“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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s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.

“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”

– Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)

Stop Press: Judy Davis on Cate Blanchett; Laura Tingle on Harry Potter

● Nancy’s Old Bones : Meet Clive Hamilton’s Alter-Ego Called “Jacob”

● Robert Manne on Chris Mitchell as a Mimophant (What’s That?)

● A Deborah Cameron Moment : Much Media Confusion and

Some Artificial Laughter

●  Nancy’s Howlers of the Week: Malcolm Fraser and Phillip Adams Step Forward

●  Lee Rhiannon’s Political Dossier : A Monty Python Influenced Clarification

● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week : Exclusive Correspondence Reveals Why There Are No Greens In At Home With Julia


▪ Judy Davis’ Hyperbolic Moment

What a stunning performance by thespian Judy Davis on 7.30 last night – aided and abetted by presenter Leigh Sales.  It seems that leftist celebrities have a licence to throw the switch to stupidity when interviewed by the public broadcaster – sure in the knowledge that their comments will not be edited out and that the interviewer will not draw attention to, or criticise, facile statements.

Let’s go to the transcript – where Ms Sales suggests that Cate Blanchett (Ms Davis’ fellow comrade-on-stage) might have been unfairly treated when she weighed into the climate change debate advocating a carbon tax:

Leigh Sales : What did you think of the heat that Cate Blanchett took over the “Carbon Cate” [incident]?

Judy Davis : Well, I mean, it’s just ridiculous. She’s a member of the community and she has a right to be heard. Nobody in a democracy, at any rate, has the right to strip somebody of their citizenship and the rights that go along with that. It doesn’t make any difference what job they do. So, yet another disgrace.

What a load of tripe.  Cate Blanchett – an acclaimed international actor with a substantial carbon footprint – was labelled as “Carbon Cate” by the Sunday Daily Telegraph when she signed up to the Australian Conservation Foundation’s campaign in support of a carbon tax.

No one, but no one, suggested that Cate Blanchett should be stripped of her Australian citizenship because of her entry into the climate change debate.  In any event, it is impossible to take away Australian citizenship from anyone. So what did Ms Sales do in response to such nonsense?  Well, she just asked another question.  That’s all.  Judy Davis seems to equate legitimate criticism with attempted censorship and more.  To her, it’s disgraceful that Cate Blanchett was criticised.  Can you bear it?

Laura Tingle and the Deathly/Appalling Bishop

MWD just loves Laura Tingle’s “Canberra Observed” in the Australian Financial Review each Friday – since it sometimes contains an historical exaggeration of considerable moment.  Take this morning’s column, for example, where the AFR’s political editor linked the attitude of the Tony Abbott led Opposition in Canberra with – wait for it – the situation in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.  Here’s what La Tingle had to say about this today:

…a deep gloominess floats around Labor ranks. But perhaps the mood on the other side should be more relevant, given so many people have now written off Labor and contemplate an Abbott prime ministership.

People often describe it as hubris, but it is something different. Drag up images of Iraqis trashing ancient treasures in the National Museum of Baghdad in 2003 and you get the idea.

The Coalition appeared to move this week beyond considering the implications of its own actions in the interests of getting into office.

Bugger actually having policies: Tony Abbott, seeking a short-term political gain against a mortally wounded government, is leading an alternative government which is prepared to destroy things it may itself need.

Fancy that.  Tony Abbott and his colleagues do not like the fact that Julia Gillard leads a minority government.  So, according to La Tingle, they are behaving just like the criminals who trashed the National Museum in Baghdad.

While dismissive of the Coalition, the AFR’s political editor had this to say about the Liberal Party frontbencher Bronwyn Bishop:

…Hockey and Robb with help from the Delores Umbridge of federal politics, the appalling Bronwyn Bishop, launched a protracted attack on the Treasury under parliamentary privilege.

So according to Laura Tingle, Bronwyn Bishop is so appalling that she resembles Delores Umbridge of Harry Potter fame – who is almost as evil as Voldemort.  Really.

The evidence suggests that Laura Tingle’s historical recollections are moving forward – as the saying goes.  In “Canberra Observed” on 27 August, La Tingle commenced her column with a reference to the First World War in which tens of millions died, viz:

Canberra this week was a little like the Western Front at midday on November 11, 1918. The noise of the heavy artillery had suddenly stopped.

Can you bear it?


