GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 104

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“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”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

Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Mark Scott’s At Home With Julia – And Other Stories

● Stop Press: Rob Stary Reckons Hicks Okay – But Not Hinch

● Can You Bear It?  – With A Little Help From Paul (Bonge) Bongiorno;

Eva Cox plus The Nunnery & Ned Kelly; Anne Summers, The Tree of Life & Tony Abbott As Dog-Whistler and Andrew West as Greens’ Whistler

● Murdochphobia : Geoffrey Robertson Accentuates the Accent While Scott Burchill Misses The Picture

● History Corner: On James Jupp, The Labor Split, B.A. Santamaria, Jim Cairns, Stan Keon & The Late Ian Wilson

● Correspondence: UNSW Still In Post-Modernist (Evidence-Free) Mode – Shelley Gare Weighs Into Debate along with An Abuse-Filled

Missive from Tim S. & Nick D.

NANCY’S PICK-OF-THE-WEEK

AUNTY, THE LODGE AND COMEDY

It is difficult to imagine a time of greater tension in Australia since the financial crisis of 1931 or the constitutional crisis of 1975.  How appropriate, then, that the ABC should come up with the you-beaut idea of running a four-part “narrative comedy” series about Julia Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson – starring Amanda Bishop and Phil Lloyd.

Michael Danby, the Labor MP for Melbourne Ports, has called this a “disrespectful so-called comedy of a sitting Prime Minister”. Fair enough.  However, to the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, it’s all a bit of a joke.  The ABC has described the proposed comedy – titled At Home with Julia – as “part rom-com”; part guaranteed lawsuit”. Laugh?  Well Nancy did – knowing that any award for defamation would be paid by taxpayers.

Debbie Lee, ABC’s Head of  Comedy, has declared: “We’ve long been concerned about the generous Government funding for the ABC. Hopefully At Home With Julia will put a stop to that.”  This is the kind of LOL “Joke” you can make when the taxpayer is picking up the tab and funding is virtually guaranteed.

Already the ABC confuses comedy with comment.  The 7.30 program continues to run the Clarke and Dawe spot each Thursday.  The segment has been running since Moses was a boy and the jokes are constantly recycled.  John Clarke and Bryan Dawe invariably ridicule Labor and the Coalition from the left – but Bob Brown and the Greens are rarely, if ever, laughed at.

At least we are assured that At Home With Julia will contain no bedroom scenes. Phew.   When he worked at Fairfax Media, Mark Scott was wont to mock SBS as “See Breasts Soon”.  Now that he is ABC managing director, nice Mr Scott is presiding over lotsa (female) nudity and many a sex scene in such new programs as Rake and Crownies. It seems that, under Mr Scott’s management, the ABC is intent on labelling itself as “Australia’s Best Chests”.

STOP PRESS

ROB STARY DEFENDS DAVID HICKS AND CALLS FOR DERRYN HINCH’S IMPRISONMENT

The David Hicks Fan Club was up early this morning.  Left-wing civil libertarian lawyer Rob Stary headed into the ABC TV Melbourne studio in Southbank for a soft interview on whether the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions should have taken action against David Hicks (Taliban, Retd) under the Commonwealth Proceeds of Crime Act.  It was no surprise, then, when Mr Stary said that the Commonwealth DPP had got it wrong.

On ABC Radio 702 yesterday, the Richard Glover Drive program held a discussion on the issue – where differing views were heard.  Not this morning on ABC News Breakfast – where Rob Stary essentially said that Hicks had done nothing wrong.  Having dumped on the Commonwealth DPP, the high profile civil libertarian lawyer was asked what he thought about the fact that Derryn Hinch had been given a home detention sentence for contempt of court.

Suddenly Rob Stary threw away his civil libertarian pose and called for Hinch to be imprisoned. Immediately – despite the fact that he has just received a liver transplant.  So there you have it. David Hicks pleaded guilty to materially assisting terrorism and is on record as declaring that he fired at people on the Indian side of the Kashmir Line of Control from Pakistan – and Rob Stary believes that he should benefit financially from his account of his life and times.  Derryn Hinch revealed the names of several convicted paedophiles – and Rob Stary reckons that he should be placed in a ball-and-chain with bread and water rations and hard labour.  To some leftists, civil libertarian principles extend only so far.

