading of my remarks, distortion, willful misunderstanding and, apparently when that didn’t quite achieve the desired effect, active misquotation.

Well if those are the ground rules for a Henderson dialogue – include me out.

yours confidentially

Marius Benson

Gerard Henderson to Marius Benson – 7 July 2011


I did not ask for psychological analysis – I just asked for your evidence.

Peter Lewis got back to me promptly acknowledging that he had no evidence supporting his claim on The Drum last Tuesday that economists backed industrial relations reform in the mid-1980s.  He conceded that he had in mind the 1990s. Fair enough – we all make mistakes.

You, on the other hand, have not cited – in support of your assertion on The Drum –even one economist who supported industrial relations reform in the mid-1980s.  Instead (i) you describe me as “dishonest”, (ii) allege that I distort evidence, (iii) label me as a Liberal Party apologist and (iv) depict me as “second rate”.

Gosh. But where is your evidence for your put-down of Peter Reith on The Drum on Tuesday – where you claimed that economists had supported industrial relations reform in the mid-1980s?

As to your David Williamson reference, your response is just bizarre. You alleged that I had launched a vitriolic attack on David Williamson’s Don Parties On. This was a ridiculous assertion. In fact, David thanked me for my positive comments on his play and he is the guest speaker at one of Anne Henderson’s lunches next week which raises money for refugees.

If you ever come up with the name of one mainstream economist (even just one) who supported industrial relations reform in the mid-1980s – i.e. before it was introduced by the Keating and Howard governments in the 1990s – feel free to let me know.

By the way, the record will show that I get on well with political conservatives and social democrats alike.  Julia Gillard delivered The Sydney Institute’s Annual Lecture this year – I doubt that she would have done so if I was regarded as a Liberal Party hack.

In conclusion, I should state it is ironic that – as a journalist who reveals confidential matters – you demand confidential status for your own missives. Fancy that.

Gerard Henderson

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Until next time.

This page was updated on 10 August 2011