The (real) photograph of Clive Hamilton was taken by David

There was a huge, absolutely huge, response to MWD’s report last Friday of Clive (“call me Doctor”) Hamilton’s appearance at the top of the ABC TV News on Sunday 4 September 2011.  Dr Hamilton told ABC viewers that he would be surprised if Australian intelligence agencies were unaware that the CIA and M16 may have rendered terrorist suspects to Libya during the time of General Gaddafi’s regime.

Clive Hamilton had absolutely no knowledge of what he was talking about – since he has no expertise in Australian intelligence or, indeed, Libya. Nevertheless, ABC TV thought he was “good talent”, as the saying goes, and he led the Sunday evening news bulletin on ABC 1.

Some MWD readers have been kind enough to suggest that Clive Hamilton may not be completely at fault in this instance. They recall an article in The Sydney Institute Quarterly, published in September 2007, (see here) which revealed that Clive Hamilton has an alter-ego named “Jacob” with whom he is in continuous contact.

Your man Clive is a sensible soul.  But that Jacob, he’s a real stinker.  Nancy agrees with those MWD readers who reckon that it was Jacob who was interviewed on ABC TV about CIA, M16, Australian intelligence, Libya and all that last Sunday.  Not Clive.

Our Dr Clive is not the kind of guy who would have the ego required to talk with confidence about an issue on which he knows nothing.  That’s the kind of thing that Jacob would do.  Believe Nancy.


MWD has reported over recent weeks that Robert Manne was going to channel Nancy – by setting up a blog on The Monthly’s website.  Titled “Left Right Left”, it commenced last Monday with the following introduction:

Why have I decided to begin a blog? In part I relish the opportunity to write more freely and with greater immediacy than is possible with print. In part, as I have just entered an area fraught with danger — a critique of the Australian the most aggressive newspaper in the country — I feel the need to have a space available to me to engage in any ensuing debate. And in part I like new challenges. I have no idea whether “Left, Right, Left” will interest readers or in what direction it will go.

How about that?  Professor Robert Manne managed to use the first person pronoun on six occasions in a mere six lines – at the rate of one “I” in every 16 words.  Well done. [I reckon I could do better than this if I set my mind to it.  I have no idea what direction this comment is going.  But I’m glad that I stated my case – Ed].

Robert Manne has never worked in politics or in the public service or in business.  However, from his taxpayer funded chair at La Trobe University, he feels very confident telling those in government, opposition and the bureaucracy what they should do. Manne’s inaugural blog is devoted to advising Julia Gillard.  His proposals amount to enormous increases in spending accompanied by some increases in personal tax (but only for “the wealthy”) and a super-profits mining tax.   He also proposes that News Limited should be forced to sell around half its newspaper businesses – but has no suggestions as to who might buy them. Professor Manne is a tenured academic.

At the conclusion of his inaugural blog, Robert Manne tentatively suggests that his recently released 40,000 word tract Bad News : Murdoch’s Australia and the Shaping of the Nation (Quarterly Essay, 43) is so good that his critics believe that “the questions raised by the essay can be avoided by pretending that it simply does not exist”.

This particular conspiracy theory lasted until Wednesday – when The Australian published a devastating critique of Bad News by Paul Kelly – with a promise of many more responses to come in tomorrow’s Weekend Australian.

MWD did cover Bad News briefly in Issue 110 – based on the extract published in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday 2 September 2011.  MWD only obtained Bad News last week – and Nancy’s co-owner has just completed wading through the 40,000 words of turgid Manne prose – only to find that there is no news and few direct quotes in this particular opus magnum. Or is it magnum opus?

At the moment, Nancy’s co-owner has taken time out to research the following words which appear in Bad News.  Namely – “univocalism”, “mimophant” and “persiflage”.

However, Nancy’s co-owner did enjoy the “persiflage” in Robert Manne’s essay.  The author identified one Australian journalist as a “left-leaning gay feminist” and he made the following “Agony Aunt” style comment about The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell:

By 1994 Chris Mitchell and his first wife, Deborah Cassrels, had separated. In 1996 Mitchell was re-married to another journalist, Christine Jackman. [Kevin] Rudd had previously been friendly with Jackman and also, although less closely, with Mitchell.  Now, from time to time, Rudd and his wife, Therese Rein, saw Mitchell and Jackman socially.  Mitchell was editor-in-chief of the Courier Mail. Rudd was a former member of the Department of Foreign Affairs, a former senior state public servant as head of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet in the Goss Labor government, and a recently unsuccessful candidate for the ALP in the Brisbane seat of Griffith.