CAN YOU BEAR IT?

▪ The Bonge on Tony Abbott’s “Runner” Award

Paul Bongiorno is perhaps the least friendly to the Coalition of all political editors who belong to the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Canberra.  In off-the-record mode, Canberra based journalists speak about how “Bonge” (as he is affectionately termed) invariably manages to present an interpretation of Channel 10’s evening news which is unfavourable to Opposition leader Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party and the National Party.

In her book Confessions of a Conservative Leftie, Niki Savva wrote about her experiences with Bonge when she was media adviser to Peter Costello – treasurer in John Howard’s Coalition government:

The media was only too willing to take up anti-Howard stories and there were too many people willing to supply them. Paul Bongiorno, for example, was one of the senior people in the gallery who made clear his distaste for the government, and who couldn’t wait to see it booted out…

Ten’s news menu always seemed to be laden with anti-coalition government stories and its 2007 campaign coverage was, if anything, worse than in the past… It was hard enough getting good people to spruik reliably on the government’s behalf, and in my view there was little point in serving up ministers for Meet the Press. Hardly anyone watched it, and people could make more headway with a doorstop on Sunday.

Bongiorno was furious that he was having trouble getting anyone senior on his show, and worried about what his superiors in Sydney would think. He warned me that there would be “grief” if we did not field senior people for his programme during the campaign.

“Is that a threat?”

“No, it’s a promise.”

To my mind, it made no difference where they went on or not; there would still be grief.

It seems that Paul Bongiorno still demands that Liberal Party politicians turn up to be interviewed on Meet the Press on Sunday even though there is little, if anything, in it for them.

In announcing that the Opposition leader had won the Meet the Press “Runner of the Week award” last Sunday, Paul Bongiorno complained that “Mr Abbott has been doing a runner from this program all year”.  Apparently Bonge believes that Tony Abbott should reward his critics.  Can you bear it?

Eva Cox’s Nunnery Error

Nancy felt a degree of sympathy for Virginia Trioli who stood in for Tony Jones as Q&A presenter on Monday. [I assume your man Jones was on a “well-earned-break” – Ed].

The panel was given the topic of “faith, ethics and politics”.  Vague questions invariably led to theoretical answers.  La Trioli did her best to keep the show on the road.  But it wasn’t easy.

However, Nancy awoke from her semi-slumber when a questioner asked: “Do you agree that covering the face creates a barrier to human relationships whether for identification or getting to know another person?”  This was a query about the dress code of Muslim women – niqabs, burkas and all that.

The normally loquacious Eva Cox was loquacious as ever last Monday.  Asked by La Trioli why, as a self-proclaimed feminist, she was not bothered by niqabs, burkas and the like, Ms Cox went on-and-on and finished her this-I-believe-declaration by declaring:

Eva Cox: I think people make a set of choices about what they’re doing. I would object to anybody being forced to wear something or not to wear something and I think that is the crucial question and let’s get away from the idea that there’s something un-Australian about covering up your face. We never objected when the nuns used to turn up for years wearing all of that gear.

Susan Carland: Or Ned Kelly.

Eva Cox : Or Ned Kelly, yes, exactly.

Susan Carland: I mean Ned Kelly who is one of our biggest heroes.

What a load of tripe. Catholic nuns in the 19th Century and first half of the 20th Century in Australia did not cover up their faces – as Eva Cox claimed.  They did cover their heads – much like Muslim women who wear the hijab.  They did not cover their foreheads, eyes, nose,  mouth or chin.  In other words, there is no similarity between the dress code of Catholic nuns in the past and the dress code of Muslim women who wear the burka or niqab today. None whatsoever. Eva Cox and Susan Carland should know this.

And as for Ned Kelly (1854-1880). Well, the Victorian bushranger  wore his armour as a protective shield from police bullets – not as a fashion statement.  Q&A panellist Susan Carland’s suggestion that Ned Kelly wore his armour as a fashion accessory is just bizarre.  Ms Carland is an academic.  Can you bear it?