Had Robert Manne bothered to check Who’s Who in Australia, he would have known that Chris Mitchell married Deborah Olga in 1984 and this marriage was dissolved in 2004.  Mitchell married Christine Jackman in 2006 (not 1996) – this marriage was dissolved in 2008. In other words, Mitchell married Jackman some years after he moved from the Courier Mail to The AustralianWho’s Who in Australia should be available at La Trobe University’s taxpayer funded library.


Last Wednesday, following the publication of Bad News, Robert Manne appeared on the ABC Radio 702 Mornings with Deborah Cameron program.  Good show – for this produced (yet another) Deborah Cameron Moment from the ABC’s very own Green-Left-Daily presenter.

First up Ms Cameron confused the fact that Rupert Murdoch is said to own 70 per cent of the capital city/regional centre newspapers with media ownership generally (which includes print, broadcast and online). Let’s go to the audio tape to pick up the flavour of the Cameron/Manne love-in:

Deborah Cameron : …we’re talking here about News Limited which you say in your essay – you estimate – has 70 per cent of media concentrated power in Australia.

Robert Manne : Yeah, I mean, that figure comes from one of the best research houses in the country, which is the Parliamentary Library. Well, 70 per cent owned by Murdoch seems to me to be a threat to democratic life. And the reason is no country, perhaps apart from Berlusconi’s Italy, has a concentration of elements of media of that kind.

All of which is true – except, as the saying goes, for the facts.  News Limited may own 70 per cent of the key Australian newspapers. However, it does not control commercial radio or television stations. And, of course, it has no influence on the public broadcasters – like the ABC and SBS.  In other words, Deborah Cameron’s assertion – which she has made previously – that News Limited controls 70 per cent of the Australian media is hopelessly wrong.

Her ignorance undiminished, Deborah Cameron returned to her theme later in the interview – claiming that “only 30 per cent of the media is available to debate the 70 per cent” owned by News Limited. This is not only simplistic. It is also wrong – since News Limited does not own anywhere near 70 per cent of the media in Australia. Indeed, the largest employer of journalists in Australia is the ABC – Deborah Cameron’s employer.

At the end of the program, a certain “Cam” phoned in. He said that he was a former senior News Limited editor and questioned Robert Manne’s proposal that Rupert Murdoch should be forced to divest some of his Australian newspapers.  Cam’s argument was a simple one. He commented that newspapers are struggling to survive and concluded with this point:

Cam: …If you are going to break up a newspaper empire, you need to think about:  Who is going to build new printing presses?  Who is going to hire the staff?  Who is going to work out the new business models to make these things profitable?

Good point. Except that the Green-Left-Daily presenter, who has never worked in business, did not understand what Cam was on about.  Here is how the session finished:

Deborah Cameron : Thank you very much, Cam. An argument there for protection [much artificial laughter] from a former News Limited editor.

How about that?  Deborah Cameron knows so little economics that she believes that to state a case against forced divestment of a product is akin to running an argument for protection.  In fact no Australian newspapers are protected.  If Ms Cameron and her leftist mates want to set up a newspaper to compete with The Australian or the Sydney Morning Herald, they can do so tomorrow.

Verily, A Deborah Cameron Moment.


This week’s gong is shared by Malcolm Fraser (with a little help from The Age’s Michelle Grattan) and Phillip Adams (with a little help from Phillip Adams).

▪ Malcolm Fraser’s (Fraser) Moment on Off-Shore Processing

Writing in The Age last Wednesday, Michelle Grattan filed the following report:

Former PM Malcolm Fraser has written to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen appealing for Labor to embrace onshore processing. “The High Court decision gives the government an opportunity to seize the high ground,” he wrote. ”I have never believed in the policy of deterrence. I do not believe even the harshest of measures devised by the Labor Party or by the Liberal Party can match the terror, the harshness, the poverty of events in countries from which people flee.”

What Malcolm Fraser neglected to say in his letter to Chris Bowen was that when he was prime minister between November 1975 and March 1983 virtually everyone seeking asylum in Australia was processed off-shore.  Three decades or so ago, Mr Fraser considered that offshore processing worked well enough.

The facts are indisputable. See MWD Issue 11. During Malcolm Fraser’s prime ministership, there were only 2059 unlawful boat arrivals in Australia.  The remaining tens of thousands of Indo-Chinese refugees, who settled in Australia, were processed off-shore by the United Nations.  Indeed Australian officials carefully hand-picked asylum seekers who were believed to be most capable of settling in Australia.

Malcolm Fraser should know – and Michelle Grattan should remember – this.

▪ Phillip Adams Forgets Paul Keating’s Mandatory Detention

Writing in The Weekend Australian Magazine on 10-11 September 2011, Phillip Adams commented how – during John Howard’s prime ministership – “Australia’s much vaunted tolerance seemed to evaporate overnight”. He continued:

Had the boat people – demonised as “illegals”, “queue jumpers” and even terrorists – been families of white Christians fleeing upheaval in Zimbabwe or South Africa, would they have been the focus of a fear campaign? Held behind razor wire for years? Of course not. The government was targeting Muslims. Poor bastards fleeing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Call out the Navy. Build prison camps across the Pacific. Get the shock-jocks to whip up fear in a wilfully ignorant community. Cause a gutless Beazley to cave in. Win the election….

Phillip Adams’ recall about asylum seekers, mandatory detention and all that overlooks one central fact.  Detention for unlawful arrivals was not introduced by the Howard Govenrment and aimed at Muslims but, rather, by Phillip Adams’ mate Paul Keating – when he was Labor prime minister in 1992.  The Keating Government was targeting Vietnamese and Chinese who were arriving unlawfully by boat on Australian shores.

Phillip Adams should know that it was Labor, not the Coalition, which first built detention camps for asylum seekers.

And what did Phillip Adams say about mandatory detention when Paul Keating was in The Lodge?  The answer is – Zip.  Absolutely Zip.


In “History Corner” MWD Issue 111, the political life and times of Lee Brown – who became Lee O’Gorman and who then became Lee Rhiannon – was analysed.  One MWD reader was kind enough to advise that, while Lee Brown had joined the Socialist Party of Australia (SPA) in 1971, she left this communist organisation around 1980-81 when the SPA split and the Australian Association for Communist Unity (AACU) was formed.  Last week, MWD incorrectly said that Lee Rhiannon left the SPA in 1990.  In fact she left the SPA in 1980-81 and joined the AACU.

Both the SPA and the AACU opposed the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) when Lee Brown/O’Gorman/Rhiannon was a member. Are you still with me Nancy?

MWD well understands that the CPA/SPA/AACU saga resembles the scene from The Life of Brian in which a fervent debate takes place between the members of – and “splitters” from – such organisations as the Judean People’s Front, the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean Popular People’s Front and the Popular Front.  It was like that in the communist movement in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Except that it was real life – not a comedy.

In any event, last week’s “History Corner” has been corrected. So there.



MWD publishes below correspondence between Gerard Henderson and Rick Kalowski, who co-wrote and co-produced At Home With Julia – a Quail Television production for ABC 1.  It reveals why Labor, the Coalition and the Independents are mocked in At Home with Julia – and why the comedy does not laugh at Bob Brown and the Greens.

Since the ABC funded At Home with Julia (per courtesy of the Australian taxpayer) – and since the ABC has signed up to the Right To Know Coalition – this correspondence is printed in the public interest.  Of course. It has been edited by MWD to delete personal and commercial-in-confidence comments of no relevance to the gist of the correspondence.

Gerard Henderson to Rick Kalowski – 14 September 2011


I watched with interest your interview with Peter van Onselen on Sky News last night concerning At Home With Julia.

I was particularly interested in the comment you made in response to a question, viz:

This show – to the extent that it’s a political offender, it’s an equal opportunity offender.  Kevin Rudd turns up on the show, Julie Bishop, Tony Abbott, Tony Jones from the ABC, Alan Jones turns up.  You’ve already seen Rob Oakeshott, Bob Katter, Tony Windsor. Wayne Swan turns up in the show, Paul Keating…he turns up on screen.  There’s any number of politicians, on both sides of the political fence, who turn up.

Listening to you on Sky News last night, it was evident that all variety of politicians have already turned up – or are about to turn up – on At Home With Julia. Except for the Greens.

So the question is this. Does Senator Bob Brown turn up on At Home With Julia? Or Adam Bandt?  What about Christine Milne?  Or Sarah Hanson-Young?  Indeed, does Lee Rhiannon turn up? All of the above seem as suitable targets for humour/ridicule as are the likes of Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Bob Katter.

As you will be aware, the Gillard Government signed an agreement with the Greens. In other words, without the support of Adam Bandt MP, Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson would not be in The Lodge and there would be no At Home With Julia. So surely Mr Bandt, or one of his Senate colleagues, should turn up in at least one of the final three episodes.

One final question.  If Bob Brown and his colleagues do not turn up on At Home With Julia, is this because you do not find the Greens to be a suitable target for humour?

Over to you.