Anne Summers’ Paddington Insight

While on the topic of feminists of a certain political persuasion, what a stunning performance by Anne Summers on Richard Glover’s 702 Drive program last Monday.  Taking part in the “Political Forum”, Dr Anne Summers spoke out strongly in favour of a carbon tax.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Anne Summers : …it’s [the carbon tax] going to be enacted into law by the end of this year. The majority of economists in the country agree with it, most environmental groups support it, business has decided not to run a campaign against it – with the exception of some of the miners. I was actually at the movies last night, admittedly in Paddington. But one of the mining ads came on and the whole audience just roared into – burst into spontaneous laughter and people started yelling out “Propaganda! Propaganda!”.

Richard Glover: What did you see?

Anne Summers: An ad, a mining ad.

Richard Glover: No, no. What was the film?

Anne Summers: Oh, the film was The Tree of Life.

Richard Glover: Any good?

Anne Summers: Very challenging. Very challenging, but a great film. But I think, you know, by the end of the year it’s going to be law. The opposition to it will be as hysterical to it as ever from people like The Telegraph and Tony Abbott, but people will realise that they are not personally being taxed, people will understand how it’s working, and the sky won’t have fallen in and I think it will start to change. Whether she [Julia Gillard] can pull it back, you know, far enough, I don’t know.

Well, that settles that.  A group of sandal-wearing luvvies in inner-city Paddington viewing Terrence Malick’s almost incomprehensible [Don’t you mean “challenging”? – Ed] The Tree of Life booed an advertisement by smaller mining companies bagging the carbon tax.  Clearly, then, there’s an overwhelming support for a carbon tax leading to an emissions trading scheme. Especially among academics, public servants, grant recipients and Friends of the ABC types who watch such art-house films as The Tree of Life in Paddington.  Can you bear it?

Dr Summers On Tony Abbott’s Dog-Whistle-Blowing Family

Anne Summers went on to accuse Tony Abbott of continually playing “that dog whistle”. What dog whistle?  According to Dr Summers, Tony Abbott’s dog whistle can be heard when the Opposition leader gets around to “wheeling out his wife and daughters”.

In fact, Maggie Abbott played little part in the 2010 Federal election. Certainly she was less visible than Hazel Hawke and Anita Keating during the time when Anne Summers worked for the Labor Government in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, however, if Tony Abbott is seen in public with his wife and daughters, this somehow equates to an intolerant attack on Julia Gillard.  Especially if Mrs Abbott and the Abbott offspring are “wheeled out” in a wheel-barrow or some such carrier. Can you bear it?

Andrew West On The “Mainstream” Greens

And then there was inner-city resident Andrew West’s piece in last weekend’s Sun-Herald titled “It’s not extreme to be green”. Mr West’s column started in hyperbole:

The shrieks echoed around Australia’s boardrooms but, more pointedly, around its newsrooms. The Greens were about to take control of the Senate! The media and corporate elites circled the wagons and dragged the political elites in after them. Just this week, the leader of the Electrical Trades Union in NSW described the Greens as ”extremist” – one of the more polite epithets hurled at Senator Bob Brown and his colleagues since the party won almost 15 per cent of the vote at last year’s federal election. Julia Gillard suggested that they did not represent ”everyday” values, as if to imply the Greens’ supporters – a significant slice of the Australian electorate – were unpatriotic. But just how ”extremist” is the party that attracted one in six votes?

How frightfully interesting – and so on.  But what about some facts?  In the 2010 Federal election, the Greens scored 11.7 per cent of the vote in the House of Representatives and 13.1 per cent of the vote in the Senate.  Also, the Greens do not “control” the Senate.  They have a balance-of-power status if the Coalition opposes Labor’s legislation.  Then, and only then, does the Gillard Government need the support of Senator Bob Brown and his colleagues to get its legislation through the upper house.

Andrew West continued:

Even a casual study of its policies, and a comparison with the results of opinion polls and voter attitudes conducted over the past decade, suggests the Greens are no more radical than the centrist parties that have governed the Western world for much of the post-war period. On most issues, their values correlate with the views of a large minority of the public – well above their 15 per cent vote – and on many issues they are in tune philosophically with a large majority.

Greens’ Senator Lee Rhiannon wants to close down the Australian coal industry within a decade – and Senator Bob Brown hopes to achieve the same result over a slightly longer time frame.  Yet Mr West believes that such views are no more radical than that of the centrist parties which have governed the Western world since 1945 – under the leadership of the likes of Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Tony Blair, Bob Hawke and John Howard.  Can you bear it?

MURDOCHPHOBIA UPDATE


▪ Read All About It:  Super-Pompous Geoffrey Robertson QC Laughs At A Murdoch Accent

Have you heard the one about the pompous Aussie lawyer – with an Epping accent – who had a go at James Murdoch’s accent this week?

Yesterday The Australian’s “Cut & Paste” reported that on Wednesday Geoffrey Robertson had told Radio 774 in Melbourne that James Murdoch has “a sort of Donald Duck kind of accent”.  This from Geoffrey Robertson, whose voice resembles an Ageing Little Lord Fauntleroy choking on a cucumber sandwich.

Nancy’s co-owner has always regarded Mr Robertson QC’s accentuation as a kind of faux upper-class accent one puts on when one wants to disguise the fact from one’s English friends in fashionable London that one was born in suburban Epping, Sydney.

Scott Burchill : First With The News – Pity About The Wrong Edition

What a terrific performance by left-wing academic Scott Burchill on ABC News Breakfast on Wednesday.

Rather than do what commentators are supposed to do in his segment – namely, talk about what’s in the morning newspapers – the Deakin University professor decided to comment on what should have been in The Australian. He criticised The Australian’s front-page photos of the appearance of Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks before the House of Commons inquiry.

Dr Burchill made much of the photo selection – apparently without realising that he was talking about an early edition of the newspaper – before the inquiry got under way.  He declared that “the photographs of Mr James Murdoch and Mr Rupert Murdoch…are rather nice” but that the image of Ms Rebekah Brooks was “not a flattering one”.  The message was that The Australian was out to get Brooks.

Presenters Virginia Trioli and Michael Rowland did not agree with the learned professor’s conspiracy theory.  But Scott Burchill ploughed on – even after Ms Trioli warned him that he was talking about the first edition and none of the photos he referred to had made it to the final edition.  Scott Burchill mocked Rupert Murdoch’s “very thick coke-bottle glasses” which (allegedly) gave him “an air of erudition and thoughtfulness that you don’t often see in Rupert”.  While we’re on a first-name basis, Scott went on to mock both Murdochs: “I think they spent a few hours getting prepared for these interviews and getting their story straight before they went to the committee.”

How shocking can you get?  Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch did some preparations before a two hour grilling before a House of Commons committee.  Off to the Tower, surely.

HISTORY CORNER

JAMES JUPP MISREADS JIM CAIRNS’ VICTORY IN THE 1955 FEDERAL ELECTION

James Jupp is one of Australia’s best contemporary historians.  However, on occasions, he gets it wrong.

As editor of the Encyclopaedia of Religion in Australia (CUP, 2009), Dr Jupp published an essay by John Warhurst titled “Catholics In Australian Politics Since 1950. Early in his article, Professor Warhurst commented:

The ALP industrial groups, confronting communists and communist sympathisers in trade union elections, exploited this connection in various ways through calling on Catholics identified in their parishes to mobilise in their workplaces.  Catholics were the backbone of these industrial groups. They successfully reclaimed many trade unions from communist leadership in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Many members of the Catholic Social Studies Movement, led by the young Melbourne lawyer of Italian descent B.A. Santamaria (1915-98), were in this [Labor Party] tradition, too, and sought to transform the ALP.  But Santamaria himself had never voted Labor, and this sowed the seed of an ultimate split from Labor.

As both James Jupp and John Warhurst now acknowledge, the statement concerning Bob Santamaria is incorrect (See MWD Issue 55). Santamaria claimed that he had never voted for the Liberal Party in his life.  He voted for the ALP up to the Labor Split of the mid-1950s and then voted for the Anti-Communist Labor Party, which became the Democratic Labor Party.  After the DLP’s demise in the mid 1970s, Santamaria claimed to have voted informal on at least some occasions.

Bert Evatt, who led the ALP from 1951 to 1960,  was primarily responsible for the Labor Split in the 1950s.  B.A. Santamaria played a role in this – but he was not a member of the ALP and not capable of dividing the ALP on his own volition.

On 18 July 2011, James Jupp and Janet Wilson wrote an obituary on Ian Wilson (1934-2011) in The Age.  Ian Wilson taught in the Political Science Department in the Melbourne University Politics Department in the late 1950s – before transferring to the Australian National University in 1961, where he learnt Mandarin and became a scholar of contemporary China.  Dr Wilson was an academic who engaged as a political activist in support of the Labor Party.