Gerard Henderson

Rick Kalowski to Gerard Henderson – 14 September 2011

Hi Gerard,

Thanks for being in touch.

I’m frantically editing today. But I will reply in detail tomorrow at earliest opportunity.


Gerard Henderson to Rick Kalowski – 14 September 2011



Rick Kalowski to Gerard Henderson – 15 September 2011

Dear Gerard,

Replying today as promised. My apologies re: not replying yesterday, but we were finishing the picture edit of episode 4…

If, as I think I infer, your question is whether there was some deliberate decision to ‘go easy’ on The Greens, the answer is most assuredly that there is/was no such intention.

Initially, in fact, Episode 1 (at script stage) had more independents crashing The Lodge to ruin the PM’s Date Night – including Adam Bandt, who also made outrageous food demands. Ultimately, though, in the case of that episode, it quickly became clear that the cleanest through-line for that story was to have the three regional independents only, with Katter trying to drag a wobbly Oakeshott and Windsor across to the conservative side over the issue of free trade / food security. There remains, as you may have picked up, a joke about Adam Bandt in ep 1 in any case.

More substantially, there were two episodes developed at planning stage for the series which ultimately were not used – both of which lampooned The Greens rather mercilessly. By way of background, the series was initially developed for ABC2 as a proposed 6 part series.

On the basis of the script for episode 1, the show was promoted to ABC1, but to get the show on the air in the necessarily timely fashion meant it was possible only to do a 4 ep run because of ABC1’s very full schedule. The two eps that, though funny, advanced the show’s story arc least powerfully (the arc being the fictionalised fate of Gillard’s relationship with Mathieson as well as her war with Rudd – which occupies episodes 3 and 4) were those two eps I mentioned that lampooned The Greens….

Happy to discuss further.

But in sum – no deliberate intention to go soft on The Greens; I regret if the series seems open to that interpretation…

Do let me know if I can give you any further information or assurance. In the meantime, my thanks for being in touch and hope my answer is of some use to you.

Kind regards and thanks,


Rick Kalowski

Creative Director – Scripted & Light Entertainment

Quail Television

Gerard Henderson to Rick Kalowski – 15 September 2011

Dear Rick

Thanks for your note – and your detailed reply…. And now for something completely serious – about comedy.

At Home With Julia is a comedy directed at Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson (who seems to be mocked primarily because he was a hairdresser).  I found my old Tort lecturer at Melbourne University to be a more suitable subject for ridicule than Tim Mathieson – and the only connection my law lecturer had with hairdressers was when he had his hair cut.

In my view, people like Bob Brown – who believe that the end of the world is nigh due to carbon emissions and then see fit to emit carbon emissions while travelling from here to there warning about the end of the world – are potentially suitable targets for comedy.  Alas, no such character appears in At Home With Julia.

You are asking me to believe that an Adam Bandt character was in Episode 1 during script stage – but was deleted.

And you are asking me to believe that the Greens were lampooned in Episodes 5 and 6 – which never made it into At Home With Julia, since the project was cut to four episodes at the insistence of the ABC.

Well, I accept what you are saying.  Nevertheless, at some stage you and the Quail Television team made a conscious decision to exclude the Adam Bandt character from Episode 1.  And you made a conscious decision not to have Bob Brown or Lee Rhiannon or any other of the Greens “turn up” in Episodes 1, 2, 3 and 4. There may not have been what you refer to as “a deliberate decision to go easy on the Greens” in At Home With Julia.  However, this is exactly what happened.

This seems common practice within the ABC generally.  John Clarke and Bryan Dawe regularly mock Labor and the Coalition on 7.30 each Thursday – but rarely, if ever, ridicule any member of the Greens.

It is a matter of record that no one at the ABC, which commissioned At Home With Julia for showing on ABC 1, recognised the potential problem involved in a taxpayer funded comedy which laughed at Labor, the Coalition and the Independents – but not the Greens.

Best wishes


Gerard Henderson

Email from Rick Kalowski to Gerard Henderson – 15 September 2011

Hi Gerard,

Yes you’re quite right – but the exclusions were for schedule reasons (in the case of the unused eps 3 and 4) and in the case of ep 1 because Katter / Windsor / Oakeshott made most sense for the ep, and Bandt (and also Barnaby Joyce) did not – in terms of what we were trying to do.

I don’t think we’re only about Mathieson and his being a hairdresser…In the end, I firmly believe, the show’s attitude to Gillard and Mathieson is fond and loving….

Kind regards


Rick Kalowski

* * * * *

Until next time.

This page was updated on Tuesday 20 September 2011