In their obituary, James Jupp and Janet Wilson (Ian’s sister) looked back on Ian Wilson’s initial bout of political activism – as a campaign organiser  for the leftist Jim Cairns’ attempt to win the seat of Yarra for the Labor Party at the Federal election held on 10 December 1955.   The ALP formally split in 1955 and Stan Keon, the sitting ALP member for the safe Labor seat of Yarra, crossed the floor and joined what became the DLP.  Keon (1915-1987) had successfully contested Yarra for Labor in 1949, 1951 and 1954 before his defeat in 1955.

According to Jupp/Wilson – as told to readers of The Age :

As an undergraduate activist, he [Ian Wilson] was intimately involved in the sometimes violent politics of inner-city Richmond and the federal electorate of Yarra during the great Labor split…. His political activism was at the epicentre of the Labor split in Richmond, which was represented federally before 1955 by Stan Keon and at the state level by Frank Scully, both defectors to what later became the Democratic Labor Party.  Wilson was only 24 years old when he was chosen an organiser for the late Dr Jim Cairns, indicating the extent to which the very tough local Labor machine trusted him. Cairns won by a large margin and the DLP disappeared from the House of Representatives.

Wilson described the local scene in the monograph The 1958 Federal Election in Yarra. This was the first publication of the newly founded Australian Political Studies Association, and unique among Australian electoral studies up to that time.   The triumph in Yarra led to him being an organiser in later elections for Kep Enderby and Susan Ryan.

This is not correct – as reference to Voting for the Australian House of Representatives: 1901-1964 by Colin. A. Hughes and B.D. Graham indicates.

In the 1954 election, the results in Yarra were as follows – in absolute figures and as a percentage of the vote:

S.M. Keon (ALP)                 21, 058         (62.3 per cent)

J.D. MacDonald                 11,591          (34.3 per cent)

K.C. Miller (Communist)     1,139           (3.4 per cent)

In the 1955 election, the results in Yarra were as follows:

J.F. Cairns (ALP)                18,363          (47.5 per cent)

S.M. Keon (A-C Lab)                    10,492          (27.1 per cent)

K.C. Miller (Communist)         792           (2.1 per cent)

J.E. Wilkie (Liberal)             9016           (23.3 per cent)

Cairns defeated Keon by 791 votes, after the distribution of preferences.  The percentage of the two party preferred vote in Yarra was – J. F. Cairns (51.02 per cent), S.M. Keon (48.98 per cent) – a substantial swing away from Labor’s 1954 vote.

In short, Jim Cairns narrowly won Yarra in 1955.  He did not win by a “large margin”.  It was more a narrow escape than a “triumph”.

As to his time as a China expert – well, Ian Wilson made around 15 visits to China between 1961 and 1996.  There is no evidence that he publicly opposed the gross human rights abuses suffered by individual Chinese during Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) and Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) – which tens of millions died (during the Leap Forward) and perhaps one hundred million were incarcerated (during the Cultural Revolution).

CORRESPONDENCE

STILL NO FACTS AT UNSW – BUT MUCH ABUSE, DENIAL AND AVOIDANCE

The evidence suggests that taxpayer subsidised University of New South Wales remains in post-modernist mode, uninterested in facts and evidence. Also senior UNSW officials remain unwilling to respond to, or even acknowledge, correspondence.

Here’s what happened since last week’s MWD.

Shelley Gare to Professor Richard Henry

Shelley Gare wrote to Professor Henry – the University of New South Wales’ Deputy Vice-Chancellor – on Friday 15 July 2011 as follows:

Dear Professor Henry,

I’ve just received today’s copy of Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog in which he republishes his correspondence re his concerns about allegations made about him in a book published by New South.

I wonder if you are aware of how offensive – languidly offensive – your two responses appear to the outside reader?

Clearly, Mr Henderson feels that the views ascribed to him are incorrect. He has asked for proof from the authors that there might be some evidence for them to make these allegations.

What bothers me is the line in your letter: “The views expressed in the publication are of course subject to public comment, criticism and discussion as part of the usual discourse of academic and public life.”

Are you serious? A senior university academic with a very impressive background who doesn’t seem to get the difference between discussing a well argued-view and correcting errors?

In late 2006, my book The Triumph of the Airheads was published and it has now sold a respectable 14,000 copies and continues to sell. Much of the argument in the book was about the decline in standards at universities, helped along by exactly the attitude that you exhibit in your correspondence with Gerard.

Perhaps you were in a hurry when you wrote the letters; perhaps you were unaware of how your letters would appear once read by other people.

Anyhow, I’m intrigued: why exactly is it so difficult for these two authors to back up their assertions? Either they have the evidence or they don’t. This matter should have been dealt with promptly by the authors and/or publisher. I look forward to hearing where this goes next.

best wishes, Shelley Gare

The UNSW deputy vice-chancellor did not bother to respond to Shelley Gare.

Then on Tuesday 19 July Tim Soutphomassane and Nick Dyrenfurth wrote to Gerard Henderson.  They did not provide any evidence to support their assertions about him in their book All That’s Left. Rather, in a letter strong on abuse and denial, UNSW Press’s co-editors told Gerard Henderson that their request for evidence “should come to an end” lest UNSW Press gets upset.  Fancy that.

Tim Soutphomassane and Nick Dyrenfurth to Gerard Henderson – 19 July 2011

Dear Dr Gerard Henderson,

We note your correspondence regarding our introduction to All That’s Left. Until now we have not responded as it is usually not a useful exercise to indulge baseless, vexatious complaints. We are writing, however, because we believe your attempts to attack UNSW Press should come to an end.

You identify the following passage in All That’s Left as being of concern to you: “Whether it is Gerard Henderson, Janet Albrechtsen, Andrew Bolt or Christopher Pearson, there is only carping and invective. To be on the Right is to believe that Labor has returned to its socialist ways; that everything is symbolic and hollow; that political correctness has run riot; and, of course, that Judeo-Christian values are under threat.”

You make no objection to our opinion that your commentary is characterised by carping and invective. Yet this is the only respect in which we could be said to have made any assertions about you and/or your work. Your correspondence imputes to us assertions we have not made about you in particular. It is disingenuous and unprofessional of you to suggest otherwise.

How funny it is, though, that you complain that our introduction to All That’s Left was an attempt to “trash my reputation”. Given your acute pathological corresponditis, you are more than capable of trashing your own reputation without our assistance.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Soutphommasane and Nick Dyrenfurth

Gerard Henderson to Tim Soutphomassane And Nick Dyrenfurth – 20 July 2011

Dear Dr Soutphomassane

Dear Dr Dyrenfurth

I refer to your email of 19 July 2011 (which was forwarded by Tim Soutphomassane last night).  This is the first correspondence I have received from either of you since I wrote to you on 24 May 2011 requesting evidence for your assertions about me in your “Introduction” to All That’s Left: What Labor Should Stand For (New South, 2010).

I am surprised that you have resorted to personal invective and denial.

You accuse me of suffering “acute pathological corresponditis”. In my view, two academics on taxpayer funded salaries should be able to do better than engage in abuse.  Especially since the charge of “corresponditis” has been lifted, without acknowledgement, from Mark Latham’s attack on me in the Crikey newsletter of 8 June 2011. Your invective even lacks originality.

You also state that I am quite capable of “trashing” my own “reputation” without your “assistance”.  Once again, this is mere abuse.

In your initial paragraph you wrote:

Until now we have not responded as it is usually not a useful exercise to indulge baseless, vexatious complaints. We are writing, however, because we believe your attempts to attack UNSW Press should come to an end.

The fact is that, in my professional letter of 24 May 2011, I did not make a “baseless” or “vexatious” complaint.  All I asked you to do was to provide evidence for the claims made about me by you in All That’s Left. Nearly two months later, you have still not provided the evidence.

The fact is that you edited and contributed to a book, published by University of New South Wales Press, which contained neither footnotes, nor endnotes nor even a bibliography.  In view of this, it was perfectly reasonable for me to ask for you to cite your evidence.

You now assert that you delayed acknowledging my correspondence until now because “it is usually not a useful exercise to indulge baseless, vexatious complaints”.  This is quite inconsistent with what Phillipa McGuinness wrote to me, on behalf of UNSW Press, on 26 May 2011, viz:

…we share the authors’ concern about any correspondence between you being made public. I think that if you were able to offer assurance that such discussion would remain private, Dr Dyrenfurth and Dr Soutphommasane would be happy to acknowledge and respond to your correspondence.

In other words, Ms McGuinness said that you would not reply to me because you were concerned that the correspondence would be made public.  Now you are saying you would not acknowledge my correspondence because it was “baseless” and “vexatious”.  There is a difference.

Breaking your self-imposed silence after almost two months, you have gone into denial mode.  This is convenient for you – since denial entails that you do not have to produce evidence for your assertions. Rather, you simply assert that the assertions were never made in the first place. The second and third paragraphs of your email read as follows, viz:

You identify the following passage in All That’s Left as being of concern to you: “Whether it is Gerard Henderson, Janet Albrechtsen, Andrew Bolt or Christopher Pearson, there is only carping and invective. To be on the Right is to believe that Labor has returned to its socialist ways; that everything is symbolic and hollow; that political correctness has run riot; and, of course, that Judeo-Christian values are under threat.” [Emphasis added]

You make no objection to our opinion that your commentary is characterised by carping and invective. Yet this is the only respect in which we could be said to have made any assertions about you and/or your work. Your correspondence imputes to us assertions we have not made about you in particular. It is disingenuous and unprofessional of you to suggest otherwise.

This kind of logic would not pass a first year university examination paper when I was an academic.  You now assert the mindset which holds that “Labor has returned to its socialist ways; that everything is symbolic and hollow; that political correctness has run riot; and, of course, that Judeo-Christian values are under threat” has no bearing whatsoever to me or my work.

Yet I am named as one of the four people who (allegedly) hold these views. If you do not believe that I hold these views, why am I mentioned in the paragraph at all?

When I am asked for evidence to support assertions I make in, say, my Sydney Morning Herald column – I provide the relevant documentary material.  When you are asked for evidence to support assertions made about me in All That’s Left –  you initially request confidentiality and then deny that you ever made the claims in the first place – while resorting to personal abuse. I believe that UNSW Press should subject you to the same documentary requirements that the Sydney Morning Herald subjects me to.  As you are aware, Professor Fred Hilmer (the Vice-Chancellor and President of UNSW) was formerly the chief executive of Fairfax Media.

In conclusion I should state that, contrary to your assertion, I have not attacked UNSW Press.  I understand that, in standard form contracts, editors and authors guarantee to publishers that their material is accurate and not defamatory. All I have asked UNSW Press – and the University of New South Wales – to do is to insist that you provide evidence for your (undocumented) assertions about me in All That’s Left.

So I ask again – where is your evidence?  In my view, you should provide your evidence – or withdraw the allegation.

This is the professional response. I doubt that you would advise your students to handle requests for evidence by initial evasion and subsequent denial along with personal abuse and invective.

I would be surprised – and disappointed – if the University of New South Wales and UNSW Press regarded your abuse and denial as an adequate response to my quite legitimate request that you support your allegations about my views with evidence.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Professor Fred Hilmer

Dr Richard Henry

Phillipa McGuinness

Kathy Bail

Tim Soutphomassane and Nick Dyrenfurth did not respond.

On Tuesday 20 July , Gerard Henderson also wrote to Professor Henry with a copy of the above letter attached.

Gerard Henderson to Richard Henry – 20 July 2011

Dear Professor Henry

I refer to our recent correspondence.

You may – or may not – be interested in my email to the editors of All That’s Left (UNSW Press) sent today – in response to their email to me last night.

As you will note, Nick Dyrenfurth and Tim Soutphommasane present themselves as defenders of UNSW Press – while engaging in personal abuse with respect to me. As the correspondence indicates, the UNSW Press authors have now gone into denial mode and allege that their assertions about me in All That’s Left were never made in the first place.

I would be surprised if the management of UNSW and UNSW Press regard such a response as either adequate or professional. But, then, your previous correspondence to me seemed to indicate that the University of New South Wales is not prepared to stand by claims made in books published by UNSW Press.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

Professor Henry also did not respond to, or even acknowledge, the correspondence.  If the co-editors of All That’s Left or the management of UNSW Press or the authorities at the University of New South Wales decide to provide evidence and/or respond to correspondence – MWD will be the first to tell you.

Until next time.